Dallas A. Dixon
After graduating from high school in Grundy Center, Iowa, in 1961, Dallas spent four years in the U.S. Navy, including three years aboard the submarine USS Bang. With an Honourable Discharge in hand, Dallas returned to Iowa and found employment by working at the lowest position on a land survey crew. Dallas married Rita and they eventually became the parents of two daughters. In 1985, after the further education of hard knocks and several thousand hours of home study, Dallas had the privilege of becoming licensed as a Professional Land Surveyor in the State of Iowa. Dallas retired in 1999. Dallas and Rita reside in Waterloo, Iowa. By the fall of 2011, Dallas had written and published 2 books. He is currently contemplating (part-time) another book.
Many people ask me what it is like to write and publish a novel. I always reply that it is very hard work, expensive, takes a lot of time, and is sometimes very frustrating. I endured a lot of frustration during the publishing process of my first novel, but the second one went smoothly. I hope this blog post will help first time authors who plan to self-publish their works.
I will first offer that I spent 3 years writing the first novel, and 2 years writing the second novel. Of course, I write only part-time, but I still spent hours writing, editing, formatting, etc. It took about 6-months of publishing time for each novel. The very first suggestion I have, is to make certain that the manuscript format settings are correct for the computer word program you will use, or are currently using to write the manuscript. All the problems I encountered during the publishing process of my first novel were caused from me not having the settings correct in the word program. This is extremely important, because when the publisher converts the manuscript format into the book format, many changes occur. The page sizes change, the font sizes and styles may change, the line spacing will change, and the margin settings will change, so everything in the manuscript file needs to scroll into the proper positions for the book format. When the publisher sent me the first set of page proofs, I reviewed them and quickly became devastated. Many of the pages contained extra spaces located in between the ends of the sentences and the beginnings of the next sentences. When I contacted the project coordinator about the extra spaces, she said that I could fix the problems in my word files and re-send the files, or they could fix the problems for an additional fee. At the time, I did not know how to fix the spacing problems, so I ended up paying the additional fee.
As my first novel was going through the 6-month publishing process, I began writing the second novel, and I kept thinking about the spacing problems I had had with the first one. It finally dawned on me that one of the problems was that I had hit the enter key several times toward the end of each page so that the new page began with the start of a new sentence. The printed pages looked great to me, but by not allowing the sentences to split at the end of a page was what caused my major spacing problems. After I realized the cause of my spacing problems, I spent hours searching the internet, trying to find the proper settings for a manuscript format. I finally found an article about word processor settings for manuscripts. I thought the settings would work for me, so I set them into my computer word program. I learned that the window/orphan control should be set to the off position.
A good way to tell if your manuscript format settings are correct is to convert a copy file of a manuscript chapter. You can change the font size and style, change the page sizes to 6” x 9”, and then change from double line spacing to single line spacing. You may also have to change the tab settings, but if your word program settings for the manuscript are correct, everything in the converted chapter should scroll into the correct positions. I spent hours converting the chapters of my second manuscript, so that I could see if everything scrolled into the proper positions. I cannot stress enough how important this is, because it is better to correct everything before the publisher converts the manuscript into book format, than it is trying to convert it during the publishing process. Publishers have a schedule to keep, so if there are any changes, they expect you to be prompt.
When I self-published the second novel, I did not have any spacing problems, but I was on pins-and-needles while waiting to receive the first set of page proofs from the publisher. I was greatly relieved when I saw that everything converted correctly. Remember that the publisher will convert the files you send them, but if there are problems with your files, it will be your responsibility to fix the problems, or else pay them to fix the problems. The publishing company I worked with was very dependable and helpful throughout the publishing process, but a person must remember that the publishing company will charge an extra fee for any additional work. I believe that is quite fair because it costs them money, too.
By Dallas A. Dixon