How I wrote and Published a Book for Under £50
As you may have seen by now, I have a new book out! If you had managed to miss that, check it out here 🙂
The purpose of this blog is to give a quick overview of how I got it finished and published in print and ebook formats.
This was a project I started in around February 2015. I had been wanting to create a print version of my previous book for a while, but decided that it would be much better for everyone if I created a totally new book. It would be better value for my readers and actually better for me as it would help cement a few concepts in print! It turns out that academic world really doesn’t like referencing websites.
Content is King!
The first step was to write the book. As this was going to mostly be a compilation of blog posts, the content was about 70% there for me. However, a series of unconnected blog posts doesn’t make a very interesting or useful book. Once I had the basic framework of content, I had to link it all together and create new content that filled in some of the gaps.
Choose a Publisher
Once I had the content, I needed to think about how it was going to get published and with whom. This would dictate things like whether the final book would be colour and what size / format it would be. I looked at a few options and discovered that I didn’t need an actual publisher or even money upfront. I could use print on demand services such as Lulu, Createspace or Ingram Spark. This would keep the costs way down.
One important factor was UK and EU distribution. The book had to be available to those regions via Amazon. After some research I decided that the best option would be a company called Blurb. They had a set of tools to help build the book and good templates. Importantly they gave free ISBN numbers for books being distributed through them.
The ISBN number is an ID number for your book. You have to have one for printed books. Not every service gives them for free, and they are a touch pricey if you have a budget of £0! You buy 10 for about £140. Now, if I had the money, I would have done that as it gives you greater control of your book – keep that one in mind.
Proof Read / Edit
Anyway, I used the tools and the templates and got my book into a decent format. At this stage it needed to be edited. I proofread it a few times, but called on my friends to have a good look at it for me as well.
This is a soul destroying time in an authors life. My main editor was the wonderful Dutch Driver. I uploaded the manuscript to Google Docs and he made changes and suggestions there that I incorporated into my Word version. He was amazing, but be warned, this is tough and you have to have an open mind. That said, you have to be firm with your own concepts – it is your book!
The Cover and Blurb
Whilst this was happening, I also started to create a cover and tried to come up with a title. Again, this was all about getting help from friends. Using Photoshop I created lots and lots of mock up covers and got feedback on them. Once I had a title and a basic idea I was happy with, I went to the brilliant online service Fiverr to get the main image created for me. This was the first expense. Fiverr is a resource where you can get skilled people to do skilled jobs for you – the price starts at $5. I found a great artist who did vector based art. For the Monkey image to be created, for the illustrator files to be given to me and for a commercial license to use the image, I paid $15 – not bad! There are people there who will create whole covers for you, but I just needed the main image.
Another activity during this phase was to try to get some testimonials. I contacted a group of people I knew who were influential in my area and asked them if they would be willing to read my draft and offer testimonials for me to include on the back cover of the book (it turns out this is known as blurb!). I was luck enough to get a few people say yes, so was able to then add those to the back cover, along with a simple description of the book.
Print It and Proof Read Again
Once the manuscript was ready (at least once I thought it was ready), it was time to get a proof copy from Blurb. A few days later, I had my first printed copy of the book. That’s when the next lot of serious work started!! First I had to create a good quality PDF copy, I used PDF Creator. The key here is to ensure you embed the fonts in the PDF document!
Creating Content for a Printed Book
Being used to working with online text, I had mis-formatted the book horribly. Things you have to do when writing a book for print!
- Justify your text, left aligned looks awful in print.
- Use a Serif font for body text, it makes it much easier to read.
- Choose a different font for titles / headings from the body.
- Check those fonts are available for printing (not all are and it depends on the service you use).
- Enable hyphenation, this is important to help the flow of the text.
- Make a choice between indenting the first word of a paragraph and leaving a line between paragraphs – you can’t have both.
- Check the contrast of images, especially if you are going colour to black and white in print.
- Make sure all images are at least 300dpi.
The next expense was a pack of highlighters and some sticky tabs. I went through the book and highlighted errors, write corrections in red and used tabs to mark my place. Not a single page survived unscathed! Once this was done, I uploaded the new version and got a new print copy sent.
I went through the same editing process with this version as well. Highlight, edit, tab. It turned out that Words automatic hyphenation has its issues, so I spent some time working on getting that right. It is important to not let a word hyphenated between two pages for instance! My wife also went through the book at this stage to correct anything obvious. At the same time, two more friends int he form of Mike Finney and Richard Wallace were looking at the latest draft to give me any feedback.
Create an eBook Version and Hit Publish
Once all the edits on this version were done – I ordered a new copy. This one, was the final one. Using another free word template I had found, I used this version of the manuscript to create a Kindle ready copy. Publishing for Kindle is very simple. You sign up for Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), fill in some details and then upload your Kindle ready word document. It really is as simple as that!
Once I had looked it over and was happy – I hit publish on KDP and Blurb. Blurb gave me the option for global distribution that would put the book in 39,000 places online apparently.
That’s when Blurb became an issue. At first I was ecstatic. After a week, my book was on Amazon.com and available for purchase. However, on any other region it was noted as being unavailable. After some tooing and froing with Blurb, it turned out that those 39,000 online shops and lists didn’t actually include any Amazon store outside of the US.
Amazon Author Tools
However, it was not time wasted, I discovered a few helpful Amazon related tools.
- Author Central. Use this to take ownership of your books on Amazon and to create a profile for yourself. it gives you control of book descriptions (in the US) and also stats on book sales.
- Look Inside. Many books on Amazon let you see previews of pages. This is not automatic, you have to specifically request it from Amazon. It is easy to do and I recommend that you do it!
- Book Match. This is only available in the US, but it links a Kindle version of your book to the print version. This allows you to create a discount on the Kindle version if someone buys the print version.
However, I was still left with an issue – how to distribute on other Amazon Territories. After a little looking around, I landed back at Amazons own Createspace. I had discounted this service as proof copies of books are posted from America, making them very expensive – however, I didn’t really need print copies anymore. After a little reformatting, with the help of the great online proofing tools, I had a new version of the book ready to print. They gave me a new ISBN number and I had to change the cover a little, but it only took a day or two to be ready.
Within in 24 hours, Even Ninja Monkeys Like to Play was available for print in the UK and the US and other regions!
- Cover Image $15 (£10)
- Stationary £10
- Proof copies 3 x £8
Total = £44 ($70)
So I am now using Createspace for print copies of the book to be sold through Amazon and other online stores. I am using KDP to sell a Kindle version and I am using Blurb to allow me to print promo copies as delivery is still much cheaper!
Quick run down.
- Proofread.. you get the idea
- Word 2013 – Main authoring tool
- Powerpoint – Images and Graph creation
- Paint.Net – Photo editing
- Photoshop – Cover Creation
- PDF Creator – production of PDF version of book and cover
- Google Docs – Collaboration with editors
- Dropbox – storage
- InkScape – vector image editing
- Fiverr – Monkey image for cover
- Blurb – initially distribution, now promo copy printing
- Createspace – distribution
- Amazon Author Services