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I’m not good a keeping track of stuff. My desk is a collection of piles of papers, books and gadgets that I tell myself is organized into a “system”. But it’s not. It’s just what it looks like: piles of stuff.

Being this way is not a strength when it comes to publishing your own books and it’s the reason I messed up with the print edition of Descent into Overworld. But my latest self publishing screw-up actually is good news for readers.

A Stretched Spine Always Hurts

When designing the cover for a print book, you need to know how many pages the book will be. That number determines how wide the spine will be and the size of text and graphics for the spine.  Get it wrong and you’ll end up with spine text that folds over to the front of the book. Not good.

Getting that number isn’t always easy. The number of pages in your Word  document (or OpenOffice, in my case) is not the same as your print book. And often when you’re ordering your cover, you haven’t even finished the final edits on your manuscript, so often you’re just estimating a print edition page count.

So, I took a stab at a page count. I estimated my book would be exactly 195 pages when printed. Turns out it was more like 179 pages. Sixteen pages too thin. That meant, when I got the proofs of my print edition, this is what the spine looked like:

Click to make that spine bigger!

Stretched spine text because of my noobness. Click to make that spine bigger!

Not bad, but not good either. Createspace, the folks who printed the book, had to squish the spine text to make it fit the narrow width. The circle around the number 1 should be a circle not an oval. And see how the text is closer to back of the book? Ugh.

This goof was totally my fault. My designer designed to the specs I gave him. And now, I was going to have to go back and have him redo the spine so the text would fit. That would take time and it would cost me more money. I didn’t have time. I had told folks the book would be ready the following week. I was quickly falling into the nightmare of self-publishing: making a promise I couldn’t keep.

My Fail Becomes Your Win

After running around in circles for a few minutes (okay hours), trying to figure out a way to get a cover redesigned inside 24 hours, inspiration struck. Instead of trying to shrink the cover of my book, I could beef up my book’s content. If the book was 15 pages too short, I would just add 15 pages of more stuff!

So, now the print edition of Descent into Overworld contains an added bonus: the opening chapters of Pixelhead another one of my videogame-inspired stories.  Here’s the blurb for Pixelhead:

“I knew I was in trouble when I deleted my breakfast.”

When Nathan wakes up with the head of a video game villain on his shoulders, he knows he’s in for a world of trouble. The question is, which world?

I think the two go very well together. They’re both about gamer kids getting more than they bargained for.  And hopefully it’ll give readers more than they bargained for, too.

A Tale of Two Book Spines

Okay, so now that I added more content to the book, how’s the spine looking now?

Check it out:

Now with more words! The 200 page edition with a healthy spine.

Now with more words! The 200 page edition with a healthy spine.


As you can see, the number 1 is inside a circle, not an oval. There is an equal amount of space above and below the text. All in all, a healthy spine.

Failing=Learning (and more stuff for readers!)

This experience has taught me (again) the merits of failing. Screwing up can be embarrassing, but it can also be a chance to learn. And I’ve done a whole lot of learning with self-publishing. Knowing how to write a good story is just the beginning.

I have a great team of editors, cover designers and amazing beta-readers to help me not embarrass myself (too badly), but at the end of the day all responsibility and bucks stop on my very cluttered desk. I’m glad this failure was easily solved and actually resulted in a better book for my fantastic readers.

What about you? What failures have led you to inspiration? Share your story in the comments below.

In the meantime, I better get back to writing. I’ve got a lot more failing to do.

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