Self-Publish 7: Publishing
I need to make it clear to whomever reads this article that I’m not a serious university student of literature, nor a lecturer. I don’t even class myself as an author. I say I’m a raconteur who can write logically. But during my study for a first degree, I took a unit called English 10, which I passed. So I enrolled in English 20 for the following year. The focus was on Shakespeare and it took me about three weeks to decide it wasn’t for me. My study continued and I achieved a Ph.D, but in an area far removed from literature. So my formal literature background is limited. In reading this, therefore, please view me as someone who’s gone from writing formal research reports to creating fictional novels via a process of collecting stories, most of them oral in the original transmission. This foray into explaining some intricacies of self-publishing is about why I did it, how, what happened and to share the information with anyone who’s interested. I’m not setting out to be an expert, to try to present a treatise, to outline a new way of writing fiction, to challenge established writing processes or to create a new vernacular to describe writing fiction. I’m just telling my story in language as simple I can muster.
So, you’ve reached the point where you and those you’ve worked with believe the story or novel is in a form that can be published.
Good on you and well done. Too often we forget to give praise for what is accomplished, tending find negatives rather than positives in the welter of things still to do that weigh us down. So have glass of bubbly and toast yourself and the next steps for an evening. Then, you’re off again. And to assist, I have added links in green print below to other parts of this website or to other sites. Just place the cursor on the print and left click. A link will appear so click again, using either a left-click to leave this page, or a right-click for a new web page.
There are two choices for getting copies of your novel if you go the road of self-publishing. One is with a reputable company that markets and sells the idea of self-publishing, and there are a number on the net to look at, and the other is to find out what the process entails and “do it yourself”. But whichever choice you make, the starting point will be to finalise your title and have a cover designed. I’ll start with the cover and then talk more about actual publishing and the two choices after that.
My covers have been done by Ross McLennan from Book Covers Australia, whom I’m more than happy to recommend. But there are many reputable designers whom you can access on the net or you can have a look at Australian Writers’ Centre. The latter is a course which costs, but it’s there if you want to go down that road.
But if you choose an established designer, he or she won’t need extensive details or to read the document to design anything. Their expertise lies in developing something fro m a sense of the story that creates a second or even a third glance when first seen. And very often, the simplest idea is the most effective. While your ideas will be of assistance, the knowledge he or he has of design and impression are their strengths, so use them.
I was told that the covers of novels should be done with sketches and drawings rather than photos, the rationale being that photos may suggest non-fiction, such as travel or historical books. I chose to go with photos, particularly of the country about which I am writing, with other elements added. For example, the front and back covers of Hiding Place are a photo in the Olgas and one of the road to Alice Springs, both of which I purchased from the net. (Many photos require that you purchase, so check each time you think of using one.) On the front cover, Ross added a picture of Australian Rules goalposts and a bit of a football field. Both are integral to the story for many reasons, but that’s all he did on that cover. With Turn on a Light, he did a wonderful job of finding photos, and re-shaping my ideas of what could be on the front cover because he said it was too cluttered. And he was right. Again, however, it’s a choice for you to make. A good way of starting out is to look at a range of covers on novels, front, back and spine, to get an idea of what would suit your story best.
The other aspects of covers are the need for:
- a brief synopsis that the designer will fit for you
- an ISBN which has to be purchased from Thorpe Bowker via the net
- the cost and once again, research by checking prices in various net sites and bookshops
- a brief comment from a colleague to place on the rear cover if that appeals
My experience was to go with a reputable firm for the first novel, and use what I learned from that experience to publish the next two. And I did learn a lot, which I say more about below. The guiding principle for me in moving to “DIY” was the idea of making a profit or, at worst, breaking even in terms of sales.
I’ve outlined details of publishing costs in Self-Publish 1: Introduction so I won’t repeat all that here. Just click on the title of the introduction to access the information.
The upside of working with a publishing company for me was what I learned about the process. And it isn’t simple. It includes such things as:
- the size of the novel: the range of sizes which can be viewed kin Word under the heading LAYOUT and then SIZE
- margin sizes which need to be carefully considered, particularly in terms of the readability against the spine of the book
- formatting which includes many aspects of presenting the novel in print: font size and style, when to indent and not, issues with certain types of spacing that cause problems when printing occurs. An idea is to research formatting in particular prior to the final production of the draft so setting-out is part of your final draft
If you work with the type of publishing company as I did, they should forward “do’s and don’ts” related to print-setting. If they don’t, get another company. But even if they do, there are pitfalls, so check with them that will send a copy to you once the first print is completed and that you can make corrections and change sizes of font and margins. Some companies will charge for typographical changes for corrections to the draft copy. And, ultimately, you have to proof the print yourself. The first company I worked with offered to do that and to edit, and I recollect that the charges were very high.
If you decide to go alone, start by having a look at PCWorld from IDG and see what ideas it gives you about using Microsoft Word as a publishing tool, both in terms of workload and operating as a DIY writer.
If you’re comfortable to still go DIY, contact various printing firms in Perth and see what each charges and the services offered. For my last two a novels, I have worked with Fineline Print in Perth and their prices and service are second to none. I love the fact that a representative calls on us: we don’t have to go to them. And finally, I have liked the support and assistance whenever I’ve asked in terms of setting up for printing.
As I said earlier in this overview of Self-Publishing, I have reduced the cost of my novels by around 100 per cent by operating locally. That includes not only the cost of novels (usually I print 500 at a time) but also the cost of bookmarks and business cards, which they can do at the same time as printing the novel. The printer can explain how it is done better than I can.
That’s probably enough for now. If you want to contact me with questions, use the website contact or email me on email@example.com any time.