Friday, April 1, 2011

Making a cover on lulu

10:57AM, USA Central Time
I am now in the "cover designer" on lulu, which is a great big rectangle of technicolor vomit set underneath a bewildering array of buttons labeled with meaningless hieroglyphs. They are helpfully labeled with words indicating that anything I'm likely to do here will take me down a branching pathway of irretrievable mistakes, altered data, and sorrow. At the top, the very top ... in parentheses, it says, "Kid ... do you want to use the old cover designer or the advanced one-page cover designer?"

Okay, it doesn't say "Kid," but I'm already into the sort of Alice's Restaurant mode of confronting a senseless and ridiculous system of external control. And it's going to get worse. Because what I have here is a one-page cover. I'm not even allowed to wrestle with the technicolor vomit using the hieroglyph buttons and sheer willpower - I have to go and confront the ADVANCED cover generator. The technicolor vomit and the hieroglyphic buttons are obviously considered to be standard fare.

The advanced cover designer probably asks questions about which door tells the truth, which one lies ... and has an invincible demi-lich in it. Yeah, you know what I'm talking about.

Here we go.

"Are you sure you want to navigate away from this page?"
Hell no, I'm on my way to the advanced cover designer with liches and stuff when I navigate away from this page. No, I don't want to navigate away from this page, but I have to. I hit "yes."

11:02AM USA Central Time.
I confront the advanced cover designer.
It is a blank rectangle. It says:
"The file you upload must be a PDF, JPG, GIF, or PNG. See below for exact dimensions. "

No technicolor-vomit slimes crawling in the rectangle.
No hieroglyphs.

It's quiet .... too quiet. This is exactly where you decide to search for secret doors and the ceiling falls in on you.

11:06 USA Central Time
And then ... written beneath the innocuous-looking rectangle ... comes the Gygaxian Riddle.
One-piece cover requirements:
  • Your file must be a PDF, JPG, GIF, or PNG
  • Spine width: 31 Postscript points wide (0.431") (129 px)
  • Spine begins 657 Postscript points (9.13") (2738 px) from the left.
  • Total cover width: 1345 X 900 Postscript points (18.68" X 12.50") (5604px X 3750px)
  • If using an image, its resolution should be set to 300dpi
Here it is. WTF is a postscript point? Can we not use inches or millimeters, or cubits? Postscript isn't a system of measurement, it's something you write at the end of a letter when you forgot to say something or if you're trying to downplay it, like, "P.S. You are going to have trouble with this part of the process."

P.S., yes, I know it actually gave me the dimensions in inches, I'm just complaining. The actual problem is to verify inches in the dimensions of a pdf. Time to open up Photoshop and take a look at the pdf in a graphics program.

This is going to take a while.


  1. 11:20 USA Central Time
    Opening the file in Photoshop, the program cheerfully announces that it wants to "rasterize" the file at 72 dpi. HA! I know this is wrong. I'm not going to fall into this trap. Plus, I'm sneaky. I can already see, in the "Do you want to screw up your file?" window, that the dimensions of the image are 17.48 inches wide by 11.25 inches tall.

    On the downside, that's not what lulu wants, since they want 18.68" X 12.50"

    On the upside, I'm getting this information from the "Do you want to screw up your file?" window. Perhaps Photoshop is not reading this thing properly. I set the "Do you want to screw up your file?" box on 300dpi instead of 72, and that changes the number of pixels, but it's still not the right dimensions.

    Screw Photoshop, let's just upload it and see what happens.

  2. The uploading process is going to take 10 minutes to see if Lulu will take it. From experience, I know that lulu is pretty unforgiving about this sort of thing, so I don't have high hopes. My only chance is that lulu will read it - somehow - differently than Photoshop did.

  3. 11:46 USA Central Time.
    As expected:
    "Your cover file is 1258.56 points wide by 810 points high, but these are not the right dimensions. Your cover should be uploaded at 1345 x 900 points."

    Time to put on the thinking cap to make sure I try everything I can before going back to Jim Kramer.

  4. 11:55AM USA Central Time
    Nope, I have decided that discretion is the better part of valor, and I have emailed Jim for help. For the time being, the process is halted.

    It is worth knowing, for any first-timer reading this, that lulu saves your progress at each step. Your work already done up to this point is preserved in a "draft" in your "my products" folder.

  5. Why is it that covers are so damn complicated? RPGNow's was worse, but Lulu's is really, really bad.

  6. Even though I ended up stopping, in order to avoid screwing with graphic file that's beyond my expertise, I still accomplished 3 hours of work toward completion. Not bad.

  7. @ Dan:
    Yeah, I took one look at the RPGNow interface and fled. One day I will tackle it, but it will be on a day when I am insulated with frustration by a high fever or several glasses of wine.

  8. Your computer runs Photoshop! I'm impressed.

    (running and ducking behind cover)

    - Neil

  9. I have it pretty much down pat now. I choose the option of "just pictures" or "no text" or whatever the heck they call it, do the front and back as .png files, about 150% bigger than the actual cover will be, grab a color from the cover to use as the spine, and I'm done. The moral of the story - it gets easier after you've done it a few times.

  10. These posts are cracking me up. A very clever way of venting while still being entertaining.