Monday, October 24, 2005

How long does it take to publish a book?

Well, using lulu.com it took me a grand total of 14 hours:

Research - 4 hours
Typesetting - 4 hours
Cover design - 3 hours
Uploading - 2 hours
Post-publication - 1 hour

(though of course writing the book in the first place took me over 16 years)

Research
This is of paramount importance - never rush into something like this without doing the research first! I spent a lot of time on lulu.com checking out the guidance offered, terms and conditions, copyright issues, the community areas, processes involved, etc. The lulu website is fairly comprehensive - lots of FAQs and guidance, though they're not set out as simply as one could hope. They were good enough to get me through the process in less than a day, which isn't bad I suppose.

lulu.com are a Print On Demand (POD) service. There's a lot of companies out there nowadays offering this sort of service, and it goes to say that some will be better than others. The lulu.com service is very basic - it really is a case of "you get what it says on the tin". There's an active community forum for people who are looking for help, but not much more. You are expected to format your book yourself, and they only offer a very limited stock of off-the-shelf cover designs. They will convert MS Word and OpenOffice documents into pdf for you, but that process is not interactive and there's no way to check a proof except by buying a book. lulu.com is certainly not for anyone not confident enough to do most of the work themselves!

Typesetting
Luckily for me, I'm stupidly cocky enough to think I know how to do publication layouts. Rather than produce a Word document and have them convert it into the required pdf format for me, I used my Adobe PageMaker programme to pull together the content. This included doing my own copyright page, my own contents page, page numbering, layout, style selection (I chose to typeset using the Tahoma font - serviceable for the 84 page document I was publishing, though probably not the best choice - put it down to a personal dislike of serif fonts), etc. A good hour of my time was spent going through the PageMaker help files to work out things I'd forgotten how to do.

In the end I had an 84 page document (at 6" by 9") - just enough to warrant perfect binding.

Cover design
This was fun! The instructions on lulu.com for producing your own cover design are fairly clear, and the website does offer templates for various book sizes. Me being me, I decided to use The Gimp. My original intention was to have a very plain black cover with just the title and name in a nice font on the front. But then I got a bit creative - a sandy background with one of those wierd poster fonts for title and author, a snatch of my conlang script at the bottom and a picture of a magnificent chicken which I'd taken a couple of years ago when we took Mother to visit the Hackney City Farm.

I also had to think of some words to go on the back cover, and I even gave in to vanity by including the photo of me and the monkey on the back. It's not the best, most professional cover design in the world, but I love it!

Uploading
To be fair to lulu.com, this should not have taken me more than half an hour. Unfortunately it was at this stage that I discovered PageMaker insisted on producing a pdf file that was security encrypted - which as lulu.com clearly say is a big no-no. I searched the PageMaker help files and the Adobe Distiller help files - no luck! I searched the lulu.com forums for an answer, but it seems PageMaker is not commonly used by the community (and given the price of the software I don't blame them - I bought my copy for myself as a crimbo prezzie a few years ago because I thought I deserved a big treat that year). Finally I went to the Adobe website and found the answer in about 3 minutes. Bloody typical!

With that problem solved, the publishing process was soon navigated, and I became the proud owner of my very first POD book!

Post-publication
lulu.com are in the US, and I'm in England. I'm also vain enough to want my book to have its very own ISBN number so people can order it through amazon.com - this is an extra that lulu.com offer and, as I have no shame about vanity publishing (I've been doing it for years on my website), I was happy to pay the money for their "worldwide distribution package". This sounds more awesome than it really is, as all it really means is that in addition to lulu.com's own printers, a second printer in the US and one in the UK will also be willing to POD my book for any order through the online bookstores. It also means the book will be listed in a couple of catalogues used by libraries and bricks&mortar bookshops - though I don't expect to ever see my little gem gathering dust on a shopfloor bookshelf!

Getting a book listed on amazon.com and the like can take 6-8 weeks, so I'll have to leave reporting on that aspect of the publishing experience until after crimbotime.

The final product
And if you want to buy my book? You can get it from my very own lulu.com shop for the measly sum of $10.00 + p&p. Enjoy!

3 comments:

  1. POD seems like a good idea for a lot of stuff. Have you had a copy of the actual book yet? I'm curious to know what the quality is like.

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  2. The product description reads: 6.0 x 9.0 in., Perfect-bound 60#, cream interior paper, black and white interior ink, 100# white exterior paper, full-color (CMYK) exterior ink - I've no idea what the # represents, so I've no idea what the paper quality is going to be like. Part of me wants the paper to be from 100% recycled stock, but we'll see. My proofing copy (for the international distribution thingy) should reach me in about a week, so I'll do a report on the quality aspects then

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  3. You forgot to include the countless hours of writing, editing and re-writing. haha. I'm at 10 years in that stage.

    I've got a collection of poetry ready to go in theory. The thing I'm stuck with is deciding what order to put the poems in.

    I'd love to hear if you had any recommendations on that. Some days (the bad ones) I think about throwing them up in the air and just letting the order they hit the ground in be the order they appear in the manuscript.

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