This is part 7 of my Advice on Self-Publishing series! Previous posts in this series include:
Part 1: Write the book | Part 2: Beta reading and editing | Part 3: Turning your manuscript into an ebook | Part 4: Cover art | Part 5: Deploying the book for sale | Part 6: Sites that format and sell your ebooks
This post will focus on what to do if you want to get your book into print.
What I know: The espresso book machine
First I’m going to talk about the route I pursued to do print editions of Faerie Blood and Bone Walker, since that’s what I’ve got direct experience with. And that route is the espresso book machine.
For those of you unfamiliar with this machine, it’s basically a print-on-demand machine that does all the work necessary to produce a book. You feed it two PDFs, one for your cover and one for the interior of your book, and it does everything: printing the pages, printing the cover, cutting all the paper as necessary, and binding all the paper together into book form.
When I did the Faerie Blood and Bone Walker Kickstarter in 2012, I chose to go with this machine on the grounds that Third Place Books, just down the hill from my house, has one of these machines in its store. It operates under the aegis of Third Place Press, and it’s been super-convenient to be able to work with their staffer and be able to see the production of my book copies face-to-face. When I want new copies, I simply put in an order–and then go down the hill and get them. And I get the satisfaction of knowing I’m supporting a local indie bookstore with my book production.
Now, there are some things to keep in mind here, things that may keep the espresso book machine from being a feasible option for you. The Wikipedia article I linked to above has a roundup of where these machines are–and while there are several dozen scattered across North America, chances are pretty good that you aren’t actually living close enough to one to take advantage of it. And since to the best of my knowledge various EBMs are being run by indie bookstores, whether or not those individual stores will do business with authors by remote is entirely up to those stores. This also means that you may have to deal with those individual stores as well to negotiate whether they will carry your book on their shelves.
If the store with the machine doesn’t opt to work with you to sell your book for you (and thereby provide potential readers a way to order it online), it’ll be on you to find some way of doing that yourself. It is a consideration, because you’ll need some way of selling your book to people who are not local to you, and you’ll want to make it as easy for them as possible.
If you’re going to be doing your printing by remote anyway, you will probably want to opt for the other major means of printing I’m aware of: CreateSpace.
What fellow authors have told me about CreateSpace
For those of you unfamiliar with CreateSpace, it’s basically Amazon’s POD service, and it’s the number one means of print book production I see mentioned in the author circles I follow. Since I’ve been doing my printing with Third Place to date, I don’t have direct experience using CreateSpace. So with that in mind, I reached out to several fellow authors to ask them for their input about CreateSpace and how it works.
I use CreateSpace exclusively. But I also pay someone to format my manuscripts and make my full wrap covers. I also use CS’s ISBNs for the print editions. Uploading and proofing are a breeze with them. Taking the step-by-step approach, I’ve had no problems. When I order my own copies to sell, the books come from either CA or South Carolina and take about a week to arrive. But they’re well-packaged, and the finished product always looks great. The print editions are up for sale on Amazon within 2-3 days after you approve the final draft.
Oh, one other thing. B&N do order from CS for print copies. They’re even listed on their Nook site. And since most of my sales come from Amazon, having the print versions also listed with the book make it easy for readers to order a print copy.
From Veronica Scott, also of the Here Be Magic blog:
I use CreateSpace for my self pubbed titles, but only so I can easily have paperback copies for book signings, a few on consignment to the local bookstore, have copies to send relatives and friends who aren’t into e books yet, and do Goodreads giveaways with signed copies. Here and there a few paperback copies do sell on Amazon but even with my best-selling titles, the ebook sales are 95% of ‘copies’ sold.
I have my formatting done for me by the eBook Formatting Fairies, who provide me a version of my cover art and an interior file, which I then upload to the CreateSpace site myself. The process is extremely easy – Amazon provides step by step guidance at every stage and offers choices re the book size, glossy or matte finish, white or cream paper, etc. It typically takes a day or two for CS to approve the file and send me e mail notification that I need to approve a proof. I prefer to have a paperback proof mailed to me, sine that’s what my readers would receive but it is possible to approve the proof online, which would be faster. Once I’ve gone back into the system and approved the proof (after receiving it in the mail and checking it), the book goes live within a few hours. It shows up on Amazon within a day or two, and I then e mail Amazon via the Help feature to have the paperback linked to the already listed e book version.
I use my own ISBN identifier purchased from Bowker for the paperback version of the book because I want to be listed as the publisher, not Amazon or any other entity that provides identifiers.
As a final note, there is definitely a thrill in holding your “actual” book in your hands!
Overall, my experience with CreateSpace has been good, with the caveat that I have been scrupulous in following their standards for margins, blank pages to balance out page count at the end, and overall formatting. If you pay attention to CS’s criteria for MS submission and cooperate with it, then you have a good experience.
Formatting points to consider: With a border that is a different color on top and bottom, sometimes you will get a minor bleedover. Mine was not so bad so I didn’t worry about it, but it is a cover consideration. Also, make sure that your spine is wide enough to have your title on it.
Turnaround time for ordering copies has been very quick for me. I’ve ended up getting book orders more quickly than CreateSpace’s projected delivery date. However, I’m ordering 10-20 books at a time.
And last but not least, from M.M. Justus, also of NIWA:
Well made, specifically-designed for CreateSpace PDFs are crucial, both for the interior and the cover of the book. If you don’t want to pay someone with the expertise to do it, you need to learn how to use Adobe InDesign for this specific purpose. I like to know how to fish as opposed to buying a fish every time I need one, so I took classes, both on how to learn InDesign in general (I also use it in my day job, creating museum exhibits) from a local community college, and from Dean Wesley Smith’s online workshops (http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/online-workshops/) on the specifics of both cover design and print interior design. Those classes were well worth the $300 price tag (one good cover can cost half that, easily), although it doesn’t look like he offers the how to do an interior class anymore, which is too bad.
Go through the entire proofing process, both online and by ordering a print proof copy before you okay the book to sell. Stuff will jump out at you on that print copy that you’ll never see online. I proofread my print proof copy of each new book page by page. It pays off.
And that’s really about all I have to say about CreateSpace. I find them exceedingly easy to use. Their only real disadvantage is their affiliation with Amazon, which means most bookstores take one look at your books and say, no, thank you (or worse). But since I’ve never really tried to get my books into bookstores, that’s not a big deal for me. 90% of my sales are ebooks, anyway. The main reason I do a print version is because it makes the ebook price look better, and for the few times (like cons, or being That Author who keeps a box of books in the trunk of my car – hey, I once sold a book in a forest service campground while on vacation, among other places, and I wouldn’t if I hadn’t had that box with me) I want paper copies.
Many, many thanks to all the authors who sent me feedback on CreateSpace, and I hope y’all will consider visiting their sites and checking out their stuff. BUT WAIT, there’s more!
I also have data coming from my online pal Alinsa, who did the layout for A Rational Arrangement, which I have just featured on Boosting the Signal. Alinsa’s given me an extensive writeup about how to deal with CreateSpace, and I’m going to feature that in its very own post.
Likewise, I have data in from fellow NIWA member Tom Gondolfi of Tanstaafl Press, about all the various methods of printing he knows about. This, too, will be getting its own post.
So stand by for those posts to be coming, all!