Road to selfpublish

As far as I’m aware, there are two ways to collect your words into a book and sell them: self-publish or have someone publish the book for you. Having someone else publish it for you has two further paths: you can get your book out through vanity publishing (with fee upfront) or through the traditional publishing houses. This post is about how I self-published Chee Hsin 130 Years on Amazon.
If you think writing a book is easy, think again. If you think placing that last period is the end of it, think again. In fact, that’s just the prelude to a labor of love that lasts years, if not decades.
I finished the book last September, but I decided to revise it after a trip to China. I started to consider changing the title, making proper edits, formatting, pictures, cover design, the blurb, and uploading the book to Amazon.
The title of the book. The title is rather straightforward and almost a no-brainer. I debated between Chee Hsin, Qixin, and 130 Years of Chee Hsin. Ultimately, I settled on the simpler sounding Chee Hsin 130 Years.
The editors. I have had several people work on and edit sections of this book. The first was a stranger that I found through WeChat, then my former classmate, my son, and finally a friend whom I met at a card-playing table. Thank you all.
Formatting. A book’s formatting may seem trivial, but it’s actually quite essential. For body text, I considered Times, Times New Roman, and Garamond, but eventually settled on Palatino at size 11 with 1.5 line spacing. For reasons unbeknown to me — probably due to my inadequacy with Word, I began to have problems with page numbers and even/odd headers halfway through. Lord knows how I conquered them.
Imagery. Pictures are a big part of this book. Scrabbling together 70+ photos for a collage takes a tremendous amount of time and patience. A few images refused to obey and stay in place. Some would even park themselves on the next page, and then refuse to budge. I was tedious, but the remedy was to keep trying.

⇑ the cover designs: by Priti (yellow) and the next two are by Sam.  
Cover design. I thought that the beautiful Chee Hsin logo was enough that I could make the cover myself, and even signed up to Photoshop. But when I realize that I don’t even know where my Photoshop program was located, I decided to have someone else do it. I used two designers on The first one was okay. She (I think it’s a female – her handle was priti) finished the draft on time, with one design. But during the revisions, she took longer and longer to reply – sometimes taking more than a day before getting back to me. I didn’t want to deal with her, so I signed up with Sam who had a great attitude and always replied within minutes. He provided me with three designs in a few hours and we worked from there. In two days, I got a lovely cover. He was patient and supportive, and was willing to go the extra mile. Because of this, I had him done a second cover (with Chinese calligraphy) for the same book.
The blurb. Summarizing yourself is not easy, but it needs to be done.

the uploading … 

Uploading. It was relatively straightforward uploading my book to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), but I had to be mindful about choosing the appropriate categories and tag/keywords. At first, I uploaded my manuscript directly from Word. Then after a few days (many of them spent readjusting tables, photos, and pages), Amazon KDP suddenly refused Word and demanded a PDF, regardless of which browser I used. When I switched to PDF, the number of pages changed from 338 to 366. This would have required a new cover PDF. By the way, my book cover has never fit perfectly in the first place, so in the end, I just ignored it and published with the warning. I simply don’t want to trouble the cover designer to adjust. The result is not ideal: the back cover spilling over to the spine.
Purchase. Ok, when I finally published it, of course I ordered it immediately, on May 4. At this writing the book is scheduled to arrive between May 26. Interestingly, I ordered another copy on on May 13, to ship to Frankfurt am Main. I was notified by an email saying that it was dispatched on May 16 and will be delivered three days later. The fact that it ships faster in Germany — in under a week — than in the US, where it will take more than three weeks, maybe the COVID-19?
I couldn’t say that I didn’t enjoy this part of the journey. After overcoming all kinds of hurdles, I feel it’s another excursion of life and I’m looking forward to many more.

Chee Hsin Cement 启新洋灰

Chee Hsin (Qixin in pinyin; 中文版) was initially founded by Tang Jingxing in 1889 in Tangshan, an industrial city one hundred miles west of Beijing. It folded four years later due to costly materials, corruption, and mismanagement.
In the spring of 1900, Zhou Xuexi, the general manager at the Kaiping Mines, tried to revive the company. However, the Boxer Uprising swept through Northern China, and the revolt decimated the Kaiping Mines. Herbert Clark Hoover, future U.S. President, was the mine’s chief engineer. He would later be involved in the selling of the mines, and subsequently get sued for it.

Both books are sold on Amazon.

In 1906, Zhou, China’s first Captain of Industry, saw the opportunity in producing and selling mortar while founding Luanzhou Mining Co. But the Europeans tried to grab the defunct cement plant from him. After a hard-fought victory, he finally got the cement company off the ground. He named it Qixin (Chee Hsin), which translates to ‘Start Anew’.
Zhou Xuexi was often credited as the father of northern Chinese industry. and Qixin was the cornerstone of his empire (a list of his ventures). For more info, please check out my book, Chee Hsin 130 Years, which is sold on Amazon.

Chee Hsin (Qixin) Pottery and its tiles.

For more photos, see my trip to Qixin Museum in 2019.


Before the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), eight cement companies in China followed 1:

Year Name Location Capitala Outputb Equip. ®
1889 Chee Hsin Tangshan, Hebei 14,000 350,000 Smidth Horse
1909 Huaxin Daye, Hubei 60,000 Polysius Pagoda
1920 Shanghai Longhua, Shanghai 2,500 100,000 Polysius Elephant
1921 China Longtan, Jiangsu 5,400 275,000 Humboldt Taishan
1932 Xicun Guangzhou 8,000 180,000 Polysius Sheep
1934 Xibei Taiyuan, Shanxi 45,000 Japan Lion
1935 Jiangnan Nanjing 8,000 220,000 Smidth – c
1936 Sichuang Chongqing 2,000 45,000 Smidth River
Zhijing Ji’nan, Shandong 30,000 Krupps c

1 Cement Industry 水泥工业 Dec 1947.
a Yuan 国币元 in ‘000.
b max. annual output in metric ton
never shipped 从未出货.

A few medals of Chee Hsin:

  • A bronze medal from the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Expo, also known as the St. Louis World’s Fair. 1904年美国圣路易斯赛会铜质奖章
  • A gold medal from the Panama-Pacific International Expo held in San Francisco in 1915. The award • 奖状. 1915年旧金山举行的巴拿马赛会头等奖.
  • A special award of Tianjin Domestic Products Fair in 1929. 1929年天津特别市国货展览会特等奖章.



QX cement tiles #108 and #158

Chee Hsin Pottery‘s QX #108 or #158 cement tiles are seen on a front porch in the popular TV series I’ll Find You a Better Home. The leading man Luo Jin (light shirt) and the leading lady, his fellow realtor played by Sun Li, are showing an old Shanghai villa to a perspective buyer. The TV show premiered in the spring of 2020, while the coronavirus ravaged China and the rest of the world.
The actors are exiting the foyer which is also paved with QX #108 tiles, as is the balcony above the front porch.

⇐ ⇓ Photo courtesy of Shehouse • 照片来源昔舍. 

The villa was built in 1912 for a Citibank director. His grandson mentioned that it was purchased with 300 gold bars. 福布斯生活 He sold it to an architect in 2015, who spent two years painstakingly renovating the house. It’s now a B&B.

安家》是由安建执导,孙俪,罗晋. 照片许可来源于昔舍. 这座750平方米的洋房坐落在愚园路 532弄.为一花旗银行董事建于1912年.现在是一个民宿.

L to R: front porch, second floor balcony above the front porch and the foyer.   

The colors of tile were made to order. They measured 77/8 square, 1″ in depth and weighted 3.85 pound:

No. 108 & No. 158, central tiles 心砖
No. 111 & No. 161, border tiles 边砖
No. 112 & No. 162, corner tiles 角砖

More photos of this set of tiles:

This photo was taken by Hu Ping on May 11, 2020 at the same B&B. It was at the edge of the four steps leading into the front porch, according to him.

It’s interesting to note that this portion retained the old border while the tiles in the foyer did not.

The clinker tiles: #1071 & #1074

Gifts from Mr. Huang 

These Qixin ceramic tiles were also named clinker in their Sample Book. The measurement of #1071 (hexagon) was 53/4 in厂 height and width, and of #1704 on the right was 53/4 by 53/4 inch.

这些启新瓷砖也叫缸砖. 六角砖 #1071 和 方砖#1704 都是 53/4 英寸.

Qixin Museum, Tangshan, 2019

The power plant was equipped by AEG and Siemens, with their own square and hexagon ceramic tiles.

该发电车间(电厂二层的)设备由AEG和西门子公司提供. 地上方形和六边形陶瓷瓷砖是原品.