We get a lot of unsolicited manuscripts and book ideas at Lost Art Press – way more than we could ever hope to handle. As of now now we have 18 upcoming books under contract, which is more than five years of work for us.
So when potential authors come calling, I am quick to encourage them to publish their book themselves. (If they embrace the idea, that tells me something about their dedication to their project. If they reject the idea, that also tells me something about their dedication to their project.)
These days, it’s easy to print a decent-quality book using a “print-on-demand” (POD) service. These POD products aren’t permanent books. The pages are merely stacked and glued. With traditional books, the pages are folded, sewn and glued, which makes for a much more durable product.
But the POD option is a good one for guerilla publishers. Or people who want to make only a few books at a time. There are many companies that will print and sell your POD book (Amazon and Lightning Source are two of the bigger players). But there is a smaller and sometimes cheaper option.
Local libraries often have “Maker Spaces” that have POD machines, such as the Espresso book machine, a $185,000 technological wonder. The Cincinnati Public Library has one, and I’ve been using it for the last year to print off workshop manuals and personal publishing projects with great success.
Yes, it sucks that its book blocks are glued and not sewn. But there is a solution: Sew the book blocks yourself. It’s not all that difficult, and I’ll demonstrate the process in a future blog post.
Lately I’ve been printing up the 70-page manuals that I’ll give to students who take my staked furniture classes. Compared to other photocopied and stapled manuals, these POD manuals are nice. And they don’t cost much more than a trip to Staples or Office Depot.
So, if you have your own publishing project in mind – “The Baptist’s Tool Chest” or “The Democratic Design Book” – you might want to first give your local library a call to see if it has a POD machine. You might just put me out of business some day.
— Christopher Schwarz