What Does it Take to Publish a Book (Independently)?
April 2, 2016
The more I promote "Who Cooks for You?", the more I meet people who are interested in learning more about what it takes to publish a book. Well, I independently published a children's book, so I'll share a brief (and shallow) look at the steps I took.
1. Determine why you want to publish
I realized I wanted to publish NOW (at a young college-loaned-to-the-max age) when I met the wonderful author (and friend) Angela Halgrimson. Her story inspired me into action--so I figured out a way, and I did it (and a lot of people helped me, and boy, it was NOT easy).
2. Realize what you're willing to invest
Book publishing is not cheap (nor should it be--a lot of hard work by talented professionals goes into it). If you're looking to print just a couple of copies for family and friends or if your project is more of a hobby, I suggest going to a printing company that does photo-book type jobs, or digital printing. You'll pay more per book, but you'll save more money overall (via smaller print runs, or print-on-demand capabilities). Maybe my friend Ann at Fuzion Print can help you out. Otherwise, prepare for an investment. I'm working on this venture full-time (and I'm pinching pennies, let me tell you). I've got a business plan and the determination. Your book will NOT sell itself. Being an independent author requires time, money, and a certain level of crazy determination.
3. Find a talented illustrator
After I roadmapped this incredible journey, I sent the first draft of my text to an illustrator I knew (the talented Melissa Marroquin). When looking for an illustrator, make sure you ask to see a portfolio that shows his/her book experience (more experience means more money, but less experience can mean disaster). You want to see examples of a main character's transformation and movement page by page. Make sure that he/she considers things such as leaving room for text placement, and gutter restrictions--and that the illustrations that spread over two pages don't get lost or distorted in the gutter of the book. Make sure you fill out some sort of work-for-hire contract. As an independent author you are essentially purchasing the illustrations for your own free use (royalty free). Make sure you have this in writing and you and your illustrator both feel comfortable with the terms.
Once Melissa and I agreed on terms, and after we met to discuss what I was looking for (the "feel," the direction, the page count, etc.), Melissa began work on the book dummy--a sketched draft that I eventually took a look at and asked for adjustments before approving. Then the full, painted illustrations began.
4. Hire a qualified editor
Make sure you work with a trained BOOK editor. (I worked with the talented Angela Wiechmann.) Although a lot of people list"editing" on their credentials list, it isn't a skill one just "picks up." People can be good at catching typos, but do they know the rules of grammar? Do they breathe the "Chicago Manual of Style"? Again, you're producing a book here--if you don't want to spend money for a trained professional, reconsider your motives for publication. Embrace the glory that is books--create something beautiful! Don't cut corners.
5. Multitask (find a printer and hire a qualified book designer)
Let's blur together this period--fast forward through the months of multitasking and hemming and hawing, and driving my illustrator nuts (I'm sure) until eventually the interior illustrations are complete. During this "blur period," I sent my text to my editor a couple more times to smooth out my areas of concern. I also reached out to book printers to get quotes on print pricing for offset printing. (Offset printing produces more consistent, beautiful colors for children's books. The more copies you print, the cheaper the price per book becomes.) My edited text and my final illustrations were sent to my book designer, Dan Pitts. Once again, don't cut corners on design. You may know a graphic designer, but they probably haven't been trained in children's books. Think typography. Think page crossovers. Think about how the bleeds on the page need to be set up for the printer. Get a talented designer (and be prepared to pay for that talent).
6. PPP (proofread, print, and prepare MORE for what's up ahead)
All final DESIGNED pages were sent to my proofreader for a last look. A lot of little things can be caught when the words are reorganized and set in their final font. Changes were made and when approved the designer sent me the files to upload to the printer.
I used the time it took to print as an opportunity for some last chance planning. Like I said before, book publishing is a business venture that requires a entrepreneurial attitude. You should be developing your business plan during every step of publication, not scrambling last minute.
7. Sell that baby!
I'm working on it. Woohoo!
*I wrote this blog to serve as a general outline--something to peak your curiosity, or to get you started in your pre-publishing journey of research. There are A LOT of things I didn't cover. For more information, look for helpful blogs on indie publishing, or hire a publishing professional to help you along the way (which, as you've probably learned by reading this list, is not cheap). I wish I could help more with your book journey, but it turns out the author life is BUSY--and my to-do list only keeps growing!