Here it is mid April already and spring has finally sprung! What a joy! So much to do. Mostly weed. Plan, shop, plant. Help the little plants flourish. Pull the hairy bittercress. Plan trips. Get Maryland house back in shape. Finish house repairs left over from last year. Great to be alive! And it is important to me to document here the evolution of the book “A Garden for the Five Senses.”
I started writing it last year as a test of publishing a photo-rich book using DH’s photos in our garden. I was trying to assist Gail Zahtz get her coffee-table book on Demand Design started in a way that wouldn’t require a huge learning curve for the two of us. I examined several applications that were purported to enable page design that was more than text conversion. Hands down, iBooks Author was the software that had the capability and flexibility needed for any visual based design. Although Gail and my collaboration ended before we could declare victory, I went on to use the software myself as a learning experience.
It evolved from just a photo album of our yard, something that we might print as hard copy for the family, to a guide on what we had done ourselves to excite each of our senses — sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell — in our garden. We envisioned sort of a coffee-table book, but when we explored the cost of producing an actual hard copy version of such a book, we decided to start with just an electronic version to see if there might be any interest in the subject matter.
Then when we really got immersed in the project, I discovered how incredibly powerful iBooks Author software is and how careful and knowledgeable a user must be so as not to “mess it up.” I thought the learning curve was short, but that was because even a novice could produce some nice stuff without much effort. In fact, the biggest mistake I made was not to test out the drafts before saving them! I learned a great deal, though, and continued to be encouraged by my solving problems in the books and finding help on line when I needed it.
So we published the book with a cover designed by me using the iBooks Author software and named it “A Sensual Garden: Creating a Place for Being Mindful in the Present Moment.” Again, I must thank all those who reviewed the early drafts and redrafts of the early book — I couldn’t have done it without you! So iTunes approved the book to be published as an iBook. I looked for conversion programs that would work with any of the iBooks Author outputs (.ibook, pdf, text), and there were many that claimed they could convert pdf to mobi (Kindle format), but none did. Then I discovered Kindle Comic Creator and it took our pdf format and with three steps in the program turned it into something like an iBook with no errors or reformatting necessary! So we had three formats of book:
- iBooks (Apple)
- pdf (any computer or tablet, but no ability to click on links or enlarge photos)
- mobi (for Kindles with color, but no ability to click on links; every photo enlarges, though)
Next we looked for someone to review the published book and received two that DH and I want to thank:
- Roger Brook, author of The No Dig Gardener, and
- Kelly Ashe, horticulturist, writer, and photographer, who is author of “Adventures of Flirting with Dirt.”
Roger even wrote a review on his blog!
I will now admit that I emailed and asked for reviews from many hundreds of potential reviewers that included fellow bloggers, book review sites, Amazon reviewers, gardening sites, book reader sites, and the problems were myriad:
- GoodReads had a maximum size upload file that was much smaller than the size of my book
- Few readers had access to an iPad
- Few readers even wanted any ebook to review
- None of my blog subscribers responded to my request for any kind of feedback
What was I going to do? I wrote writing blogs about the problem writing non-fiction and getting reviews. No one had any advice that I had not already tried. Then I read about some fairly successful authors and how they had had to pay for reviews when they first started out. My first thought was that paying didn’t bother me, but the review had to be honest and not just paying for a 5-star rating no matter how bad the book was. So I went over to Fivrr and asked for honest reviews. Guess what? I got ‘em! Reviewer 2 said my book was great but my cover was awful! Reviewer 1 said my book was great but the title was awful — I wasn’t even using the word “sensual” correctly. He said that the word I should have used was “sensuous.” So I looked it up; he was right. He suggested I pay someone on Fivrr to work up some alternative titles and some alternative covers. So I did. First the title. I looked up “A Sensuous Garden” and found that Monty Don of BBC gardening fame had written a book back in 1997 with this title and somewhat the same subject, throwing in a sixth sense, the sense of intuition. Well I couldn’t use that now, could I?
So I ended up changing the title to “A Garden for the Five Senses” and the cover to what you see in the right hand column and below. So my virtual staff helped immensely even though I had already published the book. Now we have worked out the kinks in republishing version 2 (or 3 depending upon which site is keeping count).
I would really appreciate any feedback from any of you who have downloaded the book and looked at it in any of its versions. And any other feedback or comments about the blog, the book, or anything.