"Patience is a virtue." That's what my Mum would say, usually when one or another of us was failing to be patient about something. The thing I need to learn is to be patient even with computers, even with computer programs, even with other people's programs running over the internet...
I finally finished formatting and editing my 150 stories and uploaded them as a "new project" on Lulu. I was a bit dismayed by the way the "file conversion" seemed to hang at 95% complete, but... you know... patience and all that. I exercised patience, got on with reading emails and blogposts etc., and I waited.
Half an hour later (at least, that's how it seemed), 95% became 100% and I started to design my cover. I'd already made the picture I wanted (using Microsoft Paint), and I knew what words I'd need. I hadn't used the new Lulu cover creator much before, but it's really quite neat - even lets you pick colors from your picture to use in your background or text. I was suitably impressed. Plus there's a barcode, which looks really cool, though I'm not sure what useful purpose it serves except to render all the links on my website out of date whenever I republish anything...
With the cover designed I asked Lulu to create a "print-ready" version, and this time the file conversion seemed to hang at 98.33333%. So I exercised patience again, and drank a cup of tea.
Half an hour later (approximately) my cover-file conversion failed. A neat little error message invites the user to look for help in the support area, where there are lots of vaguely related questions, mostly about covers that suddenly stopped being printable after Lulu upgraded its printers. Various users seemed really annoyed about this, though I guess with the number of users Lulu's got, there's not a lot they can do. What they do seem to have done is to temporarily offer free proof copies, which seems like a really generous deal. I plan to update my old covers and make sure they'd still print since they sound suspiciously like they might fail.
I tried a couple of minor changes; took the text off the spine; put the text back; kept everything well away from the edges, etc. But nothing worked. At 98.33333% my file conversion continued to hang and to fail.
Meanwhile I decided to look at the interior pdf that Lulu had created and realized I'd accidentally left a page number on the first page. I took the number out - no big deal - re-uploaded, and... the interior file conversion hung at 95% then failed. So now I had neither pages nor cover for my nice new book. Aghghg! Frustration!
I tried all the tricks I've tried before - just use one font. Be careful where section breaks occur (I hate section breaks), try not to use anything too obscure for the size of the type... and still it failed . Meanwhile I'd accidentally over-written my original with all the nice different fonts, and couldn't decide if I wanted to try to recreate it.
It got late. I gave up and went to bed.
Next day I reopened my project in Lulu. It immediately started trying a file conversion on that last failed document. Two minutes later it was done and offering me a cover that looked remarkably like the one I'd so carefully created the previous day. Another two-minute file conversion later, I had my book, ready to print and ship, sending that free proof wending its way to my door.
So what had changed? The message boards and support discussions don't seem to have much to offer, but I'm making a guess that Lulu was just overloaded - maybe the file conversions timed out, or maybe there wasn't enough space on that particular server for the new file to be stored. Either way, I plan to exercise a little more patience next time.
If today it won't succeed, I'll wait until tomorrow to try again.