I use Createspace.com to publish and distribute books online. Don’t take me wrong, i am NOT one of those ultra successful online multibook publishers ” i did it, you can too!” Hell, no, only one of my books actually sells and even that’s only a few a month..it’s a how to book with no shades of grey in sight…. I’m just pointing out the TOOLS available and how idiot proof they have made them over the years.
I’m going to run through the Createspace process…i just started looking at LULU.com the other major player – but i will soon because they have hardcover options that I will need for next year. Not that there aren’t a hundred options to print your books but you WANT the distribution options, this is a CHEAPASS guide right?
Size does matter • before you even open a file – visit your chosen printing company and find their size options, it should have a template too, and margin specifications. Take the list and figure out WHAT the end use for your book will be. I had to design the local histories to FIT into the wire display racks that are available. If you want your book to be held open easily, you want it to be taller and skinny rather than short and fat. I know it seems stupid..but i just spent a hour trying to find an OBLONG size for a particular book and have decided square is the closest i can find on Createspace, though Lulu has a small landscape. There are lots of other custom sizes from each vendor, HOWEVER, what i found is that if you don’t pick a STANDARD size you may limit the variety of marketing available to you.
When I first started producing small volumes, I was insistent on a certain size, a certain font, a certain paper…but these choices hindered the book in other ways. NONE of us are Chip Kidd and are books aren’t being published by Random House. Just pick a good shape for your book that puts it on par with everyone elses book.
Choose wisely • One of the great things about print on demand publishing is that nothing is carved in stone….until it is. With Createspace..and I am going to assume with most other options – until you actually PUBLISH your book, your title and author can be changed, after you approve it and send it out into the world, these choices will be carved in stone, (they can still be changed but you have to kill that book/isbn and create an entirely new one.) My biggest problem isn’t getting the author and title correct, it is remembering to add all the other contributors correctly. Forward by, preface by, tea and cakes provided by. . THIS does make a difference when it comes out the other end. Amazon will LINK these contributors names with OTHER books they have on Amazon, so it increases your exposure.
Description • another thing to leave until last, i never know the right words to describe a book until i have completely finished it, and even then, sometimes i will go in and add more, even after its published. These are NOT carved in stone, they are quite flexible and are part of the MARKETING of the book, so MORE is better.
Homework • BEFORE you start uploading your files to ANY print on Demand service you need to write up all your answers ahead of the questions. Think of it like your books RESUME.
Author: pick a name you can live with..if you want to change your name later, it will be harder to associate this book with YOU later.
Title: skip the obtuse references, simple stupid titles work well. Arc de Triomphe: the story of how I became the world’s champion mud wrestler…isn’t as effective as Dirty Girl: My Life in Mud wrestling. I’m no expert, but neither is your potential reader, so get the MEAT of the story into the title and readers brain as quickly as possible. Make a list, show it to your dumbest friends, let them pick.
Contributors: If someone helped, SAY SO, you greedy bastard. It can’t hurt to acknowledge people right on the title page. If someone co-authored it, give them credit, so when it blows up and gets sold to the movies, they won’t SUE you.
Description: I know I said to WRITE the exact wording last, but you need to have some idea of what your book is about, if only to keep you on track writing the thing. A good idea is to keep a description text file going and clip parts of the book into it as you go along. Then you can quote right from the book when you are polishing the descriptions. If they are FOUND WORDS, then clip anything you find out about the book and author into that file for use later.
Biography: This was the hardest thing I ever wrote, a thumbnail bio of myself. My only advice is to have someone ELSE take a stab at it, so you can take it from them and say…”no, no, that’s not right! it should read like this!” it is always easier to edit something that exists than it is to create something that doesn’t. This bio is NOT your resume, it is not a chronicle of your life, and it is also not a court testimony. It is JUST the stuff someone reading your book may like to know about you. If you are writing about working at a cable tv station, say you studied communications in college…you don’t have to say that you flunked that course and had to changed majors because you were to busy making fiberglass swords for live action role playing. Get it?
ISBN • All the POD folks will hand you an ISBN. This is the thing that makes internet bookselling possible. Go look it up on Wikipedia, it’s a fascinating tool and if this is going to be your only book, you don’t need to know how it works. But if you want to produce more books, you may want the ISBN to lead back to YOU. Bowker controls them and sells them in batches, CreateSpace lets you buy them one at a time from Bowker for $10.
Cover: Print On Demand publishers usually can automate your cover creation…AVOID THIS. The more generic your cover looks, the less anyone will want to buy it. At the very least TAKE YOUR OWN PHOTOGRAPH for the art. If you really have no artistic skillset at all, go look on Craigslist or better yet FIVERR.COM to hire someone to do some cover art. Just think of it as a one time investment. This is also an area where you can bribe someone, by reminding them that you will give them ART credit ON the book. Most of us will pick up a book that has an attractive cover, I confess to actually buying books based on their cover.
End Fit the Forth.