Print prep

Just before publishing One Woke Up for the Kindle, I started looking into a print edition. I have some work partially done on a wraparound cover, but it didn’t progress too far because of the need to know the physical size—as in number of pages—of the final book, which meant I needed to get a layout ready. And this turned out to be a problem.

I’ve used Word to layout books before. I relied on it when publishing Sudoku Most Foul on Lulu, and I even laid out a collection of short stories as a book using Word. But Word has too many liabilities for this. For starters, if you want your chapters laid out in any kind of fancy way, like no header on the first page or starting on an odd (right-hand) page, Word lets you do it, but only if you include a manual section break. Adding these is a pain. Also, Word has a formatting bug in which an em dash (the long — dash) followed by a closing quote will allow a line break between them if the line is just the right length. This bug hasn’t been fixed in newer versions, either.

Enter OpenOffice Writer. I decided to try that for layout to see what its capabilities were, and I was actually pleasantly surprised. The most wonderful feature they have is that you can create not just paragraph or character styles, but page styles. That means I can have a special page style for chapter headings, that is followed by the default page style. And when you have a style that automatically includes a page break, you can specify which page style to use. It’s fantastic.

There are two downsides I’ve discovered. One of them is that the em dash is not immune to trouble here. If a line of the type I mentioned is just long enough, Writer may add a line break before the dash, which looks terrible. Apparently though, you can insert the special zero-width non-breaking space (U+2060) and this stops.

The other issue is that Writer lacks the style option to avoid inter-paragraph spacing between paragraphs of the same style. I use several paragraph styles that set themselves apart from the main text with spacing. Solution: You need to create three other styles: First, Last, and FirstLast, which have the spacing included. This sucks, but in reality it’s no different from what Word itself does when saving to HTML. I decided to bite the bullet and do a style conversion on One Woke Up so that in the future I can just copy and paste the whole document into my OpenOffice copy, in the event of any revisions. (And then I’ll obviously have to add those non-breaking spaces.)

Okay, there’s one more problem, but Word has it too. In fact, every word processor I’ve ever used has this issue. There appears to be no way to setup a proper conditional scene break. In most print novels, a scene break within a page is nothing but a blank line or two, but if it happens at the end of a page (it should never appear at the top). the reader needs a visual cue. That cue is often three asterisks, but it can be done any way the author or publisher likes. I mark all my scene breaks with asterisks, but I want the professional look where they don’t show up mid-page. In Word, this requires manual formatting. I’m afraid the same is true of Writer. Writer has a thing called conditional styles, but the end of a page is not one of those conditions. There’s also no “Keep with previous paragraph” option, which a scene break should have so that it never begins a page.

All things considered though, book formatting in OpenOffice Writer is relatively painless compared to Word, and it gives me more options. The whole page style concept is such a nice way of doing things it makes me wish Microsoft would jump on that bandwagon too. Frankly for as much as Word costs, it should be a better product than it is.

To get around the minor issues I’m having in OpenOffice, I created a macro that would insert that zero-width non-breaking space before every dash, and I also came up with a way to go through every scene break in the document and apply styles as needed (including adding “keep with next” to the paragraph before, if necessary) so that scene breaks would appear exactly as they should. I really hate to compromise on aesthetics.

As of tonight, I believe I have everything in place to get a final print layout together for One Woke Up. This means I can finally get back to finishing a wraparound cover now that I’ll know the width of the spine, and I’m much closer to having a CreateSpace edition available for those who don’t own Kindles or use a Kindle app. I believe I can probably upload the epub format to Barnes & Noble at any time, but I just want to double-check a few things (like cover dimensions), so I’ll be putting that off just a tad longer.

Tomorrow, all other priorities are eclipsed by putting up the tree.


About Lummox JR

Aspiring to be a beloved supervillain
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