Printing Your Novel; or, How I Accidentally Started a Publishing Company

April 25, 2011 at 4:37 pm (Uncategorized)

Once your book’s written and edited and as good as you can make it, it’s time to go to print. There are a LOT of companies all too willing to step in and help you out with that; just google ‘self publishing’ or ‘print on demand’ and see how many adverts pop up. There’s a ton of money to be made in this game. They say everyone has at least one book in them, and it looks like a lot of us will pay to make that book a reality.
There’s a few different directions you can go in with this. Companies range from giants like lulu.com and CreateSpace to the art bookstore in Vancouver that has an Espresso printing machine and can knock up a book for you in a couple of weeks. Some companies charge fees, some don’t. The size and type of book they can produce for you varies; for instance, Lulu lets you make a hardback, but Createspace doesn’t. What they charge to produce your book, the royalties they pay and the methods they use to distribute your book all vary quite a lot.

I decided to go with Createspace, for a few reasons:
1) It’s an Amazon.com company, and so your book will automatically be listed with Amazon.
2) It’s easy. CreateSpace is set up for people like me, by which I mean those utterly clueless about book design and publishing. They guide you through the steps you need to take to get your book out there. If you like, you can pay them to handle virtually the whole process. More on that later.
3) They pay higher royalties than most other companies – at least compared to the big ones. Although my chances of breaking even, let alone making a profit on publishing my novel are pretty slight, the less money eaten up in publishing costs, the better.

A quick cruise through blogs and forums about CreateSpace will turn up a lot of discouraging things. In fact, I’ve had my own problems with them already, which I’ll detail in another post. What is important to remember though is that CreateSpace, Lulu and many others are so-called ‘author services’ companies. They don’t expect to sell many copies of your book; that’s not where they make their money. It’s the additional services they offer to authors that brings in the cash. Things like editing, cover design, distribution, marketing – a single author could spend thousands on all this, and CreateSpace publishes hundreds of authors daily. My advice would be to purchase as few of these as possible. Most of what they offer can be done better, cheaper, or sometimes both by consulting a different company or individual, like I did when I went looking for an editor.

Choosing a company to print your book is like choosing any other company, really. Make sure you read the fine print and be clear on what they’re offering. And remember, these companies are not publishers. They don’t care about the quality of your book, or whether or not it sells.
For a helpful comparison between three giants in this industry, go to http://duskpeterson.livejournal.com/49913.html

Oh, and one other thing. If you’re going to sell your book, you need an ISBN (international standard book number). Createspace requires this before you do anything else. They can assign you one for free, but then your publisher will be listed as Createspace. This may not be a problem for you, but it makes me a little uneasy. Your alternative is to get your own ISBN and make your own publishing company; this is incredibly easy. In the states, ISBNs can be bought from the following companies:
• Aardvark Global Publishing Company
• Bethany Press
• Espressio
• FilmMasters
• Instantpublisher.com
• Lulu.com
• PPC Books
• Publisher Services
• RJ Communications
• RKD Press
• Signature Books
• WordClay

I’m told it costs $99 for a single ISBN.
Luckily for me, I live in Canada, where ISBNs come free from CISS, the Canadian ISBN Service System (gotta love abbreviations within abbreviations). Fill out a simple online form with a few general details of your book and invent a name for your company, and they’ll get back to you with an ISBN. They say to allow six weeks or so, but they got back to me within five working days.
And that’s how I accidentally became the head of a publishing company.

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