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Publish Your Story for a Song

You may have already noticed that publication cost are out of the budget range of most people. Up until the last few years it was almost impossible to put out any book for less than many thousands of dollars. To print twenty to one hundred books was unthinkable. The costs of setting type, making plates, setting up presses and screening photographs and drawings was a constant cost regardless of how many copies you made. If there were only a market or need for a few books, each copy would have to account for their fraction of the cost. To make twenty copies of a book that takes $20,000 to produce makes each copy cost $1,000. The paper the book is printed on costs only about ten to twenty cents. The hard copy cover may cost one to three dollars. The cost of ink is miniscule.

So what happened recently to change all that? We don’t need to set type anymore and we don’t make plates. All the fixed costs of producing a book are now done by equipment that exists in most homes. The skill level of editors, compositors and printers are simplified to the point that most literate people can do the job themselves at their own leisure. If you don’t have the skills now they are worth learning for the task you might have of informing your posterity and your friends the things you would like to share with them.

This book is not aimed at the person who wants to get rich sitting in his garret writing mysteries, poetry and novels. There are a lot of get rich books published for that purpose and the people who wrote the books are getting rich.

This book is written for people like myself who have lived a life and have something to say to their family and friends or who have formulated a philosophy or skill or anything that gives them joy to share. The primary goals are to contain cost in order to justify the effort and not dig into the retirement savings. The principles here would apply to creating a holiday newsletter, a memoir or an ancestral family history. You can create a high quality product for a minimum of cost.

Here are some goals:
 Create a family holiday newsletter with color photos, 8 page booklet for under $2.50 each including envelope, 10 to 150 copies.
 Create a Memoir of 160 pages with dozens of photographs and full color paperback binding at $15.00 each for 20 copies.
 Publish the same 160 page memoir on the web using your own name in the web address, Zero dollars.
 Create a five generation family history of 80 pages with some old photos for $8.00 each for 15 copies.

These costs will vary depending on how much you chose to do yourself. If you Google “short run printing” you will find a number of companies that will receive your Word documents and depending on whether you need editing, proofing and cover design will quote on as low as 50 copies, however some will have a 500 copy minimum. These people are attuned to dealing with Christian bookstores and can sometimes even offer shelf space and distribution to books that meet their criteria. Many can deliver a perfect bound book and issue library catalog numbers as well as Library of Congress exposure. I looked into this and ruled it out as being out of my expected range for cost containment. You can do your own registration steps for a few hundred dollars if you want your book registered for sale or library use.

Beware of publishing firms that prey on aspiring writers who want to be published. If they talk about riches and success, you might not want to pursue this direction.

On the first printing of my first two books I chose to contract out the printing to a copy shop and do the binding myself. I learned a great deal about binding which I pass on to you in this book. Afterwards I invested in a better home printer which will improve my ongoing costs for future books.

Enough about the mechanics for now. Let’s get on to the creative process.

Getting started
I have been fortunate to have discovered a technical newsletter that had some good information about the companies I did business with. It was more than that though. The name of the service is NewsScan Daily.  I quote, “We call our news section “Above The Fold” to honor the tradition of the great “broadsheet” newspapers in which editors must decide which news stories are of such importance that they should be placed "above the fold" on the front page. The NewsScan Credo: Be informative, have fun, and get to the point! See”

In addition the news items they had an honorary subscriber of the day who was an individual in history who had an impact on education, philosophy or science. I have been getting daily newsletters for about 10 years and these thousands of short bios have been a great source of inspiration and education to me. The service also has short essays and a mailbag section in which subscribers comment on the events of the day or the essays. Once I became a participant in the mailbag part I became hooked. I was trading ideas with the brilliant minds of science and industry. We wrote about ethics, religion and comic entertainers of the 50s. I was hooked. One of the essay writers was an obstetrician working in a poor hospital of Georgia. Some of his essays touched me and made me weep. I wanted to write like Dr. Mike. I looked at how he expressed himself, how he described people, and how he involved the reader and how he nailed the point home. He had a rhythm to his paragraphs.

All my English teachers will now roll over in their graves because I am going to teach you how to write in just a few paragraphs.

How to make your writing interesting
 Set the stage – What was happening? When did it happen? Who else was there? How did you feel?
 State the problem – Did something need to be done? Was something supposed to happen? Did something go wrong?
 Express your feelings – Were you unhappy? Disappointed? Feeling full of yourself? Embarassed?
 Surprise – Something you hadn’t expected or something you haven’t yet revealed to the reader.
 Nail it - Make a really short concise statement that lets you leave the subject. This can be a very short two word paragraph such as “He did.”.

Now, if that doesn’t work for you, just be yourself. Write like you talk. Do you know what to say to make your friends smile? Then say it. If you enjoy what you are writing then others will catch the joy in your heart.

And don’t even think about that English teacher in high school.

Every once in a while you need to fill your tank. Take a section of your writing and send it to a friend or give it to a loved one. Get some feedback and start again on a new one.

Sleeping is very good for the writing process. It certainly is in my case.

I find that things happen overnight that I can’t explain. What was his name? Was that before or after? Don’t try to figure it out. Do you have a snooze alarm? Do you use it to your advantage? When the alarm goes off, hit the snooze button, think of your writing and roll over and go to sleep. While you are showering and getting ready for your day see what new information is in your mental in basket. You’d be surprised.

Last week I learned that Sally who I saw at my high school reunion lived in Rockwall, Texas. The next morning I awoke and pronounced that Rockwall was the smallest county in the state of Texas. Not that important to my writing but I hadn’t thought about Rockwall county for over 50 years and I didn’t even recognize the place the day before.

If you are not making much headway and it is bedtime, not to worry. Go to bed. Things will be better in the morning.

Select your writing tools

Some people write novels on steno and legal pads with pen or pencil and some use a mechanical Royal typewriter. I don’t know how to relate to that. My assumption is that you have a computer and a word processor you are comfortable with. Some tools are more robust than others and I will explain and rank some of the more popular tools. You may want to upgrade your software before you publish your book.

Style has a special meaning when relating to publication. Style assumes a consistency of look for a book or magazine or newspaper. Thumbing through National Geographic is not at all like People magazine not only for content but the way the pages look. A page is broken into columns, paragraphs, headings and picture areas. Someone, somewhere worked out the design and makes it stay consistent in order to effectively communicate with the target audience. Even something like a novel will have its own style. Look in your library for the chapter headings in several different novels by different authors. Do all chapters start on an odd page? Are there chapter numbers or headings? Does every chapter start at the top of the page or somewhere in the middle? Is there a fancy design object printed on the new chapter page? These are things that determine the style. Some of the document tools on your computer have no consistent way to invoke style, others contain style sheets that describe everything about a header, paragraph and picture caption. Let’s review from least capable to most capable.

Notepad – Notepad is the text editor on Windows machines. It has no fonts in the files it creates, only text and line feeds. You are going to need something more powerful than this to create your book.

WordPad – The most primitive of word processors available in all versions of Windows. Contains font selection in bold or italic in a variety of sizes. It contains margins and paragraph widths, and has the ability to add pictures. but no ability to control where pages break. This could be a bare minimum word processor for use on your own printer for short documents but unacceptable to send to a copy shop.

Works – Microsoft Works has been bundled on many name brand computers as a value added item for the home user. It has a spreadsheet, database and word processing function and tries to be a non technical solution that anyone can learn without having to learn about file types and formats. It can add pictures and text boxes. It has a spell checker and can create multi column pages and could be a good solution for printing on your own computer but you would have to check with your copy shop to see if they would accept the format. Many copy shops limit themselves to MS Word and MS Publisher. If you wanted to have a two column format the entire document would have to be two column format. You could not switch back and forth like the next few products would allow. A well designed document from Works is indistinguishable from what can be done with the upper end products. You just have to be more careful to apply all the characteristic of style in a consistent way.

Word – MS Word is the word processor considered by the business world as the standard. You may find some Word Perfect pockets out there but very few. Word will help you stay literate by checking spelling as you type. It lets you group all the variables of font, size justification and paragraph format into a list of styles. This makes it very easy to establish a neat look to your book. It will reformat your whole book if you decide to make a style change later such as change the font for all the chapter headers. It allows you to flow type around pictures and attach caption lines to pictures and attach pictures to anchors in the text itself so it helps keep the pictures and text together. It is a great tool and you will be able to find many friends that can help you. The only thing it does not do is output pages to the printer in a sequence that permits easy binding. This process is called “making a signature”. We will discuss that under ClickBook

MS Publisher – Was designed specifically for brochures, booklets newsletters and magazines. It behaves very much like MS Word but is based entirely on linking text boxes. This allows many story items in a multi column space to serpentine through the columns within the page and be linked to columns in other pages just like a newspaper or magazine. In addition to that it will sort its printer pages in the correct order to be folded and stapled as a booklet. This is called the “signature”, a group of pages printed to be folded and stapled. In this instance of an eight page pamphlet page 1 and 8 are printed side by side on one side of the paper and pages 2 and 7 on the other side. The next sheet has pages 3 and 6 on one side and 4 and 5 on the other. To make a pamphlet the paper is then folded and stapled at the fold. The formula for knowing what pages get paired together in a larger publication is (total pages plus one) for each page. Odd pages are on the right and the odd page always has the next even page on its back side. There is one sheet of paper for every four pages printed. MS Publisher is my personal favorite solution for newsletters, posters and books. I prefer to use Word to capture the text and then flow the word text into Publisher’s text boxes via cut and paste. The paste operation can be with or without previous formatting and style. Both products support style sheets. Publisher however because of its intended use support layers and transparent items. It is easy to place type over picture objects. Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 is the choice for image processing and fancy text display.

 Quark, Pagemaker and Ventura Publisher – I group these together as too expensive, complicated and aimed at the commercial printing trade. They all have similar capabilities to MS Publisher which is the consumer priced product. I have used them all but prefer the support and Word like interface and good consumer printer capabilities of Microsoft Products.

ClickBook – This product is not a word processor or page formatter but it is capable of attaching itself to Works and Word to create the signature format at the printer. It is a post processor like a printer driver that takes all the pages and arranges them to make booklets. The cost is $50 and can be examined for 15 days for free. If you like the product and pay for it the registration will remove the commercial messages printed on the demo pages. It is a tricky product to manage and may not work with every printer you come across but would allow you to use the bundled word processors to be used without incurring a lot of expense.

 There is a free solution to making signatures but it consists of printing out the booklet size pages and taping them together to feed through a copier. This would of course be the least expensive of all the booklet solutions.

We haven’t discussed duplex printing, that is printing on the back side of the paper. Some print drivers that come from the manufacturer have the provision for printing the odd sides, 1, 3, 5 etc. pages in one run and manually flipping them over to print the even, 2, 4, 6, etc. pages on the back side. This will be different for each kind of printer. Some printers flip the page over when printing and some feed from the top of the tray and some from the bottom so the mechanics of the operation might be different for each printer. In order to deliver the sheets as a finished product the driver may need to print one side in descending order to make the signature.

Some printers like my HP2300d are duplex printers and print both sides in one pass. Some of the HP inkjets do the same thing but they have to slow down to let the ink dry on one side before printing the second side.

If you are going to use the local copy shop ask them which formats they can accept for booklet printing. Do a trial run just to test the process before you get too deep in your preparation.

Some copy shops like Kinko have special software that they will supply to assure you get the right product for binding.

Think about style

Think about pictures

Try a test run.

Pick a printer
 Copy shops
 Home printers

Pick a binding
 What’s a signature?
 Saddle stich
 Perfect Binding
 Sewn binding
 Laced
 Paperback
 Hard Cover

Porting to the Web
 Selecting an editor
 Finding a Host

Copyright, Library number and catalog numbers