This page is under
construction, but you can see my draft.
Come back when I am finished.
Your Story for a Song
You may have already noticed that publication cost are out of the
budget range of most people. Up until the last few years it was almost
impossible to put out any book for less than many thousands of dollars.
To print twenty to one hundred books was unthinkable. The costs of
setting type, making plates, setting up presses and screening
photographs and drawings was a constant cost regardless of how many
copies you made. If there were only a market or need for a few books,
each copy would have to account for their fraction of the cost. To make
twenty copies of a book that takes $20,000 to produce makes each copy
cost $1,000. The paper the book is printed on costs only about ten to
twenty cents. The hard copy cover may cost one to three dollars. The
cost of ink is miniscule.
So what happened recently to change all that? We don’t need to set type
anymore and we don’t make plates. All the fixed costs of producing a
book are now done by equipment that exists in most homes. The skill
level of editors, compositors and printers are simplified to the point
that most literate people can do the job themselves at their own
leisure. If you don’t have the skills now they are worth learning for
the task you might have of informing your posterity and your friends
the things you would like to share with them.
This book is not aimed at the person who wants to get rich sitting in
his garret writing mysteries, poetry and novels. There are a lot of get
rich books published for that purpose and the people who wrote the
books are getting rich.
This book is written for people like myself who have lived a life and
have something to say to their family and friends or who have
formulated a philosophy or skill or anything that gives them joy to
share. The primary goals are to contain cost in order to justify the
effort and not dig into the retirement savings. The principles here
would apply to creating a holiday newsletter, a memoir or an ancestral
family history. You can create a high quality product for a minimum of
Here are some goals:
Create a family holiday newsletter with color photos, 8 page booklet
for under $2.50 each including envelope, 10 to 150 copies.
Create a Memoir of 160 pages with dozens of photographs and full
color paperback binding at $15.00 each for 20 copies.
Publish the same 160 page memoir on the web using your own name in
the web address, Zero dollars.
Create a five generation family history of 80 pages with some old
photos for $8.00 each for 15 copies.
These costs will vary depending on how much you chose to do yourself.
If you Google “short run printing” you will find a number of companies
that will receive your Word documents and depending on whether you need
editing, proofing and cover design will quote on as low as 50 copies,
however some will have a 500 copy minimum. These people are attuned to
dealing with Christian bookstores and can sometimes even offer shelf
space and distribution to books that meet their criteria. Many can
deliver a perfect bound book and issue library catalog numbers as well
as Library of Congress exposure. I looked into this and ruled it out as
being out of my expected range for cost containment. You can do your
own registration steps for a few hundred dollars if you want your book
registered for sale or library use.
Beware of publishing firms that prey on aspiring writers who want to be
published. If they talk about riches and success, you might not want to
pursue this direction.
On the first printing of my first two books I chose to contract out the
printing to a copy shop and do the binding myself. I learned a great
deal about binding which I pass on to you in this book. Afterwards I
invested in a better home printer which will improve my ongoing costs
for future books.
Enough about the mechanics for now. Let’s get on to the creative
I have been fortunate to have discovered a technical newsletter that
had some good information about the companies I did business with. It
was more than that though. The name of the service is NewsScan
Daily. I quote, “We call our news section “Above The Fold” to
honor the tradition of the great “broadsheet” newspapers in which
editors must decide which news stories are of such importance that they
should be placed "above the fold" on the front page. The NewsScan
Credo: Be informative, have fun, and get to the point! See
In addition the news items they had an honorary subscriber of the day
who was an individual in history who had an impact on education,
philosophy or science. I have been getting daily newsletters for about
10 years and these thousands of short bios have been a great source of
inspiration and education to me. The service also has short essays and
a mailbag section in which subscribers comment on the events of the day
or the essays. Once I became a participant in the mailbag part I became
hooked. I was trading ideas with the brilliant minds of science and
industry. We wrote about ethics, religion and comic entertainers of the
50s. I was hooked. One of the essay writers was an obstetrician working
in a poor hospital of Georgia. Some of his essays touched me and made
me weep. I wanted to write like Dr. Mike. I looked at how he expressed
himself, how he described people, and how he involved the reader and
how he nailed the point home. He had a rhythm to his paragraphs.
All my English teachers will now roll over in their graves because I am
going to teach you how to write in just a few paragraphs.
How to make your writing interesting
Set the stage – What was happening? When did it happen? Who else was
there? How did you feel?
State the problem – Did something need to be done? Was something
supposed to happen? Did something go wrong?
Express your feelings – Were you unhappy? Disappointed? Feeling full
of yourself? Embarassed?
Surprise – Something you hadn’t expected or something you haven’t yet
revealed to the reader.
Nail it - Make a really short concise statement that lets you leave
the subject. This can be a very short two word paragraph such as “He
Now, if that doesn’t work for you, just be yourself. Write like you
talk. Do you know what to say to make your friends smile? Then say it.
If you enjoy what you are writing then others will catch the joy in
And don’t even think about that English teacher in high school.
Every once in a while you need to fill your tank. Take a section of
your writing and send it to a friend or give it to a loved one. Get
some feedback and start again on a new one.
Sleeping is very good for the writing process. It certainly is in my
I find that things happen overnight that I can’t explain. What was his
name? Was that before or after? Don’t try to figure it out. Do you have
a snooze alarm? Do you use it to your advantage? When the alarm goes
off, hit the snooze button, think of your writing and roll over and go
to sleep. While you are showering and getting ready for your day see
what new information is in your mental in basket. You’d be surprised.
Last week I learned that Sally who I saw at my high school reunion
lived in Rockwall, Texas. The next morning I awoke and pronounced that
Rockwall was the smallest county in the state of Texas. Not that
important to my writing but I hadn’t thought about Rockwall county for
over 50 years and I didn’t even recognize the place the day before.
If you are not making much headway and it is bedtime, not to worry. Go
to bed. Things will be better in the morning.
Select your writing tools
Some people write novels on steno and legal pads with pen or pencil and
some use a mechanical Royal typewriter. I don’t know how to relate to
that. My assumption is that you have a computer and a word processor
you are comfortable with. Some tools are more robust than others and I
will explain and rank some of the more popular tools. You may want to
upgrade your software before you publish your book.
Style has a special meaning when relating to publication. Style assumes
a consistency of look for a book or magazine or newspaper. Thumbing
through National Geographic is not at all like People magazine not only
for content but the way the pages look. A page is broken into columns,
paragraphs, headings and picture areas. Someone, somewhere worked out
the design and makes it stay consistent in order to effectively
communicate with the target audience. Even something like a novel will
have its own style. Look in your library for the chapter headings in
several different novels by different authors. Do all chapters start on
an odd page? Are there chapter numbers or headings? Does every chapter
start at the top of the page or somewhere in the middle? Is there a
fancy design object printed on the new chapter page? These are things
that determine the style. Some of the document tools on your computer
have no consistent way to invoke style, others contain style sheets
that describe everything about a header, paragraph and picture caption.
Let’s review from least capable to most capable.
Notepad – Notepad is the text editor on Windows machines. It has no
fonts in the files it creates, only text and line feeds. You are going
to need something more powerful than this to create your book.
WordPad – The most primitive of word processors available in all
versions of Windows. Contains font selection in bold or italic in a
variety of sizes. It contains margins and paragraph widths, and has the
ability to add pictures. but no ability to control where pages break.
This could be a bare minimum word processor for use on your own printer
for short documents but unacceptable to send to a copy shop.
Works – Microsoft Works has been bundled on many name brand computers
as a value added item for the home user. It has a spreadsheet, database
and word processing function and tries to be a non technical solution
that anyone can learn without having to learn about file types and
formats. It can add pictures and text boxes. It has a spell checker and
can create multi column pages and could be a good solution for printing
on your own computer but you would have to check with your copy shop to
see if they would accept the format. Many copy shops limit themselves
to MS Word and MS Publisher. If you wanted to have a two column format
the entire document would have to be two column format. You could not
switch back and forth like the next few products would allow. A well
designed document from Works is indistinguishable from what can be done
with the upper end products. You just have to be more careful to apply
all the characteristic of style in a consistent way.
Word – MS Word is the word processor considered by the business world
as the standard. You may find some Word Perfect pockets out there but
very few. Word will help you stay literate by checking spelling as you
type. It lets you group all the variables of font, size justification
and paragraph format into a list of styles. This makes it very easy to
establish a neat look to your book. It will reformat your whole book if
you decide to make a style change later such as change the font for all
the chapter headers. It allows you to flow type around pictures and
attach caption lines to pictures and attach pictures to anchors in the
text itself so it helps keep the pictures and text together. It is a
great tool and you will be able to find many friends that can help you.
The only thing it does not do is output pages to the printer in a
sequence that permits easy binding. This process is called “making a
signature”. We will discuss that under ClickBook
MS Publisher – Was designed specifically for brochures, booklets
newsletters and magazines. It behaves very much like MS Word but is
based entirely on linking text boxes. This allows many story items in a
multi column space to serpentine through the columns within the page
and be linked to columns in other pages just like a newspaper or
magazine. In addition to that it will sort its printer pages in the
correct order to be folded and stapled as a booklet. This is called the
“signature”, a group of pages printed to be folded and stapled. In this
instance of an eight page pamphlet page 1 and 8 are printed side by
side on one side of the paper and pages 2 and 7 on the other side. The
next sheet has pages 3 and 6 on one side and 4 and 5 on the other. To
make a pamphlet the paper is then folded and stapled at the fold. The
formula for knowing what pages get paired together in a larger
publication is (total pages plus one) for each page. Odd pages are on
the right and the odd page always has the next even page on its back
side. There is one sheet of paper for every four pages printed. MS
Publisher is my personal favorite solution for newsletters, posters and
books. I prefer to use Word to capture the text and then flow the word
text into Publisher’s text boxes via cut and paste. The paste operation
can be with or without previous formatting and style. Both products
support style sheets. Publisher however because of its intended use
support layers and transparent items. It is easy to place type over
picture objects. Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 is the choice for image
processing and fancy text display.
Quark, Pagemaker and Ventura Publisher – I group these together
as too expensive, complicated and aimed at the commercial printing
trade. They all have similar capabilities to MS Publisher which is the
consumer priced product. I have used them all but prefer the support
and Word like interface and good consumer printer capabilities of
ClickBook – This product is not a word processor or page formatter but
it is capable of attaching itself to Works and Word to create the
signature format at the printer. It is a post processor like a printer
driver that takes all the pages and arranges them to make booklets. The
cost is $50 and can be examined for 15 days for free. If you like the
product and pay for it the registration will remove the commercial
messages printed on the demo pages. It is a tricky product to manage
and may not work with every printer you come across but would allow you
to use the bundled word processors to be used without incurring a lot
There is a free solution to making signatures but it consists of
printing out the booklet size pages and taping them together to feed
through a copier. This would of course be the least expensive of all
the booklet solutions.
We haven’t discussed duplex printing, that is printing on the back side
of the paper. Some print drivers that come from the manufacturer have
the provision for printing the odd sides, 1, 3, 5 etc. pages in one run
and manually flipping them over to print the even, 2, 4, 6, etc. pages
on the back side. This will be different for each kind of printer. Some
printers flip the page over when printing and some feed from the top of
the tray and some from the bottom so the mechanics of the operation
might be different for each printer. In order to deliver the sheets as
a finished product the driver may need to print one side in descending
order to make the signature.
Some printers like my HP2300d are duplex printers and print both sides
in one pass. Some of the HP inkjets do the same thing but they have to
slow down to let the ink dry on one side before printing the second
If you are going to use the local copy shop ask them which formats they
can accept for booklet printing. Do a trial run just to test the
process before you get too deep in your preparation.
Some copy shops like Kinko have special software that they will supply
to assure you get the right product for binding.
Think about style
Think about pictures
Try a test run.
Pick a printer
Pick a binding
What’s a signature?
Porting to the Web
Selecting an editor
Finding a Host
Copyright, Library number and catalog numbers