Rather than – why do more people not publish their own books, especially if they’re not happy for whatever reason with the state of mainstream publishing? surely the question should rather be – how come anyone (who isn’t rolling in cash) publishes a book themselves?
Publishing a book in one way has never been simpler – there are print on demand and small print run printers and publishers everywhere, all offering different deals and services, from basic binding to ISBNs to listings on Amazon to claims to market them for you – the works. In another way of course, it’s just as hard as it’s always been. The simplest deal of all is just getting someone to print and bind it. That leaves you with editing, proof reading (sensationally dull for a 200 page book), page layout (try it on pirated software! For the full ‘I’ll get a hammer to that machine yet…’ effect), book cover design (if you’ve mastered a graphics programme or are lucky enough to know someone who has) with all the ‘no, left, no I’d like a terracotta wash, can I change this bit?’ ‘NO!’…prelims, page numbers (they’re always good for a laugh!). Next come the PDFs, putting it all, back cover, spine, the works, into two or three Print Ready Files. If the format still looks the same, congratulations! And remember, the cover must be sized to a standard book size like 197 x 132…not forgetting a 3mm ‘bleed’ all the way round for binding – so don’t bother with a border unless you’re feeling sharp as a needle. Then off the PDFs go – after shouting matches, breaking glasses, and if you’re really in mayhem central by then, somebody you know chooses one of the most stressful days of the year to hassle you about something…thereby ensuring you have a seriously memorable day, the first time you send off a book for proper grown up binding…
Then a bit later on, the proof copy arrives and you see for the first time (all printers being different) that the cover is too dark/blurred/unrelated to the contents of the book…and of course, there’s no time to change it, AND you’d be charged for it, so because you’re doing this with minimum time and a fixed budget, you don’t. But it does show you at least that all your page numbers are all on the right – yes, even the pages on the left…so you sort that out, after more cursing and tearing up paper, and then send it off back again… A couple of weeks later a box of books arrives.
For extra added enjoyment, sorry nightmare, get 10 ISBNs – the majority of which you don’t need right now, give away some free copies to copyright libraries and fill in forms for Nielsen BookData… But for smaller print runs, and especially ones which will mainly be sold at events, opinion is divided about whether an ISBN is worth the bother or not. I’ve heard some writers say they wouldn’t be without them. Some say it helped promotion, if not actual selling of copies. But others I’ve spoken to have said it was a waste of money and did no good at all. Take your pick. Think about what it is, who and where it’ll be sold to and at.
And THAT’S just the beginning. Because it’s at that point that the real work begins – that of selling it. Now you’ve got the box of books, you’ve got to get rid of the contents…..