Internet infrastructure and the quest for ARC readers

If you drive around Minneapolis during Road Repair (known elsewhere as ‘summer’), you often notice a barricade in the street.  It surrounds an open manhole.  From that manhole  issues a man in an orange or bright green safety jacket and hardhat, brushing away a smudge of subterranean mud.  He’s working on Infrastructure, of course.

I feel like that guy must feel. I’m working on infrastructure, as well.  I hope the guy in the manhole is more competent than I am.

I’ve been down in the tunnels of the Internet, trying to splice together a connection between my website and my database of contacts.  I definitely have that metaphoric smudge of Internet detritus.

In the process of making changes prefatory to reorganizing the site for the launch of my first novel, Fatal Score, I made some changes in my Contacts page. I was preparing to offer my subscribers an advance reader (ARC) copy of the book in hopes of getting early reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.  The only way to truly test the link was to make it work in real time. Unfortunately, in my struggle to do something fancy that’s better done simply, I put up a link that led nowhere.  Twelve of you … I dearly hope you know who you are … signed up and disappeared into the Internet void.

I apologize for the mistake.  The links are now working.  Drop me a line through the Contacts page if you would like to chat or are willing to do an advance read between now and mid-November.

Inside and Outside

In the month-plus since I’ve been able to post, I’ve been schooled in some obvious things about publishing.  The first of these is slap-your-forehead obvious:  the guts define the skin … i.e., the interior defines the size of the spine, and therefore the cover.

There are four expensive items in self-publishing:  Cover design, interior design, web design, and professional reviews. I decided to use a professional (vs. template) for my cover design. Interior design seemed expensive ($700 – 1,000) for what seemed like number-crunching, so I decided to do it myself.  There are more details to it than I thought, but it’s a valuable exercise, particularly if one is writing a series.  I mention this because I set my interior in Garamond 12-point and ordered up the cover from a great designer in Lagos, Nigeria.  I estimated 330 pages for the interior.  When the first proof copy of the whole book arrived, the Garamond looked a little light for easy reading, so I switched to Times New Roman 12-point.  Push of a button. No big deal, right?

Wrong. Big deal.  The interior contents ballooned from 340 pages to 382. The spine became thicker, which meant an adjustment, which meant back to the cover designer.  But wait … line spacing is a little too much. Trim that. Margins? Maybe a teech more gutter to make it read better. This is sounding like an eighth-grade algebra word problem.  Which it is. Which brings me to … the chat room.


I’m using two services for print publication:  CreateSpace (Amazon) and IngramSpark (bookstores, libraries). Faced with my 382-page dilemma, I needed to know whether my other adjustments had brought me back in line with the cover, which is to say, in line with the spine.  I opened chat with with one of them:

<Rogers> When I updated my interior matter, you warned me that my book is too big for its cover.  Can you tell me how to estimate spine sizes for a published book?

<Publisher> Hello, John.  My name is (redacted).  I hope you’re having a great day! I am anxious to be of service to you today. What is your question for us today?

<Rogers> See above.

<Pub> I see that you are asking how to calculate spine size for your book.

<Rogers> Yes

<Pub> Spine size varies from book to book.

<Rogers> Yes.  Can you help me calculate it?

<Pub> We cannot help with the calculation.  Have you read our FAQs?  They may offer assistance.

<Rogers> So, you do not know and you are not familiar with your own FAQs? Thank you.

<Pub> It has been our pleasure to serve you.

Onto the second publisher:

<Rogers>  Can you tell me how to estimate spine sizes for a published book?

<2Pub> I see that you are asking how to calculate spine size for your book.

<Rogers> (Inaudible sigh) Yes.

<2Pub> Actually, rather complicated.  Here is the formula:

       Spine (inches) = (Page size – margin four sides+gutter)*(pitch*(1*line space))*.002.
Do you need help calculating this?

<Rogers> Thank you for treating me like an adult. Also, thanks for the lesson in customer service. No, thanks.

Eighth-grade algebra.  Gotta love it.