I helped a good friend of mine publish his first book. And when I say, “helped,” I mean, “did all the fucking work.” This is the account of my experience.
And also by the way, if you’re interested in learning more about self publishing, go to Pub Sugar. I helped invent that site too.
Phase 1: Fixing The Writing (i.e. Editing)
Fonzi did most of the work here. I know he rewrote most of the book after the first draft, then did a thorough read-through to correct grammatical and spelling mistakes. The grammatical part being the most subjective, because he doesn’t write like most writers. It’s not perfect form, and Microsoft Word complained about almost every single line, because almost every single line was what’s considered an incomplete sentence. Fonzi doesn’t care. That’s the way he likes to do it.
I did a couple of read throughs after he was done, fixing small things, like missing punctuation, forgotten words, and some misspellings that Word was too stupid to find. I figured it was important to at least have words and sentences that were readable. Which leads to tip #1:
At the very least, the book should be readable with the number of obvious mistakes kept as close to zero as possible.
Fonzi wrote the thing in Google Docs, which is fine for a manuscript, but falls way short of the functionality needed to make a good formatted book. So tip #2:
Write the manuscript in whatever thing you want. But when it comes time to do the publishing, Microsoft Word is the best…until further notice.
Phase 2: Cover Design (a.k.a An Exercise In Insanity)
I spent a month designing a cover. Fonzi complained that it was taking too long. I reminded him that I’m not a fucking wizard digital designer boy and to suck it and do himself if he didn’t like it. He had better things to do with his time, so he shut up and let me handle it.
I spent a lot of time looking at well done covers. And a little time looking at shitty ones. I tried my hand at winging it, using only text and my very limited imagination. Tip #3:
Don’t settle for a shitty cover design.
I focused exclusively on the print version, paying attention to CreateSpace’s formatting guidelines. I used Adobe Illustrator, because I was already paying for it. And because it’s good for designing things for print using vector graphics. This is what the final version looks like in “raw” form:
You have to pay attention to stupid bleeds and margins and shit like that, as you’ll notice a lot of dead space in the image around the edges. Illustrator has fancy things to put guide-bars in when you’re designing to help keep you from doing stupid things in the “no fly zones.” And Createspace requires that not text or images appear in those areas.
The images came from ShutterStock. I paid like $50 for five images, and I only downloaded three (you’ll see the third in the digital cover, which is different). The license for the images is fairly generous. I think you’re allowed something like 250,000 reproductions before you have to buy the bigger, way more expensive license. If Fonzi ever sells that many books, he’ll have the money to pay for the super duper license. Tip #4:
Use stock images if you insist on doing cover art yourself and aren’t artistically inclined and/or lazy.