The Project that Just Wouldn't Quit, part 2

I’m pleased to report that I was finally able to upload my finished files to, and place an order for one copy. Perhaps this project will be the exception, but there are always flukes that show up in the first copy. When I’m satisfied that all is as it should be, I’ll post a link to the file on Lulu.

To my surprise, the process has been far more complicated than I anticipated. It sounds so simple to get your manuscript laid out just the way you want it, “print” it to a pdf file, and upload that to Lulu. Indeed it was that simple for the Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing manuscript (that was working with a traditional publisher, not Lulu). The challenge there was getting Word to behave with all the graphics I used.

This time, Word behaved surprisingly well, but getting the pdf right was another matter, and I even used Acrobat to “distill” it. I won’t elaborate on the details here, though I may post them to the Lulu user forums and elsewhere. Unless you are a serious Power User (I’m ready to claim that designation now), with a vast reserve of patience, I suggest uploading your document file to Lulu and letting them do the pdf conversion. There is no charge for that service, and you can download the pdf file to check details before finalizing your project.

Then there was the cover. I’m also a Photoshop fanatic, and opted to create my own wrap-around cover rather than using the online wizard. I discovered more gremlins here, and none lived in Photoshop. The Lulu spec page for document dimensions lists measurements in pixels, inches, and centimeters, and it specifies 300 dpi resolution. The stated number of inches and centimenters does not correspond with the designated number of pixels at that ratio, nor are the inch and centimeter measurements equivalent with each other. “Go with the pixels,” advised an expert on the Lulu user forum. The explanation for the inconsistencies was balderdash.

As if that weren’t enough confusion, when I uploaded my finished cover file, the size requirement was stated in points. Both Acrobat and Photoshop told me my file was the specified size, but the Lulu interface claimed it had other dimensions, and they were not right. I finally worked through that challenge and clicked on order. I’m about to leave for a couple of weeks to help out with the birth of grandchild number six, and presumably my finished book will be waiting when I get home. You will most certainly hear my thoughts on the quality of the printed product (of course the quality of the contents is impeccable . . . ).

At this point, I’m still recommending Lulu for personal, short-run printings, primarily because I know of no viable alternative, and you can’t beat Lulu’s price. Hopefully the inconsistencies and confusion will diminish over time. For now, I do recommend sticking with their converters. Perhaps I’ll tinker with the cover wizard next month.

I’m especially pleased with the picture I used for the cover. I have only three color pictures of myself between the ages of two and six, and they were not suitable for a cover shot. So I improvised, and used Photoshop to “hand tint” my favorite. It took way longer than I intended, but I’m elated about the final result:

Original photo

Final result

I’ll be sharing further observations regarding the personal value I derived from writing about this simple, sublimely happy time. You already heard about my foray into the deserted barracks. I also found a couple of family history surprises, and encourage everyone to dig around in their past, be it happy or less so.

Write on,

Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal


Shawn Hansen said...


The tinted photograph is not only adorable, it turned out beautifully.

That swing is a work of art: was it something a relative made for you? (My grandfather is smiling down on me for noticing the craftsmanship.)

I'm following your Lulu story carefully: I am working on a project with my father, and we will likely use Lulu for the printing.

Enjoy the new grandchild!

Bonkers said...


I am so impressed with your perseverance in the Lulu saga! And the hand-tinted photo is glorious! How did you do that?


Ritergal said...

I'm pretty sure my father made the swing. He's always been a master craftsman, though by profession he was an engineer.

The photo: Hey kids, don't try this at home!

No, seriously, if you want to fool around with it, the key is to start with a sepia toned base layer. Then add a new layer for each color (so you can touch up edges without "running" into the abutting color), and set the layer blend mode to "overlay." That last step makes the paint thinly transparent, like the wash of oil paint diluted in turpentine.

Selecting the right color is tough in blend mode. It's pure trial-and-error. If you need to go back and reselect that color for further tinkering, you must reset the layer to normal blend, select the color with the dropper tool, then go back to overlay.

That's the short of it. I spent a lot of time with the eraser tool, blurring edges, and various other things, until it looked right. I told you the science, but the art is intuitive.

Shawn Hansen said...

I swear I can hear the groaning of the rope and the squeaking of the wood.

My dad and grandfather built a tire swing for me that hung from a huge oak tree and swung out over a drop-off of about 20 feet. Needless to say, I was thrilled, but my mom and grandmother weren't.

I recall both my dad and my grandpa getting on the thing (together) and riding it to prove I was perfectly safe.

Neither of them would have dared let me on anything that wasn't safe, but they could never convince my mom or grandmother I wouldn't slip off the tire either.

Compared to the some of what goes on in the world today, that tire swing was a piece of cake! And the fun I had? Well, that goes without being said.

Tara said...

I like lulu...but we have been butting heads for weeks now with formatting! I just ordered the first copy of my self-published piece through them and I am hoping it turns out well so I can make it public. They seem like a great service all in all, I just have to figure out what I am doing exactly :)

Tara said... the picture!

Ritergal said...

Oh Tara, how exciting that we are "having books" together! You'll probably see yours before I see mine. I just arrived in Austin and won't be home for a couple of weeks.

Melissa said...

nice work with the photoshop! :P how long did you work on that?

Ritergal said...

I can't tell you exactly how long this project took, but it was at least four hours. Part of that was figuring out how.