The First Step's Definitely a Lulu!

Posted by Arlo on Feb 28, 2007 under Life of Arlo

Word CountI’ve been working on that book idea – taking the 175,000+ words and pictures in this blog and archiving them in a dead tree format.  I didn’t think a crash course in publishing would be this time consuming. 

First, I grabbed a hardcover book template from Lulu.com.  It’s a Word document and the page numbering, margins, and the like were already set.  Next, I needed to figure out how to get the content off my blog and into the blank document.  I found the easiest way to preserve the formatting was to copy and paste directly from my html pages.  Took quite awhile, but all the italics, bolds, hyperlinks, and pictures pasted into the document essentially intact.

While doing that, I managed to do something smart.  I set up a number of styles and applied them to specific sections of each entry.  Photos are centered, captions are italicized, dates are right justified, titles are big and bold, comments are formatted differently than the body text, stuff like that.  I learned some neat things about styles in the process, but I haven’t actually used them yet.  When I’m ready, however, I’ll be able to make global formatting changes with just a couple clicks.  New font for every titles?  Center justify every date?  Perfect.

Right now I’m staring down 12 Megabytes of text and photos, spread across 462 pages.  It’s so very tempting to simply fire this off to the press and call it good.  Instead, I’m hoping to persevere long enough to make this something I’ll be proud to show off.  That’s not going to be easy.  I’m learning that the web is a very different medium than a book.  I’ve got more questions than answers at this point.

For instance:

  • What do I do with hyperlinks?  Obviously you’ll never be able to click on them in the book, so should they remain blue and underlined?  Furthermore, comprehension of some of my writing is bound to be dependant on clicking some of those links.  Should I attempt to preserve (through footnotes or parentheticals) every web address?   
  • While the entries on photography should translate quite nicely, what about the entries I wrote mainly to showcase a video?  At least I can come up with a cumbersome solution for hyperlinks; there’s nothing I can with the video. 
  • How do you order a book made from a blog?  The easy answer is “chronologically,” but I think readability would be improved by creating chapters based on the blog’s categories.  That’s what I’ve done. 
  • And what about blog entries that belong to multiple categories?  It doesn’t make sense to reprint them throughout the book, especially since each new page costs $.15. 
  • Should I go back and find the original photos I used for each entry?  I’m sure I’d get better print quality, but that’s a lot of work.

At some point, I decided that this wouldn’t simply be a way to back up the content of my blog, but rather a way to showcase it.  I don’t know if I’ll have the stamina to actually go through and edit the whole thing… nor do I want to speculate on how much I’d end up changing if I did.  I think it makes sense to correct any typos I find, but what if I decide to rewrite whole sections?  How many changes can a project like this sustain before it becomes a completely different beast?

I should have plenty of time to figure that out.  Before I can create my final .pdf document, I have to complete this (still growing) list:

  • Proofread 462 pages of text.
  • Write editorial comments as footnotes
  • Decide on formatting (fonts, sizes, spacing between elements, drop caps, etc.)  Make sure every line of text conforms to it.
  • Remove or footnote the hyperlinks
  • Decide how to layout entries with more than one photo.
  • Create Copyright and Flyleaf pages.
  • Create a Prologue.
  • Create an About the Author page.
  • Create a full-color dust jacket.
  • Create a (dynamically updating) table of contents

In the meantime, I think I might test out LuLu’s service by dumping the unedited content straight into a less expensive format.  Maybe a comic book.