If It’s Not One Thing . . .

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been making changes to the paperback edition of Pilot Error to fine-tune the cover and interior files. It’s relatively easy to accomplish that, but with the novel listed for sale, uploading new versions of either file to Createspace, Amazon’s print-on-demand (POD) service, temporarily removes the book from the “shelf” during the subsequent review and proofing period.

Earlier this week, I had new cover and interior files ready for what I intended to be the final upload. To minimize the amount of time the novel would be off the market, and confident that the relatively minor changes made would create no issues requiring a proof, I elected to approve it for sale immediately following the Createspace review and order a “real” copy to confirm that the cover image and interior accurately reflected my revisions.

The copy arrived yesterday afternoon. I examined the cover and was very pleased with the results. Then I opened the book and had to stare at a page spread for a moment to comprehend what I was seeing.

For those of you who may not know, one of the differences between “offset” printing and POD is the greater possibility of printing variations with POD. Createspace cautions authors to avoid using borders on their covers, for example, because a not-uncommon trimming variance of 1/8″ is more easily noticed around the edges. A planned 1/4″ border will visually “telegraph” the problem if it’s reduced to 1/8″ or expanded to 3/8″ on one edge when viewed in relation to a contrasting color.

The same variation can occur in the printing of the interior file, and that’s what happened with this copy. The text is shifted up on the page. Not much, and maybe not all that noticeable to a reader, but immediately apparent to me. And what telegraphs the problem is the position of the header (author name on the left-facing pages and title on the right) in relation to the top of the page. It looks “cramped,” especially in relation to the space between the last line of text and the bottom of the page. I’m not using a footer, so the planned 3/4″ margin expanded to about 7/8″ due to the printing error looks especially excessive in relation to the cramped look at the top of the page.

Createspace customer service agreed that it’s the result of a printing error and “probably does not reflect a problem with the document margins.” I took that opportunity to mention that it absolutely has nothing to do with the source file, because the margins have been exactly the same since the very first proof.

I then asked the representative if I could expect this sort of variation among the copies sold to customers. I never received a direct answer, only the promise that if any purchaser is not satisfied with the quality of the paperback, Createspace will replace it immediately. That’s nice to know, but the question still remains about the likelihood of variation among a number of copies.

To better camouflage the variations should they occur, I’m considering an alteration to the top and bottom document margins. Rather than set both to 3/4″, I could expand the top to 7/8″ and reduce the bottom to 5/8″. That would provide a 1/8″ vertical bias favoring the top and might prevent what happened with the latest copy. It may be that such printing errors are a rare event. If so, the existing  vertical bias will be both unnecessary and undetectable.

Createspace customer service is sending me a new copy with the delivery method known as “it arrived before we had this conversation.” Hopefully it will be as close to perfect as I can make it. But when and if I decide to make change the margins, that will be the last time I revise anything on this novel.

What’s that noise?

Oh. I know. It’s the sound of laughter from some of my fellow writers.

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