Sometimes it seems to me as if everyone has an idea for a book that they would love to produce if only they could get down to write it and get it published.
Writing is hard work, as I know from bitter personal experience. My first book was self-published and has done moderately well, but I haven’t managed a second one because I now know just how much work is involved, and continually find excuses not to start.
If writing a book is hard, then getting it published is even harder, and only a fortunate chosen few get accepted by publishers. The self-publishing route may be the only way to go for the majority of us but, until comparatively recently, you had to come up with a really big wad of cash to pay for printing and binding.
The only way to get a book for a reasonable price was to get thousands done but now, through the magic of digital printing, you can get quite small runs of books printed. Even though the price is peanuts compared to what it would have been five or 10 years ago, it is probably still too costly for most people wanting to produce a few copies of a book for friends and family.
Now there are services offered over the Internet which make it easy and relatively cheap to have even a single copy of a book printed and bound. There are a number of services out there but the one I tried is offered by Lulu, at their website www.lulu.com.
Using the service is not too hard and involves going to the website and clicking on the Publish tab at the top of the screen. You are then presented with a list of projects to choose from including paperback books, hardcover books, comics, calendars, photo-books of various types, and some specialised publications including dissertations and training manuals.
You select the type of publication that you want and are guided through a process which varies, depending on which project you chose. In the case of paperback books, you have to upload a file for the content of the book and a file for the cover, if you want to design your own.
The content can be generated in a number of popular word processing packages, including Word and Open Office, or as a PDF created in any page-layout program you want to use. Before beginning layout, you should read Lulu’s help section and make sure you choose a book size offered by Lulu.
I uploaded my test files easily and the only hitch I experienced was that the system rejected my cover a couple of times because it wasn’t the right size. I then noticed that, once you’ve uploaded the innards of the book, it tells you how big the cover must be but, if you can’t cope with that, Lulu does offer to create a cover for you.
Once you’ve got your files uploaded, Lulu give you the OK and establishes a shop-front for you which you can use to order copies of your masterpiece. You can order copies at cost price and you can, if you like, also set a price at which the rest of the world can buy copies too.
It cost me about $8 for a 180-page A5 book, printed and bound, and about another $8 in packaging and postage. The book arrived about three weeks after order and was pretty nicely done and quite adequate to give out as a gift.
You could conceivably be able to make money on online sales if you market the book well but the cost of postage to South Africa will most likely make the book too expensive, if you want to order copies and sell it in bookshops. If you just wanted a few copies of your book or could charge a high price for it, then Lulu would be great.
I think I might try a photobook next, or even a calendar.
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