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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.

The publishing process, Part 2 August 20, 2008

Posted by Andrew Killick (Publishing Manager) in 1. How Castle Works, 6. The Publishing Process Part 2.
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For most people, books just magically appear, ready to purchase, on the shelves of bookshops. In this second part of my article I continue to uncover the secret processes of the publishing machine. Read on! (Read Part 1 here)

Edit. By the time you give your manuscript to a publisher you should already have made it as good as you possibly can. This might involve several rewrites as you take into account the feedback you’ve been given by people around you. It is well worth investing your time and effort on this. No matter how much work you’ve done though, most publishers will want to tweak things a little. This can be a scary prospect for authors, but don’t worry too much. Remember, publishers are experts so you can usually trust them – their main aim is to make the book better. If you feel strongly about something they are trying to change, you can tell them no! Castle always tweaks the titles we publish and always recommend that self-publishers get an edit done as well. It is important to use an experienced editor. The editing service that Castle offers has transformed lots of manuscripts into well-written and easy to read books beyond what the author could have achieved by him or herself.

Design. This is another crucial part of the book production process. A lot of people are keen to have a go at book cover design, or know someone who knows how to use Photoshop. But because the cover design will greatly affect how readers perceive your book, it is always a good idea to engage a book cover specialists for this service – or at least get the input of a specialist. I should mention the book title here too, which is also extremely important. For both the title and the design, you need to have something that is both accurate and impacting. In other words, the design and title need to accurately represent the content of the book and also capture the reader’s attention.

Typesetting and layout. Your book needs to be readable and while most readers don’t notice the finer points of good typesetting and layout they are definitely affected by them. ‘Easy reading’ can have a lot to do with the flow of the writing (taken care of in the editing stage) but it also has a lot to do with what typeface is used for the book, how the words and lines are spaced and how they appear on the page. The quality of the typesetting also impacts the perceived quality of the book (as does the design) and the overall aesthetic of the finished product. The cover design and internal pages need to match and be part of an overall design concept. There’s a far cry from having a go at creating the inside pages in Word and getting an experienced typesetter to do the work. So get a typesetter!

Proofreading. Probably the least glamorous and least exciting part of the publishing process. Once the typesetting and layout are complete, you should be given ‘reader’s spreads’. These are sheets, usually with two pages of your book to a sheet, that show what your pages will look like when printed. These need to be read carefully to make sure there are no errors in the text. It is important at this point not to confuse ‘proofreading’ with ‘editing’ – proofreaders are only looking for actual errors. A lot of authors can’t resist a few optional tweaks to the book at this stage, but these should be avoided because changes can affect the overall layout and create time-consuming problems. Generally we find that the authors we work with have friends and associates who make good proofreaders. This works well, but the person who takes the corrections in (based on the proofreaders’ work) should have the skill to vet these corrections. You can hire the services of an experienced proofreader, and this is sometimes a good idea (especially for technical books or books on specialist subjects). The author should be one of the proofreaders but he or she is likely to miss some errors simply because of over-familiarity with the text.

Print. So now your book is ready to be turned into a physical object. There are two main methods for printing: digital and offset. Offset is the traditional way. Digital is a new technology that is improving every year. Technical details aside, at this point is more feasible to print quantities of under 800 units digitally and more than 800 by offset.

Bind. This is how your book is put together. The most common form of binding (and the one that Castle usually uses) is called ‘perfect binding’. You see it on most soft cover books that you pick up – it is durable and neat. If your book is more of a ‘booklet’ you might want to consider ‘saddle stitch’ (also known as stapling) instead.

eBook. For a long time, people said that ebooks would change the face of publishing and the way we read books. It took a while to happen, but the ebook revolution is now officially here. People’s reservations about reading on an electronic device instead of a paper book are being put aside as they discover how easy it is to use the ebook format. In the world of ebooks, there are two main file formats – EPUB and MOBI. MOBI is used by the Amazon Kindle system and EPUB is used by everything else. Having your book as an ebook won’t guarantee that thousands of people will read it (there are a lot of books out there) but it does open your book up to that possibility. It pays to get some knowledgeable technical assistance when creating and distributing your ebook.

Delivery. This is a bit like Christmas Day for most authors. Boxes of books arrive from the bindery. You carefully slide a knife along the tape on the top box and open it up to reveal your book staring back at you – complete, in all its glory. There’s a huge sense of achievement in thumbing through the pages and seeing what your work has become, it’s the realisation of a dream. Now your book can go out and change the world – getting it into the reader’s hands is the next and trickiest bit…

So that’s the second part of the publishing process. In the next part we’ll look at marketing and sales – getting your book into the readers’ hands.

The publishing process, Part 1 August 19, 2008

Posted by Andrew Killick (Publishing Manager) in 1. How Castle Works, 5. The Publishing Process Part 1.
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If you’re thinking about writing a book or if you have already written your book and want to get it published, you might be interested in this overview of the complete publishing process. I talked about what Castle can offer in an earlier article. For most people, books just magically appear, ready to purchase, on the shelves of bookshops. In this article I uncover the secret processes of the publishing machine. Read on!

The idea. Somewhere, someone comes up with the idea to write a book about something. No one has ever been able to define exactly what ‘inspiration’ is, but that doesn’t make it any less real. The authors that Castle Publishing has worked with over the years have been a mixture of first-timers and seasoned wordsmiths.

The writing. So having received the idea and passion for the project, the author commences writing their masterpiece. Even at this early stage, it is a good idea to talk to an expert – an established author or publishing professional. As you start writing you should already have a finished product in mind. One of the basic questions you should ask yourself very early is ‘who am I writing this book for?’ It really helps to have an idea who your intended audience is.

Assessment. Here’s the bit where you expose your work for the first time to the harsh realities of the big wide world. By all means, ask your friends for their opinion, but don’t only ask friends. Encouragement is a vital part of the process, but objective opinion is also very important – it will help you refine your work and take it to the next level. If you ask your friends for their opinion make sure you give them permission to be critical as well as nice. For a new author, exposing their deepest thoughts and work to public scrutiny can be a big step. But don’t worry – that’s all part of being an author!

Finding a publisher. Increasingly people are starting out with the plan of self-publishing, and that’s fair enough and can be a really good idea. But most people still see being published by a publishing house as the best possible outcome for their manuscript. Finding a publisher can be hard work though. In USA and other places, most commercial publishers don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. Most of their published work is sourced through literary agents and through commissioning authors directly.  Fortunately, because New Zealand is a smaller market, it is still possible to get your work through to a publisher more easily. But make sure you research what kind of book a publisher publishes before you send your work to them. Here at Castle, for example, we publish mostly books by Christian authors, but within that category we are pretty much open to any genre. Also make sure you adhere to the publisher’s preferred method for receiving manuscripts etc. Castle’s requirements are here.

Self-publishing? What if commercial publishers turn you down? If you’ve run out of avenues to have your book published commercially, it is always a good idea to weigh up the feasibility of publishing the book yourself. And remember, if you self-publish, you cut out the middleman. Self-publishing can be more financially rewarding than being commercially published. In fact, you may decide to flag the rigmarole of trying to get your manuscript accepted by a commercial publisher altogether. The important thing is to go to experts who can help you get the work done to prepare your manuscript for publication. And it just so happens I can recommend some very good experts: Castle Publishing!

The contract. If a commercial publisher wants to publish your book as one of their own titles, they will draft up a contract for you to sign. I don’t really have space here to give much advice on the ins and outs of this. But it is important to read the contract carefully and show it to someone with a bit of a legal head who can interpret what some of the clauses might mean in real life (especially if the contract is written in ‘legalese’ and not ‘plain English’). Feel free to ask the publisher for what you want, but also remember that the publisher needs to be able to make the deal viable for themselves as well – otherwise they just won’t bother with your book. They are taking a risk with your book, so bear that in mind as you deal with them. And if you are self-publishing this is one step you don’t need to worry about.

So that’s the first part of the publishing process. In the next part we’ll look at production – the transformation of your manuscript into a book.

Publishing Services March 17, 2008

Posted by Andrew Killick (Publishing Manager) in 1. How Castle Works, 4. Publishing Services.
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Since 2000, Castle has developed as a commercial publishing company with high production standards. We always aim for the best possible quality. Over the last three or fours years, we have offered that same level of service to self-publishers and other organisations. Our clients have included large organisations like the Salvation Army, Pascoes and OMF NZ, but also lots of individual authors who have fulfilled their ambitions and produced great self-published books.

Here are the main publishing services we offer. You can use any or all of them:

Editing. Authors can be a bit nervous about editing, but it really is a crucial part of getting your book ready for publication. A good editor can ‘get inside the author’s skin’, maintaining the author’s ‘voice’ and tone while polishing the writing to make it easier to read and more accurate. The final result of editing should be to add value, not subtract it. Some manuscripts only need a little bit of editing and some need a lot! Castle provides experienced editors who treat your work with care and attention to detail.

Design. Even though we’ve been told a million times not to judge a book by its cover, the truth is that most people do! The quality of the cover will shape a person’s impression of the quality of the book itself. The cover design needs to be eye-catching and in keeping with the tone and content of the book. Book design also extends beyond the cover to the inside pages, and that’s where layout and typesetting come in…

Layout and Typesetting. Professional layout and typesetting change your manuscript from a plain old Word document into a book. The true art of layout and typesetting is to create a coherent design that flows from the cover to the inside pages, while taking into account the comfort and perspective of the reader. In other words, make the book look good and easy to read! It involves selecting typefaces, working out line spacing and placing all the elements (body text, page numbers, headers, headings and pictures) on the page.

ISBN and Barcode. The ins and outs of the legal requirements of book publishing can be a bit daunting. So Castle takes care of obtaining an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) (required by law for all books published in New Zealand) and a barcode (so that the book can be sold in bookshops).

Proofreading. As my boss is fond of saying, ‘It’s easier to change something before it’s printed than after.’ That’s why proofreading is so important. This process eliminates any last minute mistakes – misspelt words, missing words etc. We have experienced proofreaders who can help ensure that your work is free of annoying little errors.

Printing and Binding. The last step in the production process. Our sister company, Wentforth Print, has over 30 years’ experience in the printing business. They have in-house offset printing facilities for large quantities and the latest digital technology for smaller quantities and ‘print-on-demand’ jobs (so that you can get new stock as and when you need it). They also act as brokers for off-shore printing.

eBook. The revolution in publishing! But it’s not an either/or thing (although it can be if you want!): it’s worth having your book in ebook and printed form – marketing and selling your book is all about having ‘strings to your bow’ – making your book available as an ebook creates another avenue for people to find and read your book – all over the world! Castle has all the expertise to navigate the technical aspects of ebook production.

Distribution. In many cases, Castle is able to assist in distributing your book to the booktrade. In particular, Castle has a great working relationship with the New Zealand Christian booktrade. We will assess your finished book, and if we think we can help, we will buy stock from you and on-sell it to bookshops. We can also help with ebook distribution, utilising our international ebook retail partners, making your book available to a much wider audience.

Support and Advice. This where it really comes in handy working with a commercial publishing company. As you self-publish your book you can take advantage of our experience and expertise. As part of the total package, we will guide you through the publishing process and give you advice on things like setting a retail price and marketing your book.

Contact us for more info or to get a publishing services quote.