Waking up is hard to do

Productivity articles all seem to insist on waking up early. Their rationale? You’ll be able to focus on important work before the distractions of life demand your attention. This sounds great at 2am, but much less compelling a few hours later when my alarm goes off.

If you’re anything like me, everything’s a blur early in the morning. It’s only after the sun sets that I regain clarity and drive. Then when the world sleeps, I can finally enjoy the peace others experience at 5am.

Luckily, I learned this early about myself and plan my schedule accordingly. The thing is that without early meetings and morning deadlines, sleeping in becomes incredibly tempting. Waking up later is one thing, but lying in bed for hours afterwards isn’t healthy when it becomes a habit.

One morning, I was feeling particularly low and needed as much motivation as possible to get out of bed. I decided to list every random reason to wake up. The only thing more therapeutic than writing is list-making.

The forgotten draft becomes a book

A few years later, I found the forgotten list and couldn’t help but add to it. The simple act of listing reasons to wake up was almost as motivating as the reasons themselves. This time I was determined to share the list with anyone struggling to wake up. However, instead of publishing a blog post, I wanted to publish a book. After constantly encouraging friends to author books, I had inadvertently convinced myself to create one of my own.

Around the same time my favourite illustrators were all working on their own projects. Instead of illustrating for other authors, they were launching books where their beautiful illustrations dominated. This inspired me to turn my list into a book of illustrations. The format was perfect as sleepy readers would have a much easier time with images than pages full of text.

The plan was to write down 50 relatable scenarios. I hit a wall at 30. Instead of wasting time staring at my screen, I stepped away. This may sound like giving up, but it’s far from it. Sitting at a desk stifles creativity, and a change in my surroundings would help me generate new ideas. Refuse to let anyone make you feel guilty about your process. Even yourself.

Over the next few days, I watched downtown commuters rush to work. I imagined their morning routine, and scribbled down notes. I also kept a notepad on my bedside table to document my own mornings (and came up with reason #35 on a weekend). When I returned to my desk to type the notes up, I started with the title. As soon as I typed “Why to Wake Up”, my fingers moved to complete the sentence with obvious reasons I had managed to overlook.

Illustwriting for beginners

Next, each reason became a caption for an illustration. I’ve always felt more comfortable sketching in pencil, because the sketch can evolve and be erased until perfect. This process was useful when figuring out the best way to convey the captions, but resulted in overly complicated drawings. Ultimately, I used pen to create more natural and effortless illustrations.

I came up with even more reasons while sketching, and ended up with 56. Compatible reasons were paired for facing pages, which I then tweaked for a stronger connection. Next, I scanned the illustrations and quickly regretted drawing some too close to the fold of my sketchbook. Any illustrations that couldn’t be saved by the scanner’s settings had to be redone.

It was only after viewing the first draft on several devices that I noticed my rookie mistake. Even though I had meticulously edited each illustration’s bleed-through, their background was still visible against the PDF. I realized that the only solution was to remove their background entirely using Inkscape. The extra work and wait was worth it though, as the transparent background made the book look significantly more polished.

Book formatting is tricky

Quick research revealed that Word isn’t ideal for book formatting. But I decided to ignore the warnings. Learning to overcome Word’s obstacles sounded much better than the recommended alternative. There was no way I was spending weeks searching for, evaluating, and figuring out how to use specialized publishing software.

While Word is fairly tricky to navigate, there are several book templates available online that made it easier. These templates can be used as is, but I used them as guidelines for custom formatting my 6’’ x 6’’ book (the perfect size for any nightstand).

A common complaint with Word concerns its two page view. When you open a book, one written in English that is, the interior cover is on left and the first page is on the right. However, printing shops require separate files for the book’s cover and its content. As a result, Word displays the first page on the left. This is troublesome visually, but also impacts the formatting.

At first, I simply added a blank page to represent the interior cover. This way I could better see the pairs of illustrations and modify their order. Then, I removed the blank page and used odd section breaks to ensure that the title, first illustration, and about author pages were on the right side page. Section breaks also helped keep margins accurate, especially for the larger gutter.

Another issue was switching images. If I deleted an image and imported a new one, then all of the captions would be in the wrong place. I finally discovered the replace image function, which ensured the other elements would remain in their original position. Understanding all of Word’s image settings was essential for a book of illustrations.

Last minute panic

After the content was ready, I created the book’s cover in Inkscape. I wrote a description of the book and a call to action for the back cover, and placed an ISBN and barcode below.

Designing the front cover was much more daunting. Even though I had my heart set on an inception concept from the beginning, I suddenly panicked. I worried that the front cover wouldn’t be legible, and switched to a plain text cover.

Right before printing, I asked a friend for feedback and they urged me to stick with the original cover. I listened to their advice as I realized that the cover of a book should evoke curiosity and entice potential readers. If anyone was confused, they could always find the title and author name clearly printed inside of the book.

Off to the book printers

Once the content and cover were finalized, I saved them as a high resolution PDF by selecting 300 dpi on Adobe Acrobat. All that was left was to pick a printing shop. After doing some research, I decided to contact The Printing House (TPH), TLAC Toronto Printing, and Sure Print & Design in Toronto.

According to reviews, TPH seemed to have hit or miss customer service. However, I was curious to see if their prices were affordable as a large chain. I emailed customer service for a quote, and they quickly replied back asking for my preferred location. I answered and then never heard back. Since the location was pretty close, I stopped by while waiting to hear back from other printing shops. The service was decent, but the price was insanely high. My guess is most of their customers are financial district employees with expense accounts.

TLAC had the most positive reviews on Google, and their customer service still exceeded expectations. While I trust that they would have done a great job printing my book, their quote was too high for my first batch.

Sure Print & Design had fewer reviews, but they were all positive. Their site is by far the most helpful, and they even had an online calculator for instant estimates. Sure Print & Design’s quote was within my budget, and their excellent service won me over.

Finding and deciding on a printing shop took longer than expected, but Sure Print & Design printed and shipped the book in record time. The whole process from inquiry to delivery took only 8 business days. The book itself was flawlessly printed and bound, while the high quality paper looks and feels great.

Waking up is hard to do, but reaching over to grab a physical copy of my first book helps.

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