I’m not talking about the writing… I mean the actual physical (or ebook) copy. In my opinion, this is where the true value of a hybrid publisher comes in, and if you can afford it and find one that will do a good job and is worth the cost, go for it!
So what do you have to do? Well, you have a few choices. You can go with the printer’s book-building tool if they offer one (IngramSpark has a tool that’s infinitely easier for me than trying to get the cover exactly right within their template), or you can piece it all together yourself.
If you’re trying to do it all yourself, you need to know your exact page count and be able to create a printable cover using Illustrator or a comparable software. There are some decent free print editing software programs out there, but they’re clunkier than Illustrator and require a lot more patience and effort. Your files also need to be exactly the way you want them. One of the pros here is that you are in complete control over all of the formatting, including drop caps, indentation, layout, and style.
As I said, I use IngramSpark’s book-building tool. Here’s my process:
- I write everything in Google Docs so that I can work on it anywhere (including on my phone)
- Switch it over to Pages so I can get the formatting exactly the way I want it (if you have a PC then Caliber or Kindle Create work too)
- Export it as a word doc and an epub (I cannot stress enough how important it is to make sure that you save both versions of your book)
- Use the IS tool to build out the front and back content like the copyright, acknowledgments, a page listing my works, and the author page;
- Make my indexes, glossaries, and punctuation guides as a text insert that goes into the table of contents
- Build the copyright and acknowledgment pages exactly the way I want them along with any additional front page copy and make sure to disable the table of contents button so they’re not added
Make sure that you give yourself plenty of time because you have to build the book chapter by chapter. Pros are you can name the chapters anything you want and include numbers, and the preview screen helps you find errors in the layout and content chapter by chapter. Cons are it takes forever and some of the decorative formatting, like drop caps, is harder to pull off unless you know HTML and CSS. There is a way to directly edit the code if you’re comfortable with it though.
If you use the book-building tool, document everything while you create the book! I mean, take screenshots of where everything is placed, write down the color codes for the cover and any fonts you use, write down the font and size, and make sure you have everything that you will need to recreate the book in multiple places and keep it as consistent as possible. Because I didn’t do that with Welcome to Jessie’s, the paperback and hardback are slightly different. Then when I did Where the Ogrekin Roam, I forgot to write it all down when I built out the hardback. Once it’s submitted, you can’t go back into the files until after they are processed and either approved or rejected. It was over three days before I was able to get back into them again– which caused another delay in my publishing schedule.
I learned the hard way with Welcome to Jessie’s not to export the epub from Google Docs, especially when building it in Draft2Digital. It was a lot harder to create the table of contents, and the formatting was more difficult to work with. D2D also just has very little flexibility when it comes to building your book. My other issue was that the previews did not accurately show the finished product. I was not happy when I found the layout errors in the finished ebooks. They’re not terrible; I’m probably the only one who knows they’re there. It still irked me.
I decided to submit directly to Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble and use Draft2Digital for library and international platforms for Where the Ogrekin Roam. Remember a few paragraphs ago when I said to make sure you save everything as an ePub and Doc? This is why. Kindle Create is really intuitive, but you have to upload the docx. The other thing I ran up against is formatting. I don’t know why the formatting options are greyed out unless it’s because I exported the docx from Pages, but any drop caps that included a quotation mark are a mess.
With the physical book and ebook, make sure your cover is the right size and displays all of your information. If the title, author, or any of the information you want to put on the cover is too close to the edge, it might get cut off in the bleed– the section printers use to make sure the cover art extends all the way to the edge or beyond of the cover itself. This article on figuring out pixels to inches for different trim sizes is really aimed at children’s books and their illustrations, but I found that it was a good rule of thumb when I first tried to build out my cover in Gimp (the free photo editing software I use instead of Photoshop). I really overshot it with Welcome to Jessie’s, as anyone who looks at the ebook can tell, but that’s because I didn’t follow my gut and overthought the entire process.
By the way, make sure you take breaks, come back and get a fresh look at your work, and don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion. And always listen to your gut instincts! Remember you got into this because you love writing, and chances are you love reading too. You know what your readers want because you know what you want.
My last piece of advice here is to give yourself time. It takes hours, if not a few days, to build your book, and you have to build out each version– ebook, hardcover, paperback, copies in different languages, large print, etc. It takes longer if you don’t know what you’re doing, but don’t be afraid to learn as you go and take a lot of notes. My office walls are plastered with stickies for each step of the process. Make sure you have everything you need from the get-go– epub files, doc files, cover, a plan for the layout, and your ISBNs. There are really great tutorials all over the internet that teach you how to use different editing programs, layout programs, and the various book building tools. As you do it, you’ll get more comfortable and faster. Just make sure to build at least a month into your release schedule for the book creation and getting your physical proof. You always want that physical proof in your hands before you mass-order your books!