Alexandra Quick and the Thorn Circle print copies
Remember I said I was going to stick with my Word layout? Well, I thought my layout was pretty slick, an almost professional-looking imitation of the Harry Potter books, and then I went further down the rabbit-hole of book design and layout, and found out about things like optical alignment and leading and lining vs. oldstyle and bleed and everything else I was doing wrong.
There are lots of book designers out there with free advice (usually ending with "You should hire me to do this for you") but I am a DIY kind of guy, and I persevered with Affinity Publisher. I am now a first-level Publisher ninja, and I ended up spending most of two days importing my Word layout and massaging it into a print-ready PDF.
There are a few things that aren't quite perfect (actual professionals do manual spot adjustments on kerning and justification spacing and line grouping and stuff, and I simply don't have the expertise for that), but I think it's pretty damn close.
However. Publisher is still in "active development" (they don't want to say "beta," but in my opinion, it's still beta software), and I've found it does... unexpected things sometimes. Like, after I update the Table of Contents, I would keep finding that pages in some later chapter had inexplicably been flowed on top of each other, and I'd have to manually redo the text flow. So every time I change the structure, I have to look at the entire manuscript again to see if there is a new gotcha.
Now, people have asked if I would share the print-ready file. And I have decided... yes. Kind of.
Here's the deal. Right now, it's print-ready minus a cover. Anyone can submit this file to a POD service and get a print copy.
Those of you who helped me by proofreading the first layout, and a select few others who know who they are, are going to get actual print copies, once I get my cover and order my own print run.
For everyone else... I am going to crowd-source the final proofreading. The link below is the semi-final print-ready PDF. Submit it to the POD service of your choice and you can have your own print copy. However, you will have to supply your own cover file.
AQATTC print-ready PDF
Now, here's a preview of the exclusive reward for anyone who finds an error or helps me make other corrections in the above file:
That's a black and white sketch of the cover I am commissioning. When I get the (full-color) final, anyone who contributed a correction will get an exclusive link to the final final file, including the cover.
Note that the above file is formatted for a 6" x 9" trade paperback. The Scholastic U.S. paperback editions of the Harry Potter books are actually closer to 5.5" x 7.625". Most POD services don't handle non-standard sizes, and at 6" x 9", AQATTC is already 568 pages. I am still experimenting with layouts and might try to produce something closer to the "official" HP book form, but I suspect that I won't even be able to fit a longer book like AQATSA into one volume with a standard POD printing.
So what kind of gotchas do I need help catching? Consider these two pages:
Notice the difference? The first paragraph following a section break should not have a first-line indent. I think I got them all, but it's the sort of thing that's easy to miss when importing hundreds of pages and then manually adjusting the style formatting page by page. Also any obvious things, like a blank page or a missing header or footer, or a block of text or illustration that somehow wandered off the center line, or one of those damn reflowed pages with text flowed on top of itself. I can look and look again and triple-check every page one more time, and I know there is still going to be something I miss.
AQATWW: The Mess
I am now sort of out of The Grind and into The Mess. Which means, I am writing more pages, but I have this grinding feeling that I'm writing entire chapters that will have to be cut, because I now have all the scenes and more or less their sequential order laid out, but there are so many plot holes and "how do I get there from here?" and other questions that are not resolving themselves. It would sure be nice if I could just say "Poof, suddenly Alexandra is in the next chapter, never mind that highway battle with manticores, we'll figure out how that ended later." Actually, sometimes I do leave plot holes behind, knowing I will have to go back and fix them. This is actually somewhat more productive than spending days gnawing on a problem and not writing until I figure out a way around it, but then I know I have a bigger mess to clean up later.
Besides plot holes and loose threads, there are issues of characterization and tone. Like, how far AU is AQ going to go in book six? Because the Wizard War is definitely attracting the attention of Muggles. Now, the Harry Potter tone would be what we saw in Rowling's books, and to a lesser extent in mine up until the last book: the U.S. government is kind of aware of the wizarding world, but doesn't really do much about it because they live in parallel worlds that try to avoid each other.
In a realistic setting, of course, this would not be at all plausible. Fucking wizards with magic powers, and elves and goblins and monsters, hundreds of thousands of them around the world? The U.S. government (all governments, really) would be all over that, trying to recruit Muggle-born wizards and infiltrate the wizarding world, while the Confederation would have plans for casting Imperius on the President and Congress, and the DoD and intelligence agencies would have top secret plans anticipating that, and... you get the idea. We wind up with a "gritty" realistic urban fantasy series that might be interesting, but would no longer feel like it was at all the same world. I know some fanfic authors have taken that idea and run with it, but it's not exactly the direction I intended to go.
On the other hand, I hate handwaving away all pretense at verisimilitude because "It doesn't fit the setting." So we're probably going a little bit in that direction, but I don't want this to be Alexandra Quick and the Men In Black.
(If you do like that kind of gritty, rational take on what it would look like if a magical world got dumped into the mundane real world, I recommend Bill Willingham's Fables. And no, please do not recommend fucking HPMOR to me.)
So, I am still muddling my way through, and there will be a hella mess to clean up and probably a lot of harsh comments from my betas, and I worry it's all going to fall apart and this will be the book where I reach the end of my rope and everyone realizes I don't know wtf I'm doing. (I feel like that with every book, at some point.)
Right now, I have 43 chapters of AQATWW outlined, with 21 chapters and 115K words actually written. I have 15 chapters of book seven roughly outlined.