ZEN OF POD SELF-PUBLISHING
Layout, Design, Production, and Publish!
With . . .
Adobe Creative Suite 3, and Lulu.com
by Eden Maxwell
In today’s digital world, there are many ways to publish your book. This article explores the workflow I tackled with print on demand (POD) self-publishing: from editing, layout, and book design to publishing my book through Lulu.com—a POD company and active marketplace that offered an option I couldn’t refuse: I could design the book’s interior and cover. The other option is to choose from a small collection of boilerplate templates that, while convenient, are devoid of professional typographic control—a prerequisite for ‘competing’ and succeeding in the retail book marketplace.
To design, produce, and prepare my non-ficton book, An Artist Empowered, I relied excluisvely on the Adobe Creative Suite 3 Design Premium: InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, and Acrobat 8 Professional (the suite is also bundled with Flash and Dreamweaver, which I used to create my website).
Completing a book manuscript is an accomplishment. Getting your book published ratchets things up quite a bit. My experience with preparing my book for POD publishing over this past year will give you a picture of the workflow. I've also included screenshots of step-by-step procedures, plus tips. You can then make an informed decision whether the do it yourself route is for you. Fiction is significantly easier to design and layout than non-fiction, which often contains many complexities, as it did with my own book. Also note that POD publishing is not the same as a vanity press, which most often involves thousands of dollars up front with a minimum order of books.
Some writers who have POD published have also made another smart leap: they view themselves as "Indie' publishers—taking the lead already set by filmmakers.
Bookmark this page for future reference when you do begin your adventure in POD publishing.
Finding a publisher, from mainstream corporate to smaller independent houses, for your manuscript is possible, an approach that most often, although not necessarily, involves finding an agent who thinks your work is marketable. Books distributed by conventional publishers are perceived to be of higher quality in both presentation and content than POD books. This perception isn’t entirely unfounded, most especially about presentation; many authors who self-publish rely solely on a spelling/grammar checker before uploading their manuscript (most often a Microsoft Word document) to their POD publisher.
If your book will be limited to yourself, relatives, and friends, Word may be sufficient for your POD needs. Note, however, that Word, or any other word-processor, doesn’t offer the typographic control required for a book designed to compete in the retail marketplace—which is our concern in this article. Your book production and presentation values must be of a standard considered professional.
With today’s digital tools in the hands of a dedicated writer-entrepreneur, there is no reason that the look of a POD book can’t equal or in some ways even excel that of a title from a major publisher. You can write your book in Word, as I did, but you will then need a dedicated page layout application like Adobe InDesign. See my InDesign CS3 article.
VALUE YOUR WORK
No matter how brilliant the content, if the presentation is poor, the work will languish. Books of little value find their way into both POD and mainstream publishing. A publisher or agent may not grasp the inherent value of what you have written, or that there is a market for your book. Most non-fiction gets the green light on the basis of a sound outline, a few sample chapters, and the author's marketing plan, which describes the audience. Like each generalization, there are always exceptions to the formula—so be creative and don't give credence to naysayers.
Many works considered classics today were panned or overlooked for various reasons when first published—Moby Dick is a good example, as the novel didn’t find an audience until after Melville’s death.
Also, note that 140 publishers had rejected the bestseller Chicken Soup for the Soul, and that The Celestine Prophecy was first self-published before it caught the attention of a mainstream publisher—and went on to hit the big time in sales. No one can predict what will become a publishing phenomenon; we can, however, predict that the proper presentation of your vision is the first line of commitment and action toward your goal—getting noticed and finding your audience.
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
My first book Kiteworks was published in 1989 by Sterling Publishing; then, in 2002, a revised paperback version was released titled The Magnificent Book of Kites. Over the years it developed into a bestseller. I was also the ghostwriter of two successful books for two major NYC publishers.
Having learned from the traditional system and now POD publishing, I would of course want to work with an established publisher who would champion my work and offer an advance against royalties. On balance, however, if that's not possible for whatever the reason, writers now have a viable and wonderful alternative. It's clear that if you can produce a professionally designed book and market it yourself through whatever means necessary, then the reward is equal to your dedication.
The POD route to publishing as described in this article is for those with a fire in the belly who can muster the required stamina to compete and stand out.
IT’S A BUSINESS, NOTHING PERSONAL
Remember, publishing is a business—if your manuscript doesn’t fit into a particular model, or category, then it might get overlooked in the mindless scramble toward conformity. If your work does dovetail with previous norms of success, you might interest a mainstream publisher. However, should you find a publisher, your book is married to their marketing effort—for better or worse. It’s astute to have an agreed upon marketing plan with your publisher; otherwise, the public relations honeymoon may be cut short for a variety of reasons—mostly economic. How are they going to market and promote you and your book? How are you going to help them and you in the public relations campaign? Generally, publishers allocate most of their marketing dollars for their bestselling authors. But that doesn't mean you or your agent can't negotiate a more upscale deal.
Being naïve is no great honor; educate yourself about the book-publishing business. The Internet is rich with resources; Lulu, for example, offers helpful user forums, plus information on how the publishing industry is organized, including retail and wholesale pricing, and how distribution channels operate. As a publisher you need to understand these basics.
KNOW WHERE YOU STAND
For my latest book, An Artist Empowered, I initially had an agent and a publisher. While both were enthusiastic (we see you on Oprah) about my work, after some time, however, it became evident to me that they were intent on squeezing the theme out of the book. (Do we really this chapter or that chapter? Shouldn’t we change the structure?) Eventually, I had to release them—the lesson here is to make sure you understand the contracts that you sign, and don’t be shy about asking for clarification on anything that isn’t clear. Read the fine print.
Of course, having people on your team is exciting. Still, don’t enter into any written contract (literary agents or publshers) that ties up your work for an extended period of time. This way, if things don’t work out as planned, time will release all concerned from their mutual agreement.
HOUSE THAT POD BUILT
It was 2005, and I now had my ‘manuscript’ back. At the time, self-publishing wasn’t on my radar. Then, one afternoon, I had lunch with a friend who is also a senior acquisitions editor for a major New York City publisher. At the restaurant, he turned to me and said: “I think you should do this one yourself. The publishing industry is changing and POD no longer carries the stigma as it once did.”
I said I would think about it. I was resistant to confining my work to a choice of templates and standardized book covers offered by the various POD houses. A few months later I discovered Lulu, a POD company that also featured an option for writers to design the entire book themselves, and there were no hefty setup charges, either. In fact, there were no setup fees; Lulu makes money from sales of your book. This arrangement got my attention. Now, the work would first begin.
JERZY, I PRESUME
Here’s a relevant quote that I included in An Artist Empowered:
“In 1969, Steps, a novel, by Jerzy Kosinski, won the National Book Award. Six years later a freelance writer named Chuck Ross, to test the old theory that a novel by an unknown writer doesn’t have a chance, typed the first twenty-one pages of Steps and sent them out to four publishers as the work of ‘Erik Demos’. All four rejected the manuscript. Two years after that he typed out the whole book and sent it, again credited to Erik Demos, to more publishers, including the original publisher of the Kosinski book, Random House. Again, all rejected it with unhelpful comments—Random House used a form letter. Altogether, fourteen publishers (and thirteen literary agents) failed to recognize a book that had already been published and had won an important prize.”
—from Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews & Rejections
FREEDOM EQUALS MORE WORK
On the heels of creative control you will find a host of responsibilities. It is not uncommon for a mainstream publisher to employ ten to twelve (not counting the author) people in the production of a book: from editorial, proof reading, layout, art, interior and cover design, publicity, advertising, and sales—with the manuscript traveling between departments during the work flow for various stages of approval.
While having creative control over content and design through Lulu, writers are, however, limited to certain formats in size. You must choose from among a few preset popular book sizes (for example, 6 x 9 inch format for a fiction); in addition, you must also conform to certain standards (copyright page, ISBN, and barcode) for your book to sell through the various distribution channels: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers, including independent brick and mortar bookshops.
It all begins with the manuscript. Here’s a scenario attributed to Henry Kissinger. When he was Secretary of State, one of his aides was responsible for a writing assignment that had to be completed by the next day. The aide assured his boss that the report would be on his desk first thing in the morning.
The next day, the aid kept his promise. However, later that same day, Kissinger called the aide into his office and asked him to rewrite it.
The aide took the report in hand and went about rewriting it; the next day, he proudly handed the work to Kissinger. Again, later that afternoon, Kissinger gave the report back to the aide with the instructions to rewrite it.
This back and forth went on for several more times. Finally, on this particular draft of the report, the aide, weary from all the work, said: “Here is the report, Mr. Secretary. This is the best I can do; I can’t make it better.”
Kissinger took the report, and then looked up at the aide, saying: “Good, now I’ll read it.”
You get the point, I trust.
GRAMMARIAN PRO X
Presumably you’ve been using a spelling/grammar checker all along while working on your manuscript. This is a good start, but further work needs to be done. Grammarian Pro X from Linguisoft (MacOS X System) is the top of line for checking spelling and grammar.
Grammarian PRO X, the writer's toolkit, is an arsenal of professional writing tools: a universal interactive grammar checking, smart spelling checking, dictionary, thesaurus, autocorrect, and styled-text autotype tool that works with virtually every program on your computer. Grammarian works interactively or in batch correction mode and automatically starts working in your applications to correct spelling, grammar, phrase usage, and punctuation. Use the built-in dictionary assistant to look up definitions and verify the correct choice of words.
I used Grammarian with great results—but it still isn’t the final word, as it can’t always anticipate certain word usage issues.
PROOFREADING IS NOT EDITING
Keep in mind that proofreading for typos and grammatical consistency is not editing—which is about clarifying your meaning.
Once your manuscript is completed, it has to be proofread, preferably by more than one qualified person; detecting your own errors is difficult if not altogether impossible; the eye often dutifully fills in things that aren’t there, like a missing a or an. I found a reliable and thorough proofreader (Angel Editing) at a reasonable rate through the Lulu website; and even then I reread the manuscript several times, and both my mother and sister were pressed into service as a proofreaders. Typos and other grammatical mistakes break the flow of your words, diffusing the power of the content, regardless of its merit.
Another tool I found to be indispensable during my extensive research phase is NoteTaker from AquaMinds. NoteTaker for MacOS X is a personal note and idea organizer with many great features. You can make a list, organize an outline or chapter for a book, or jot down an idea. You can also make good use the ‘clip to notebook’ feature for instantly copying content to your notebook gleaned from a website with the site address included for future reference and attribution as required.
NoteTaker allowed me to see everything at a glance, which greatly simplified the task of structuring the complexities, content, and chapters of my book as it developed over time.
ADOBE INDESIGN—CURVES AHEAD
After your manuscript has been proofread and fine tuned, you will have to layout the content in your desired format with a page layout program. I began my project with Adobe InDesign CS2 and completed it with InDesign CS3; InDesign offers excellent typography control and features for managing long documents; project files (chapters) are stored within an independent book palette from where you can organize and synchronize pages, book numbering, chapters, and styles. You also control all output from this palette; for example, exporting the book to a PostScript file—required in preparing the PDF file of your book for Lulu.
After designing the layout of your book with InDesign, you’ll have to import your text into the page layout program. Beginning with InDesign CS2, the Microsoft Word/RTF import filter is significantly enhanced. The import dialog options box features style mapping, a new feature that provides greater control and insures that the imported text looks as expected. You might have to experiment with this import filter, which when running smoothly is an incredible time saver!
InDesign provides all the professional tools you need to construct the look and feel of your book—from text to images to cover design. There is a learning curve to comprehending the fundamentals; fortunately, help is available through books, online and DVD tutorials, and the Adobe InDesign user-to-user forums.
See the sidebar for my tutorial picks—I used them all to help me understand and, to a satisfying degree, master the necessary basics of InDesign. While most of these links are for CS2 tutorial versions, the CS3 versions are also now available. For an in-depth and comprehensive understanding of InDesign, I recommend beginning your education with the InDesign tutorial by Steve Holmes from Total Training.
THE POD HERD
Instead of fitting into a template, designing the layout of your pages and cover will make your book stand out from the POD herd. Before you begin designing your book, you must first fully understand and comply with Lulu’s printing specifications—these include the interior and cover dimensions required by Lulu and their distribution channels. Lulu has partnered with print vendors for printing books on demand when booksellers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, independent stores, and libraries place orders for your book.
PUBLISHED BY YOU
In most cases you will want Lulu’s Published by You distribution service for $50 (limited time offer). This Lulu service allows you, the author, to register and become your own publisher, and purchase your own unique ISBN from the official US ISBN Agency. This ISBN is directly mapped to you as the registered publisher. The Books In Print database and others will list your registered details as the publisher. You can also choose Publish by Lulu ($99.95); see their website for details.
INVEST IN PREPRODUCTION
Interior page design and book cover considerations are essential for all formats; take the time necessary to develop your master pages (unique InDesign templates for the pages in your book). Preproduction is about working out your design carefully in advance; in this manner, your pages will then take shape as planned—with no unpleasant surprises later when it comes to publishing. You don’t want to design your book only to find out later that you didn’t consider Lulu’s specific requirements for publishing. Remember, no detail is too small.
Regardless of the format you choose, you have to allow adequate space for margins—inside, outside, and top and bottom. If your book contains artwork that extends into the margins, then, to insure that the image prints (bleeds off the page) properly, you will need to allow for bleed: the amount of artwork that falls outside of the printing bounding box, or outside the crop marks and trim marks. Don't be put off by the jargon; you will adapt quickly to these printer's terms.
Non-fiction books are typically more complex to design, as they have more elements on the page. But you don’t have to reinvent the design wheel here, either. Find a published book with a format that appeals to you, and then reverse engineer, adapting from that model to develop the design for your book.
RETAIL DISTRIBUTION REQUIRMENTS
You can publish and sell your book exclusively through Lulu with few restrictions; if you want your book distributed through Amazon, and other channels, you will have to conform to certain requirements, such as: adding a title page, chapter breaks, proper page numbering, and frontmatter including the copyright page. You will need an ISBN on the copyright page and a barcode label on the back cover. If you want libraries to order your book, you will also need a Library of Congress number, and Publisher’s Cataloging-in-Publication Data—both on the copyright page. For an example, in the sidebar see the frontmatter that includes my copyright page through to the prologue. Note the page numbering; while not every page in the frontmatter needs to be numbered, all pages must be in sequence and accounted for in the total number of pages.
Here are further clarifications and a few tips for the book elements required for retail distribution.
The International Standard Book Number (ISBN), which goes on the copyright page, is assigned to you through Lulu when you publish your book. Your ISBN also appears, with the retail price in most cases, in the barcode label that goes on the back cover. You can hire services to make the barcode for you; the internet has offers to generate free barcodes; better yet, get BarcodeMaker, an InDesign plug-in from Teacup Software that does a professional job in creating your barcode, which must sharp, legible, and of a certain size required by Lulu’s distribution retail channels.
A Library of Congress catalog card number is a unique identification number that the Library of Congress assigns to the catalog record created for each book in its cataloged collections. Librarians use it to locate a specific Library of Congress catalog record in the national databases and to order catalog cards from the Library of Congress or from commercial suppliers. The Library of Congress assigns this number while the book is being cataloged. Under certain circumstances, however, a card number can be assigned before the book is published through the Preassigned Card Number Program (PCN). You will need your ISBN before applying for the PCN.
Participating publishers (U.S. only) are obligated to send a complimentary copy of all books for which a Preassigned Control Number (PCN) was provided immediately upon publication. Publishers failing to meet this obligation may be suspended from the program. After you apply, you will be assigned a Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN).
The preassignment of an LCCN does not guarantee that the Library will catalog the title to which it has been preassigned. Upon receipt, however, the Library’s selection officers will review your complimentary copy. Works selected for addition to the Library's collections are assigned a cataloging priority and cataloged according to that priority. Make sure you send them the best version of the book.
When publishers provide a CIP block on the copyright page of a book, they are helping librarians (including the Library of Congress) enter information about the book into the library's on-line catalog (OPAC). A CIP block includes information like the title, the author, and the subject headings that librarians and library patrons use when looking up the book. A CIP block for your book will maximize exposure, create sales, and add critical data to a professional copyright page.
You might be tempted to do the CIP block yourself; I would discourage this impulse, as the block must conform to cryptic notations, including the correct number for the Dewey Decimal System. I found a reliable Cataloger-At-Large who provides a CIP service for $50, a reasonable rate.
FONTS ARE TYPEFACES
In addition to the physical layout of your text, you will have to choose a main typeface (font); when selecting one typeface family, choose one with a number of variations for flexibility with your text design. For my book, I chose Casion Pro (an Adobe OpenType Face), regular, 10.5 pt. Make sure you own the rights to use the font as well.
Keep in mind that readability and legibility are paramount; readability refers to whether a long block of text, such as an article or book, is easy to read. Typefaces are readable when the reader doesn't stop to think about the typeface instead of the message. Legibility most often refers to whether a short amount of text, such as a headline or subhead, is easily recognizable.
TYPOGRAPHY TO THE LETTER
After you’ve settled on a font (serif-type fonts are easier to read in longer documents) and the point size, you must then confront the craft of composing the font on the printed page, known as typography—a skill that separates the professionals from everyone else; after experimenting with typography within your InDesign document, you will come to appreciate the benefits of how much better type looks when you have control of such basics as kerning and tracking.
Kerning is the process of adding or subtracting space between specific pairs of characters. Tracking is the process of loosening or tightening a block of text. InDesign’s more advanced optical kerning, for example, adjusts the spacing between adjacent characters based on their shapes—I used optical kerning throughout my book. Although InDesign does a fine job of automating many typographic functions as in kerning and tracking, you will run into situations where you will have to adjust text manually within the text frames of your document.
WHAT IS GOOD DESIGN? COMPOSING YOUR PAGES
As you explore the basics of typography, you will find yourself reading about hanging indents, the em-dash, vertical justification, baseline options, a hairline white space, and so on—all typographic tools designed to make your words in print appear in an appealing and readable manner.
What is good design? Educate yourself in what looks good on the page, how words look (too loose, too tight), and how they break in a sentence. There are excellent books available on typography, including InDesign Type by Nigel French. InDesign’s Paragraph Composer engine does a superb job of automating word and letter spacing; and InDesign’s adjustable hyphenation settings also automate how words break in a sentence, which reflects on how well the paragraph formats; however, there times when you may want to override these automatic settings in actual use—for example, tightening text so a paragraph doesn’t overset, or selecting a word (no break command) so that it doesn’t break (hyphenate) for good typography.
WIDOWS AND ORPHANS
No, not as in the recently bereaved, or "Please, sir, can I have some more?"
As you will come to appreciate, InDesign automatically flows text through your columns with good results; however, it still requires your attention to address issues, most often minor, that crop up. For example, you will run into widows and orphans.
A widow is a very short line—usually one word, or the end of a hyphenated word—at the end of a paragraph or column. A widow is considered poor typography because it leaves too much white space between paragraphs or at the bottom of a page. A widow interrupts the reader’s eye and diminishes readability.
Like a widow, an orphan is a single word, part of a word or very short line, except it appears at the beginning of a column or a page. This results in poor horizontal alignment at the top of the column or page. The term ‘orphan’ is not as commonly used as ‘widow,’ but the concept is the same, and so is the solution: fix it!
In many cases you can simply fix widows and orphans with TypeFitter, an InDesign plug-in from Teacup Software that automatically tightens or loosens selected text; TypeFitter also includes a handy feature that searches through your document for widows—another great timesaver! In composing your pages, if all else fails to achieve the desired look, you, as the author, can adjust the text by editing the copy. Adding or deleting a word or two in an appropriate section of the paragraph most often resolves the typography issue.
Then, there are stacks—where the same word repeats one on top of the other; for example ‘the’ being on top of another ‘the’ in the next line—especially noticeable when they appear on the extreme left or right of the column; while stacks aren’t grammatically incorrect, they impede reading and comprehension, as the eye can easily skip over such sentences; you can often adjust stacked text by selecting and applying a simple ‘no break’ word command to a hyphenated word in the paragraph; if that doesn’t reflow and ‘un-stack’ the paragraph, try TypeFitter, or make adjustments by adding or deleting words.
GOING WITH THE REFLOW
Note too that when you add or delete text (or adding a white hair space between letters that are too close), InDesign may also reflow (adjust) text within the entire column—you can see this happening as paragraphs reflow. Make sure additions or deletions don’t cause other problems with a visual check of the text in the rest of the column, and onto the next page. This is detail work, and I recommend that you take many breaks from the computer.
Another issue you might run into is the length of a chapter, which may fall short (too much white space) on the recto (right hand) page; again, as the author you can either add content to flesh out the page, or edit out text as required so that the chapter ends on the verso (left hand) page. As you shape your pages with good typography skills, you are also adding clarity—most especially when removing ‘unnecessary’ words.
For your non-fiction work to be considered by libraries and readers as well, you will need an index—a formidable project that separates the indexers from the wannabes. You might think that a computer should be able to automatically construct an index, but it can’t because a good index is more than a listing of words or phrases; a proper index is a catalog of ideas related, and is some cases cross-referenced, by subject matter.
I had marginally thought about an index while I was writing my book, but doing it only hit me when I came to that point in the production. Keep in mind that not all indexes are created equal: some are good while others fall short.
Note: DO NOT begin the indexing process until your text page layout is final—this means no more changes to your InDesign documents. The reason for this caveat is this: if you begin indexing and then also make changes in your layout, then words or phrases may shift over to another page, making the existing index entry incorrect; and if you add a word you want indexed or delete a word that had been indexed after the index had been created, then that will also throw the index off.
SONAR BOOKENDS INDEX PRO
Hiring a professional indexer is optimum, if you have the funds. InDesign provides a comprehensive Index building engine, which requires a methodical and time-consuming approach to each entry. After evaluating my options, I opted for Sonar Bookends Index Pro, an InDesign plug-in from Virginia Systems; this excellent plug-in is both an automatic index and table of contents generator. I used Index Pro for my index. However, automatic doesn’t imply that work on your part is done. A human hand is still required.
With Index Pro, you don't have to mark entries or search endlessly for every entry; my book has over 125,000 words. You can build an index based on word frequency, proper nouns, subjects of sentences, a list of words and phrases you supply, or any combination of the four. First and last names can be reversed automatically, duplicate entries removed, and a multiple-level index generated.
WORKING WITH HITS
Success with Sonar Bookends Index Pro depends largely on comprehending the accompanying manual. In simplest terms, Index Pro sorts all the words and phrases in your book; sorting creates a word/phrase list from which Index Pro will generate your index—in both cases, Index Pro sorts and builds an index (single or multiple-level) based on parameters and preferences that you had selected.
Determining which occurrences (hits) should be indexed can be a time consuming chore. Fortunately, Sonar Bookends has a feature (which you can select if so desired) that makes verification of hits a lot easier. For example, each occurrence of each phrase being indexed can be viewed in context to determine if that occurrence should be in the index. Occurrences can then be selected or deselected for indexing quickly and easily, with all the information needed to make the decision at hand.
INDESIGN'S BOOK PALETTE
Index Pro needs a list of words to work with; you have a number of options and filters for building a word/phrase (subject, proper noun, word frequency, etc.) list, single or multiple-level, suitable for your book. After Index Pro sorts and builds this list (words and phrases are listed as Boolean expressions), you then select appropriate settings in the create index dialog box. Make sure only those files to be indexed are in your InDesign book palette— this is important because Index Pro will index all documents in the book palette, or any other InDesign documents that are open—which would create listing and page number errors in your index. I created a new InDesign book palette (named it index_chapters) that included my chapters, the prologue and epilogue; I excluded frontmatter, table of contents, and the bibliography—and if you had already created an InDesign index document, make sure it’s not included in this book palette, either.
BIDDING WITH BOOLEAN
Most of the features of Index Pro work automatically. However, if you are to maximize control over what this plug-in includes or excludes, and how from your word/phrase list, you will have to familiarize yourself with advanced indexing techniques such as highlighting keywords and Boolean expressions for the program to more precisely do your bidding. (Examples are shown in the manual.)
After you have your index, you must then flow the listings into your InDesign index layout, which you have prepared in advance with proper (usually 3) columns (set up with master pages), styles, etc. Links to InDesign tutorials are in the sidebar.
EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED
At this stage, if you make any changes to your InDesign index document, you must also make corresponding changes to the Sonar Bookends Index Pro file (word/phrase list) that built the index in the first place; otherwise, you will be in trouble when you need to rebuild (you altered, added, or deleted entries—which must also be reflected in the book layout) a new index down the road—and you will. It’s always a good idea to rebuild your index after any additional editing (should this come up) in your final book layout; if you inadvertently created a problem, your rebuilt index will include an ‘entry not found’ warning; you can then investigate and fix the issue—which in nearly all cases is ‘pilot’ error.
Once I got into the rhythm of this well-conceived InDesign plug-in, Sonar Bookends Index Pro saved me many weeks, if not months, of tedious work.
A BOOK BY ITS COVER
We’ve all been exposed to this: don’t judge a book by its cover. This cliché might be more appropriate for sizing up people than books. Readers meandering through a bookstore do assess the value of a book by its cover. Your book cover, back cover, and even the interior, will also be scrutinized by potential buyers on a website bookseller. Buyers also respond to titles and subtitles that inform them about the subject and benefits of the book. Readers shouldn’t have to guess what the book is about.
Book cover design is a profession, and you can hire a designer (make sure this person is a book designer, not another type of designer). Skimping on this all-important aspect of your book would be an unfortunate misstep. If you’re willing to spend the time required in establishing what makes for ‘good’ cover design, and you’re confident that you too can master the tools for implementing your vision, then there’s no good reason why you can’t do it yourself. Welcome to the realm of the self-reliant.
While it may seem to be self-evident, begin by examining book covers in your local bookstore with a critical eye for what appeals to you and why; how was the design (color, type, images) accomplished? Less is more; and keep it simple.
In addition to the layout of your interior, you can design your cover with the tools available with InDesign; however, since you will also need Acrobat Professional 8 for print production with Lulu, I recommend that you invest in the Adobe Creative Suite 3 Design Premium, which is a better value than buying these apps separately; use Photoshop and Illustrator for managing images and creating type (Illustrator also excels in tools for typography).
WHATEVER LULU WANTS
Lulu requires that you submit your book interior and cover as two separate PDF files. For those designing their own book cover, you must follow Lulu's format specifications (which include proper spine dimensions, barcode placement, etc.) for your one-piece PDF (one document) cover. You can find many websites offering tips on book design.
To be accepted by Lulu’s system and to publish correctly, these PDF files must be prepared with Adobe Acrobat’s advanced printing tools: Distiller and Preflight. While I have read about freeware PDF for Windows and other PostScript alternatives for Mac users, I have no experience with these alternatives.
Caveat: while a PDF (without running Distiller or Preflight) may print correctly on your desktop printer, it most likely will not on Lulu’s high-speed commercial printers. There are no shortcuts to quality.
After printing the interior and cover as PostScript files (to your desktop, not printing on paper) with InDesign, these files must undergo print preparations with Adobe Acrobat Distiller, and then Preflight for successful publishing with Lulu: Distiller converts a PostScript file to PDF for printing, and Preflight verifies that your PDF contains only the features, embedded fonts, and formatting you’ve selected for printing.
I’ve included screenshots in the sidebar of how I prepared my PDF documents for printing with Lulu.
ADOBE ACROBAT 8 PROFESSIONAL
Here are the steps to create a PDF of your book for uploading and publishing with Lulu. You must ensure that your print settings are correct. Begin by selecting all the files (the interior of the book) in your InDesign book palette; then, from the flyout menu, choose print book.
This sequence from the InDesign print dialog box will produce excellent results for both text and images (300 x 300 ppi is the standard for best results).
See the screenshots in the linked words below.
- Print dialog box: choose custom from print preset; Printer: choose PostScript file, and PPD: choose AdobePDF 8.0
- General: check nothing; make sure sequence is set to ‘all pages’ and that spreads is not checked
- Setup: make sure paper size is custom to reflect the correct width and height that includes the bleed areas
- Marks and bleeds: don’t check anything; your bleed settings (dimensions) should be indicated; I used 0.125" for my bleed as shown
- Output, graphics, color management: no changes; options in color management should be as shown
- Advanced: choose high resolution in the transparency preset
Save the print preset with a meaningful name to automatically access these settings again. Next, print the PostScript file of your book to the desktop. With Acrobat Professional running, select Advanced > Print Production > Distiller. Select high quality printing for the default setting.
DISTILLER AND PREFLIGHT
Dragging the PostScript file from the desktop into Distiller’s window automatically launches the process of converting the file into a PDF, which Distiller saves to the desktop. Open the newly created PDF with Acrobat and check a few random pages to ensure the content is correct. Then, also from the print production dropdown menu, run Preflight on this open PDF. In the Preflight dialog box, select PDF profile conversion compatibility to Acrobat 5; then click execute; click okay on the warning dialog box about fixups permanently changing the file. Upon completion, Preflight will generate a report, which should state: no problems found.
Now that you have run the file through Distiller and Preflight, this final PDF of your book can be uploaded to Lulu through their website—which is a simple and straightforward step-by-step process.
You will have to go through a similar route with a few minor changes for preparing the color PDF of your one-piece book cover. To print the cover from InDesign you’ll go to file > print for creating a print preset. When laying out the cover with InDesign, you did follow Lulu’s cover specs, including, among other elements, how wide the spine must be to accommodate the number of pages in your book and the proper placement of the barcode.
SEARCH, PREVIEW, EDIT WITH ACROBAT
In addition to Acrobat 8 Professional’s great print production tools, I enlisted Acrobat as an integral part of my editing process. Although InDesign allows you to search or spell check your book, it does so for only those documents that are open (not merely listed in the book palette)—which wasn’t practical for my project of 52 chapters, frontmatter, prologue, epilogue, bibliography, and an index.
To search my entire book, I turned to Adobe Acrobat 8 for a solution. I did the following: 1) from my InDesign book palette, I selected all the files and exported them as a PDF (under general, check spreads in export options, which is okay for previewing, not for printing) onto the desktop, 2) next, I opened the file with Acrobat, and then 3) I hit command > shift > F (Mac) to launch the advanced search dialog panel. From this arrangement I was able to search my entire book and make any necessary corrections to my InDesign documents; and with the full two-page spread in view, I could also make an onscreen visual check of page design and formatting. This approach to my workflow was a tremendous asset and time saver.
APPROVE OR DENY
Once your book is uploaded and accepted, it is now published through Lulu, but not yet for distribution through other retail booksellers like Amazon. Do not approve your first version for distribution; you can choose to make it available only to you through Lulu; this allows you to order a proof copy, which you order at cost, not retail; carefully check and recheck your proof copy for errors. I had gone through five proof copies until I felt I had made ‘all’ the grammatical and typographical adjustments. And even now, a wily typo may still be lurking in the final version of the book.
Note: if you have uploaded a revision of your book, which you want to approve for distribution, you will have to order another proof copy before Lulu.com will allow you to make the approval. It's a nuisance. However, I do understand the reasoning: Lulu.com wants to ensure that you have proofed the most recent version before sending it out into the world.
Errors seem to creep in despite the most diligent of efforts; I could blame gremlins. When you’re reading for errors, do so when you are rested and alert; tired eyes tend to miss things. Also, whenever you edit your InDesign document, you can also easily compound things by adding a new error through incorrectly selecting and deselecting text, and page hopping. When making corrections, be diligent so that you don’t create other errors in the process—which amounts to shooting yourself in the foot.
POD books are published ‘on demand’ when they are ordered—no warehousing of copies. This means each copy costs the same to manufacture, as there is no economy of scale as when publishing thousands at one time. When it comes to revising text, print on demand offers an advantage. Should you discover errors after publishing, you can upload the revised content to Lulu; there is no charge for this; however, after you approve your book for distribution through the retail channels (Amazon and so on), there is $79.95 fee to make revisions. Don’t approve your book prematurely. Take the time to get it right; it will pay dividends in the end. Relative patience is a virtue.
This is a huge topic. Many books have been written about marketing—you will have to discern what works in the real world, and how you fit in, or better yet, stand out. Here are a few points regarding marketing for your consideration.
Going in I realized that Lulu would be an excellent way to publish, market, and sell my book through website booksellers. If, however, you’re looking to sell your book primarily through bookstores, then Lulu might not be for you. The economics of print on demand prohibits the large discounts required by bookstores to stock books.
Another plus on Lulu’s behalf is that they handle all the sales and accounting details: accepting payments through credit cards, shipping, and sending out royalty payments—to your PayPal account if you like.
OUR WAY, OR THE HIGHWAY
Bookstores depend on the economy of scale available to large publishers and print distributors—which involves wholesale and retail pricing, and the benefit of returning unsold books to the publisher for a full refund. However, bookstores will order POD books when they are special-ordered by customers. And, of course, it is also possible to convince a local brick and mortar bookseller that you have a quality product—and there are POD writers who have been successful via this route.
In addition to your book in print, you can also market your work as an ebook PDF download (for a lower retail price) directly from Lulu. Since there are no production costs when you offer your work in the download format, Lulu will host your published work for free.
NEED TO KNOW
I’m a firm advocate of dealing with things on a need to know basis. Unless you have a particular motive, don’t volunteer that your book is either POD or self-published, unless, of course, someone asks. Then, you can proudly declare with a concise pitch and description noting the quality, merit, and saleability of your work.
It is in your best economic interests to drive customers to buy through Lulu, as your royalty will be significantly higher than when your book is, for example, purchased through Amazon. Of course, if you opted for a distribution package (which includes other retailers) offered through Lulu, most customers would still buy through Amazon—where your book will get more traffic and exposure. Give you customers a good reason to buy through Lulu. My website and book press release, for example, notes that books purchased through Lulu allows me to make a donation to the Human Society of the United States.
To give potential buyers more information about your book, you will want to make use of the ‘preview this book’ or ‘look inside this book’ feature—a service for publishers available on Lulu and through Amazom.com.
Satisfied (you’ve revised as necessary) with your proof copy, you approve your book for distribution through Lulu and its retail partners; your book is now ready for an audience. You must have a clear idea of who will most likely buy your book, as this will temper and focus your marketing and public relations effort. While the focus of my book is about empowering artists to persevere, there is also material about Zen Buddhism, art history, psychology, motivation, and the art market—related areas of interest for my public relations strategy.
BLOG TOUR OR BUST
Having your title listed with Lulu or Amazon is only the first step in selling your book. As the publisher, it is your task to make the public aware of your work—this represents a significant commitment in time and effort. You can, of course, hire professionals to handle marketing, public relations, reviews, and endorsements. Book tours in the major market cities have for many years been a staple approach for mainstream publishers; things are changing in this realm—you can look into blog tours for authors where you encounter potential readers and supporters around the world, and all through the convenience of your computer. Here's an informative article on blog tours from The New York Times, and take a look at BookTour as well.
I decided on Lulu. You might want to investigate other POD publishers to find out whether their features might best suit your publishing needs.
You will have to confront many marketing decisions to successfully drive readers to your book. Everyone, it seems, is asking for attention, so give your public a compelling reason (benefits) for listening to you. Marketing related resources are available through Lulu, and other websites. If you plan to hire talent, do your homework and get referrals so that you end up retaining reputable professionals. In the end, it is all up to you—freedom and power equals responsibility. It is so written.
POD OR BUST
Admittedly, we have covered a lot of ground in this article, touching on many tools you will need, and decisions you will have to make if you decide that designing your own book for POD publishing is for you. While the learning curve and the time commitment involved for my book project were significant, it turned out in the end that doing it myself was an exciting opportunity I hadn’t anticipated.
In addition to the advantages already mentioned for designing your own book, I encountered an unexpected benefit. Working with my own words within an InDesign layout allowed me to further develop my thoughts where needed. Seeing your text in a professional layout spread helps you focus and see relationships in the content that’s not possible when reading the same information in your word-processor document. I did quite a bit of writing, and general tweaking directly in my InDesign documents, sometimes using the Story Editor.
RIGHT BRAIN, LEFT BRAIN
I noted that many new thoughts and insights came up during the design and typographic process of laying out the text. I surmised that the reason for this was as follows: seeing the whole, the layout as a reader will encounter it, engages a cognitive shift between the right (abstract and creative—big picture, whole to parts) and left (analytical linear thinking—limited view, parts to whole) hemispheres of the brain. When you are not thinking about writing, or art for that matter, originality of form and insights spontaneously emerge with regularity. As this process is never ending, you must know when to stop.
Being in control at the design stage of book production gave me an edge in fine-tuning my words, as I was the author and could make changes quickly in the InDesign document. An in-house editor of a publisher couldn’t have known to make these clarifications.
Of course, I also styled the text and subheads, and added typographic touches to my own satisfaction; again, its doubtful that a mainstream publisher would have invested as much time and passion in the production of this book as I did.
ONE PERSON BAND
Whatever you decide, know your strengths; if you commit to POD and designing your own book, not only will you experience a sense of fulfillment, you will stand out as that one in a million who perseveres despite obstacles, and that’s an invaluable edge for all endeavors, including making your mark in the world of book publishing.
As the writer, designer, and publisher, I often felt like that image of a one-man band—someone who played a variety of instruments with, at least, some virtuosity. In the movie industry your published book would be billed as: written, produced, and directed by you. You can’t keep a great vision down.
Write your own ticket.»