The International Writers Magazine: Publishing:
Taking Control of your manuscript
Empowerment for the writer or delusional self-indulgence?
Sam North investigates
to go down the route of self-publishing is a rocky road indeed.
As I write this I have an email from a friend whose mother wants
to publish her autobiography. Just for the family to read. No big
deal. Maybe 50 copies. Somehow or another, a company that shall
be nameless on the South Coast tried to persuade her to part with
ten thousand pounds for this privilege.
author, just one office over from me, I discovered quite casually in
conversation has parted with thousands of pounds to have his book about
the sixties edited by a company in Chichester. I know a
lot of editors who would LOVE to get their hands on thousands to fix
a book. Sadly it is not a highly paid profession. The people perpetuating
these crimes are exploiting peoples vanity and of course, promising
Lets be very clear, unless there is a miracle, and you get your
book published,and actually into a bookshop, where it is then bought,
you will not make a penny. You will not be considered for the Booker
prize or any prize. Yes there are exceptions.
You might be aware of the Rev Graham Taylor who self-published Shadowmancer
for around 3,500 pounds and sold the rights and for six more with Faber
for $6 million.
This gives you hope yes? But there are millions of authors out there
who pay out millions more a year to get their books into print only
for their mother-in-law to use them as a wedge to keep a door open.
The reality is that in the USA lin 2004 there were 80,000 individual
titles published. In print, presumable available from bookshops. A self-published
book is usually only available on-line and almost never in bookshshops
and worse, it is almost impossible to get reviewed. There may be something
like *4.5 million books in print at any one time! *According to Russell
Kierzkowski, buyer for the University of Pittsburgh Book Center.
It is house policy for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for example never
to review Print on Demand books and pretty much house policy for libraries
and booksellers too. Their reasoning is that POD books in general dont
go through the critical phase of editing, rewrites, quality control,
fact checking (which includes plagiarism and legal issues). Traditional
publishers will not publish a book until it has been polished and is
worthy to carry their imprint.
So those are the negatives.
The trouble is, of course, to get published by a traditional publisher
these days is monumentally hard. Getting an agent even tougher, we should
all live so long. Add to the mix that many titles are mid-list (ie:
publishable but not quite worthy of a marketing push) so they dont
get printed, or the authors are dropped for sexier, pretty chick lit
writers. Been there, bought their T-Shirt ... doh.
The POD market is then, quite often the only way to get noticed. However,
you are in the same swimming pool as the kid who pees a lot and somehow
you have to seperate yourself from the person who just prints any old
thing without due care and attention for plotting, spelling, punctuation,
narrative structure and the reader. Remember many of these companies
run no quality control whatsoever. It is empowering for the writer but
in the end, people will only buy if they perceive they are getting a
work of quality.
So why and how?
The internet helps. If you have chosen a printer/publisher wisely and
your book is edited, well put together with a decent cover that truly
reflects the contents; and your sample chapter (which many companies
will allow people to read) is enticing enough; several things might
One search engines will pick it up and if people are browsing
for a particular type of book, it might pick it up.
Two: Your book better look good, sound
good (via the blurb) read well, via the sample chapter and the browser
must be used to ordering using a credit card and then experiencing the
delay (a week or more) for the book to actually arrive.
Three: This has to happen hundreds of times
for you to make any money.
Speaking as someone who hates browsing, even in a bookshop, I think
it is a miracle when we sell even one book on line. As a reader I quite
like to read reviews first so I can decide. Or better yet, automatically
buy titles by my favourite authors (Haruki Murakami, William Gibson,
Alexander McCall Smith (if theyre are set in Botswana)).
But if you, like me, are not anyones favourite author, we arent
automatically being reviewed, we arent in the bookshops when people
need a book to read right now.
So we need good tools, a particular kind of buyer (a patient one) and
a good quality book. If the book is good enough, (not just for the reader),
but as a stand alone quality print with a good sturdy cover, then if
your lone reader likes it, they are also the type of person to recommend
it to someone else. (I know I do) This is a slow, but incremental way
to grow your reputation. You have to be teeth grindingly patient, but
it can work.
So who do you go to to print it, edit it, lay it out? Design the cover.
Im only recommending one publishing option here. One I have been
through personally and another because they do seem to offer a similar
service and appear straight
After much investigation and dialogue with several companies I decided
to do the following. I wanted my book to look just so, be laid out just
right and most POD companies will not allow you to submit a PDF. They
want it in Word and they just sort of chuck on the page complete with
lots of strays and windows that just look bloody awful. You cannot lay
out a book in Word. It will not look good. Ever.
If you do go the PDF route there really is only one company you can
go with and caveat empor, you better make sure there is more than one
pair of eyes on that manuscript. It is sooooo easy to make simple errors:
punctuation, spelling, syntax, factual errors, time, place, names anything
might trip you up.
In a novel there are a million mistakes to be made and corrected. In
an historical novel more so. I have woken up in a sweat at night because
I cannot remember if there was a train station in a particular city
in that year or not, or if a newspaper was published in 1872 or 1873.
They may seem like minor points, but believe me, someone always knows
more than you and can pick them out. (And let you know most likely).
So you need an editor you can trust, you need someone to lay it out
in quark express or indesign and also have Acrobat Writer to hand so
it can be saved as a PDF. Then you need to read it again. Many cities
for example Vancouver, Cape Town , Melbourne, have a list or
association of editors, (speak to your local librarian) all who whom
will work freelance for a very reasonable fee. And this is money worth
If you want to design your own cover do so. (I have always hated my
covers of my previous books - so I really wanted to try to get it right.)
I spent several useful days in Vancouver Library going through their
wonderful collection of photographic images from 1860 onwards. If you
find one, and I did, you have to buy the rights. But at least you will
have the right image you want. You can find places like these libraries
with original research material via the internet or perhaps your local
Again you have to lay your cover out in quark and my designer Dominic
in SA did a wonderful job for me. (But save it as a .jpg curiously for
sending to the publisher)
OK. So then, you have to follow the on-line instructions precisely!
My choice of publisher was www.lulu.com
These are my reasons for going with them.
1: No upfront costs whatsoever.
2: They will accept PDF files (heres a warning note as left and
right pages, but as single pages, its a quirk of POD machines).
also have links to professionals who will for a price lay it our for
you and design a cover.
2: They will allow you to upload your own cover (or design one for you
at a reasonable rate or supply you with an image from their ever growing
3: You can upload and delete as many times as you like until you get
it just right. But and heres a big but. Once you say yes....thats
it and it gets expensive to fix thereafter except by publishing a new
edition and starting all over again.
What is interesting about lulu.com is that is appears to be entirely
manned by robots.
There is customer support, but essentially you do all the work and they
just print your book. So essentially they are the printer. There is
a Forum an online community of Lulu authors swapping notes and
suggestions and this is very useful. Support can be a bit slow however
which can cause minor irritations. But do use the Forum and there are
useful templates for cover design for example on site.
4: For a price, you can have two levels of publishing.
a: A basic ISBN number printed on your cover (make sure you left a big
space for that) for just under $40 bucks or ISBN plus which gets your
book listed on search engines, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and in the distribution
list at Bertrams. This costs $176 which includes a proof copy of your
book. Best to go with this option. Do not be cheap, it's your book.
Check your proof carefully. I had to do two proofs as the ISBN number
over printed on a detail and left a ragged edge. On my recent Sherlock
Holmes novel I had to be four proofs as the first books came in the
wrong size. Again my error but really annoying if you tick the wrong
5: They provide you with a shop where you book is listed and a web storefront
where your books is listed and you can say something about yourself,
your book and link to a review if you have one. You can put what you
like there, within reason.
6: Your book is available as a printed book or e-book even spiral bound
if it is a slim volume. Id rather people chose the printed book,
as although the e-book would be my PDF, who the hell wants to print
off 280 pages and read them loose like that? OK it is cheaper but hey,
thats too cheap plus theres the ink!
7: Now you have to sell it. Lulu dont sell books. They print them.
You have to sell it.
Your mother-in-law for example. She needs at least ten copies. So you
have to tell people it is there. If you have a website, great, if you
dont, create one.
It isnt going to make you rich. It might make your cat proud,
but you arent doing this to make money. Heres a tip. Join
a writers group. Read them from your book. Who knows, they might
tell others. Its a start.
8: Delivery and Shipping:
If you are reading this in the USA, you dont have a problem, Lulu
are great. If you live overseas, it is quite expensive to get small
amounts of your book. My tip is for you to contact you local shipper.
Youd have to buy a least a hundred copies to make it worth your
while (and hope you can sell them) but your local shipper will have
contacts in the USA and believe me, I saved 500 dollars on shipping
alone by doing it my way. So dont panic, it can be done. Why import
them? Well your local area is probably the only place where you could
reasonably be expected to sell copies of your book, to people who know
you or know of you. So you can reach them. Otherwise, leave it to the
internet to help you sell. It will or it wont.
Since I wrote this Lulu hooked up with Lightning Source and people can
now buy the book and have it printed in the UK or USA depending if they
buy through Amazon UK or USA. I have tested it. It works well and Lightning
Soruce books are if anything slightly better in finish, but both are
9: What does the book look like?
Exactly as it should. The inside pages are clear and the paper is of
good quality, the cover seems robust, or at least similar to other mass
paperbacks (There is now a hardback option). It feels hefty (it should
do at 6 x 9 inches) and showing the proof copy around, it has garnered
favourable impressions and promises of orders once I have imported them.
I am selling at cost (because I am mainly selling to students) but you
could try to add a buck if you wanted . What is cost? The price of the
book to you, the author, plus the cost of shipping divided by 100 (If
you bought a hundred)
10: Where is the best place to buy it? from Lulu of course. They sell
it at the lowest price plus shipping. But it will also be available
at Amazon and others at the retail price set by you or by Lulu, (your
choice) and they can buy and sell, just like any other bookseller can
at discount. Lulu have thought things through pretty well and have around
10,000 authors these days. *It takes about six weeks from proof approval
to be in the system at Amazon and others.
So where can you buy my book? Here of course: Buy it and judge for yourself.
Diamonds - The Rush of '72
By Sam North
Buy now direct from Lulu.com
terrific piece of storytelling'
- Historical Novel Society Review
now from Amazon.com
Now printed in the UK and available from
6 x9 inches perfect bound paperback
Curse of the Nibelung
A Sherlock Holmes Mystery
by Sam North
Retail - 300 pages - Lulu Press USA
'Chocolate will never be the same again' - Sunday Express
Buy from your favourite on-line retailer
Or buy direct from Lulu Press at special price of $12.95 US
our First Chapters of novels in progress
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