June 8, 2011

Print on Demand Publishing, part 2

My last post talked about what POD (print-on-demand) publishing is, and why authors might choose to go that route. In this post, I’ll describe the process of creating the POD book, using my experiences working on two books I published using POD.

Editing the Book (pre-formatting)
Self-publishers are beginning to realize that preparing a book for POD publishing actually requires more thorough editing than preparing a book for a traditional publisher, as the POD book is going directly to print. Books published by traditional publishers presumably get another level of editing at the publishing house—although this is not always the case any more in an industry that is being squeezed financially. I recommend that all self-publishers seek three levels of editing for their books: developmental editing (to be sure the book is structured appropriately), line editing (to be sure the sentences are readable), and copyediting (to eliminate typos and correct punctuation errors and inconsistencies). Freelance editors, now, have the opportunity to work directly with the author, as well as with traditional publishers as in the past.

Formatting the Book
When the text is completely ready, the author’s next step is to design the interior pages.

For Slow Time, I hired a graphic designer. She developed a custom heading style for the chapters, designed the look for sidebars and end-chapter exercises, and created the running header (the line of information at the top of the page that contains the book or chapter title and page number). At one point my designer gave me a style guide that I could have applied to the book myself, but I had trouble doing it and eventually paid her to format the whole book.

I paid my designer $1000, but that was at the “friend discount.” One could pay much more, and it would be well worth it.

For a subsequent POD book (Friday Mornings Writing, an anthology by my writing group), I did the design myself. I found a book whose design I liked (a book by Colette published in the 1930s) and imitated, as much as I could, the font, the margins, and the line spacing. I just kept trying different things in Microsoft Word and then comparing them to the original until I got the effect I wanted.

Both of my POD books were created in Word, although my designer would have preferred to use a different program. However, Aaron Shepard, who has written some of my favorite books on self-publishing, wrote an entire book (Perfect Pages) on using Word to design books, so it is possible. Usually a POD book is submitted as a PDF file, so any program that converts to PDF will work.

Editing the Book (post-formatting)
After the initial book design was completed, I had to do another proof, looking at each page to make sure there weren’t any orphans or other oddities caused by the formatting. This is another place where a professional editor could come in handy. However, one thing I loved about self-publishing was the ability to change the text to make it look better on the page. I actually deleted sentences and added sentences to improve the way the text flowed through the pages. This process can be repeated over and over again, as all changes need to be reviewed to be sure they don’t cause new problems.

Designing the Cover
This is one of the most important decisions a self-published author will make. Most self-published books look like, well, they look like self-published books. This is because although most authors have a vision for the cover, most authors are not designers. And many authors use the cover templates offered by POD publishers, which means their books will look like many other self-published books.

Having a cover that says “amateur” will affect sales in every way, whether the book is posted on Amazon or displayed on a table at a conference. I highly recommend hiring a professional for this important task.

I actually commissioned a work of original art for the cover of Slow Time. But when I asked the same artist to design the book cover for me, it was dreadful. She’s an artist, not a designer, and she made the art the focal point of the cover. So again I turned to my friend the graphic designer, who did a much better job of creating a book cover from the art.

I signed a contract with the artist that gave me permission to use the image she provided both on the cover and in my marketing materials, for a limited number of copies. If I had bought the original painting, I would have had the right to use the art any way I liked.

The cover is usually submitted as a separate JPG file.

Don’t forget the back cover. It should feature positive reviews or glowing endorsements, as well as a description of the book that will appeal to the reader. This is another place an editor could help out as authors often have a hard time writing sales copy.

Now the book is ready to send to the publisher. The next question is: which publisher? I’ll discuss choosing a POD publisher and setting a price for the book in my next post.

—Waverly Fitzgerald

1 comment:

  1. Waverly, I'm enjoying reading your posts and look forward to the next installment to learn even more. Thanks for sharing!