When I wrote Make Your Own Sugar Activities! the FLOSS Manuals site published it on Lulu.com. Lulu is a print-on-demand service. When you order a book from them they make the book and send it to you. They keep no inventory of books. They will publish anything you give them, and your only cost is the “Proof” copies they send you (although you can pay them for book design services, it is not required).
Lulu.com has a competitor called CreateSpace. The advantage they have over Lulu is that your book can get a free ISBN number and it will be published on Amazon.com (in the US only). Your book can also eligible to be listed on other sites and sold in bookstores, although there is no guarantee that it will be.
Recently I published a book on CreateSpace and I liked the results well enough that I decided to publish all my other books there too. This post will describe my experiences publishing books created with Booki on CreateSpace.
You need to supply a PDF for your book’s interior pages. For Booki you use OBJAVI 2 to create your PDF in the size you want, using your style sheet. The size OBJAVI calls Crown Quarto is one of the choices (7.44″ x 9.69″). The size they push is the 6″ x 9″ format, which OBJAVI calls USTRADE. They claim that this size can be distributed in more places than the others.
So you submit this PDF. On books with 300 or more pages you might need to use a larger “gutter” than OBJAVI will give you by default, so you can put 10 in the “gutter” option to make the gutter 10mm wider. I only needed to do this for a USTRADE book I did. My Crown Quarto titles were fine with the default.
Now if this PDF has illustrations CS will complain that they are under 300 DPI. If the pictures are diagrams, screen grabs, or photos of objects it might be safe to ignore these warnings. If there are photos of people you might have a problem. The only way to know is to get a proof copy and see. A proof copy might cost 4.50 US plus shipping, which might be another $5 or more if you’re in a hurry. They also want your pictures to be “flattened”, meaning no transparent backgrounds and other things that you can do with PNG. JPEG files are already flattened. One of my books had art with a transparent background, which they flattened to a white background. It looked fine, as it turned out, but it is better to avoid multiple layers in your images.
If it turns out you need 300 DPI pictures you’ll need to use Open Office (or Word) and one of CS’s template files to make your book instead of Booki. I ran into this situation with one book I had that was illustrated with old photographs. They looked pretty bad.
I discovered when I used copy and paste to get my Booki pages into the template using Open Office that all my italics disappeared and had to be put back by hand. This seems to be an Open Office issue, not a Booki issue.
For your cover design you can submit a PDF (Inkscape has a wizard for creating a wraparound cover with the correct dimensions) but the way I did it was to use the Cover Creator CS provides.
The Cover Creator is an AJAX app that walks you through making a cover. There are many cover designs to choose from, all named after trees. The one I chose is called The Palms, and it prompts you for a front cover image and a back cover image and lets you specify what you want printed on the spine and what colors to use. It will tell you the dimension of the image (in inches), which MUST be 300 DPI or more. So I used The GIMP to make my front and back cover images.
I used a free font from FontSquirrel
for the title. There are some good articles on designing covers, etc. on the CS website. They suggested using a Display font for the title, because these are designed to be rendered in large sizes and the fonts your word processor uses are not.
Designing your own book cover with The GIMP can be fun, but if you like you can pay (a lot) to have it designed by a professional. You can pay to have the inside pages formatted too.
By all means get some color on the cover, because it is much too expensive to have color on the inside pages. Books are priced by the page count. It is the same price no matter what page size you use. They push 6″ x 9″ because that is an easy size to distribute, but you can use larger pages and save money. Color pages cost four times as much as B/W pages because each page has to be printed four times with different colored inks. If you have one interior page that needs color the whole book needs to be printed that way. So color pages only make sense for children’s books where every page has a color picture or some decoration. There is no extra charge for a color cover, though, so get a nice photo on there if you can.
You can do interior pages B/W on cream colored pages instead of white pages. I don’t know if that costs extra.
When you set up the book you can get a free ISBN number, use one you already have, or pay to get one using your own imprint. What I think this means is that if you think there is some kind of stigma to having your book published by Create Space you can pay for an ISBN and list the publisher as a different name.
CS will calculate what your book costs to print and give you a minimum price. You can charge whatever you like above that. Your royalties will depend on where you publish the book. CS will give you a “Store” page on their own site for selling the book, and you will get MUCH higher royalties selling it there than you do on Amazon. Of course actually getting people to see that page is your problem. CS will also submit your book to be listed on Amazon.com in the U.S. only. To get it listed elsewhere you can pay a one time charge of $25 to get the book listed in catalogs used by bookstores. Without this listing you have no hope of selling your book on other sites or bookstores. With it you have no guarantee. It takes awhile to get listed from what I’ve heard. I have not bothered to do this for my books. I might do it for *one* book as an experiment.
This is one of my cover designs, created with The GIMP and the Create Space Cover Creator:
Here is the “Store” page that CreateSpace gave me, with my own banner:
And finally here is my Author page on Amazon.com: