Monday, May 7, 2012

When does Stubborn Turn into Stupid?

At Amazon - soon to be in print
My friend Polly Iyer, author of four terrific suspense (with romantic elements :-) novels, is my guest today.
Some of you may have heard me say this before—I’ve been vocal enough in my frustration—but those “brilliant” techies who designed Word 2010 can only be described as sadists. I’ve just finished formatting three books for CreateSpace. I had help from my blog host—yes you, Ellis—who sat down with me in a restaurant halfway between our houses and showed me how to format the first book, step by step. We switched to Word 2003, a much more user-friendly program, because even a seasoned tech writer like Ellis thinks Word 2010 sucks. My lesson went well, one book done, so off I went to do book two. Easy, peasy, right?
Um, not when I got home. I resisted throwing the computer out the window at least a dozen times, but because I have a major character flaw called persistence, I forged ahead. (Okay, I sent the file to Ellis a couple of times to straighten out the section breaks and the pages. I admit it.) But I had another problem. My Photoshop program is on the computer with Word 2010, so I have to send the file to CreateSpace from that computer. Surprisingly, and after a lot of hair-pulling, I got the second book finished in Word 2003 on one computer and sent it to myself to open on the other. The formatting held.
Sound effects—heavenly music from above.
At Amazon - soon to be in print
I’m feeling good. Two books done. I sent them off. Proofs looked good, so I ordered a couple of each. I went through the whole process, clicked on Confirm Order. REJECTED. CreateSpace wouldn’t take my credit card. Huh? This is the same credit card they accepted three weeks before for my first sample. Same credit card that Amazon takes all the time.
I thought it might be Firefox, so I ran it through on Explorer. Same thing. Rejected. I called my credit card company. (They love me, by the way. I really don’t know why. I never pay a finance charge. But I digress.) So I went back to CreateSpace. They said it was my CVV code. Same code I used three weeks before. I told them I’ve never had so much trouble trying to give a company my money. They assured me they wanted my money.
We had a long telephone conversation. The customer service representative had a lovely, lilting English/Indian accent. I understood her. She understood me. She contacted the tech people while I was on the phone. She was really trying to help. They insisted it was my CVV code. I insisted it wasn’t. She said they’d get back to me.
So I worked on book three.
I don’t consider myself totally tech challenged; in fact, I’m really not bad for an old broad learning new tricks. I even do my own book covers on Photoshop, do my own website. But every time I thought I had the third book finished—this in Word 2003—I scrolled up and there were headings where they shouldn’t be, numbers on another line, pages disappearing when I scrolled—seriously. I thought I was seeing things. Now you see it, now you don’t.
Did that stop me from torturing myself? Not even close. I got what I thought was a good document, sent it to CS. Their proof looked a mess. Backward, in fact. Enough of Word, back to the sample books. I called CreateSpace again. Another lovely service rep. The credit card validating company is closed until Monday. She will get back to me. Meanwhile, she’s sending my samples free of charge. I didn’t argue.
I do believe that those who format books as a profession earn every cent they charge, and if I weren’t such a control freak, or stupid, I’d hire them.
By the time this blog posts, I may have an update. It’s Saturday, 5 o’clock. I’m on the way to the fridge for a beer—or maybe something stronger.
Monday, 5 o’clock. After all the fuss and phone calls, it turns out it wasn’t my CVV code that they insisted was the problem. It was the expiration date. It was still the same expiration date that was in their file, so I don’t know why it decided to kick back. I peeled the egg off my red face, entered the profile again with the updated expiration date, and made a dummy sale that Sara, the wonderful customer service rep, said she’d delete. Bingo. The sale went through. Sara couldn’t delete it. So she didn’t charge me for that book either. I’m feeling a little guilty getting five sample books for free. After all, it was really my fault. I offered to pay. She refused. I guess I’ll just have to live with Amazon’s generosity.
Time for my afternoon libation before I send the next proof to CreateSpace.

Polly is the author of Insight, Hooked, Murder Déjà Vu, and Mind Games


E. B. Davis said...

I've only thought about formatting books, and it's caused me great anxiety. Once, my cc wouldn't get approved. The cc I was using had my middle initial. Seems I wasn't supposed to type the period after my initial--that was the reason it wouldn't go through. The arbitrary protocols some programmers set up on sites is ridiculous.

My daughter's laptop had Windows 7 with Word 2010. First, I don't like the file structure of Windows 7 so when I failed to install Windows 7 replacing Vista, I decided maybe it was all for the best. I didn't like Word 2010 either. I'm using 2007 and like it much better.

You earned your libations! Great picture--cute dog. Sitting by the water is one of my life goals. I love your books, Polly--so even with the frustration--keep up the great work.

Polly said...

Thank you, Elaine. I'm glad to see these things happen to others. I am now friends with every customer service rep at CreateSpace, although I doubt they see it the same way. I really do wish it hadn't been my fault, though.

Steve Liskow said...

I also do my own formatting and have had some of the same problems you mention, Polly.

I have Word 2007, but like 2003 better for formatting because it's easier to work with headers.

I've done three books on Create Space and am getting more comfortable with it, but the tech support team on the phones there deserve champagne and flowers this Christmas. They're outstanding.

I'm gearing up for my fourth book, which I hope to release in late summer...and that one has divider pages between sections. A new challenge.

Polly said...

I do believe we're a little nuts, Steve. Not to mention obsessive-compulsive, anal retentive, and control freaky (had to turn that into an adjective). Stubborn? Definitely. Stupid? Hmm. There must be a part of us that enjoys the torture. Masochistic?

Onisha said...

I get frustrated with Word 2010 and I just use it for everyday writing, recipes etc. Those of you who format books are champions.

Linda Lovely said...

I hate later versions of Word. They aren't making it better. Congrats to you,Polly, on making it through the process. I've had my own tech challenges with my PageMaker and PDF software. After some mystery update (that I didn't want), whenever I export PageMaker files to create a PDF file the PDF file is encrypted and some online printers can't take them. Work around involved placing the PDF file in Photoshop and creating a TIF. Ye gods. Could they make things any more difficult?

Polly said...

I couldn't have completed any of these books without Ellis. I keep asking her what she did that I didn't do, and she can't tell me, because she fiddles until it works. I fiddle until I'm on the verge of hysteria. Good thing no one can hear my foul language. Thanks Onisha and Linda for dropping by. These programs seem to push unwanted buttons.

Susan Schreyer said...

OMG, do I sympathize!!! I've had similar problems, and some that are so bizarre (like having the same 16 page number repeat from beginning to last page) that I've had to start over. Every time I think I've conquered every glitch know, a new one pops up. It's like trying to juggle Jello. You just can't anticipate the next wiggle in order to prevent it from happening!

Polly said...

Thank you, Susan. I am feeling so much better. I was beginning to think I was alone out there in Word hell. I love the juggling Jello simile. I couldn't have said it more perfectly.

VR Barkowski said...

I bow to your perseverance, Polly. You've put your finger on why I've [thus far] refused to indie publish. I grappled with Word daily in my former life and refuse to go back. If I am to spend endless hours struggling with formatting documents, I may as well give up writing, return to my 9 to 5, and make some real money. The notion of hiring someone else to format my novel seems ludicrous.

These days, I write on a Mac. Word for Mac is a weak and crippled stepchild of the PC version, but at least it's consistent. In four years, I've never had a corrupted file and everything stays where it's supposed to, including section breaks, headers, and page numbers. For a one-time Word power user, this borders on a miracle.

Polly said...

I wish I had a Mac, Viva, but my son bought me a Lenovo, and one should never look a gift horse in the mouth. (Cliche alert!)

Indie publishing is a big step, and one should be sure that the validation a large press, or even a small one, offers is more important than getting your work out there. For me, it wasn't. Maybe if I were thirty or forty. But I'm not. But certainly, a Word program that does what it's supposed to would make life a lot easier. Maybe there's a Mac in my future. :-)

Nancy Adams said...

Polly, I absolutely HATE Microsoft Word in all its versions! Too bad we're stuck with it when we need to format our books.

I write on a Mac using their Pages program, which plays nice, and when I did my Christmas short on CreateSpace, I wound up doing almost all of it in Pages.

But formatting for print is really trick. The prospect of doing that with an entire novel daunts me, so hats off to you, Ellis, and Steve and anyone else with the brains and moxie (and persistence) to navigate all that.

So excited that your novels are coming out in print! Now I can finally order them and dive in.

Best wishes.

Polly said...

Thanks you, Nancy. Three will be ready soon, the fourth this summer. Since you asked me to let you know, I was definitely going to email you.

Karen McCullough said...

I'll join the parade of those who wish Microsoft would tell us that Word 2007 and later were all bad April Fool's jokes and we're going back to the prior versions that we all got used to and were comfortable with. I've had Word 2007 for three years now and I still hate it; still have to search the help file to figure out how to do things I could manage with a couple of clicks in the old version

Polly said...

Karen, Ellis and I were talking about sending all these emails to Microsoft. Somehow I think they've heard this multiple times over. As I said, those people are sadists.

CK said...

Arrrgh! How frustrating! Congrats on making it through.

"I told them I’ve never had so much trouble trying to give a company my money. They assured me they wanted my money." = LMAO.

Polly said...

I'm not through yet, CK. I have one more book to go. Thanks to Ellis for saving me from hari kiri.

Even though I got a few presents from CreateSpace, they will get my money soon enough. I feel really, really bad that I got 5 books for free, including shipping. (Not really, really. Just a little.) But Amazon has a few more dollars than I do, so I doubt they'll miss my $40.

Kaye George said...

Oh great. I have to put a book on Createspace this month and I have a newer version of Word than I had the last time I did it. I had MSOffice 2003 on my old computer and tried to copy it over onto my new one, but I don't think it worked.

Glad you got it done, Polly--wish me luck!

Polly said...

You'll need it, Kaye. Or maybe not. I expect a full report. :-)

Lise McClendon said...

I feel for you, Polly. I did three books with Ingram's Lightning Source, pre-Createspace, and now I've done several with CS (oh, and even my very first novel with BookSurge which morphed into CS.)
I use a Mac and it's still hard. I've resisted upgrading my Word 2008 for Mac. Now I'm glad! (Really just cheap, which is also why I do my own formatting and covers, like you!)
The weird thing is, some of the books went straight through, smooth as silk, while others were a mess. Sort of like e-book formatting. Do you have any hair left? :-)
Persistence: that's what makes you a published author!

Polly said...

Thanks for stopping by, Lise. You're right about persistence. That's what it takes to be a writer. Add patience to the brew while you're at it. It's a whole new world out there, and if I'm being honest, I like the control of being my own publisher/designer. I had a terrific agent for two years, and all I did was wait--wait for her to send things out, wait for editors to get back to her. Then the process started all over again. I love this new world.

jenny milchman said...

Well, I *am* totally tech-challenged, so this post made me laugh. Sadists. Still laughing.

Polly said...

The humor is written out of pain, Jenny. There are still problems, so I'm not quite ready to laugh. I received proofs yesterday, and though the books look gorgeous, there's still line spacing off. The whole project is making me wonder why I just didn't let them remain ebooks. Thanks for stopping by.

Jan Christensen said...

This all sounds really daunting, Polly. I've managed to put two books up on Kindle, but the next one will also go on CreateSpace, if I can do it. One thing I found that might help is to highlight the whole manuscript and hit Normal in Styles. Have you ever tried that? Then go through line by line to check for spacing. Let me know if this works!

Polly said...

Jan, I enter the MS in Styles/Normal. I can format the body fine. That's not problem. The problem is the header. Wait. You'll see. It's easier in Word 2003, but it's not easy. Seriously, let me know.

Pamela DuMond, D.C. said...

I am in the middle of this process and totally appreciate this post! Thanks Polly. Now I don't feel as dorky.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Good for you for finally getting your books up on Create Space. I have a similar story. "It took a village" for me to get two books up on Create Space. Not a village, actually, but lots of help from experts. It shouldn't be that difficult.

Gwyn Ramsey said...

It is mind boggling when dealing with technology. Most of the time you talk to a computer activated voice and the real person doesn't exist. Glad you finally were able to get it all ironed out. Good luck.

Ellis Vidler said...

I had no idea there was so much frustration out there. Polly and I have kept each other sane (mostly) through this. It's not CreateSpace that's the problem. It's Word. The body text is fine. It's the headers, sections, and page numbers that drive you to violence. And what you put in doesn't always stay in. WordPerfect was SOOOOO much better.
But in the end, Polly's books--all terrific stories by the way--have excellent formatting. :-) She did it!

Polly said...

Gwen, I had no problem at all with CreateSpace. In fact, they couldn't have been more helpful. They even called me when I was having trouble with the credit card. If Amazon is number one, there's a reason for it. Their customer service is unequaled. But that %@*^% Word. Marilyn, you're right. It shouldn't be that difficult. Pamela, all I can say is good luck. You are about to embark on an experience. I hope it's not like mine. Off to put the finishing touches on the next batch for samples. Would you believe some of the bottom line spacing was off? Sure you would.