clo_again: (Monkton - Where are we going?)
[personal profile] clo_again
This post was originally going to be a Merry Christmas and then Happy New Year and then that New Year meme that does the rounds every December/January...

...and then I thought it'd got a bit past all that and I'd talk about getting fanfiction printed into bound books instead. (And then I left this post sitting half-written for about two weeks and I'm finally posting it in a rush just to get the damn thing off my to-do list.)

So on New Years Eve I was being somewhat sad and stuck at home with family + guests and, as I seem to end up doing quite often around Christmas and NYE for reasons of a nostalgic nature, I was idly re-reading some of the fanfiction that I've loved almost longer than any other fic: BagEnders. (For those of you yet to encounter the wonders of BagEnders, it essentially follows the premise of 'Let's make the original Fellowship from Lord of the Rings immortal, assume they've all lived through history, and stick them together in a three-bedroom house in the year 2000, with all the ensuing psychological, social and lack-of-personal-space issues you'd expect from being several millenia old and still having to live with Gandalf. It's rough and typo-filled and ridiculous, and still one of the best things I've ever read on the internet). It was written way back in internet terms - around 2001 - and it's been gradually disappearing from the internet over the years; the website crashed back in 2004ish and some stuff got put back up, but only the first series is really accessible on there these days. Various efforts have been made to save it but there's a general feeling that one day in the not-to-distant-future, it's going to vanish.

With some widespread Googling and much c&ping, I collected the last few chapters on series III on NYE, and sat back with a glow of contentment. Now it'll be mine forever! I'll always have BagEnders!

Until a snide little thought said, my computer breaks. Until they're no longer on the internet and replaceable. Then what?

Side-track: when I went backpacking around Australia a few years ago, I invaded the house of [livejournal.com profile] chickybee32, a long-term (maybe my longest actually!) internet friend. We met a long long time ago because of an epic-length fic she'd written called Bitter Wine and, while I was staying with her, she showed me a paperback book - Bitter Wine, neatly formatted and printed into an actual bound paperback by another mutual friend as a present. It was fic! In a book! With chapters and actual pages and collected stories in the same 'verse at the back!

In short? It was super cool. Fic in an actual book format. I can't be alone in thinking that's pretty nifty.

Ever since I've sort of hovered around the vague idea of getting my favourite fics printed into books because honestly, I re-read all the time. I read new books constantly too but if I'm cleaning my teeth or stirring the pasta or just want something to occupy my brain for half an hour without having to process anything beyond letters on a page, I pick up old books. I open them to random pages, I re-read paragraphs and lines or entire chapters, in pieces and snatched minutes. I've re-read my entire Tamora Pierce collection dozens of times and constantly have at least one of them on the go; I'm currently heading towards the end of Squire for the umpteenth time, after reading odd paragraphs while cleaning my teeth for two weeks.

I would love to do this with fic, but. It is tricky impossible to do this with a laptop. For a while I clung to the idea of getting a Kindle and filling it full of fic but that's hardly a safe thing to have near a running tap in the bathroom and I quickly realised it wouldn't be any sort of assurance of safety for much-loved fic in the long run; a Kindle is, basically, just a mini-computer and we all know what computers do in the end - break. Usually at the most inconvenient moments ie, when you've lost your backup/s.

So I'd been sitting on this idea of fic-books for a long time, without really ever getting around to researching it. I thought it'd be expensive, maybe, or there'd be copyright issues if the company noticed what they were printing (not that I'd have any intention of selling fic-books to anyone other than myself because hey, no and also not mine to sell and did I mention no? - but it kind of bugged me. So, I'd left it.

But with the thought of BagEnders graually vanishing, and it being the start of a shiny new year and also fic-books would be really really cool, I Googled for printing services. First option up was Lulu.com and, after browing for a few reviews on the service, I thought it looked promising. I spent about a day trying to format my BagEnders chapters into something approaching consistent - Lulu asks for .pdf files with all fonts embedded etc. which is super-easy to do with OpenOffice (on Writer, just go File -> Export as .pdf and hit save. Lulu has a step-by-step gide, although you may have to open an account with the site to read it - accounts are free and easy though!) but it's way more important for a book to be consistently formatted than a collection of chapters posted on separate webpages - chapter titles had to stand out, Author Notes to be italicised, footnotes etc.

Towards the end I was sick of staring at the thing and I figured I'd save what I had - which was almost a completely-formatted version of series I and II complete with all the comic strips originally drawn for the fic by Calima that are still available on the website - and upload it to Lulu just to see. I wasn't intending to print it yet - I still wasn't sure it was a great idea - but I wanted to test the Lulu process and so, I hit publish and followed the steps and I'd designed a cover to fit the A5 format using another one of Calima's illustrations and-

-and yeah, I got to the final step and it was there looking at me in all it's shiny temptingness - and I clicked publish.

(Aside: Lulu claims that you are "publishing" these books and will go some way to make it seem official, offering you the option of an ISBN and prcntages of sales etc., but during the creating process they offer you three options: publish outright and make available to buy, complete with ISBN; publish privately for only you to view/purchase; and another option that I've forgotten and probably isn't that important since the other two are the ones we want. For fic-books, I'm pretty sure the option will always be "PUBLISH JUST FOR ME" because you get royalties or some such if other people buy something you've 'published' and even if it's your own fic, that's getting into pretty sketchy territory legally. I can't stop you doing it, but I recommend you don't. Seriously. Don't.)

So I'd published the damn thing, formatting errors and all, and when it took me to the private-to-me book page after, I ordered a copy. With series I and II included plus illustrations (I didn't think I could fit III into Lulu's 740-page limit), it came to 612 pages for an A5 paperback which cost £10.34, plus £2.99 p&p. If you order multiple items - as far as I've tested anyway - p&p goes up by £1 per item; there may be a limit on this or there may not. For 612 pages though, I figured that was pretty good.





I realised too late that it should probably be spelt 'BagEnders' and not 'Bagenders'.

















A few days after BagEnders arrived, I got twitchy with the knowledge that I could create fic books. This time I wanted to test things I'd learned from BagEnders (smaller font size, margin sizes etc.) but I didn't want to spend another entire day formatting, so I looked for a fic that was already formatted pretty perfectly and that would c&p as such. Plus, it had to be something I'd re-read enough to justify the money, and long enough to justify the book. With all that in mind I went for The Student Prince, a modern-day Merlin AU by FayJay. I re-read it fairly regularly, it's a proper book-length at 147,000 words, plus it wasn't too NC-17-rated (I'm still not entirely comfortable sending anything too dubious off to some company somewhere to print because hey, they might not read anything they're sent but then again, they have to check the printing and such; I didn't want to risk them banning me before I've even got started) and it had the nice bonus of, on the surface, looking like just another King Arthur story that anyone could've written without reference to the TV show. Formatting was mostly a simple matter of c&p, making sure the chapters started on a new page, and finding a cover design. Published it all up, ordered - £8.51 + £2.99 p&p; it came in at 525 pages of US trade paperback size, which is larger in surface area than A5 so they probably charge by page count instead - and ordered. In the same thee-day turnaround, it was dispatched and arrived.




I over-shrank the margins slightly - the text goes just slightly too far towards the binding for total comfort but it's still very readable. The better formatting really paid off too; it feels much more like a real book with a serifed typeface, so I'd be inclined to go for that over Arial in future.

I also discovered that any type on he cover is best placed using Lulu's own type boxes when creating the cover art - the type on the back cover was done that way and it's crisp, slightly indented and clear. The title and author name were done as part of the image on Photoshop and are nowhere near as sharp, though still readable; I'd definitely use Lulu's text boxes for any cover type in future. The cover image also printed a little darker than I expected, which I'd take into account next time.


Front cover.


Spine


Back cover.


Chapter heading and type.


Paper comparison (BagEnders top of picture, The Student Prince bottom of picture. For no explicable reason, BagEnders seems to have been printed on better quality white paper. I selected the same options for both except for the book size; Bagenders is A5 and The Student Prince is US trade paperback. The A5 size is easier to hold, I find, and if the paper difference is down to that then I would definitely go for A5 as my format of choice in future.)


Size comparison (including American Gods to provide average-paperbacksize and Graceling to provide average-large-paperback size)




So, that's Lulu.com and fic books. I like Lulu a lot; the step-by-step process is easy, and the print inside the book is sharp and perfect. Even the comic strips have printed beautifully. Aside from a few hiccups like the cover type and margin size - which I guess is why they recommend you order proof copies of everything you 'publish' - I have no issues with the two books. I love them and I'm going to keep them for a long time; I've already formatted several other of my favourite fics into .pdf files waiting to be printed, along with an anthology of all my favourite Stargate: Atlantis fic because it all seems to be around the novella-length instead of novel. Someday in the future I'll have a bookcase full of my favourite fic, bound and shiny and free from the threat of computer malfunctions.

~

Other stuff is happening. Today I went to a wonderfully unexpected old-fashioned Penny Arcade in Southport; I lovedlovedloved the third episode of Sherlock; Silent Witness is hopefully going to be on again next month which I'm super-excited about; I'm still working at the hospital a a temp, although I'm feeling like that may not last too much longer; I've read many wonderful non-fic books; I'm going with [livejournal.com profile] jesse_kips to see the marvellous Propeller perform Henry V in February and I can't wait.

But all that will be another post, because I should've been in bed an hour ago. :)


eta: Oh dear god that was an epic amount of html!fail to fix. NOW I AM GOING TO BED.

Date: 2012-01-23 12:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jesse-kips.livejournal.com
OMG they look amazing! Actual actual fic as books, oh no, I sense this appearing somewhere in my future.

ALSO! You have Graceling? That caught my eye in Waterstones - is it any good??

Date: 2012-01-23 12:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] clo.livejournal.com
THEY ARE SO AMAZING. I may bring one along to the February meet-up to show you because the whole concept of fic-in-a-book is so cool (also, reading fic on a page feels different to how it reads on a screen. I can't really explain it but it's different, which is weird).

Graceling is a book I'm sort of divided on - I love the concept but the execution felt a little sketchy on description, and from what I remember I didn't really buy the romance - but then everyone seems to rave about it. You can borrow it if you want! I think it might be one you have to read to decide if you like it or not.

Date: 2012-01-23 08:28 am (UTC)
mayakittenreads: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mayakittenreads
*whimpers*

BagEnders!

*grabby hands*

Date: 2012-01-26 08:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] clo.livejournal.com
At some point, you will have a copy! I'm going to tweak the formatting to see if I can fit series III in there too, and fix the editing errors etc. :)

Date: 2012-01-26 08:48 pm (UTC)
mayakittenreads: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mayakittenreads
*grins* Tweak away.

Date: 2012-01-23 12:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chickybee32.livejournal.com
That is one of the most awesome ideas I think I've ever heard. There really is nothing like the printed page to carry around with you. I'd rather pay the extra and be able to hold it in my hands - and not have to worry about it crashing/Tristan destroying it on me!

Date: 2012-01-26 08:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] clo.livejournal.com
You gave it to me with Bitter Wine! ^_^ Being able to carry fic around so easily is amazing; even little things like putting a bookmark in to mark your place is fun, compared to hunting for where you left off on a webpage.

(Not to mention how reassuring it is to look at my bookshelf and know that, no matter what kind of ridiculous crazy goes on with the internet in the next few years, my favourite fic cann't disappear. That's definitely worth paying for.)

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