September 30, 2004

The Perils of PDF: Our Story So Far

To recap: I've written and published a novel on-line. CafePress has a print-on-demand system set up so that you can self-publish your books with no upfront costs--instead, they take a cut of each book. Consequently, I've resolved to try publishing my book through CafePress while spending as little of my own money as possible.

To publish a book through CafePress, you need to provide them with two things: a PDF file containing the text of your book, suitable for printing on the appropriate size paper, and image files for the front cover, back cover, and spine. I've chosen to work on the PDF file first, and in the last installment I settled on LaTeX as my tool of choice for producing it. (If you'd like to start from the beginning, you can go here.)

So far, I've managed to convert the HTML text of the novel into LaTeX format and print out the resulting PDF file on letter-sized paper. I had the resulting manuscript (now there's a misnomer) comb-bound at Kinko's, and gave it to my brother in hopes that he might read it and feel moved to put together some cover art for me. At the very least it would be a refreshing change from wine labels.

Here's what I have left to do:

Persuade LaTeX to typeset my book attractively on 8"x5" paper (standard trade paperback size).

  • Design the page headers.
  • Lay out the front matter (title page, et cetera, et al).
  • Possibly get an ISBN number; I don't know what's involved there, but apparently it's doable. That would make it theoretically possible to list the book at various on-line bookstores.
  • Design the cover.

To aid me in the first three of those items, I've bought a couple of books: LaTeX: A Document Preparation System, and The LaTeX Companion.

My approximate expenses to date:

  • The LaTeX books: $100
  • The bound manuscript: $5 for the comb binding at Kinko's, plus half-a-ream of inkjet paper.

I know I've let myself in for accusations of inconsistency by spending $100 on books when I could have gotten Adobe Acrobat for that price; but frankly the books have a longer shelf life, and as Jane says I'd have spent the money on some kind of books anyway.

In the next installment, I hope to share some nicely formatted front matter. Stay tuned!

Posted by Will Duquette at September 30, 2004 07:55 PM

steve h said:

How true!

Books on LaTeX will probably have a longer shelf-life than Adobe Acrobat (version Whatever-the-heck-is-latest.With-a-few-more-updates).