Friday, May 20, 2011

My new book & the adventures of self-publishing

My new book, An Extremist for Love & Justice, is now available!  It'll be up on Amazon in a day or two, and I'll link to it then, but it's better for me if you go through the publisher (CreateSpace, Amazon's self-publishing arm): https://www.createspace.com/3593257.  To encourage such, here's a coupon code for $2.00 off -- Q2MVMHDY.

I thought some readers might be curious about the self-publishing process, so I'll write a bit about it here.

Self-publishing has been an interesting process.  I've learned a lot by doing it, one of which is how many typos I make, and another of which is that it always pays to document your sources while you're writing rather than having to go back later and look them all up again.  Being consistent about MLA or Chicago style doesn't hurt, as well. I spent more time straightening out my footnotes than I could possibly imagine.  They're still not perfect, which bugs me, but eventually I just had to move on.

As for self-publishers, I looked into various self-publishing options, including iUniverse, Outskirts, XLibris, Lulu, and CreateSpace.  I heard good things from colleagues about both CreateSpace and Lulu, so those are the ones I looked into more--also they were two of four that were very responsive to providing information to me, iUniverse and XLibris being the others.  Lulu seemed like a good option that I'll consider in the future.  They're one extreme of the options--you provide your own book in PDF form with all the layout done, including page numbers, table of contents, fleurons, and the works. You also have to provide your cover as a completed PDF file with the correct spine width, and bleed margin and so forth.  My graphics capabilities are pretty weak, but they have some templates you can play with, and I created something that I think was every bit as good as what I ended up getting.  They'll give you a free ISBN, you upload your files, and you're basically done.  All that is free.  They make a larger percentage off of each book that's printed, but there are fewer up-front costs.  But you don't get much for that -- the book is available through Lulu, but to make it available elsewhere there are additional fees (although still smaller than other publishers).  Honestly, now that I've gone the other route and seen it all, I can't remember what turned me off of the idea of doing it through Lulu.  I know I wanted the comfort of having it be formatted for me, and felt that a less-do-it-myself approach would yield a more professional result.

Once I ruled out Lulu, I ended up going with CreateSpace, because when I added in what I wanted, all of the others seemed pretty equivalent, and I had a colleague who had a good experience with CreateSpace, and since they're connected to Amazon, I felt that would make things smoother.  I wanted something that would do the interior and cover layout, would provide an ISBN, and which would make it available on Amazon and other booksellers, particularly Borders and Barnes and Noble.  To get all those pieces it seemed to work out to around $500, no matter which publisher I went with.  (For example, iUniverse was $599, but would've included the Kindle file; xLibris was $449 but had extremely limited templates.)  So CreateSpace was as good a pick as any, to my mind.  For $499 they take your file and format it according to one of several templates.  The templates have less flexibility than I would like, but they worked with me to find a reasonable compromise.  Then they took my picture and words and created a cover according to one of several templates again.  They have templates for the front matter of the book (title page, etc.), as well to choose from, and a list of several different fleurons and fonts for the cover and interior.  I thought CreateSpace would give more flexibility here than Lulu, but in the end it was about the same as the one I had created myself on Lulu.  CreateSpace did throw in their distribution services, so it can be available through just about any bookstore in the country to order.  Lulu had the disadvantage of not doing Kindle format, and since I have a new Kindle, I thought I would like to have it in that form.  Unfortunately, the Kindle file is not part of the CreateSpace package.  It's something I can add on or do myself, so I'll probably look into doing that this summer and make it available on Kindle. 

The CreateSpace process took more time than I thought it would after uploading the files in early April to today when I could finally approve the physical proof (and that's without actually getting my proof copy in the mail yet--I approved it sight unseen).  There were several steps along the way where I was unclear what would handle next and how long it would take.  But in the end they were very responsive to my calls, and I'm happy with the final result.  I would recommend them for a first-time self-publisher, based on my experience so far.

6 comments:

rbowen said...

Congratulations!! It is interesting to hear the process. Any chance of a book signing opportunity??

Cynthia Landrum said...

Hi Becky,
Yes, I'll be planning to bring copies to church to sell, and will happily sign them. Probably the first Sunday in June. No official book launch or signing party or anything like that planned, though.

Julia Hemeyer said...

Thanks for the account of your experience with self-publishing. I'm about to go that route with a manuscript I'm working on currently, and the first-person experience is useful.

Cynthia Landrum said...

Glad it was helpful!

politywonk said...

How timely! I am just about to go format my own book and send it to Lulu for POD (print on demand). My mentor in this has been Rev. Charles Eddis, the Emeritus Minister in Montreal, for whom I did the research on his own new Lulu volume, on the American Unitarian Association run in with Communism and Rev. Stephen Hole Fritchman. Charles, who is 80, used a freelance editor and typesetter but mastered tons of computer tricks to even reach that level. So he's my hero.

I spent an afternoon at my local Borders looking at writers' resources, and wound up with Writers' Digest magazine, and The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, Fourth Edition, by Tom and Marilyn Ross. These seem to have some good walk-through tips, and have gotten me further than I ever expected. However, Lulu does have staff-supported packages, if you want to use them as a more conventional self-publisher.

Learning how to do footnotes in Word 7 has been totally worth the trouble. Plus, once you tell it which format you're using -- boom! done!

I was fortunate in that two qualified parishioners agreed to proof-read my text before I start this whole process. Yep, no way to anticipate how many errors one makes in basic grammar.

But Cynthia, having shared all that, there is nothing like community. I pass this along because you sound like you're ready to move forward with your next book. I'm just inspired that you've done ONE! Congratulations, and good luck.

Cynthia Landrum said...

Thanks, PW! Let us know about your own one when it goes to press! :)