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Wednesday, 16 March 2011
Self-publishing - The Mechanics #1
Those of you who have followed me for a while (and thanks for doing so!) will know that, while on the winding path to traditional publication, I've also been investigating the various options on self-publishing. I am, at heart, a traditionalist. I want my book published in the traditional fashion and, failing that, I want to be able to produce hard copies of good quality while offering the option of an e-book download as well. As a newcomer to the whole business, I've run into problems along the way and wanted to share some of my solutions and suggestions. Just to try and make YOUR path a little smoother. :)
So where to start? How about POD services?
A friend directed me to lulu.com and I've used them several times. They are by no means the only company of their kind, but they are one I've used so I'm going to tell you about my experiences with them. They're ok. The quality of the book when printed (I used the trade 6x9 inch standard paperback version, although I've had one hardcover too which is nicer quality) is reasonable. You need very high resolution images for your cover, and I strongly recommend printing off test versions before committing yourself to more than the odd copy. If your image isn't a high enough resolution, you'll get a warning icon come up. And it isn't too difficult to use either - I am not a very technically-skilled person but have managed my way around the designing stage without having to resort to the 'Help' section.
(current cover version with lulu)
Now, I'm not entirely happy with the options lulu gives you on the covers. The text size for the front cover, and especially for the spine doesn't go high enough in my opinion. If you're trying to draw attention to your book amongst all the hundreds of others, and many of them may be well established authors, you need text that calls out and catches the eye. Also, I found it very hard to have the title and my name placed where I really wanted them to be. One way around this is to make your front cover elsewhere with the text already added. There is also a limit on the style of text, but again, if you prepare that part of your cover beforehand, there are other option online for downloading more text styles. I haven't done that myself because I haven't felt the need to - so far.
I've also had a problem with formatting the actual contents of the book. Now, I don't think this is down to lulu, not entirely. I've been using an almost prehistoric version of Works Word Processor which, while it can save documents as .doc, hasn't been completely compatible with other Word software. Also, I wasn't aware of the page break or paragraph formatting options - I just used the space bar or, in extravagant moments, the tab. So the fault most likely is mine. As it was, I found myself having to upload my MS, check how many lines out my chapter headings were, before correcting it on the .wps document and uploading again. Tedious to say the least! It is also worth noting that you should set up your contents and acknowledgement pages as a separate document to be installed at the front of your book. Otherwise, your title page will be numbered as 'one' rather than your opening chapter. As lulu allows you to download a PDF document of your book before printing it off, you can check how it will look before being committed!
As a final note, I will add that the last shipment I had from lulu was damaged. I e-mailed them and they asked for photographs which I duly despatched, and they offered to replace them if I returned them. Unfortunately for me, I had ordered these ones in the US to gain the free shipping and had them sent to a friend who then brought them over whilst on a visit to the UK. So to return them would have cost me more than the printing had. Since Keir has now undergone a major revision, I didn't see the point and chalked the incident up to experience!
So, in general, I would say it's worth trying them out for yourself.
However, I'm currently trying out a new POD service. My husband doesn't take much interest in my literary adventures in much the same way that I don't involve myself in his love of football. Despite that, he was kind enough to take note of a recent interview in which the author had self-published, and a book expert (here my husband's interest in the article faded too much to take note of whom the expert was!) declared the book to be of bookstore quality. The company used was blurb.com. The set up is somewhat different to lulu. Here you download the software to format your cover and book, whereas lulu required you to do so on their site, and then download the cover and contents to view. The Home page is a little confusing and it took me a while to figure out that I NEEDED to download the software in order to create my book, but as I mentioned, I'm not especially bright on the technical side!
However, once past that hurdle, I quite like blurb compared to lulu, although I haven't yet printed a test copy through them. The cover design software is more flexible and has more options. Text placement is still a little limited but not to the degree of lulu's. The first cover here - all black - is a blurb version of my original cover. The second is a completely revamped version which I love, though I'd still like to include the Keir 'face' from my blog - I'm currently working with some software that should allow me to do that!(see the top image for the 'final' version!)
The formatting of the book's content is also more flexible. I can edit the document in situ whereas with lulu you have to download the PDF to 'see' it, and then alter the original document and upload again. However, despite that fact that I now have all my manuscripts in newly-purchased Word 2010 software, there is still a problem. None of my paragraphs are indented, although there is clearly a break between each. This is more than likely due to my inability to make full use of all the formatting options and resorting to the old-fashioned space bar, rather than a fault with blurb.
As I'm still in the process of Keir's 'final' edit, I'm not yet ready to print off a test copy. And as a note, I don't print these copies off to sell but to edit - staring at a computer screen constantly makes me go word blind. Working through a book is easier, and means I can take it anywhere to work on. But when that time comes, I'll let you know how it goes. :)
I'll be posting more about POD and creating covers in the near future, but if anyone has any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment! I'd especially love to hear about anyone's experiences with the POD companies mentioned or that they've used and would recommend or not.