Read Part 1 of this post here
10,000 Words, the blog I started in July 2007 on which The Digital Journalist’s Handbook is based, has hundreds of thousands of readers that hold various positions in journalism, writing and technology and if I waited long enough I probably would have attracted a book deal. But I decided to self-publish The Handbook to prove to myself and to others that it was no longer necessary to go through traditional channels to successfully publish and distribute a book.
I wrote a post almost a year and a half ago about ways writers and journalists could publish their own content. In that post, I mentioned CreateSpace, the publishing arm of Amazon.com. CreateSpace allows users to create and sell books, CDs and more on Amazon.com and handles the entire sales and distribution process. I kept the site in mind and when it came time to publish my own work I decided to take advantage of the company’s services.
With CreateSpace, all I had to do was lay out and submit the written work in a PDF file and the company would handle the printing, shipping, and distribution. In return, CreateSpace would receive a substantial percentage of the list price of every book sold.
Laying out the book
From the very beginning, I knew I wanted to design and lay out the book myself because I wanted total control over how it looked. I wanted to include my own original illustrations and for the presentation of the book to be authoritative, yet welcoming.
I created all the illustrations and line drawings featured in the book, first sketching them by hand then designing them with Photoshop using several photos and other images as reference. There are more than 70 original illustrations in the book and while some only took a few minutes to create, most, like the digital cameras, USB and FireWire cords, and audio recorder, took five to six hours each to create.
My only experience with print layout was working with Quark during my years as managing editor of my college newspaper and a few side projects here and there. But I pushed forward anyway and downloaded a 30-day free trial of Adobe InDesign CS4 which I used to layout the book.
I got a crash course in book design by rummaging through and taking notes on nearly every book on my bookshelf, noting the placement of things like page numbers, margins, and other design elements, often using a ruler to make detailed measurements. I initially wanted to use the sans-serif font FF Meta based on its use in another book I liked, but because I needed a serif font, as is used in most other books, I spent several hours searching and found the right one: PMN Caecilia, which had the approachability I was going for. The cover was inspired by the 10,000 Words logo, a recent cover of V Magazine and the resulting image of a TV screen if you hold a magnifying glass up to it.
For the most part, things went smoothly with a few hiccups here and there. The most major one was not setting a proper inside margin for the book, which required me to make time-consuming adjustments before CreateSpace would accept it. All in all, I finished the illustrations in about a month and a layout in about three weeks.
Submitting to CreateSpace
Once I had PDFs for both the book and its cover, I submitted them to CreateSpace for review. After the files were successfully accepted, I set the list price for the book and paid an optional small fee for a Pro account to offset some of the printing costs and subsequently receive a larger share of the list price for myself. I also opted for the extended distribution channels or EDC which means the book is and will be distributed outside of the US via Amazon.com and through other online retailers.
After the book was reviewed and accepted, I received a proof copy in the mail (which I was ecstatic about). I reviewed the book for errors and once I was satisfied with the finished product, I authorized CreateSpace to begin selling the book. I don’t have to handle any of the sales or shipping and I receive a payment for every book sold. I also have the option of purchasing my own copies at a severely discounted rate.
A lot of hard work went into making The Handbook happen and even though the project required many late nights, many tears, and many nights away from friends and loved ones, it was well worth the effort to be able to say “I am a published author.”
Also on 10,000 Words:
- Howard Stern Show Reporter Pens Book on Mob Boss Whitey Bulger's Trial
- The CIR Is On It: Telling the Story of Solitary Confinement for Teens Over, and Over, and Over Again
- Vidahlia Press, Pubsoft Partner Up for Prison Writing Contest
- Slate Writer Amanda Hess Wins Sidney Award for Examining Online Sexism