Xeno Hemlock


How I Made a Throwback Book Project

Life doesn't always map out the way we planned.

When my writing dream was born during college, I had a different book to be my first written one in mind. After 10 years I decided I wasn't ready to write a series so I decided to write a standalone novel as training (I Killed My Friends and It Thrilled Me). Then I felt I didn't have the skill and the courage to pen an entire novel so I wrote spin-off short stories to boost my fiction-writing confidence (Walden and Hyde (and Other Short Stories)). With doubts still pestering me, I threw myself into my own informal training ground by blogging. After one year on Hemlock Time (my previous blog now closed), I decided to celebrate my achievement. I made Xenanimus, a retrospective/throwback book project to continue building my writing self-esteem (doubtful writers can be their own worst critic and they should instead be their own biggest supporter).

In this article, I outline how I created the book. Fellow writers (and even non-writers) who want to create a similar project can hopefully get some tips and pointers here.



What is the book project?

The first step was to specify what kind of book I must have by the end of the project.

  • A retrospective (throwback) book to represent the past year
  • A self-published digital book that will be available for free and must be released not that far from the anniversary date
  • The book will only be available in PDF format, not in EPUB and MOBI (this choice was due to time-constraint)

What do I need to make the book?

The next step was to list down the content and the tools I needed in building the book.

  • Since it was going to be a retrospective (throwback) book, I must choose blog posts from the past year.
  • To make the digital book, I needed a software.
  • To add visuals for the book, I needed graphics.

After listing the general things I must have to proceed with the project, I chose the specifics.

An iBooks screenshot showing some of the Xenanimus’ cover’s evolution

An iBooks screenshot showing some of the Xenanimus’ cover’s evolution

  • Putting all the blog posts I made this past year was a definite no. Instead, I chose what I thought were the best to represent the year that just passed.
  • I also needed to offer something new. I picked a few of my unpublished writings.
  • I browsed the Internet for bookmaking software. I chose Adobe InDesign based on Guy Kawasaki's recommendation. Adobe has a 30-day trial of their Creative Cloud applications so I took advantage of that.
  • I browsed my old photographs but only found one that I felt suitable for the book. It was then used as the book's cover. Since it was also used as the main photograph of my website for a certain period of time, it fit the theme of retrospection.
  • I used the Creative Common photos from Unsplash.com for the chapter images.

What are the preliminary tasks to be done?

Before diving into the bulk of the work, I made some preliminary tasks to prepare myself before tackling the big ones.

  • I arranged how the selected blog posts would appear in the book. I didn't want them to appear chronologically.
  • Even though I was familiar with Adobe Illustrator already, I had to get acquainted with InDesign. I read text tutorials and watched videos on YouTube.
  • I made prototype covers of the book so I could have an initial feel of what the book would like.

Now, on to the bulk of creating the book!

  • I continued updating the cover before settling on the final version, and even contemplated on changing the title to Xenflexio once.
  • I made a page template in InDesign and created a document for each of the blog posts. Then, I added those documents to a book file in InDesign.
  • I picked photos from Unsplash that matched each “chapter”/entry in the book and placed them at the beginning of each “chapter”.
  • After creating the cover and the chapters, I tackled the Thank You, Table of Contents, and Introduction sections.
  • I uploaded the book to my iPhone and iPad for review of the content and the design.

Download Xenanimus for free.

Any thoughts? Did you have book projects before? Share to us and leave your comments below.

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