Tag Archives: how to self publish a paperback

Indie Endeavors, Part 8: Should I Create a Paperback?

So you’re thinking of self-publishing?  Jump into my how-to series…

Creating a paperback version of your book is a bit more complicated than creating an ebook. However, there is something very gratifying about holding, smelling and flipping through the pages of your very own hard copy. They also look fabulous sitting on the coffee table! But more importantly, perhaps, are the millions of folks who haven’t switched over to digital. If you don’t provide your book as a paperback, you’re missing a huge potential audience.

Not long ago, self-publishing a physical book involved a costly print run and perhaps five hundred or a thousand books in your basement that you were solely responsible for storing, distributing, and selling. Not anymore. If you are a brand new author, print-on-demand (POD) publishing is the only way to go. Here’s how it works: You upload your files digitally to the publishing company’s database where they are stored. (Making changes simply involves uploading a new file, even after publication.) Then, whenever someone purchases your book online, those files are used to print as few as one copy, which is sent to the purchaser. Amazing! And very cost effective, because as an author, you don’t put money in; you simply take out your cut of the profits.

My Experience with Two POD Companies

So where should you print your books? That depends on your needs. My first experience was through Lulu.com, as it was pretty established and the only one I had heard of before. I was extremely happy with the results. Their website was user-friendly, with step-by-step instructions and a great help forum. I could upload my files in doc format, the cover creator was a breeze, and the final product was extremely professional. I highly, highly recommend Lulu if you want only a few copies for yourself or close friends. However, I wanted to make my books available to a wide audience at a reasonable price, and I found that placing my books for sale on Amazon involved some legwork and a lot of fees. To make just seventy cents per copy, I had to price my 165-page novel at a ridiculous fifteen dollars.

Then I discovered CreateSpace, a POD publisher which is owned by Amazon. Suddenly, I could place my novel for ten dollars, make three dollars profit, and not have to give a thought to the logistics of distribution. Perfect! I must say Lulu produced a slightly higher quality book, but I am still quite satisfied with CreateSpace. Ease of production was very comparable. CreateSpace’s cover creator was user-friendly, the help forum super, and they also allow the uploading of Word docs. And as an added bonus, price per book for author copies was substantially lower than Lulu’s.

Formatting Basics

So you want to proceed? Keep in mind that creating a paperback is a different ball game than creating a document for ereaders. Each page is stationary, not free-flowing, so some formatting must be in place to make it look nice. It’s more of a building project, but since PDF is the industry standard, you actually build it in your favorite word processing program and then convert (or upload to your publisher’s converter). I use Word, and many of the sites even offer Word templates, which eliminates much of the following work.

Here are several things to think about when creating a POD paperback:

General formatting. First, you must choose your book’s size based on the options offered at your particular publisher. There are many, many sizes, and these vary by company, but several standards will be found at most of them. Once you choose your size, you must format your Word doc in the same size. You can do this in the “Page Layout” menu. Next, set your margins and gutters, the area where a two-page spread meets in the middle. Your publisher will have suggested guidelines available. And finally, add in any headers or footers you might want on each page, such as page numbers and the book title or chapter titles.

Since I do not usually name my chapters, I do not start new chapters on new pages. But if you would like to, you can make very effective use of page breaks. The section break feature is also very handy if you don’t want your headers or footers included on every page (like the front or end pages). You can break your manuscript into individual sections with their own unique formatting. Both page and section breaks are found in Word’s “Insert” menu.

Front and end pages. Paperbacks have important pages and information at the front of the book (some of which is required by law) that may differ from an ebook, such as a title page, copyright page, dedication, and table of contents. Your publisher will have specific instructions available about what is required and what to include on each page. Likewise, you may wish to include information at the end of your book, such as a bibliography, note from the author or glossary.

Images. When I added maps to one of my novels, I encountered some problems when uploading to CreateSpace. I learned that Word saves images in a low resolution to reduce file size, which would have resulted in a grainy printed image. To fix this, I had to covert my finished manuscript to PDF before saving as a Word doc instead of using the automatic converter. (See below.)

Converting to PDF. Since learning how easy it is to convert a Word doc to PDF, I now prefer to do it myself every time, whether I have images or not. It can be as easy as choosing the PDF file format from the “save as” drop down menu. This method, however, will not protect image resolution, so I choose to download the free PrimoPDF conversion software.

Primo is actually a virtual printer. To convert to PDF from a Word doc and maintain image resolution, DO NOT save the document after inserting your images. (Don’t move or enlarge the pictures, either. Insert them exactly as you want them to appear.) Instead, choose “print” from the “File” menu and then select the Primo printer from the drop down menu. Your document will be saved as a PDF with high quality images.

Producing a paperback can be a bit trickier and more time consuming than creating an ebook, but hard copies have advantages all their own. You just might want to consider diving in.

Read Part 9: Blurbs