When Learning is an Adventure

I’ve never been so busy as I have been since where we could go was restricted by COVID-19. First, I learned how to self publish on Amazon using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). With tutorials, many of them on YouTube, I learned how to format my manuscripts for eBooks and paperback books and how to design my book covers using Kindle’s Cover Create.

The next thing I learned how to do was copyright my manuscripts and also some of my photographs that I use in my cover designs. I learned this with tutorials on YouTube as well.

Knowing that I’d need an author website, I decided to learn how to create a website in WordPress. I learned this reading a book – WordPress to Go bay Sarah McHarry.

After taking a workshop on self publishing, I decided I wanted more flexibility in designing my own book covers than what’s possible with KDP. Not that KDP’s Cover Create isn’t wonderful; I designed some very nice covers with it. But the user is restricted in where she or he can place the text on the covers.

The workshop’s instructor said she uses GNU Image Maniuplation Program (GIMP). Like Photoshop, it’s a photo editing program. Unlike Photoshop, it’s free. So, I decided I wanted to learn this program. The instructor told me there was a steep learning curve, but I was certain I could learn. And if by some chance, I found it too difficult, so what? It’s free.

Well, guess what? There was a learning curve. During the first week I struggled with the program there were many times I wanted to give up. But when I wasn’t thinking I wanted to give up, I was thinking that I didn’t want to pay someone to design my book covers if I didn’t have to.

By the second week, it got a little easier and by this time, I was too invested in it to give up. I’d spent a lot of time learning what I’d learned up to this point.

By the third week, I was doing pretty well. If any of you reading this blog want to try it, believe me, as you get familiar with it, it does gate better. You’’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish with it.

Again, I watched many tutorials on YouTube.

If any of you are curious as to where I’ve found the images that I use, I’ve found many of them on Pixabay. All of the images are in the public domain and all are free to use. Some of the photos I use are from the Library of Congress and some of them are photos that I took.

Here are some of the items I created.

This is Main Street. When working in GIMP, like Photoshope, you work in “layers.” There are six layers in this image: 1. the background with the sky and mountains, 2. most of the buildings, 3. the Assay Office, 4, the boardwalk, 5, the galloping horse with the rider, and 6. the other horse and cowboy. Each layer must be scaled so it fits with the other layers.

The next image, Woman in Butterfly Frame is two layers – the woman’s portrait and the frame. The portrait had to be scaled so it fit in the oval opening.

The next image is a greeting card. I took the photo of the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Fort Street Mall in Honolulu, Hawaii. I then created a template in GIMP for the greeting card and then added the cathedral as a layer. The wording on the back of the card is another layer.

For this greeting card there are four layers: the template, the image on the front, the text in the image (“Thinking of You”), and the text on the back.

This birthday card was easy. The image already I used for the front of the card had the words and artwork in it. I just added it to the template as a layer and moved it into the correct position. Then I added the text on the back of the card. With the “Color Picker” tool, I copied the green in the image and put it into template background so the entire card would be the same color. So, there are three layers in this image – the template, the image and the text on the back.

Last but certainly not least, this is my God son Gabriel. This image is two layers: the photo of Gabriel and the image with the picture frame and the flowers on the desk. I positioned the layer with Gabriel’s photo behind the image with the picture frame. The center of the frame is “transparent” so whatever is behind it shows through.

And there we have it. I began my journey learning the GNU Image Manipulation Program on May 16, 2021. I don’t know how to do everything this program can do, but I’ve come a long way from when I started. It’s been an adventure. Now, I can design my own book covers!

You Can Succeed!

It’s a challenge to learn something entirely new. Something you’re not familiar with and have nothing to relate it to. But each new task gets easier the more familiar it becomes. It really does.  

Knowledge is learned. Skills can be learned and practiced. If you pursue them enough, the tasks that you do with this knowledge and these skills become easier because the knowledge and skills become more familiar. With the acquired knowledge and skill, you gain an understanding of the task at hand. There’s that “Ah-hah” moment when things click into place and you get it. 

 A year ago, I was pursuing being traditionally published. I had no desire to be self published. No way was I going to hassle with that! I had no idea that in a few short months, I would decide to ignore my fear and learn how to self publish on Amazon through Kindle Direct Publishing. 

There was a learning curve. There’s a great deal of information that must be navigated. Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has very thorough directions on its website. There are also numerous tutorials on YouTube on how to publish on Amazon with KDP. There is also a myriad of information on the internet that’s posted by not only KDP, but other people and companies advising the reader how to publish through KDP.  With perseverance, I was able to navigate through this. I started with video tutorials that were put on YouTube by KDP. Then as I used KDP to publish, when I got stuck, I “Googled” my question. My searches brought many, many responses. I chose the items that were from KDP. 

The tutorials gave me a good foundation and then I learned as I went along. It gets easier as you go, as you get more familiar with the process. On March 26, 2021, I published my sixth book in Kindle format to Amazon through KDP. I sailed through Kindle Create and my book turned out looking just the way I wanted it to look. Kindle Create formats your manuscript for Kindle. I also learned to use KDP’s  Cover Create, which assists authors in designing their book covers. Again, following tutorials, I learned how to format my manuscripts in Word and publish my books as paperbacks on Amazon.

It took time, but I did it. These are skills; skills can be learned and practiced.

Early on in this endeavor, I decided to register my writing with the Copyright Office. Again I used tutorials on YoutTube. I used the tutorials that the Copyright Office has on YouTube, although tutorials that people not affiliated with the Copyright Office are there as well, both on YouTube and in written format on the internet.

The last thing I wanted was a website. Initially, I was going to pay someone to design one for me. I’d had a book on WordPress for beginners for some time, but had put it aside. Fear that I couldn’t do it had gotten the best of me. But, then I thought, “I learned how to use KDP and I learned how to copyright my writing. Maybe I can learn how to create my own website. So despite my apprehension, I did it. In less than a week, I had a website that I had created. 

As I pursued it and played around with the website, the more I learned and understood. 

And then I arrived at the point where I wanted more flexibility in creating my book covers than what I was able to do in Kindle Cover Create. Make no mistake, Cover Create is an excellent tool. I was able to create beautiful covers in this functionality. It gave me a good foundation in creating my own covers and the desire to be able to do more. But, KDP gives you templates, you are limited in what you can do. Although you have the choice whether to use their images or upload your own images, you are limited to certain places where you can put the text on your front cover. So you have to keep that in mind when choosing an image for the front cover. You don’t want the title c  covering or blocking anything you don’t want covered or blocked. 

In a workshop on self publishing, I found out about the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP). Like  Photoshop, it is a photo editing program; unlike Photoshop, it is free. Even though the workshop instructor told me there was a “steep learning curve,” I was convinced I could do it.  “After all,” I told her, “I read a book and learned how to build my own website in WordPress.

To which she replied, “WordPress is so much easier than GIMP.

After the workshop was over for that day, I promptly downloaded GIMP. I quickly found out there was a steep learning curve, even with the tutorials I found on the internet. So many times during the first few days that I was struggling to learn this program I wanted to give up.  But the more I pursued it, the more invested I became in it and the less willing I was to give up. 

After a week, I’d created an eBook cover. Then I was able to create a paperback cover, although I didn’t quite remember what steps I’d taken after it was done. But I kept persevering. I’d come too far to give up. 

At the two-week point, I had created three book covers and a greeting card. It’s finally fallen into place for me. I have a good, basic understanding that will allow me to do what I want to do with this program – create book covers. 

There is still a great deal more that can be done with GIMP that I don’t know yet. I still make mistakes and have to “play around” with each project to get it to be the way I want it to be. But now that I’m familiar with the program and the terminology it uses, I can look up what I need to do in the help function and also on the internet.

I am amazed at how much I accomplished between September 2020 and June 2021. I never thought I could be so focused and self directed.  

I firmly believe that we are all capable of much more than we realize – until we challenge ourselves.