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Delijah's Writing Blog

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NaNoWriMo Sponsor Offer Review: Blurb’s BookWright Program, softcover and ebook

As part of the NaNo winning ‘prices’, some companies offer to print you one of your books for free (although you have to pay for shipping). This is totally clickbait, I know, but what the hell, I like it. This year I plan to review the process on the three companies that do it – CreateSpace, Lulu and Blurb.

The catch for Blurb’s offer is that you need to use their program, BookWright in order to get the following, as stated in the NaNoWriMo Winners’ page:

• One softcover copy of your novel in our 6×9 inch Trade format, up to 480 pages with Economy black and white printing (offer expires January 31, 2015). How do you do it? Just use Blurb BookWright™, our free layout software, to design your book. Try out our new novel templates to get a head start.
• Free conversion of your book from BookWright to a reflowable eBook for Apple® iPad® (EPUB3 format) or Amazon Kindle® (KF8 format).
• Entry into a draw where you could win free editorial services from a member of Blurb’s Dream Team network of publishing professionals.

Formatting process

I had been editing a couple of the short yakuza-centric stories with the idea of making a compilation of them, and this was my chance. The code was good until January 31st and I had two stories out of the four I wanted ready, and one halfway. Ready, for me, means proofread (at least by me, I do my best), formatted and converted into \LaTeX format.

Here comes my first surprise. BookWright does not take pdf, at all. It wants rtf formats. It wants me to format my document in a text processor and feed the formatted document to the program. The automatic index does not stay when I do the conversion, and neither can I do changing headers – those which are different for each chapter – I need to go with a static one, and aligning that is a nightmare so I give it up.

After fighting with the layout for ages – and discovering that the best way to “undo” is to close the program without saving your changes, I get a new surprise – there is no way to generate an index unless it is… the old way. Aka doing it by hand. Needless to say, I was less than impressed – I mean, even Microsoft Word can do your tables of content automatically, even if it blows sometimes. That should be something basic, imo. And by hand, I mean going to the page, writing it down, and making the dotted line and trying hard as hell to align it.

BookWright complained a lot about fonts, as apparently you need to license fonts for eBook creating? Not going to criticise that, although I was peeved at first at how much it complained about good ol’ Times New Roman. I decided to go with Arial in the end because it is always a safe option.

I finally managed to format everything, although it took a ridiculous amount of time. I had to make sure that all the chapters started on an odd page, make the index, and resize titles, things that my \LaTeX coding does for me, usually. I should have left a blank page before setting the title page, though, but I only realised that when I got the printed copy. We’ll get to that.

The next step was setting up the cover. I had the 6 x 9” cover in high resolution template, so that was no problem, and I managed to do both the back and front covers without trouble. The spine, however, gave me some trouble as I did not manage to find any indications on what size to measure. After a few educated guesses, I make the cover for the softcover book and the eBook (here I messed up a bit with proportions, my own fault).

BookWright has three main working focuses: covers, pages (main text) and background (where you set the layout, headers, page numbers, etc). Aside from the issues mentioned above, the program in general did not come through as too user-friendly for me, it was very slow and stopped responding at times. It would not adapt to my screen either. I did double-check that some of the things I wanted to do in the forums, and saw that they could not be done, but not all of them – it might be possible that you can do some of them and I just did not find the way.

Loading

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Choosing / Creating the project

Choosing / Creating the project

Formatting the text (1)

Formatting the text (1)

Formatting the text (2)

Formatting the text (2)

Adding page numbers

Adding page numbers

Background and layout

Background and layout

Designing the softcover

Designing the softcover

 

Ordering process

The uploading and ordering is easy enough, as is the ordering and paying process, which is done through the web. You obviously need an account with Blurb, though. You upload from BookWright and the wizard takes you through the correct steps. The code was easy to use, and the shipping was reasonable. What amazed me was the price they had for you to download the extra pdf.

Choosing formats to updload

Choosing formats to updload

Upload process

Upload process

Order finalised

Ordering and paying

End of the ordering process

End of the ordering process

 

The eBook

Looks neat. The white thing on the cover is my fault, I did not realise that I needed to resize the cover a bit. Regarding the inside, the index is not linked, which is annoying. The header is added automatically, which is nice. The reflowing one/two pages works pretty cool too (shown on my Kindle for iPad).

eBook Cover

eBook Cover

eBook Index

eBook Index

eBook - one page

eBook – one page

eBook - Two pages

eBook – Two pages

 

The softcover

The outside covers are very, very cool, they are not too shiny even if you are – as I am – a matte fan. The inside printing is well-defined and clear, however I find the paper a bit too thin, a lot can be read from the backpage. The gluing feels extremely good. However, not convinced by how the book came out a bit wavy.

One image is worth a thousand words so:

Softcover front cover

Softcover front cover

Softcover inner pages

Softcover inner pages

Softcover titlepage

Softcover titlepage

Softcover: wavy side

Softcover: wavy side

 

The TL;DR

I would not recommend them as a launching program, too much hassle. I am not sure if their pro package is better as I have not tried it though. The InDesign plug might be a solution, but as I mentioned, I use \LaTeX and I am pretty happy with it, so BookWright is not my best option.

I’m doing the whole formatting again with a friend soon, so I’ll let you know if the second time feels better.
ETA: Nope. Still a mess.