Self-publishing Resources and Information
I am not able – or interested! – in marketing my books through Amazon or Kindle Direct Publishing as they need to be in printed format. Here I will condense the information I write about in my separate blogposts so it’s accessible. Big big BIG thanks to Paul for his help and advice on this whole subject. I will be adding to this as I go along.
This is the start of your book really, as you decide how many pages as well as chapters and sections. Remember the number of ‘pages’ is 4 less than the total as you have your outside and inside front cover, and inside and outside back cover. The number of pages will also influence how the book is bound: up to about 50 pages can be saddle stitched (folded and stapled) but there are other binding methods for more pages. They will all have cost considerations, and there are centre page and double page spreads to factor in, if your book has a pictorial element.
I have used Adobe InDesign for the book layout, and took a number of tutorials through YouTube and LinkedIn (get their free month’s trial and binge the workshops if you’re on the freebie membership). They will probably all cover 75% of what you need to know but do have a play around and remember cmnd-Z is your friend. Work out margins and bleeds, and get to grips with page numbering and contents/index as soon as you feel ready. Be aware that you don’t need to understand everything but having a good working knowledge of what is possible is obviously really useful. If you’re having pictures and illustrations you will need some Photoshop know-how too, but if it’s just a few bits it might be more efficient to ask someone who works with it regularly to help you as personally I found the Photoshop resources pretty overwhelming and confusing as there are soooo many ways of doing things.
I bought a good basic book on graphic design to help me with some of the terminology but I had a fairly good idea of how I wanted the book to look before I started.
Page sizing is a bit of tricky one; obviously standard sizes will be cheaper to produce but it does reduce the impact of your publication if you’re trying to make it stand out.
ISBN and barcodes
These are purchased from Nielsen. I bought 10 as it worked out much less expensive than buying them singly, and of course I am printing a series so it made sense. You need a publishing name, so have that ready, with a few back ups in case your thoughts on a name are already in use. Purchase the ISBN first, then once you have the numbers, you can then log back in and buy them in barcode format. You will get an email headed “Dear Publisher” which is quite gratifying.
The barcodes are sent in a block, so you will need to open them in Photoshop and cut them out, or print them off, cut them up and scan them in. They can be reduced in size as long as they retain the same proportions, and obviously double check that the barcode has the same number as your book’s ISBN. Barcodes traditionally go in the bottom right-hand corner. The barcodes are only necessary if you’re considering selling your books in a shop but they are not that expensive and it does mean you have the flexibility if you have gone to the trouble of printing hard copies of your book.
Get at least 3 different people to go over your work. Print the book out large scale for ease of reading, but also actual size so that you can see any squashed bits of text or misaligned images. Look for weird hyphenation and lone words – widows and orphans – as well as making sure there are no accidentals; the keyboard shortcut in InDesign to toggle between Preview and Editing mode is the w key and I have often ended up with stray w’s where I forgot to click off the page before pressing it!
I made enquires to about 15 different printers asking for the same estimate (10 and 250 books) with a rough idea of the page weight and then compared them. There are lots of considerations and do ask for samples as paper feel and print quality is absolutely key, otherwise why bother? Although the price for 10 books may seem prohibitive, bear in mind that the printer will have admin set up costs to get you on file and some companies will be more willing to take on a newbie than others. I have used Newman Thomson and Ed has been really helpful. They have a lot of knowledge so do ask questions and building up a good relationship is worth doing.
Check with the printer regarding the formatting and print presets – you will get a PDF of the proof, so quadruple check that this is correct before going ahead.
If your book has areas to fill in (like my logbooks) the writable area must not exceed 25% of the book’s total area as detailed in VAT Notice 701/10. The information you need is all here. Paul made up a spreadsheet and we plugged in all the pages and then calculated the sizes of the tables and circles, as well as the two Notes & Sketches pages. It came in at 19% but it’s worth bearing in mind if you’re considering a journal or planner element to your book.
The most exciting and nerve-wracking bit: the books arriving! I ordered 100 to start with as I knew I would be wanting to give samples away to shops and interested parties (I have sent one to people who have let me use their photo as a reference for an illustration for example), and I already had a few friends and family who wanted to buy one. I do regard this as a sunk cost even though I have sold quite a number but it was worth it to feel unrestricted with a view to marketing the books. I was also desperate to see and feel and work with the actual product and thankfully I have only found one error, and it isn’t a typo, thank goodness!