Since I decided to publish my doggy art in book form I have been asked to share my experiences of self publishing. I’m more than happy to write about how I produced my huge catalog of TWO books but I am so far removed from being an expert I would strongly urge you to do your own research. I’ll also add the caveat that my DIY approach is a good fit for my self publishing ambition which is primarily to have a permanent physical record of my research and/or art, not to make my fortune, to publish a best seller, embark on book tours, or feel I have to constantly self promote. I’m very fortunate to be at a stage in my life where the pleasure in the process is the most important aspect of my creative life.
There are many possibilities out there for self publishing, particularly if you are prepared to pay someone else to do part or all of the work. From outsourcing images and/or writing or even hiring a publishing company to ‘self-publish’ your work for you. All permutations are possible if you have the budget.
My approach was very much hands on. I wanted to do as much as possible myself, partly because I was trying to save money and partly for the satisfaction of learning all the skills necessary to self publish, bar the physical printing. The disadvantage of taking on the whole project is that you have nobody else to blame for things such as typos or bad grammar!
My first book was written to consolidate over 20 years of genealogical research which would only be of interest to my immediate family and I didn’t consider hiring an editor. As long as the reader could understand the facts and evidence then grammatical errors were not my highest priority. It was more important to stop procrastinating and get everything down on paper! I persuaded two long-suffering friends to read the manuscript and even though they caught many of my mistakes a couple of errors still crept through. If I were to write a novel or a book that wasn’t aimed at such a niche audience I would definitely consider hiring an editor. Incidentally, much to my surprise, I sold quite a few more copies of my book than I had imagined so it’s probably a mistake to think that your book is so niche that nobody will ever see it!
I use the Amazon company, Createspace to print my books and they are my only experience of self-publishing but there are many other companies such as Lulu, Blurb and Ingramspark. It’s worth comparing their services and elements that might not immediately be obvious such as shipping costs. I’m in the UK and although Createspace print on demand in the UK for customers as an author I pay for books to be shipped from the USA which can add a hefty sum to what at first glance seems to be a very reasonable cost of the book itself.
Once you have decided on a publishing company you will need some content for your masterpiece. My two print books have been very different to each other. My first took almost a year to write and was mostly text. The current book is artwork and was compiled in less than a week, not counting, of course, the time taken to draw/paint the images!
To prepare the first book I used Adobe InDesign CS5. InDesign was a steep learning curve but one I was prepared to accept as part of the overall book publishing project. It’s not necessary at all to use, what we used to call, ‘desktop publishing’ software to produce the inner of the book. Any program capable of producing a high quality PDF will be fine. Createspace also accepts Word documents and provide templates for common book sizes. It’s worth noting that images for publication need to be a minimum of 300 dpi.
Six years later and publishing my second book I found the process even easier. Createspace has developed a sophisticated preview where you are able to page through your finished book, even down to showing the shadow that the gutter makes on your pages. At this stage the preview makes it very obvious, for example if you’ve used coloured text on a coloured background which isn’t clear to read and you are able to make changes before the final print.
The prospect of self publishing can appear daunting but Createspace guides authors step by step throughout the process and makes it straightforward. There is also a lively forum community able to answer any questions. The whole process has been fun for me and there really is little to match the excitement of unwrapping the first proof copy of your own book. I’ve got the bug all over again. I’m currently fascinated by zine culture as well as working on my third book!