The VioVio experience: Part 1
While it is fresh in my mind, I thought I would go over some of the things I went through to get my SoFoBoMo book uploaded and ordered from VioVio.
The first couple of things I encountered I’ve already mentioned: I redid the photo resolution at 300 dpi and increased the pages by 1/4 inch (1/8″ trim all around), as required by many POD publishers. Scribus+Phatch made it very easy for both of these things. Since the photos are stored external to the Scribus document, I simply ran the selects through Phatch, selecting a 300 dpi downsample and then reopened the document and did another PDF export. No messing around with the individual images just to change resolution. Sweet! The 1/4″ expansion was a little more work. I had to redo the guides on the master pages and then manually move each image over to keep it centered properly on the page. With a few other tweaks (described below) it took maybe a couple of hours. Now that I understand about trim, I won’t be caught unawares next time.
Things got more interesting (read complicated) when I got around to trying to set the cover. VioVio offers a couple of different choices for doing the cover on the book. Option 1 is after you upload the PDF, to choose one of your pages as the front cover and another page as the back cover (doesn’t matter which ones). That sounded easiest, but their documentation (a little weak) said that the preferred way was Option 2: to upload a separate image file (not a PDF, but a sRGB bitmapped image) that would be the wraparound cover. They even helpfully provided a PNG template on their web site. After downloading the template and playing with that for a while in an image editor, I began to think that route was going to be somewhat time consuming, mostly because I’d have to size and place the images very carefully in the template and then redo the text of the cover that I already had in my PDF file.
After playing with the image template for a bit I decided to just go with option 1. The VioVio web site happily snarfed up the 40MB PDF upload (not too bad on broadband) and then took me to step 2, where I selected my pages for the front and back covers, carefully heeding the advice that the process would remove those pages from the interior of the book, and making sure that the rest of the pages fell into the right sequence.
It then generated a preview of the cover. Unfortunately, the web documentation didn’t say that any text on the cover image would be corrupted. But it was, badly–as in completely scrambled and unreadable. I have a hard time imagining what process would do that, but in the end it became clear that I would have to provide a straight image with no text for the covers. I was beginning to have a really bad feeling about updating my PDF and uploading the who shebang over again, when I noticed that they helpfully provided an option (option #3?) to upload separate, new images for front and back covers if you didn’t like the current ones…nice! A couple of clicks later I had the original images uploaded for the covers. Another bit of work to type in the title and author, select a font, text color and placement and then regenerate the cover preview. I had to iterate this process a few times to get something that looked acceptable, and in the end I was not entirely happy with the very limited choices provided for fonts and text placement, etc. Still, I was determined to press on, and get something printed.
Step 3 was fairly simple. Just set a few parameters for the title, description and URL of the book on their store. This is also the step where they generate a PDF preview of the book, which is fairly lo-res and looked terrible. Even the JPEG that they generated for the book icons are poor. It doesn’t inspire confidence in the result, I can tell you that.
But in the end, I decided that I’d seen worse interfaces, and as they go, this one wasn’t too bad. Main lessons here–if you use VioVio
- All images should be 300 dpi, with the correct embedded profiles. If they are in RGB form, don’t convert to CMYK.
- Make your book 1/4″ larger than the desired size, to provide room for trim (trim is generally 1/8″ per side, but can be more).
- Keep text and images another 1/2″ in from that (3/4″ from any edge) to account for variability in the trimming and printing.
- Prepare the covers as a separate file or files, preferably RGB images.
- Don’t put text on your cover images. Do that from the web site.
Or just upload your images to Flickr and use the VioVio/Flickr option to build the book!
Their prices are low. I’ll report again on the quality of the books when they come in.