Monday, December 26, 2016

Paperback Writer, Part 1

The week before Christmas I made mention that,
“…we’re waiting on one more thing, but it actually goes out to everyone on our list, and it’s been the biggest Christmas clusterf**k in quite the while.  It deserves its own blogpost and it will have one after the holidays, because if I explained it all now it’ll spoil the surprise.”

So Christmas is over, and the clusterf**k needs to be explained.  And the picture tells the story.  Like Paul McCartney sings, “I want to be a paperback writer.”  And now I am.

You probably know that I’ve already written several eBooks (five in all).  Now I’ve written three paperbacks.  OK, yeah, all I really did was take the eBooks and turn them into paperbacks.  Before I explain why I did that, and all about the clusterf**k, let me tell you what’s now in paper (available exclusively at

These three books lend themselves well to the paperback format, and, not coincidentally, they’ve been my best sellers.  However, lately the eBook sales have been lagging, so I thought that I’d try the services of CreateSpace, the book-creation devision of Amazon.  That was one reason I did this.

The other reason will be explained in greater detail in the next post, but briefly – the spousal unit has another book!

Uh-oh…better have the link to “Just Pick the Least Worsthere.  OK, did it, honey.

Naturally, I am happy to see this, and my role in all of this was getting it published.  Her previous book, Home on the Trail, was published by Odgen Publicatons (Mother Earth News, Utne Reader, Grit, and many more).  This book wasn’t in that vein, and so…rather than seek out another publisher, I suggested it be self-published (as we planned to give her book and one of mine as Christmas presents).  That’s the real reason I decided to try out the CreateSpace program. And so now that everyone has their gift, I can explain what happened.

The good news:  when I set up my three books on CreateSpace, I had absolutely no problems whatsoever.  The learning curve wasn’t that steep considering I had made them as eBooks previously, and even with a couple of false starts, I got the job done quickly and the books look good.

The bad news:  every possible thing that could have gone wrong with Mona’s book did.

We did have some issues of our own in the formatics – some of it our fault, and one big issue due to their compiling program.  Briefly – even though the title page was centered, and in the preview it LOOKED centered, when the proof came back, it was LEFT justified.  Asking their Customer Service about this got me a “we’ll respond in a day or two” reply, so I went on to the user forums to try to find a solution.  After a few hours someone there responded, and we eventually solved the issue.  Briefly, even though CreateSpace allows for .doc and .docx submissions, it’s best if you use a .pdf.  And, not just ANY .pdf, but one that is PRINT generated, not SAVED.  I didn’t even know there was a difference, and once I did, didn’t even have a program that could do that.  Turns out there are several, including a couple of free ones, and may I strongly suggest that if you need one try CutePDF (link here).  Works like a charm, and it’s free.

It’s a good thing I sought an answer this way, because once I DID get a response from CreateSpace (a day later), it was basically worthless.  I think it said, “Something something these things happen try again and use our preview mode yargle bargle.”

While this response had no value (because it required human intervention), the automatic functions of CreateSpace seemed to work flawlessly and quickly.  For example, once you review the cover and insides to your satisfaction, you submit the completed document to CreateSpace – they create a “proof” for you to do the “final” review, and then, within 24 hours, your book is ready!

This worked to perfection with all of my books, and the first two times we requested a proof for Mona’s book.  Of course, once we finally had a proof that was completely ready to go…the 24-hour window failed.

After about 40 hours, I requested a call from Customer Service (you don’t call them, but put in an online request for them to call you) to find out what the problem was.  I am happy to report that they responded within a couple of minutes, but why they responded I couldn’t tell you, because they had absolutely no idea what happened, why it happened, or how to deal with it now.  The Service Rep told me that he’d have to contact someone in “Technical.”  I told him, “Go ahead.”  So he put me on hold, called (supposedly) and then got back to me a couple minutes later with “well, it seems as if no one is there – they don’t pick up, so I left a message.”  End result was that he’d continue to pursue this and would get back to me.

He never did get back to me, but a few hours later we got a “your proof is ready to order” email.  What happened?  We had no idea and never found out.  So, we reveled in our good fortune and ordered the books we needed for Christmas presents, confident that our problems were over.


When I ordered my three books, I had no problems.  The way it works – once you approve the proof, you can order books for yourself immediately (it gets posted on the site a day or two later).  You can choose UPS Ground, 2-day, or Next-day service.  Printing takes a few days, but once printed they send you a notice with a tracking number (UPS).  First set of books I ordered I did UPS ground and they came a day earlier than scheduled.  Next time I used UPS 2-day just to see how that worked, and again, it was delivered a day early.

So we get the notice for Mona’s books that said they were printed on Sunday the 11th, and would ship Monday the 12th.  We asked for (and paid for) 2-day shipping, so we could expect them on Wednesday the 14th so we could box everything up for gifts and get them out before the final weekend.

I kept checking the UPS tracking online, and every time I did, there was no info.  I said a label had been created, and it was to be shipped on the 12th, but there was no indication that it had been received by UPS, nor did it show anywhere in the system.  Every day I would check – two, three times – and there was no indication that the package had even arrived at UPS, let alone was on its way to us in time to get here on the 14th.

And once the 14th had come and gone, I called CreateSpace (OK, asked them to call me).  I asked the Service Rep what happened, where are the books, when will we get them, do you know they were due here yesterday and what the hell happened?  She was well versed in the “I don’t know a thing but would like to get rid of you ASPS” school of customer service, and proceeded to lie her ass off.

First, she told me that the books had yet to be printed.  Once they were printed, then we would receive notice and a tracking number.  I said we ALREADY received that notice – weren’t the books printed?  Well, no, she said, there was a delay. 
“So why did I get the notice?” I asked.
“You won’t get one until the books are printed.  I told you, they were delayed.”
“But I DID get a notice. That means they were printed.”
“Well there was a delay, so you should get them in a day or two.”
“But there’s no information on the tracking report.   How would I know if they’ve actually been sent?”
“Well, they haven’t been sent – they have yet to print them, and when they do print them you’ll get a notice with tracking information.”
“I ALREADY HAVE THAT NOTICE!  It said they were to be here yesterday.  If they hadn’t even been created yet, let alone shipped, why would you tell me they were shipped and be here on the 14th when they hadn’t even been printed or shipped?”
“Well, sir, as I stated, there has been a delay…”

And we danced around like that for another five minutes.  She could never explain what happened to the order, why there was no tracking info, whether the books had or had not actually been printed, or what should be done now except “wait a few more days to see if they turn up.” 

I haven’t slammed a received down this hard in years.

Fortunately, Mona called back about an hour later and got a different rep who noticed (a) our books had not arrived in the prescribed time so we were credited for the shipping costs (first rep never said boo about that), (b) she had no idea where that order was but she would make up a new order on the spot and send it out no charge on next-day status so we’d have the books ASAP.

Unfortunately, she never sent us any details about the order (like a tracking number), so we had to hope that she did what she said she was going to do and we’d get the books on Friday or maybe Monday (since UPS doesn’t do weekends).

Sure enough, we got the new shipment on Monday.  We also got the FIRST shipment, too.  No word as to what happened, of course.

So…we are both published paperback writers.  And we have more material for another book. 

More on Mona’s book tomorrow (it’s a delightful romp – the book, that is).

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