| You Can Publishe It
Shopping for a printer
At this moment, you are ready to contact printers and begin negotiations about the materials, presentation, and cost of your book.
How much will this cost?
The largest expense is for paper. The cheapest paper is newsprint. However, be aware that newsprint is highly acidic and self-destructs. Within ten years, tiny brown splotches appear, then grow and multiply like a bad case of acne. Within a quarter of a century, the pages become brittle and crumble. Aside from coming in different materials, paper has different thicknesses (weight), colors, and even textures. You should discuss this with your printer and mutually agree on the paper that you like and can afford. The second largest expense involves how many colors of ink your book requires. Originally, Faulkner’s classic The Sound and the Fury was typed with different colors of ink to denote generations. The publisher decided that this was too expensive to print and used black typeface only. Likewise, if you have included colored illustrations and/or colored photographs, your cost will increase exponentially. Black and white is the cheapest. The number of colors used on your cover is another cost. Usually, printers will have an assumed cost for two colors, anything more is at an additional expense because they must run the covers through the press one time for each color. The more colors used, the more work involved. Last, the printer will ask you if you want a glossy cover. This is a chemical applied to make the cover resistant to fingerprints and stains. It costs extra. Most intellectual journals and art chap books do not have this.
Aside from all of the factors mentioned, the cost per book decreases as the number of books printed increases. If it costs $8 per book to print 300 copies of a 96-page trade paperback, a run of 1,000 will probably only cost $6.75 per book. Larger runs cost even less. You should also ask if you qualify for any discounts.
Another important variable is the binding. Sometimes an adhesive Perfect binding as is used on paperback books is not perfect. For instance, if you have written a cookbook with recipes from the nation which hosted you, a spiral binding with wire is probably much better. We tend to set the cookbook off to one side as we cook. An adhesive binding means that the book will close. A spiral binding will stay open.
Other issues with the printing
You should know exactly what your book will look like, and you should receive a printing schedule before you make an agreement with a printer. The schedule will depend upon the printer. Normally, printers are very busy between October and November, February and March, and again between May and June because of elections.
At some point, the printer will e-mail you a mock-up. This is your galley proof to review. Since your printer is working from an electronic image (not setting type), no changes to your words are possible at this point in the process. However, the actual location of words on each page might not appear exactly as you typed. Because of incompatibilities with the various computer programs that are used in the process, word placement can change a bit. This is called “scrolling,” and this is the most important thing to look for as you review each page of the galley proof. Watch for unexpected line or page breaks, floating words, et cetera, and notify your printer about each of these so that he or she can fix all errors. Other problems to look for include: Are the illustrations printed where they should be? Are foreign words and/or mathematical symbols printed properly?
Receiving the finished product
Within weeks or months, you will pick up boxes of finished books. Sometimes the printer delivers a bit less than ordered because during the binding approximately ten percent of the books will be ruined. If this is the first book that the printer has ever printed, he or she might not have taken this into consideration. Feel free to open a box or two at random to look at the product before paying. Note that I have never paid for the printing of a book in advance. If printed as agreed upon, pay for the number of copies delivered.
It’s a BOOK! Now start promoting
This is definitely a special moment, holding a book that you wrote and published, but it is not time to celebrate yet. You still have to sell those books! This is the last stage of publication. Set an official publication date, usually six months after you have received your books. If you have not already done so, set up a Web site and an electronic purchasing mechanism like Amazon.com, Pay-Pal, or E-bay. Consider ads in newspapers and magazines.
Send review copies to Peace Corps Writers, local newspapers and magazines, specialty magazines related to your topic, local talk radio, maybe local television, and blog sites like “Red Room.”
Prepare and mail a pre-publication sale notice to friends, relatives, and peers. This includes your RPCV buddies. Offer them a discount if they purchase by mail within a specified period.
Contact independent bookstores who might sponsor a book signing. Contact other public places like restaurants and cafes who might sponsor an autograph party. Contact local television and radio stations, local groups including your regional RPCV group where you might be able to make a presentation and sell books afterwards. Do not forget flea markets and book fairs.
The average self-published author sells between 50 and 100 copies. RPCVs consistently sell more. I have corresponded with many authors who have sold hundreds and a few who have sold thousands. Not bad when one considers that Nobel Prize winning Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s publisher never printed more than 1,500 copies of his books before he became famous.