I am creating a print-edition of Maisie in Hollywood, an illustrated paper doll/story book. It will be 52 pages, of which I have 31 completed, another ten or so with finished art (previously posted on Medium.com) only needing to be reconfigured to my trim size. The remainder has to be built from scratch. (The story is written.)
I am pausing in my forward progress, revisiting what I have in the can, looking for what needs to be tweaked.
I’m talking to a printer that GD recommended. Valor Printing will print inside front and inside back covers (Book Baby won’t) and will accept my 9×13 pages. Book Baby won’t. 9×12 is the closest they come. I had set up 9×13 to accommodate a decent-size doll and an all-in-one tri-fold stand. I have paper doll books that size and I like the generous proportion. (Bought forty years ago, maybe standards have changed.) I should have checked it out at the start. Too late now.
If Valor is not a publisher, only a printer, do I need to set up my own publishing company? Who has self-published print books?
I suppose I should buy a block of ISBNs? I have a bunch more stuff to publish. (All involve heavy illustration.) But to imagine that I can finish (art, they’re all written) Sly, Celestine, Gaudy Night, and my other series on Sly, on his hard-times childhood in Northern England, his (super whacky, naturally) adventures with his friends Herk (Herk the Jerk) Hedgehog and Ferd the Frog, is unrealistic.
I have an illustration method worked out. I grab bits off the web, marry them, and use the result as an underpainting, reworking them, using, not the Photoshop paint brushes, no. I go with the clone tool, copying textures, manipulating transparency, colorizing, building my figures piece by piece. I might find a mouse body I like, but not the head. I have my folders of high-quality mouse heads, mouse feet, mouse hands. Hands are always a problem. Resolution on mouse hands is mostly crap. You will notice that I use my go-to mouse hands again and again. I gotta jump back on the web and find more good mouse hands. Mouse hands, my biggest problem.
Is Valor Printing a publisher, taking orders and mailing out the book, or do I have to have a stack of books on hand, take orders and mail them myself? I emailed them that question. Yes, that’s what I will have to do.
I am researching POD publishers vs. working with a printer, doing the rest of it myself. Each method has advantages, and drawbacks.
A very informative article here by Andrew Couldwell has my head spinning. He has looked into five big POD publishers, and his conclusion is: IngramSpark is the best of the lot, but ‘Mostly fine’ is as good as it gets with print-on-demand.
With a POD publisher, you give up quality control (he had some significant disasters) but save yourself a lot of work and potentially (again, with IngramSpark) have your book included in industry-wide showcase/catalogs. Aside from iffy print quality you also, after all charges and fees are deducted, make little from your sales. That I don’t care about so much. I’m retired, I’m OK financially, my intention is not to make money. I do want my art to display well, that is my big concern.
With POD, neither do you have to pay for a print run (a thousand and up), nor do you have to be out and about selling. Book/art fairs are what I see ahead for me, and I’m hobbling around from arthritis.
Couldwell says to beware of the POD publishers. He received samples that were acceptable, but when his full order arrived, cheaper, thinner paper substituted, the spines, set up for heavier pages, cracked. Color was sometimes streaked. A bunch of books began on page 31! Some of those services print at multiple facilities, which give very different results. He looked at Kindle Direct (Amazon), Blurb, Lulu, IngramSpark, and Book Baby and, as I said, pronounced Ingram the best of the lot. Ingram also seems to have the most potentially advantageous distribution network.
Lulu has a direct connection with Shopify. You put your book up on Shopify, an app sends the purchase to Lulu, the order is fulfilled, no muss no fuss on your part. The problem is the quality of their product. He gives Lulu a big thumbs-down.
KDP: “The print cost for a full-colour book is unreasonably high for the low quality. But you have the discoverability of your book on Amazon.”
Blurb: “The image quality was passable given the subject matter of our book (technical how-to), but to a critical eye, the images looked like they’d been printed on an inkjet printer.”
Book Baby: “The profit margin of their service is practically nothing, once they — and the retailers they list books with — have deducted their charges.”
Lulu: “Looking into Lulu was a waste of time and money.” The Shopify link is all they have going for them.
IngramSpark: Quality pretty OK in a small order. (He finally took to ordering 22-44 books at a time.) In larger orders, many of the books were damaged in various ways. Strange, eh?
The damaged books were reprinted. Unfortunately, the replacement books were still not perfect. I counted that:
- Only 8% of the order was perfect.
- A further 8% was similar to the first batch (i.e. had the same faults).
- A staggering 19% was damaged!
- The remaining 65% was close to (but not) perfect.
I don’t know what I’ll do. This is a lot to think about. Several of these services would (most likely) be fine for straight text. Me with my illustration, maybe not. At the moment I am mighty discouraged.
I will continue to create Maisie’s costumes, but avoid doing any more layouts. I may have to reduce my page size (Ingram’s max size is 8.5 x 11″). With a small reduction, tighter cropping, and a reconfiguration of elements, I can handle that.
OK, I see an article that seems to say I can POD-publish through my choice of printer, order copies to sell on my own site or at fairs, and still get my book into IngramSpark’s distribution network. If I do that, I don’t believe I can put my book on Amazon. This article explains – they are competitors in terms of distribution. I’m a bit fuzzy about this. I’ll give it a closer read.
Well, I got that wrong. It’s the Amazon Expanded Distribution you can’t employ if you use IngramSpark and their distribution network.
Here’s another piece that recommends Ingram. This guy says: like it or not, bookstores see the Amazon/Kindle name listed as the publisher and automatically consider it an inferior, amateur effort, without checking it out.
My final thoughts (after another several hours of reading and asking questions):
It costs nothing to publish on Kindle Direct. IngramSpark charges you every step of the way. For Kindle all I have to do is buy an ISBN. I can get ten for $295. I’m prepared not to like the result from KDP. If I do, that’s a win. But I’m prepared to use them as a proof copy. They offer the tallest page size that I’ve found, 11.69 inches.
The pages I’ve set up fit them almost perfectly when reduced to 91%. And so I will continue with my layouts at the size they are now. I have the type set, I have only to create and place art, which I can further reduce and plunk into an 8.5×11 template for IngramSpark if I decide to give them a try. I read that my preferred size, 9×12, is a standard size for children’s books. But I can’t find a publisher (who handles distribution) who offers that option.
I am worn out. I’ll return to my illustration: in Secret of the Siren Sands, Maisie plays the straitlaced Egyptologist Francilla Fortesque, and the wanton ancient Egyptian Princess A’iesha. Francilla, in her no-nonsense shirtwaist and sensible shoes, I load her down with cameras and satchels, that’s what’s neat about her. A’iesha, I’ve gunked her up good, stealing from Garbo, Pola Negri, any twenties-era vamp I could lay my hands on. Since all those photos were black and white, I’ll have to build my outfit from fifties-and-on images. But I’ve got my conception, my mock-up, and it’s super fun. When I get that new page done (I’ve added two pages) I jump to page 32. Everything in-between is complete.
I’ll leave you with Maisie dancing with Josephine Baker in Paris. In London she’ll be meeting the Prince of Wales! The kiddo from the cornfields of Kansas is flying high.