Friday, 22 November 2013 impressed

Should any readers be thinking of self-publishing, I want to share a recommendation for Blurb. I decided a while back to self-publish A Wren-like Note, in strong part because I wanted it to happen quickly, and had recommendations for Blurb - for combination of affordability and high quality - from reliable colleagues and friends (such as Felix Grant).

They have a few options for creating books, including PDF upload; a couple of high-power Adobe applications mostly suited to top-quality photo books; and Blurb BookSmart, a dedicated DTP program designed to interface with Blurb's system. I went for BookSmart. You register to download it, create your book, then upload the book direct from the program.

BookSmart - edit mode
BookSmart is pretty self-explanatory. It walks you through creating the basic template for the book (name, size and format, hardback/paperback) and importing files - in my case, the chapters of A Wren-like Note in Word format. Then it launches a WYSIWYG word processor with completely standard controls: the usual menus (file, edit, fonts, etc) with various additions customised for creating book, such as inserting different classes of page. When you add a page (text, text and picture, picture, chapter heading, table of contents, etc), a side menu offers various presets for content location on the page; these can be customised once in place. If you have images, there's an image library that handles importing them into BookSmart (this is necessary for the final upload). The ordinary edit mode shows box borders in grey, but you can switch to a preview mode that shows what the book will look like.

BookSmart - preview mode
I found BookSmart very easy to use, and mostly trouble-free. When you're adding text 'live', it gives a lot of temporary warnings about text overflowing the page, and this can cascade forward through the book to give a list of hundreds of such errors. Mostly, however, these self-correct. It crashed on a few occasions, but gracefully - it auto-saves frequently, and restarting the program takes you smoothly back to the pre-crash state. You can also manually save, and doing this frequently is always good practice with such work.

BookSmart - image organiser launched
Once you're happy with the result, you just click on 'order book', and BookSmart uploads it to the Blurb site (it may take around 15 minutes, depending on how graphics-heavy the work is). Blurb processes it, and advises you shortly that it's ready. Online, there's an again self-explanatory setup for creating a sales page, deciding profit margin, and setting your options for receiving payments (in most cases, PayPal is the most convenient, so I directed it to my account). All Blurb asks up-front is that you buy one copy of the book straight away, or it'll be deleted from the system.

My proof copy took a week (ordered 16th November, arrived 22nd November); the quoted ETA was 3rd December, but I assume this is a Mr Scott worst-case estimate to cover them legally, Once it's in transit, you can follow the FedEx delivery trail online, and so know what day it'll arrive, which is a nice touch.

I'm absolutely delighted with the book quality, in terms of cover, paper and binding, and print (including photos), and all my dealings with Blurb have been an extremely good experience. Blurb is also completely transparent about costs; there may well be other self-publishing companies that are a little less expensive, but quality and a complete lack of hassle are aspects very worth paying for.

Note that you won't get into any kind of personal interaction with Blurb; any help you might want is conducted through their forum page, and that doesn't go beyond nuts-and-bolts of using the software and the system.

This is actually a significant point. Self-publishing does need a large toolkit of skills beyond writing the stuff: for instance, a modicum of aesthetics about layout, readiness to learn how to use various software, ability to manipulate photos and other graphics (if you're doing your own artwork), organising ISBNs (both the number and creating the barcode), and so on. That's not to mention your responsibilities - and I've found these horribly good at keeping me awake at night - for areas such as copyright and photo permissions.

What you upload is what you get. Blurb won't talk you through the creative process, do your ISBN, or spot any proofreading or legal problems for you. But if you have those skills, and are 100% confident about exactly what you want printed, Blurb will do their side of the job quickly and outstandingly well.

- Ray

No comments:

Post a Comment