Zero to 353 Pages: Bringing My Web Book to Print and eBook

November 03, 2014 book design game-dev game-patterns

Look what I made!

It’s a funny feeling to spend nearly six years making something and then finally hold it in your hand. It’s simultaneously, “This is it!” and “Is this it?” How can it be so small when it feels like such a big piece of my life?

Most of that time, the book existed entirely on the web. It was less “book” and more “book-length manuscript that you can read with your browser”. The web site is still the book’s real home in some ways. If you want to know more about game programming and software architecture, take a look. You can read the whole thing online, for free, because I love you.

I already wrote a post about the writing part of the process. That was the real mountain to climb. But, once I reached the summit and decided (1) I wanted to also have print and eBook editions and (2) I wanted to do it all myself, I learned that one does not simply walk out of Mordor either.

This gratuitously, vaingloriously long post is about climbing back down the mountain—all of the stuff required to turn a web site into a book. Remember on Mr. Rogers Neighborhood where they would take a trip to a factory to see how cute little piglets are turned into hotdogs or something charming like that? This is like that, but marginally less incarnadine.

Where it Starts

On April 22nd, I finished the third draft of the last chapter of the book. The next day, I uploaded it and modestly told a few friends. And by that, I mean I milked it for all it was worth on all the social networks.

As soon as I shook out all of the bugs readers reported, I went straight into working on the print and eBook versions. Like I mentioned in the last post, I work on the book every single day. Not breaking the chain has somehow been just enough of a mindtrick to get me to overcome my usual inability to finish anything bigger than breakfast.

By this point, I was actually superstitious about breaking it. I really wanted to hold the physical book in my hands, so until that was done, I was afraid to take even single day’s break.

I did break the chain on one day. It was my birthday in Kauai. I spent the morning playing on the beach with my kids, the afternoon snorkeling with sea turtles, the evening grilling burgers for my friends, and the night boozing it up. The book kinda slipped my mind.

The first step was doing yet another editing pass over the manuscript. At this point, I’d done three drafts of each chapter, but ink on paper is a lot harder to fix than a web site, so I wanted to give it one more round of scrutiny.

This was also, strangely, the first time I’d read the book front to back. The chapters are relatively unconnected, sort of like recipes in a cookbook, and I wrote them out of order. Everytime I finished a chapter, the next one I started was the one that seemed like the most fun right then.

I found a bunch of places where I said the same thing twice near each other in the book, but years apart in my life when I wrote them. I fixed those, and tons of other style and tone issues. Then I found a freelance copy editor and got her to do a pass over it.

Despite having done four drafts at this point, she still found dozens of mistakes that I managed to miss. If you ever write book, I highly recommend this step. You’ll be astonished at how much you miss that a good editor will find.

eBooks, Ugh

I’m going to mix up the chronology here and talk about the eBook version first. In reality, I interleaved working on this and the print version and going back and forth over chapters with my copy editor, Lauren. The eBook stuff is less exciting than the print design, so let’s just get it out of the way.

I was actually in pretty good shape going in to this. I wrote the book in markdown, and had a little Python script that takes those files, some CSS, and an HTML template, and burps out the web site.

If you’ve never done an eBook before (you lucky devil, you), they come in two predominant flavors: EPUB and MOBI. Most of the world uses EPUB, but Kindle demands MOBI in some sort of gigantic distributed prank on the entire writing community.

An EPUB file is basically a zip file containing a web site. Seriously. Take your static site and run this on it:

cd my_awesome_site
zip -X0 my_awesome_site.epub mimetype
zip -Xur9D my_awesome_site.epub *

Now you’re 90% of the way to having an eBook. It’s the other 10% that makes you want to claw your eyes out. See, eBooks are a lot like web sites… circa 2004. Instead of this fancy HTML5 stuff which is clearly, like, living in the future with all of its new tags that don’t need to be closed, EPUB requires XHTML, the evil mutant offspring of HTML and XML. The turducken of the markup world.

Worse, eBook readers handle CSS about as well as Netscape Navigator and IE4 did. If you lived through the horror show that was web design in the ‘90s where you had three browsers open all day, you know what I’m talking about. Except that now each of those “browsers” is a separate physical device that you have to jump through hoops to get your “site” on.

Getting an updated .mobi file into the Kindle app on my tablet involved some combination of Dropbox, an Android file manager, going to the Amazon website to delete the previous version, sending an email to a mysterious dead drop address granted me by Amazon, waiting for the Kindle app to crash a few times, and, on occasion, blood sacrifice.

The things I do for love.

Oh, and did I mention the XML? SO MUCH XML. The EPUB format was clearly written by uptight pencil-pushers whose OCD was permanently triggered by the chaos of the web. You need a content.opf XML manifest that lists every single file in your eBook. You also need a container.xml manifest that points to that .opf file. You need a manifest for your manifest.

The .opf file needs a <spine> tag containing the ordered list of stuff in the book. And a <guide> containing… an ordered list of the stuff in the book. Also, there’s a separate—mandatory, of course!—toc.nxc file containing, you guessed it, an ordered list of the stuff in the book. Not only that, each item in the TOC is not just in order but explicitly manually numbered:

<navPoint id="copyright" playOrder="1">
  <content src="copyright.html" />

<navPoint id="acknowledgements" playOrder="2">
  <content src="acknowledgements.html" />

<navPoint id="dedication" playOrder="3">
  <content src="dedication.html" />

See those little playOrder attributes? It’s like double-entry bookkeeping, minus the fun and excitement of double-entry bookkeeping.

But, despite my ranting here, it’s not really hard. It’s sort of like counting to a thousand by hitting + and 1 over and over on your calculator. (I had a fun childhood.) Once you’ve got a happy little EPUB file, you throw it at KindleGen, a rancorous old app from Amazon, and it begrudgingly converts it to a MOBI for you. Behold:

It took me almost six years to make these two files.

If you ignore the fact that it took about a hundred iterations to please the EPUB validator Gods, this was straightforward. Now, let’s talk about the fun stuff!

My Dirty Little Secret

Warning: Seriously ardent exposition on design lies ahead. The rest of this post will be like watching two of your best friends who after years of awkward sexual tension finally hook up and now aren’t so much showering you with public displays of affection as they are public displays of not-always-entirely-dry humping. I really really like fonts.

When I first started the book, I wrote a little promise to myself in my pink locked diary that I never show anyone. (Except now you, I guess, Dearest Reader.) That promise was, “If I can finish writing this whole damn manuscript, I will let myself typeset it.”

I know that probably sounds strange but if you haven’t figured out I’m a bit off center by now, you must be skimming this post for the pictures.

Here’s one of a tiny pumpkin pie I baked!

Most of my life, I had one cranial hemisphere in the artist bucket and one in the logical bin. I grew up drawing and painting, but usually on graph paper.

A quick trip down my résumé makes stops at computer animator, web designer, UI designer, part-time UI programmer, full-time UI programmer, and tools programmer, before finally landing on regular full-on programmer. My left brain metastasized and took over pretty much the whole light show upstairs.

I love programming, and I’m happy to spend almost all day doing stuff that’s not that visual, but, man, sometimes I really miss design. Thus the vow: if I could complete this giant ball of logical thought, I would reward myself by fully giving into my artistic side.

You Mean I Get To Pick a Page Size?

Of the design stuff I have done in the past, almost all of it has been for the web. There’s a lot to like about web design, but it’s sort of like body painting. No matter how steady you are with your airbrush, there’s an inherit squishiness and unreliability to the underlying medium.

When you can’t trust the user not to futz with the size of their browser window or even control what fonts they have access to, it’s hard to design something that looks exactly the way you want. But, print, now that’s a different story.

The first thing I did was decide how big the pages would be. Let me repeat that for you web folks: I, the designer, got to choose the page size. Because Amazon is the giant gorilla of the publishing industry and CreateSpace is its cuddly orangutan buddy, I decided to go with that for handling the print-on-demand production of the book. They have a few different trim sizes you can pick from.

I grabbed a bunch of programming books I had nearby, took my ruler out, and measured those suckers. I wanted my book to be like a real programming book, so I measured their dimensions, margins, line height, font size, the works. I took some averages, settled on 7.5" × 9.25" and that was that.

Fonts, Fonts, Fonts

Now that I knew how big my canvas was, it was time to start painting it. And, for a book, that means fonts. Sweet, delicious, heavenly fonts.

As a web designer, I was used to—paraphrasing Henry Ford here—having any serif I wanted, as long as it was Georgia. (And I remember the days before Georgia, a ghastly fever dream thankfully cured by heroic doctor Matthew Carter.)

Google Web Fonts turned things up a notch, but once you filter out all of the fonts on there that don’t have italics, or have shitty metrics, or incomplete character sets, or only one weight, what you’re left with is… well, Georgia starts looking pretty good again.

But, now. Now! I could just go out and buy a fucking font and then use it. Any font I wanted! It was intoxicating. Incredible. Overwhelming. Paralyzing.

I spent nights in a hallucinogenic daze going through dozens of serif (for body copy), sans serif (asides and headers), and monospace (code, naturally) fonts. For all I know, it could have been weeks. Time had lost all meaning. When my fugue dissipated, I had a beard, a Grateful Dead tattoo, and three fonts.

Ironically, the first two, Source Sans Pro and Source Code Pro, are Google Web Fonts, and are what the site uses:

Not pictured: beard and tattoo.

I don’t know if this is astute branding on my part or just a failure of imagination, but do I think Adobe really nailed it with Source Code Pro—even when in print—and it pairs just as perfectly with Source Sans as theirs names would lead you to believe.

That just left a body font, the most important font in the book. Like I do, I over-constrained the hell out of the problem:

If you distill that down, what I really wanted was a font with the metrics of an Old Style, but the letterforms of a cleaner modern typeface. Also, it needed a heavier weight and a spritely italic. I swear, italics trigger some kind of delectable synaesthetic response in me like the electric tingle of a battery on my bathing suit area.

After days of poring over typography blogs and font sites, lo and behold, I found a match. My Manic Pixie Dreamgirl in OpenType Format. Sina Nova.

Sorry for the linguistic liberties, Vlad. I’m sure you understand.

God, just look at it there. And wait until you see the ligatures. It’s enough to make a girl swoon.

I had assembled my army, now it was time to draw battlelines.

So Many Grids

Some people fantasize about building roller coasters in their backyards or being smothered in pugs. I’ve always dreamt of designing using an honest-to-God grid system.

I’ve tried to approximate them for the web but it always ends up leaving me disappointed and slightly ashamed like trying to use role-play to reinvigorate a relationship you both know is dead. Not this time, though. I had a brand new copy of InDesign, and I wasn’t afraid to use it!

For those who don’t know, a grid system organizes the content on a page. You come up with the dimensions of an invisible grid that overlays the page and everything slots within those. When done well, the text hangs together in placid harmony like a zen garden.

Coming up with a good grid, especially for this book, was quite hard. Again, I had a bunch of constraints:

The code is particularly tricky. I like a pretty large line height (think single- versus double-spaced) for prose, but code looks wrong if you spread it out that much. Most grids use a single line height for the vertical rhythm of the page, but that wouldn’t work for both prose and code (or for the asides for that matter).

After days of tinkering—wonderful, relaxing, theraputic, tinkering—I had something I liked. To get there, I picked a random chapter and mocked it up. You can’t design a layout without something to lay out, and I believe the design should take into account the actual content, so no lorem ipsum for me. I ended up with this:


Three 2” columns with a ¼“ gutter, two for the main text and one for the asides. I used the same spacing vertically for large elements like headers on chapter title pages.

For the main vertical rhythm, I came up with a fractional line height. The core baseline was 4.5 pt. Prose fell on every third line, and code and aside every second. That let the latter snuggle in a little tighter while still having some semblance of a vertical cadence across the entire page:

9 pt for code and asides, 13.5 pt for prose.

I set up a running footer, and designed the section and chapter headers. Not gonna lie: I was pretty pleased with myself. There may have been some celebratory drinking.

Oh no, XML Again?

Once I had my grid and fonts, all that was left to do was typeset the whole book. That meant bringing in all of the text. I couldn’t just copy and paste the web pages into InDesign. I’d already carefully authored (in markdown) emphasis, bold, lists, headers, subheaders, etc. I did not want to start from plaintext and do that all over again.

Fortunately, InDesign has a feature called "XML import”. You can take an arbitrary XML document, import it to InDesign, and automatically map XML tags to paragraphic and character styles you’ve created in InDesign. Unfortunately, this feature seems to have been implemented by a narcoleptic intern who sidestepped any code review process.

It’s one of the buggiest pieces of nominally commercial-grade software I’ve ever used. I, on more than one occasion, managed to get it to completely corrupt an InDesign file beyond repair. (Fortunately, help was just a git reset away.)

I cracked open my little Python script and hacked it up to convert the markdown to HTML and then, through an unholy series of regexes, mash that into something approximating XML. Stuff like:

def clean_up_code_xml(code):
  # Ditch most code formatting tags.
  code = re.sub(r'<span class="(k|kt|mi|n|nb|nc|nf)">([^<]+)</span>',
                r"\2", code)

  # Turn comments into something InDesign can map to a style.
  code = re.sub(r'<span class="(c1|cn)">([^<]+)</span>',
                r"<comment>\2</comment>", code)


def clean_up_xhtml(html):
  # Ditch newlines in the middle of blocks of text. Out of sheer malice,
  # even though they are meaningless in actual XML, InDesign treats them
  # as significant.
  html = re.sub(r"\n(?<!<)", " ", html)

  # Also collapse redundant whitespace.
  html = re.sub(r" +", " ", html)
  html = html.replace("> <", "><")

  # Re-add newlines after closing paragraph-level tags.
  html = html.replace("</p>", "</p>\n")
  html = html.replace("</h2>", "</h2>\n")
  html = html.replace("</h3>", "</h3>\n")
  html = html.replace("</li>", "</li>\n")
  html = html.replace("</ol>", "</ol>\n")
  html = html.replace("</ul>", "</ul>\n")
  html = html.replace("</pre>", "</pre>\n")
  html = html.replace("</aside>", "</aside>\n")
  html = html.replace("</blockquote>", "</blockquote>\n")

  return html

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. In my defense, I wasn’t writing a program to convert any HTML to XML. As long as it worked on the 90k words of my book, it was Correct™ as far as I’m concerned. This gave me a folder full of more-or-less XML files, one for each chapter. All that was left was to typeset them.

I’m a Designer!

Starting at chapter one, the introduction, I imported its XML into InDesign. Then the work started. Each aside had to be pulled out of the main body text, restyled, and put into the sidebar. I only wanted leading indentation on paragraphs that followed previous ones, so every “first” paragraph that followed a header or code sample needed to be styled. I could never get lists to work in the XML, so I restyled all of those manually.

Then the real work started. I redid every illustration to look sharp in a black-and-white, high resolution medium. I brought all sixty-something of them into Photoshop, removed the graph lines, upscaled the hell out of them, did some shenanigans to smooth the edges (but not too smooth since that’s part of their charm) and then saved them as 2400 DPI TIFFs:

Original web version on the left, upscaled and monochrome print version the right.

Then the real, hard work started. You see, all of that is just grunt work. You could probably get it done on Mechanical Turk if you wanted to, or just let Knuth solve it with some clever dynamic programming. Where the art comes into play is dealing with this one little problem: where do you put the page breaks?

First off, you want to minimize widows and orphans—things like when the last line of a paragraph is at the top of the next page. InDesign can automate this, and even handle more complex rules like:

This stuff is why people get all excited about InDesign. It rocks.

But, once I set up all of those rules, I discovered I’d basically turned InDesign into HAL 9000. Except, instead of refusing to open the pod bay doors, what it was forced to do was break a lot of things really early.

You see, once I set up all of these rules, the result was that big chunks of text—headers, body text, and code—were all inseparably glued to each other. Since I told InDesign not to split in the middle, the only thing it could do was move the whole kit and caboodle to the next page, leaving a huge blank area at the bottom of the previous page, like:

Most of the left (verso) page is wasted space.

There’s no magic bullet to fix this. I just took it a page at a time and tried to organize and distribute the whitespace as nicely as I could. Usually, I could fill in a gap in one page by pushing a bit of stuff from earlier pages down. Other times, I’d tweak the code to shave off a line or two, just enough to get it to fit. On occasion, I’d break code samples into separate pieces so it could span pages.

See for yourself:

Now imagine this playing back 24 times slower.

It was tedious, challenging work. I started on June 19th. Working every single day, I reached the end of the last chapter exactly two months later. There was more drinking.

Baby Got Back (Matter)

So, the print edition was done, right? Nope! Real books aren’t just a pile of chapters. They’ve got a copyright page, title page, table of contents, and all sorts of stuff like that. The bits of those that come before the meat of the book are called front matter and the rest are, obviously, back matter.

I spent a few more days designing a table of contents. (I just had to make it pretty. InDesign handled actually filling it in.) I wrote a copyright page, and acknowledgements, even a dedication:

Showing this page to my wife was one of the highlights of this whole adventure.

Then I moved onto the back matter. I guess a non-fiction book should have an index, right? Where’s the “automatically index my whole book button?” What’s that? There isn’t one? Well… shit.

InDesign can create an index for you, bless its little heart, but it doesn’t actually know English. You have to sprinkle the index references throughout your book. What it does is figure out what pages those references are on and builds the list of index entries at the end.

I spent two weeks going over the entire book again, adding index entries for anything I could imagine someone wanting to look up. I don’t promise that it’s a great index, but it is an index, God dammit.

While I was at it, I cross-referenced the whole book. See, the web version has these magical things called “hyperlinks”. When one chapter mentions a concept on another one, you can “click” them with your “mouse” and the computer takes you straight to the referenced chapter! It’s like living in the future but with less Stallone and Wesley Snipes homo-erotically punching each other.

Paper, alas, does not support web standards. Instead you just put “(see page 123)” and the reader, poor plebian, has to manually turn to that page theirself. You can create cross references in InDesign and it will automatically track the referenced section and keep the page number up to date. I found every place where there was a link in the web version and manually created a cross-reference.

Getting My Grubby Paws On It

Phew! Book production is a lot of work! But this was finally nearing the end! I printed the whole book, all three-hundred-plus pages of it on my laser printer. It was heavy! I made a big heavy thing all by myself. Full of words!

I went to the store and bought a red pen. I proofread every single page. I read my book, on paper. It, finally, after all these years, started to feel like a real thing.

This took a while to print.

I went back and fixed everything that got the red pen treatment, mainly just minor formatting bugs, then I exported a PDF. (Brief interlude where I zoom into 1000% and drool over Sina Nova again.) I uploaded it to CreateSpace. Oh boy oh boy oh boy.

Oh, crap. I’m not done yet. I forgot the cover!

Cover Me, I’m Going In!

If you go by self-publishing blogs, designing a cover is the hardest, most important, most agonized over, most terribly done part of book writing. For every blog post telling you how important it is to not screw it up, there are a hundred self-published books whose cover is some amalgamation of still-watermarked screen-res stock photography, fonts that come pre-installed on Windows 95, and a design aesthetic clearly based on the belief that if one drop shadow is good, ten must be better.

I didn’t want to be that guy.

To check myself, I spent some time looking at other game programming book covers. I even made a little page of thumbnails so I could put my cover mockups in there to see how they compared:

Where’s my book hiding in there?

There’s a delicate art to crafting a design that gets the readers attention, but not in that “what the hell was he thinking?” way.

The cover I’d had in the back of my head for a long time was something hand-drawn. The book is full of little flow-charty illustrations, and I like how their informality contrasts with the technical content of the book.

After trying a bunch of different mocks for other ideas, I spent an afternoon drawing one big illustration that combined a bunch my favorites from the book. I took a ton of photos of it at different angles with a macro lens and then tried to find a composition for the text that I liked. You can see the evolution here:

In chronological order.

Hopefully, you don’t hate the final one too much.

My Esteemed Publisher

Oh, I left out one piece of the puzzle! Look on the bottom right corner of those mocks. See that? Here, look closer:

A little logo.

To publish a book, you need an ISBN number. CreateSpace can give you a free one, but then you can’t use that anywhere else, and it associates the “publisher” of that number with CreateSpace, which felt weird to me. I’d also need separate ISBN numbers for the two eBook versions.

ISBNs work a bit like domain names. Each country has an appointed registrar—the company who is allowed to distribute ISBNs to publishers in one country. In the US, that’s Bowker.

It’s a pretty smart racket. They basically just hand out IDs, a process that could be automated with five lines of Perl code and a copy of Apache running on an Arduino. In return for that, they get to charge you $125 for a single ISBN number. Or you can get 10 for $275. Since everyone publishes both print and eBook versions, you basically always get the 10-pack. They know what they’re doing.

It’s certainly the most money I’ve ever paid for 130 digits, but whatever. I sent them my credit card deets and started filling out the form. Whereupon I reached a mandatory field for “publisher”. Apparently, “Yours Truly”, “I Just Did It Myself”, “Fake Vanity Press”, and “Can’t I Just Skip This?” are not valid values for that field.

There was only one thing to do: It’s business time. I got myself a business license. I am a real deal publisher. Look, it says so right here:

I guess this blog means I’ve now posted this conspicuously?

Now, when I was looking at other game programming books, I saw a bunch of others that were clearly self-published. The dead giveaways were “publishers” that were either (a) the author’s name or an anagram of such, (b) obviously the name of a pet, or © one of the “we’ll give you an ISBN for free” companies.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with self-publishing, obviously, but it does carry a stigma to some readers. I don’t want them to see a jokey “publisher” and think the book is some amateur hour affair. While my writing style is light-hearted, I actually do take the content really seriously.

Older, established publishers tend to agglomerate over time yielding titles like “Harcourt, Brace & Howe”, “Harcourt Brace Jovanovich”, “Reed Elsevier”, and “Houghton Mifflin Riverdeep”. So I picked two stuffy-sounding names and stuck them together. Then I debated how to join them—“+” (too mathy), “|” (too '90s), “-” (hyphen, en-dash, or em-?), and “/” (too much like a boxing match)—before finally settling on just a plain space.

I even drew a logotype, just for kicks.

Although, for the record, I did still name it after my pets. I just took their names—Ginny and Benny—and classed them up. As the CEO and CFO of the Genever Benning empire, they are skilled executives, though a bit prone to farting in board meetings.

Upload it, Already!

OK, so we’ve got typeset chapters, front matter, back matter, a cover, ISBN numbers, a camera-ready PDF. All systems are go go go! I uploaded everything to CreateSpace, waited for their “manual” review process to complete and ordered a couple of proof copies.

The next few days were like waiting for Santa and then… in his traditional brown UPS suit, Santa arrived! The cover looked great! The back cover was even better than I’d hoped! (Sorry, you’ll have to get your hands on a copy to see it.) The binding looked solid! It looked like a professional quality book! I was super pumped!

Imagine you muster up the courage to crawl out of your nerd hole and ask the captain of the cheerleading team to go to prom with you. Wonder of wonders, she says “yes”! That’s how I felt.

With my wife looking over my shoulder, I cracked it open.

Then imagine you look that cheerleader in the eye and the realization crawls down your spine that her “yes” was laden with sarcasm you missed the first time around. She would never in a million years go to prom with you.

Somehow, despite my meticulous measuring and scrupulous adherence to CreateSpace’s guidelines, my layout was bad. The text was too small. The top margin too short. Worst of all, the inner margin was too narrow, making it hard to read text near the spine.


OK, Let’s Do it All Again

As you surely realize by now, changing any of the metrics of the book is a huge undertaking. Sure, you can just edit the master and all of the pages update. But that in turn affects how the text wraps, which then totally undoes all of my careful fitting of blocks of stuff onto different pages. That grueling two-month period where I laid out each page? Out the window now.

I went back to the drawing board. I cracked open the master. I started re-measuring things. Part of the problem was that (unsurprisingly) I’d over-constrained myself. In addition to needing decent margins, a good-sized sidebar, and the right line height, I also wanted measurements that were relatively round numbers. A column width of 1.35728261" is no fun to work with.

In the process of rounding some of those measurements to the nearest nice round number, I’d strayed away from actual good metrics. After bumping up the text size a bit, I spent days trying to come up with a column width, gutter size, and line height that would fit within the page margins and be easy to read.

Eventually, I found a way out: decimal inches. Most of my print work has used… shall we say… imperial measurements? Things like 16pt or 3/16". In other words, usually some power of two fraction of an inch. But that’s not the only option. You can go French revolution and actually do things like 1.3". InDesign won’t bat an eye at it.

After a bunch of monkeying around, I found a new grid. Instead of a vertical grid where prose is every three grid lines and code is every two, I bumped the fraction to ¾. This opened up the code and asides a bit relative to the text. I brought down the top margin and gave myself more than enough breathing room near the spine.

All that was left to do was update all of the pages. By this point, I was angry and fired up. I was so close to thinking the book was done and I just wanted it to be over. I burned through those pages, working on them practically every waking moment. This time, I got the whole three-hundred-something pages done in a week:

Fortunately, years playing Pokemon have given me fantastic grinding skills.

I uploaded a new PDF, crossed my fingers and waited for the new proof to arrive. When it did… God what a sigh of relief. It looked fine. Totally readable. Hallelujah.

That readability was great because it made it much easier for me to notice all the dumb mistakes I’d made in my hurried re-layout. Somehow, I’d managed to break all of the cross references, and sprinkle typos through much of the code. I did another proof-reading pass on the actual proof:

Every note is a mistake.

I fixed those, and uploaded it again. And… that’s it. I know there are still mistakes lurking in there, and thinking about them kills me. But, at some point, the value of getting the damn thing in people’s hands outweighs the value of trying to keep making it better.

Kicking it Out the Door

The print edition was done, and I made a slew of final changes to the eBook versions—mainly getting the cover in and working. Finally, only three things were left to do:

  1. Redo the front page of the site to mention the new formats.

  2. Upload everything to the various market places and put them on sale.

  3. Write this blog post.

If you’re reading this, it looks like I got those done too! You can see for youself:

iBooks should be coming soon but Apple is busy manually reviewing erotica submissions so it may be a few weeks and I was too impatient to wait for that.

This whole production ended up taking six months. It was a ton of work, but I don’t regret doing it. For better or worse, I can now hold this book and know that it’s mine. From cover to cover, every word, picture, and bit of ink was up to me. I had a ton of help from my copy editor and from every kind reader who sent a bug report or pull request, and the book is immensely better thanks to their input. But, ultimately, the decisions were all mine.

What I’m feeling now is a curious mixture of relief, gratitude, and trepidation. Relief that it’s done and I actually pulled off completing a large project. Immense gratitude to everyone who encouraged me to keep going. I know I wouldn’t have finished without that.

But, finally, trepidation. People—you—have been really supportive of the book, which is truly the best feeling in the world. But there’s a big difference between saying you like the book and spending cold hard cash on it. I’ve never written this for the money, but the number of copies it sells will, in some ways, legitimize it in my mind. And that’s entirely outside of my control now.

I feel like I’m walking on stage, alone, squinting through the footlights to see if there’s anyone in the audience.