Posts Tagged Self-printing
While making an ebook is pretty straightforward, putting it into print is a pain. In traditional publishing houses, it’s an entire department’s job – because there’s a lot of invisible fiddling you need to do. (It used to be my job too, which is why I know.)
But it is possible to do it well, given the right instructions. I’ll walk you through what I did to get the text of My Memories of a Future Life ready for print. Be prepared – this will get pathologically nitpicky. And this stage is not about how the text reads – it’s about how it looks. Yes, to writers that’s the tail wagging the dog. Get over it now.
It’s quite a big job so I’ll split it in two posts. Today: choosing the size of the book and the typeface.
What size do you want the book to be?
Choose this first, because that governs how much you get on a page. Nail Your Novel is a short book at 40,000 words, and the first time I put it out was at 6×9. That made it look flimsy, so when I redesigned the interior I sized it down to 5×8 where the thickness and size feel just right.
My Memories of a Future Life, on the other hand, is a whopping 103,000 words. It would be rather chunky at 5×8 and expensive to produce because of the weight – which means I would have had to charge a lot more and everyone would think I was being greedy. Many literary novels are now being produced in 6×9 size, or even bigger – so it fits nicely with the genre.
If you use CreateSpace you can download a Word template for the interior. It sets up page sizes and margins so that everything looks right and you can do your fiddling in Word. Catherine Ryan Howard’s book Self-Printed has a detailed section on how to do this. There are other POD companies besides CreateSpace, but they’re not as easy to use. I used CreateSpace but with a design program, PagePlus, because it’s what I do my covers in and because my version of Word doesn’t make PDFs. (For CreateSpace and Lulu you submit your book on a PDF.)
PagePlus sets automatic margins as well, but the default ones are too narrow so I customise them. If you’re using anything other than CreateSpace’s template I suggest you check your margins too. They may have been set up for leaflets, not paperback books.
Before you finalise your margins, whack some dummy text onto the page, print it out and put it over an existing book of the same size to check it looks okay.
Important: get your margins right now. If you change them later you’ll have to redo a lot of tedious checking.
When you formatted the Kindle or ebook edition you probably established a style for the book…. didn’t you? You’re consistent about when you use single or double quotes, proper em dashes and so on? You checked you had curly quotes and not ticks, including on the apostrophes? You’ve never thought about it? Go and fix them now. They’ll make your book look a lot more professional.
Choose this next. And make your decision final. Every typeface is a slightly different width, even if it’s the same height.
Don’t use Times, it makes a book page look like a business proposal.
Obviously don’t use any of the fancy curly things that seem to have been supplied to design party invitations.
Get down a few novels in your genre (tastes in typefaces may vary between genres) and choose typefaces that look like them. I used Century Schoolbook BT for My Memories of a Future Life.
Check what the font’s italics look like. A lot of computers come with the Roman version of fonts but not the italics, and when you hit the little I icon it slants them. True italics have curled serifs (the little feet), and slanted feet look wrong. If you haven’t got the italic version of your font there are free places to download it – I found my itals here. Do this now too, for the mysterious tedium-avoidance reason I will explain.
Typesize and spacing
Most books are set in 12pt, or 11.5pt. Again, compare with other published books in your genre (for instance, literary can afford to go slightly smaller than YA).
If your book is 6×9 the page is quite wide, so you might want a bigger typeface or wider leading (space between the lines) to make it more readable. You can fine-tune this by editing the paragraph style – I set the leading as a percentage of the pointsize. So I had 11.5pt type on a leading that was a niftily precise 14.375pt – or 125% of the point size.
And each typeface has different properties. Some have tall ascenders and descenders (vertical strokes). So if you change from one font at 11.5pt it might look much smaller and less readable than another, so you might need to use it bigger. Before you finalise, print a page out and fold it around a book of the same size to see how it looks in the flesh.
When you’ve decided, run your text in and typeset it.
Part 2 tomorrow: chapter heads… and the really nitpicky stage
Have you released one of your books in print form? Did you do the production yourself? If you have any tips to add for this stage, I’d love to hear them!
HELP IS AT HAND… If reading all this has given you an intolerable migraine, I can format your book for you! Email me on RozMorrisWriter at gmail dotcom.
I’m guesting today at Bubblecow, the site for writers started by novelist Caroline Smailes. Bubblecow’s site is a treasure trove of advice and information for writers of all stamps – both traditionally published and self-published, and they provide editorial services across the board to both individual authors and mainstream publishers.
They asked me to write a post on covers. The outfit your book wears when it meets its public is make or break. It’s one of the main ways readers will judge your book. Find out what you can do to give it the best chance you can.
I had this very interesting comment from Paul Gresty about my interview with John Rakestraw at BlogTalkRadio, and it’s typical of questions I’ve been seeing a lot of authors wrestling with. What follows is just my opinion as an author and freelance editor, and may be typical only of the UK publishing market, but here goes.
Paul: You talked in the interview about writers who have had near misses with agents. A few times now, the agents who’ve read my novel have said: ‘This is really good, but we can’t see a major publisher going for it. Try finding a smaller publisher of literary fiction for it, and send us whatever you write next.’ At the same time, smaller publishers, with whom I’ve published bits and pieces before, are saying, ‘We don’t have the means to publish a new book right now’.
I know a number of writers who have excellent, interesting novels that are not getting published. Perhaps they cross genres, or they’re too edgy to be literary and too intelligent to be genre. In all likelihood if those writers were submitting those same novels to the market 5 or 10 years ago they would have landed a publishing deal. But publishers don’t want them any more.
My agent says he’s had plenty of situations in the last few years when editors have adored a novel by one of his clients, have recommended it for publication and had it rejected by the marketing department. So these novels were definitely good enough. But the marketers didn’t want them.
Publishers don’t sell to ordinary readers
The major publishers sell to book stores, and they want to make bulk sales to chains. They want titles that will sell in quantity. Not something ‘interesting’ that will sell one or two copies per store.
Meanwhile, smaller publishers are inundated with submissions and can only afford to publish a few titles a year. This is because there’s a lot of work in bringing a manuscript up to standard and it is simply impossible for a shoestring staff to handle more than a small number.
Paul: Perhaps the solution is to publish an ebook?
That seems to make perfect sense. While you may not shift very many copies in your town or even your county, worldwide you might find 15,000 people who want to read what you write. Providing you can reach them – and the internet is the place to do it. Some small publishers are testing the water by epublishing titles first, and then if sales go well they produce a print version. But again, you have to land on their desk before they hit their quota for the year. How lucky do you feel?
Paul: On the writing courses I’ve done over the last few years, I’ve been advised against self-publishing – ‘vanity’ publishing, with all the negative connotations. ‘It shows that you haven’t looked hard enough to find a ‘real’ publisher,’ I’ve been told. But maybe that’s changing. Maybe self-publishing is becoming more legitimate. Is it?
Ooh, this is interesting.
Vanity publishing is not the same as self-publishing. With vanity publishing you pay – usually a lot of money – for someone to print thousands of shoddy copies of your book and then you discover they’re not going to sell or distribute them for you. It’s usually verging on a scam. With self-publishing no money changes hands until a copy is sold (of course you may spend money on covers, editing etc, but that doesn’t usually have anything to do with the self-publishing company).
As for the assertion that if you can’t get a ‘proper’ publisher you haven’t earned your spurs…
Many of the people saying that either wouldn’t get published now or have never tried at all. I still encounter people who imagine they only have to slip their magnum opus through a publisher’s letterbox and they’ll be Rowling all the way to the bank.
Take no notice of the stuffy gits at those writing courses. They’re well out of date. I bet most of them don’t even know what an online platform is, or assume we’re all writing undisciplined noodlings about what we had for breakfast.
I couldn’t get a ‘proper publisher’ for Nail Your Novel. I was told it was far too short and there were far too many how-to-write books. It was not needed in the market, apparently. So I self-published. Far from being a flop it’s been getting great reviews and sales that have surprised me. I regularly get emails and tweets from people who are genuinely grateful I put it out there.
Catherine Ryan Howard, of the blog Catherine, Caffeinated, self-published her travel memoir Mousetrapped after agents told her it was a good read but hard to place. It’s doing very nicely for her – especially in ebook form. (She’s got a book coming soon all about how she self-published. I just read an ARC. If you’re interested in self-publishing it’s called Self-Printed and I urge you to get it.)
Which brings me back to…
Conventional publishers have narrower tastes than the book-buying public. Much narrower.
My agent also says that the pendulum is bound to swing the other way in favour of these maverick, original writers. That’s lovely of him, but who knows if it will? Self-publishing makes sense if you’ve exhausted normal channels and don’t want to wait for ever.
The trouble is, as I said on the radio show, anyone can now hit ‘publish’. There isn’t yet a reliable way for readers to find out which the good self-published books are, especially with fiction. How do you even get noticed?
I haven’t got an answer for this. Except…
Let’s show those stuffy gits
Self-publishers are now more credible than we have ever been. We must keep that credibility. We must aim for the highest possible quality. That means getting professional help with the editing, proofing and design, so that the book can hold its own against the best of conventionally published titles. (In fact, I’m just revamping the interior design of the print version of Nail Your Novel so that it looks as crisp as possible. Not the content, just the layout and typestyles. When I first formatted it I didn’t think I’d be getting it on Amazon alongside the top-selling books in its field. Now it needs to look the part.)
To sum up: Paul, if you’re really sure you’ve done all you can to make your book as good as you can, hit publish.
(Thank you, Oldonliner, for the picture)
What would you tell Paul? Are you another ‘near miss’ author? Discuss in the comments!