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DIY Publishing Power to You April 18, 2013

Posted by Andrew Killick (Publishing Manager) in 6. Castle Tips.
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With technology and the right services, all the tools are there for you to publish your own book – DIY is the way of the future and it’s here now. I know it sounds a bit dramatic and ‘salesy’ but it really is the truth – if you have the time and inclination you can get your book out there yourself, now. But DIY can be daunting and new technology can be a steep learning curve – and sometimes quality goes missing. In this article I want to talk a bit about the opportunities that exist for you to publish your own book, and also provide some advice for undertaking that journey…

blog-article-pic-180413Without wanting to give a full history lesson, it all started with the development of the personal computer and desktop publishing software. Digital publishing technology grew from there – the other important developments were digital printing and the ebook.

Digital Printing
Digital printing (a form of glorified photocopying, with extremely high quality results that are as good and often better than older print technology) meant that smaller numbers of books could be feasibly printed. When I first started in the publishing industry 13 years ago, the only real option was offset printing on a traditional printing press. To make that feasible (ie, to make the cost per book realistic), you needed to print a minimum of 1000 books and preferably 2000. That’s a lot of books in the context of the New Zealand market, so the risk was significant. For a self-publisher or a small publishing company, that meant potentially ending up with a garage or basement full of books if they didn’t sell. With the advent of digital printing, the cost per book of printing a small number of books dropped significantly. So now it is feasible to print 250 copies (or even less in some cases). The initial risk is greatly reduced, and reprints can be done with a minimum of fuss if more copies are needed at any given time.

Meanwhile, along came ebook technology. This is a paperless technology and so the cost of printing is taken out of the equation completely. Amazon and others developed ebook readers that are wonderfully easy to use and so good that even die-hard book-lovers can be swayed by the availability and usability of ebooks. The ‘eBook Revolution’ it was called, and the buzz swept through the publishing world. Would this be the death of printed books? What would happen? eBooks provide another great opportunity for self-publishers. Having your book as an ebook is cost effective and makes it available to a potentially huge audience.

As the hype around ebooks begins to settle, here is my assessment of the situation: eBooks are here to stay, are the way of the future, and the forerunners to some amazing future technology. But printed books have a lot more life in them yet – and aren’t disappearing any time soon. For example, data shows that ebooks are massively popular for fictional books (ebook sales now exceed paper book sales) but in non-fiction, printed books still beat ebooks in terms of sales.

A Self-Publishing Strategy
The self-publishing strategy that we recommend is ‘ebook plus a short printed run’. So this means that you should have your book produced as an ebook (for future-proofing and availability) and also do 250 to 1000 digitally printed copies. The number you should print depends on how sure you are about how many you might be able sell. If, for example, you are out speaking to groups a lot and selling books along the way, then printing more copies might be a sensible idea.

So the time and technology is right for you to publish your book. And the tools are there for you to do it all yourself, but should you go it alone?

Quality DIY
Recently I read an article about the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards, which mentioned in passing that Chief Judge, Bernard Beckett, said, “the judges … noticed many books had ‘great potential’ but were let down by formatting, design, illustrations, and editing.”

And here’s the rub of the DIY, quick and ready, scene that we’re now in. Quality is slipping. I was at a publishing workshop recently where the expert (who was otherwise very good) told the participants not to worry too much about the quality of the formatting of their ebooks because… well, because no one really cares about the quality of formatting in ebooks.

Quality always matters – most of us would agree that when it comes to reading a book or ebook, if the formatting and editing is all over the place, it will detract from the reading experience and stand in the way of the message the author is trying to convey.

Enter Castle Publishing. At Castle we take advantage of all the wonderful tools and technology that now make publishing so readily available, but we provide the expertise and experience to make your book a high quality product. Our belief has always been that self-published books can match commerically-published books in terms of quality – that on the shelf, you shouldn’t be able to tell the difference. And ‘quality’ doesn’t have to mean ‘expensive’ – mainly it is about attention to detail and making use of the experience and expertise we have. Not only that, but we can guide you through what can potentially be a daunting process – you don’t have to go it alone.

Let’s face it, you’re pouring yourself into your book – you’re investing yourself in it – so it’s worth doing well. So step out, take advantage of the opportunities that now exist for you to publish your book, but get someone with publishing know-how on your team.