What does Print-on-Demand (PoD) mean?
How much do PoD books cost?
How and where will my books be printed?
How will I submit my manuscript?
How will my book be promoted?
Why would I need Ashwood Books when I could do it all myself?
What about pictures?
What about fonts?
What about eBooks?
Back in the old days of offset printing, a book or other publication that had been typeset with desktop publishing software generated a postscript file that was handed off to a bureau to make film. The film was taken to a printer who made plates from the film: paper plates for short-run publications, metal plates for long print runs. It was only economical for print runs of a thousand or more. These days, we hand off an Adobe PDF file direct to the printer who prints using a souped up version of an extremely large office laser printer. Print runs can be as short as a single copy, or run into the hundreds, or thousands.
The printed pages are guillotined and bound into the book cover that has been printed on a separate high-end colour laser printer. The binding used is exactly the same as every paperback book you have come across. It’s called perfect binding. A surprising number of books are now PoD and purchasers are usually unaware that they are any different to mass-market paperbacks. It takes a discerning eye to detect the subtle differences.
As an example, we will consider Ruth Young’s Palais Theatre book. This was paid for by the Franklin Palais Management Committee and they had obtained a quote from a conventional offset printer of ~AU15,000 for a print run of 1,000, far in excess of anticipated sales. The township of Franklin had a population of 337 in the 2011 census. The Committee approached Jonathan and we had 100 printed by Snap for about a third of the price. When they sold out, a second print run was made. The cost per book was sufficiently low that the Committee sold the books for $AU35 when similarly sized books were selling for nearly twice the price.
A huge advantage to PoD books is that they never go out of print. Books that continue to sell over a long period benefit from this aspect a lot. Another is that you only print as many as you need. A friend who has been a full-time, self-publishing writer for decades used to have a room dedicated for storing books and packaging. These days his books and packaging occupy a small cupboard in the corner of his office.
Ashwood Books has an account with IngramSpark that was used to print John Young’s Going Down Another Lane. The recommended retail price (RRP) is $AU45. Booksellers placing orders with IngramSpark pay $AU22.50 per copy (50% of RRP). We could have set the discount anywhere between 30 and 55%. Setting a high discount encourages booksellers to stock the book and allows them to offer a discount on the RRP to encourage their customers to purchase the book. The book is also listed with Amazon and other online resellers and is available as a Kindle eBook from Amazon. IngramSpark deducts the cost of printing and sales tax from sales made and forwards the remaining money to Ashwood Books. Payments commence ~90 days after receipt and are made monthly thereafter. Books are available for order five business days after the files for cover and contents are uploaded to IngramSpark. Books can be printed and delivered in almost any country IngramSpark’s customer chooses. Paul McGowan’s publisher, Lioncrest, took three months to deliver the first consignment of 99% True!
Ashwood Books’ customers have the option of setting up their own account with IngramSpark, or have Ashwood Books manage this for them. IngramSpark will only deal with registered businesses and in Australia this means having an active ABN for tax and other business activities. John Young is a pensioner, and didn’t want the hassle of setting up a business. Proceeds from sales of his book are forwarded by Ashwood Books to a charity he chose.
Expect to pay approximately $US10 per 1000 words for our services. Where we are requested to source pictures, license them, and engage in extensive picture editing, you can expect to pay more. In return you will have a book you can be proud of.
Included in the cost are the ISBNs for both the print books and Kindle versions. While ISBNs and barcodes are not mandatory, you will not sell too many bookshops without both. Kindle conversion cost is also included when Ashwood Books is the publisher. The conversion is undertaken by IngramSpark and that ensures compliance with the Kindle standard.
IngramSpark have a list of trim sizes for the books they print, and a handy printing and shipping price calculator.
Ashwood Books chose IngramSpark because Ingram are the largest book distributor on Earth and including affiliates can have your book printed in over 200 countries. Booksellers everywhere are used to dealing with Ingram. Most are reluctant to purchase books for resale from individual authors. IngramSpark also list the books they distribute with Amazon, Barnes and Noble etc. There are alternatives to IngramSpark and our clients are free to pursue those options should they wish.
In summary, Print-on-Demand makes the cost of entry for publishing books far more affordable than it ever was. Choosing IngramSpark for printing by their affiliate Lightning Source ensures the widest possible distribution. In order to sell, your book needs to be professionally made, like the books in the following SAMPLE INTERIORS.
Manuscripts can be accepted in a variety of formats: Microsoft Word (DOC or DOCX, RichText Format (RTF), Hypertext (HTML) or text marked up using Markdown.
We have had problems with some MS Word documents. These issues have been due to documents being processed on both Mac and PC platforms. Identified issues have been strange styles applied (a setting for vertically set text in East Asian languages), and excessively edited documents (Word’s binary formats can become very complex as edits are stored serially at the end of the file). The result has been instability when placed into Adobe InDesign. The cure was to mark up the text in Word and save the file in plain text. The markup was then used to reapply appropriate formatting in InDesign. Needless to say this represents a slowdown and needs to be avoided if at all possible.
Versions of Word prior to the introduction of Microsoft’s implementation of XML (the DOCX file format) are best avoided as is saving Word documents in compatibility mode (Word 97-2003 format). Better to save in Rich Text Format (RTF). Word 2003 and earlier when used to save as HTML create hugely complicated files. One example where Word had been used to create a three or four line email in Outlook created an HTML document over forty A4 pages long!
Jonathan used Word for many years and used to train end-users in Word, Word Perfect, Wordstar and Word Pro as well as Pagemaker and Ventura Publisher in the latter years of the last century. As a writer’s tool Word was much the best, mainly due to its outliner. It also has the widest range of spell-checkers including the Australian English dictionary, The Macquarie. Jonathan’s first MS Certification was in Word 6.
This had its origins as a commercial product called Star Office when Jonathan first used it on Linux. It has come a long way since. Unfortunately it’s now twenty years or more since Jonathan and many others requested that a Word-like outliner be included and that hasn’t happened. What these free, open source programs do have is a better AutoCorrect than Word from Office 2013 onward. When Jonathan asked Microsoft why they had crippled AutoCorrect, the response was that it was too confusing to the average user. Go figure...
Scrivener is just one of several writer’s tools and just happens to be the best in our opinion. It makes keeping your writing organised a breeze. The free download is fully-featured, not crippleware. It allows a limited time for use. However, the limit is the number of hours you have actually used the software, not the number of days since it was installed. The cost of the license is trivial compared to the time it has saved Jonathan who paid for it long before his free time had expired. Scrivener is available for the Mac and PC, but not yet for Linux the last time we looked.
While we list the books we publish here, and can host a preview of your writing, what we don’t do is fully promote your book. We do give advice about how to go about doing that. We include basic cover design in our charges such as that on Going Down Another Lane. Dr Young provided the illustration. Paul McGowan had a professional graphic artist in New York design the cover of 99% True.
First, nobody can proofread their own writing; certainly not to a professional standard. If you have sweated over your MS for months, writing, rewriting, polishing... you will see what you intended to write and that’s not necessarily what you actually wrote. Very few have what it takes to concentrate hard enough on the grammar (even when they actually have a good grasp of grammar) to catch a significant percentage of errors. The same applies to punctuation.
When editing a book some time ago, Jonathan was taken very ill and was hospitalised. Jonathan submitted a PDF to the author while he waited for the ambulance to arrive and advised the author to have someone else complete the proofing and editing. The PDF was to be annotated rather than directly edited. It was just as well. The PDF was returned with suggestions that included:
That CO (army term for
Commanding Officer) be changed to Colonel
Pluralise nouns with apostrophe s (’s)
Change attitude control to altitude control (aircraft terminology)
That Americans wouldn’t understand British/Australian slang terms such as purchase, or busker
Make several verbs disagree with the nouns they were modifying rather than agree
While this internationally renowned publishing house had caught several errors that Jonathan had missed, they had also failed to flag ever so many errors themselves. It was a very important lesson. At Ashwood Books we are very careful when editing text to not change the meaning of the text. Occasionally we need to replace a word with a synonym for the sake of copyfitting (a longer word in place of a short word or vice versa), but we do this only as a last resort and always take care to only use words in common use. We will bring questionable usage to your attention before making gross changes. We don’t mind whether you use T-shirt, t-shirt, teeshirt, or tee-shirt, but we will ensure you use only the one variant.
As to why an internationally renowned publishing house would have done such an appalling job on this MS, we can only speculate. It seems that most editing is now done by casual employees whose only qualification is possession of a university degree. Back when Jonathan was a youth in the UK, proofreading was a five year apprenticeship. It would also appear that the pay received by these outworkers is appallingly low, around $US10 per hour! That’s less than an unskilled worker earns in Tasmania.
Second, you need to be running professional quality desktop publishing software. There are really only a handful of such programs these days: Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress with InDesign having 95% market share. It used to be that QuarkXPress had 95% and Adobe PageMaker had a mere 5% after many years of market dominance. We use Adobe InDesign and it’s the best software of any that Jonathan has used in 30+ years of using computers. It’s powerful, flexible and has a well-designed interface. There other options, but they’re rather specialised. TeX originated on the Unix platform and is particularly powerful when putting together mathematical and physics texts with complex formulae. We don’t do TeX, or the slightly easier to use LaTeX even though we used to know most of the markup language it uses (Standard Graphics Markup Language, or SGML) the parent of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). We leave such work to the specialists. Ventura Publisher uses SGML, but it's many years since Jonathan taught Ventura. More than a decade ago Jonathan was a beta tester of Adobe FramMaker for Linux, but it was never released.
Interior pictures must be monochrome, either grey scale or line art. They can be jpg, or tiff files. We will adjust them to print as clearly as possible, but we cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. You can have colour on the cover, but bear in mind we are not a high-end colour shop, nor does IngramSpark guarantee exactness of colour. Colour variation will be minor, but that’s not usually acceptable for colour photographs. If your book relies on high quality colour photographs you have no choice but to have it printed offset. We can design a simple cover for your book, but we advise engaging a professional graphic artist if you want as well-designed a cover as that which graces Paul McGowan’s 99% True.
All pictures must be licensed for use in your book. Just because you found an image on the Internet does not mean you are free to use it. We wanted to use a photograph in the possession of The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh. We were not only granted permission we were offered two alternatives as well and chose one of those. The concluding line in the email we received read: “While there isn’t a charge to use these images, if you’d like to make a donation to the charity we support, MND Scotland, we’d be very grateful. Please click here to go to our Just Giving Page.”
The only exception here of course is if you are the creator of the images you use.
Ashwood Books has a proofing printer that produces results identical to the Xerox digital press at Snap, Hobart so we can assess your book as it will appear on paper.
Typefaces, or fonts as they are usually called these days, need to be properly licensed. The ones you think of as free because they were bundled with your computer’s operating system and software, are usually only free for personal use. Ashwood Books for fairly obvious reasons only use professional fonts that are fully licensed for book use. Professional fonts have advantages over cheap knock-offs and freebies other than just legality. They contain ever so many more properly kerned letter pairs. Kerning means the spaces between letters. They also contain ligatures such as the “fi” ligature. You might notice that the dot over the letter i contacts the cross stroke on the letter f. Professional fonts contain a special character combining the two letters without the dot over the i. Adobe InDesign automatically makes the substitution. If you are listed as the publisher inside the cover of your book you will need to be using a fully licensed font. They are available from Adobe, and others.
eBooks have several advantages over print books as well as some distinct problems. They are inexpensive, quickly distributed, weigh nothing and the text can be scaled to suit the reader’s eyesight. This latter ability is also a weakness. Most books are set with fully justified text; every line is the same length. When text is set large on a Kindle for example, it’s common to see three words on a line, one hard left, one centred and one hard right! eBooks therefore benefit from something we adopted in magazine layouts decades ago: ragged right (left aligned) text. Lines of text are uniformly readable even though they are not uniform in length. Many print-on-paper books would also benefit from ragged right justification, but change comes slowly. Jonathan has seen only a handful thus far.
Another frequent issue is the appearance of words in the middle of the line with a hyphen breaking the word inappropriately in two. Clearly these are hard hyphens inserted in the text by the typesetter to force a break in the paper version. The use of hard hyphens to do this is bad practice. Discretionary hyphens (aka soft hyphens) disappear if the text reflows and the word no longer needs to break across lines. At Ashwood Books we only use discretionary hyphens.
There are alternatives to Kindle, but according to Jonathan’s self-publishing friends who specialise in writing eBooks, 80% of their sales are for Kindle and the rest are distributed among all of the competitors. Thus we do not provide formatting to standards other than that set by Amazon. This is an economic decision.