Monday, May 29, 2017

Publishers for your book are only one click away


The publishing industry is littered with tales of successful authors who spent their own money to publish their first books. You've heard of John Grisham? After 28 rejections, he paid to publish 5,000 copies of his first novel, "A Time To Kill."

Irma Bombauer used her life savings to publish "The Joy of Cooking," which would go on to become perhaps the most popular cookbook ever. And James Redfield sold copies of "The Celestine Prophecy" from the trunk of his car before it was acquired by a major publisher and became a best seller.

Self-publishing is a time-honored route for first-time authors to get their books out to the public. But it's also an expensive route, at least it was before the arrival of the Internet and a host of on-demand publishing services that have made self-publishing far more affordable and convenient.

Services like Blurb, DiggypodCreateSpace, and Outskirts Press offer a wide range of publishing services for authors who think they have the next best-selling novel or for ordinary folks who want to create a photo album, a family history, or mom's recipe collection.

While online services are accessible to anyone and can accommodate almost any book project, don't expect them to be cheap or painless. In most cases, you will be doing all of the editing, photography and page design work. And plan to pay at least $15 per copy for even the smallest books.

My first self-published book was the story of a Southern ancestor's time in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. I had written a narrative that blended family accounts, military records, and historical sources and I collected photos from Civil War archives and my own battlefield visits.

To turn the story into a book, I chose Blurb, one of the more popular online publishing services. Blurb provides a free program called Booksmart to handle page layout and design chores. The software lets you choose from among several templates for the book and for individual pages.

After a few hours of tweaking, I had a pleasing layout for a 26-page book and a nice cover. From there, it was a simple matter of clicking the "Publish" button to send my project to Blurb. My finished book arrived about a week later.

Blurb's prices depend on the style of book and number of copies that you choose. For example, you could get 50 copies of a 200-page paperback book in the larger trade format for a little less than $200. My book of text and photos, printed on photo paper with a soft cover, cost about $25 for one copy. For a few dollars more, I ordered an ebook formatted for the iPad and a PDF version, which can be viewed on most computers and tablets.

People turn to self-publishing services to print books on a wide range of topics such as photo albums, how-to books, and genealogy reports as well as novels and books for children. Books that might have a broader interest beyond friends and family members can be offered for sale through a personal online store or through And who knows? Lightning might strike. Not long ago Amazon announced that 27 of its top 100 Kindle books came from self-published authors.


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Follow me on Twitter @ricmanning and read my technology columns at My Well Being.


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