I had big plans as the last issue of the magazines sailed from my desk to the universe. I turned right around and started finishing of Ryan’s book layout. “This will be fast,” I told him. “I can slam through this in a night.”

Screenshot of the digital proof

Nearly a week later, I am finally on the last stages and it has been a grueling test of endurance. What went wrong, you ask? The answer: what didn’t go wrong?

I started the project feeling pretty confident in my capabilities. I’m finishing it feeling humbled and smarter. I consider it a win, one I earned after around 40 solid hours beating my head trying to put together this book.

My poor Chupacabra has PTSD now. Every time he hears me bark an expletive he jumps in my lap to french kiss my nose. This is his way of calming me down. When I’m tired and frustrated, this does not calm me down. It’s been the Battle of Unwanted Kisses.

Poor Chupi hides and waits for the profanity.

The good news is by solving this problem I’ve finally solved one of my major issues with the magazine: large file sizes.

I’ve talked to graphic artist and layout friends, I’ve done countless Google hunts, I’ve read Quark how-tos… no matter what I do I always wind up with huge, unwieldy file sizes.

The fix turns out to be so simple I feel pretty doltish for not realizing it sooner. I’m also more than a little amazed no one just knew what was going on. It’s my photos.

I have tried to explain the concept of digital photo size so many times to different people it’s pretty funny that it turned out to be my own issue. Usually, I’m trying to explain to someone why their digital image isn’t big enough. When you can see it on the screen, it’s hard to explain why I can’t stretch a low-resolution image into a bigger one.

My problem was the exact opposite. I love graphics and I love them to be detailed. I always download the highest resolution available and I never resize. I want all the pixels! How I never associated this with my fat, clumsy files… *derp*

The offending leaf.

Ryan’s book (Shadow’s Lament) is not very graphic-heavy. I use a fanciful treehouse on the title page and a leaf as a recurring motif throughout. It seems simple, almost barren. It was not simple. Each leaf added 1.77 MB to the file size.

I used the leaf not only for the 36 chapter headings but also for a small, semi-transparent leaf at the top of every page behind the author’s name and book title. Are you doing the math with me?

36 chapters plus 310 pages=346 leaves

The simple-looking book had a monster hidden inside. It was so big I had to download the PDFs in three parts, merge them and then try to upload them. I compressed them. I cussed at them. I broke them apart. I pasted them together. I Googled, emailed Quark IT three times, and came very close to tears. I groused at Ryan for writing such a big book.

On top of the fat file size was another issue. All the books I’ve laid out so far have been pretty small… 100 pages or so. I have a template I use (the quick and easy part). Turns out a 5×8 book with 314 pages needs an extra wide gutter (interior margin) because of the physical aspects of a thicker book. They just don’t fold out flat, so they need more space in the middle.

Forgive me for rambling. I’m still recovering from the week or so of fighting with this book from morning coffee to staggering toward bed after midnight. My feet hurt (I have a standing desk). I’m drained physically and mentally—but very happy. I kept at it until I won. And now I know a few more things.

I feel like Dobby at this moment. Master has given me a sock… and I’m freeeeeeeee!

What are my plans now? Tomorrow morning I’ll be catching up on some other projects I’ve started falling behind on and then start putting together Altars and Oubliettes.

It will be fast, I tell you. I can slam through that layout in a night.

By Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is a third-generation Ryukyuan-American, award-winning poet, author, and publisher with 20+ years in newspapers. Publisher of Space & Time magazine (est. 1966), two-time Bram Stoker Awards® Winner, and HWA Mentor of the Year, she shares Authortunities, a free weekly calendar of author opportunities at authortunities.substack.com.

2 thoughts on “Butt Kicked by Big Book”
  1. Congrats on plugging away until you realized what the prob was! Even I, with no training in book design, knew about file sizes (pixels) and what makes them larger or smaller. But you knew that too, and just didn’t think of it –just a tiny leaf many times employed!

    I send art at 300 dpi for print copies, smaller for things that are viewed on line. I love that this new program auto-zips your images when you have attachments to mail!
    Looking forward to Omelets and Oubliettes!

    1. Yea, sometimes I think too much and over-analyze. I jumped right to looking for complicated solutions instead of looking for the simple first. I’m just so excited to have solved the issue… every white hair and stress line was worth it.

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