Which way to go?

11 May

You’ve finished your book, read it out loud to yourself or a tape-recorder and then listened to the replay–an absolutely essential step in the process, believe me! And you’ve had it edited and proof-read, so  the next step is publishing.

There are numerous ways to go from here. If you think it is commercially publishable, then you can proceed on your own to find such a publisher, or you can begin the search for an agent. Whichever method you choose, be sure to read their submission requirements carefully, and do exactly as they say. Do not deviate from the way they want submissions to be made. You’ll only hurt yourself in the long run.  Good luck and I hope you succeed! If you do, please come back and tell us all about it!

Perhaps your book is not one that falls readily into a particular niche, or you think it might not appeal to the broad readership required by the commercial publishers. After a good deal of thought, you’ve decided to publish it yourself. Nothing at all wrong with that decision, and don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise! Sometimes, it just makes a lot more sense to approach it from that angle, and will save you a lot of heartache in the process.

There are two ways to accomplish this. If you’re clever with the computer and its many guises, you might choose to do it all yourself, such as through CreateSpace. I’ve done this several times (for myself and clients) and have been very satisfied with the outcome. Come back next week for more about this method. The biggest feature here is that it’s Print on Demand. Simply put, the book is not printed until it’s paid for. Once money is turned in, the presses roll for one copy or many, depending on the order.

The other way to self-publish is through a full-service publisher.  Several years ago, many of these publishers were referred to as ‘Vanity Press’ and most of them didn’t have a very inviting reputation. No doubt there are still some of them out there, but if you look around, (do your homework first!) you will be able to find a reputable publisher who will do as you wish (and are willing to pay for). This would be instead of trying to talk you into a high-priced, low-quality deal, with which you’d end up with boxes and boxes and boxes of books in your garage or basement. Not a happy situation, at all.

Try to find a publisher who will let you order à la carte – or only those services you actually want or need from them, not just everything they offer.  As a for instance, they might offer design services – this would perhaps be selecting a font for your title, the layout on the page itself,  how  the first page of a chapter is laid out, and on which page does it start, plus numerous other graphic notions. Header/footers, front matter, maybe rear matter, too.  Not to mention – the COVER!!! Will your book be softcover or hardcover with a dust jacket? All or most of these things can be done in a very serviceable fashion by a clever non-artist, although perhaps not quite as well. (I don’t mean to insult my artistic friends, truly!)

Spend a day or two at a large bookstore or library. Find books of the same general type as yours. Look at all of these elements very carefully, and make a note of those that most appeal to you. If you go to a library, you can probably make a photo-copy or several of those things to be considered. Use these for reference when you investigate publishers. By the way, several of these publishers offer a ‘free’ guide to self-publishing. You’ll most likely end up on their mailing list, but if it’s FREE, why not try one or two or six, just to compare?  See what they have to say about the various elements—you can’t really know too much about all this.

If you’re unsure of your abilities, you might ask for an itemization of the suggested/proposed charges: that way you can pick and choose those that are the most important to you.  Then, look for an independent artist and get a quote for the same items. This will be of immense help to you and your decision-making.

Watch the size of the font chosen, plus line spacing and margins. In times past, unscrupulous publishers would use a larger than usual font (but not Large Print!) with almost double spacing and very wide margins all around. This is a nasty trick to require more pages, which will only cost you more money! Printing is priced by the number of pages, so the more pages that can be included in your book, the more it will cost you.  Stick to size 12 or smaller, depending (not all fonts are the same size!) and single spacing. Margins are moveable, but generally speaking, ½ inch on the outer side edge, with ¾ inch inside, and an inch on top and bottom are very serviceable.

Do use an indent at the beginning of each paragraph, and don’t have double spacing between them.  This is the default style for computers, not books, and you want your book to look as much like a ‘real’ book as possible.  As for covers – well! It doesn’t really have to be fancy, but you must be careful if you use an image. It may not be copyrighted, unless you own the copyright, or have been given permission to use it. If this is the case, be sure to mention that on the copyright page.  Unless you are producing it yourself, your publisher may insist on seeing such permissions, and they are within their rights to do so.

A word about choosing fonts: just because you can, don’t! When computers first achieved prominence, it was almost a contest to see who could acquire the most fonts! It became a great temptation (especially among newsletter editors) to show off their collections, with bunches of different fonts all over the page, many of them on the same page. This is really obnoxious to the reader, and you don’t want to turn off your reader. Trust me on that one.

Please do limit yourself to three fonts for the process. Certainly you can use a fancy or cursive font for the title, but not in the text, please! That’s one of your choices. It’s your decision whether to use a non-fancy serif font (such as this one which is Times New Roman) or sans-serif (no little legs – try Arial or Calibri, for instance) font.  Sometimes your title font is used for the Chapter designations throughout, and that’s okay.  Maybe you’ll want to use a symbol to mark a transition between scenes. That’s okay, too, as long as you don’t get too carried away with it.

Traditionally, the book info is in the headers, and sometimes page numbers as well. Or the page numbers might go in the footer. I have seen books with all that info in the footer, and it can be quite striking. It also takes a while to get used to it, but nothing says you can’t be different, if you want to!  After all, it IS your book! No reason you shouldn’t be involved with all of the process.

Please note: NONE of the above applies if you sell your book to a commercial publisher! They will do all this for you, and you will generally have very little to say about any of it.

Please come back next week for part two: publishing your book through CreateSpace and Kindle!

Are you a writer nearing the end of the writing portion of a book, and wondering how to find an editor/proof-reader? If so, please send me an e-mail, and I’ll be happy to tell you about my editing services.  Also, I need to remind you that the SPAM filter for WordPress is VERY aggressive, and deletes almost every comment without even giving me a chance to see it first. It’s not adjustable, in any way. If you’ve written a comment that doesn’t appear anywhere, please write directly to my e-mail:  bookmechanic@gmail.com which is also the place for other questions. Thanks!

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One Response to “Which way to go?”

  1. Kay Blevins May 17, 2011 at 2:01 am #

    Lots of good info in this. Really appreciated all of the salient points!!! Appreciate all you share!

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