If you are writing a woodworking book, you have a lot of company. During the last six months, we have seen an alarming spike in the number of people who have sent us book proposals or even finished manuscripts.
To be clear, we don’t even accept unsolicited manuscripts at Lost Art Press. And still, I’ve rejected at least 20 book proposals so far for 2020, which is a record. John and I have no interest in becoming a bigger publishing company. We don’t want employees, overhead, debt or potentially watered-down content. So we can’t take on these projects.
Luckily, if you are writing a book you have options. So whether you are writing “Alf” fan fiction or the next “Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking” here are some paths to consider.
- Traditional offset printing. If you think you can sell 500 copies of your book, then you should investigate traditional offset printing. This is the same process we use at Lost Art Press. It is the cheapest way to print a book – by far. And you have the most options for binding, paper and other manufacturing details. The downside is you have to come up with the money for the press run at the get-go. And you have to produce “press-ready” pdf files. And you have to find an audience. And sell them. And pack all the books. Deal with customer service and returns. But if you can sell 500, you’ll probably do OK. We use several printers and press brokers, including Signature Book Printing.
- Print on demand (POD). This is a fancy photocopier or digital laser printer that prints and binds your book. It prints them one at a time, which is great because you will never have 1,000 copies of your novel mouldering in the attic. But it is at least twice as expensive as offset printing (in my experience). And you have fewer choices as to paper, cover and binding. The printing quality gets crisper every year, but the bindings have yet to equal traditional sewn signatures in my experience. I’ve seen some sewn POD books, and I wouldn’t let an enraged baby or dog alone with them. A good place to start investigating this option is Ingram’s Lightning Source service. Companies such as this can handle everything, from sales to distribution. But it costs.
- POD marries DIY. You don’t have to go through a big company like Ingram to use POD. Many libraries and “makerspaces” have POD machines. One brand is the Espresso machine, which is what we have at the Cincinnati library. I’ve made many small-run books on these machines and sold them to students and given them away to customers and friends. If you can find a non-profit entity, such as a library, the books are pretty reasonable per copy. But you are very limited on the size, shape, paper and cover. For example, our library only does black-and-white interiors and a color softcover. But the price is right and you have to start somewhere.
- Give it to Amazon. Amazon has self-publishing services that allow you to upload your book to them and sell it all over the world – both electronically and in print. The quality I’ve seen so far has been in the middle range of POD. It’s not the best but it’s not the worst. But you do get to tell your relatives at Thanksgiving that your book is on Amazon. That’s something, right? (No.)
A final option is to work with a traditional publisher. There are fewer of these every year, and I can almost guarantee you will have a frustrating experience. Almost all first-time authors do.
Publishing is a tough business, kind of like woodworking. I tell my family that I combined two terrible professions into something that almost works. But if you really want it, it can happen. John and I are proof of that.
— Christopher Schwarz
21 thoughts on “DIY Book Publishing”
What about Megan’s “Rude Mechanicals Press ” https://rudemechanicalspress.wordpress.com/rude-mechanicals-press-store/, or the old Astragal Press now know as https://www.bookdepository.com/publishers/Astragal-Press
There are still a number of publishers that handle woodworking titles. But the industry is a small fraction of what it was when I started in the 1990s.
And the 1990s were sad compared to the 1970s – likely the peak. Thanks to large book clubs back then, some woodworking titles would sell hundreds of thousands of copies.
My hope with this post is that people who are really passionate about their book will consider self-publishing.
Isn’t it simpler to become a world renowned woodworker, then sending an unsolicited draft to LAP? readers, concentrate on the ‘world renowned woodworker’ before thinking of the ‘unsolicited draft’ — I bet LAP gets lots of those.
The fact that I got to read the phrase “Alf fan fiction” this morning is why I can’t quit you Lost Art Press.
Hmmm, I had considered writing a book about woodworking onboard offshore supply vessels. I had actually envisioned myself becoming kind of rich by doing so 🙂
I would buy your book, Jonas!
Darn, now I have to write it 🙂
I had considered writing a book about woodworking onboard offshore vessels.
I had actually envisioned it was going to make me kind of rich too.
It might be a pretty slim reader base though.
Note that the hit SF book (and eventually movie) _The Martian_ started as a self-published novel. I’m not sure whether that was print-on-demand or e-book/print-it-yourself (which is yet another point in the spectrum of options). So it may be entirely reasonable to start with a minimal-cost (and minimal profit) release, and try to sell more official/professional editions only after you have gotten enough demand to justify it. (One of the advantages of someone like Amazon may be that they will make it available in both ebook and print-on-demand form.)
Part of this has to be deciding what your priorities are. Do you just want to share what you’ve written (and accept any financial applause folks offer), or are you trying to write as a profession, or something between those. Do you think this is something that really needs a durable binding, it is it something that will be read only a few times or used as an occasional reference? Do you need size for detailed graphics, or is the text your focus?
I love high-quality hardbacks, and most of my collection of reference books are in that form, along with some anthologies which would be unwieldy in paperback form. But most of my fiction/biography/entertainment library is paperbacks. For straight reading purposes, when you don’t need to leave them opened to a specific page for reference, modern paperbacks are durable enough if handled respectfully. As with the other decisions, this is one to be made on the basis of your own material and it’s needs.
Not all books need to be resistant to abuse. Or maximally pretty. Or profitable. Sometimes what’s most important is just sharing the ideas.
And sometimes having multiple options is a good thing — as witness The Anarchist’s Workbench. Some of us will order the hardbound (because we want that format, because we want to support the effort, or both), some will go for softcopy, and that’s ok with the author.
So if I understand correctly all I have to do is:
1. Become as famous as Chris Schwarz.
2. Self publish book.
1. You forgot to steal the underpants.
2. I never said there was profit.
I may proceed with my book idea on Liberal Arts & Kraft furniture. All about cabinets designed to store boxes of mac and cheese and degrees that don’t get you a job.
“During the last six months, we have seen an alarming spike in the number of people…”
Wait, “alarming”?? What does that further indicate???
There goes my Chippendale Bird House book.
Not if Cash Man Press agrees to publish it!
It’s just as well. Getting the little bowties and rip away pants on the birds is a huge headache.
Reference suggestion #4, didn’t Chris also once compare self-publishing with marrying your own sister?
Angling for a job with Google? 😉
Dunno what the water contains where you live, Chris, but please keep drinking it.
Darn it, I was just about to pitch you my book manuscript called: “Norwegian Toilet Chairs and Brown Cheese – A Most Natural Combination”.
I’ll just keep using the localfile\CreedThoughts.doc “blog”. The world is a lot safer not knowing exactly what I think about things.
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