A Self-Publishing Diary

This diary, by The Lulu Book Review founder Shannon Yarbrough, traces Shannon’s process and experiences in self-publishing his book, Stealing Wishes, from manucript formatting through publishing with Lulu, making the book available for the Kindle, and beyond, including a look back at his expenditures and net profit in the first year. The diary is from The Lulu Book Review.

From May to August of 2007, I wrote a novel and edited it twice then had no idea what to do with it because I was already thinking of a new project to write next. It was part romance, part comedy, and I didn’t know which market to shop it to. So, I let it sit.

In October, Amazon.com announced its ABNA contest to find the next breakthrough novel. I decided to polish my finished book and submit it as an entry. I made it into the contest, but was cut in the second round in January of this year.

So, there I sat with a finished novel. In December, I finished the second project I had started. Now…TWO finished novels! I got an idea on how to improve the first one, so I began rewriting and editing it again! I began shopping them to publishers and agents. I sent the first one out less because I thought the second one would appeal to a wider market. Rejections began to roll in. But I really wanted to publish that first novel, now entitled Stealing Wishes, because I had put so much time and effort into it. So, I have since decided to use Lulu to do it.

This page will serve as a diary of my publishing process to hopefully be a good resource for others who frequent this site often and may be looking for suggestions or advice. Feel free to ask questions or make comments, or share your own ideas if you have them.

Here’s where we are so far…

Three weeks ago: I began formatting my Word document manuscript to a 6×9 page size. I changed the margins and added page numbers. I added the blank pages at the beginning and end like you find in regular novels, and which Lulu requires for ISBN assignment. I added a copyright page (also required), a title page, and a dedication page..consulting other traditional books I own for alignment suggestions and for what the copyright page should say.

I added necessary pages so that my chapters always begin on the right side. I’ve noticed some traditional books do this and some don’t. Some more recent titles I looked at go straight through with no blank pages, chapters starting on the left or the right. But I did find some with blank pages so that the chapters always begin on the right. Any thoughts? I like the right side format so I went with that. I also “fully aligned” my words so I have that crisp straight line down the right page. I also added a picture to appear on my title page between the title and my name.

Two weeks ago: I started a new project on Lulu.com but kept it private. I uploaded my manuscript and examined the created PDF file to see if it was to my liking. It was, so I began working on a book cover.

The Book Cover: For the idea I had in mind, I grabbed a camera and set up a photo shoot using props I wanted on the cover. These were old photos, a cup of coffee, and some lose change. After several snapshots and different angles, I uploaded my photos to my computer and chose the best one. I played with color variation a bit, using Adobe Photoshop Manager, and finally had something I liked.

Using the Paint program on my computer, I created a 7×10 file which would serve as my cover. The reason for the slightly larger size is for the bleed over when you start creating your cover on Lulu. I chose a blue background for the entire cover, then I stretched my photo across the middle from the left edge to the right. After choosing a font and size, I typed my title across the top and centered it between the top of the book cover and the image, and then did the same with my name below the image. After a few adjustments, I had a nice cover. Well, I thought it looked nice. Keep reading.

I quickly uploaded it to Lulu and then used Lulu’s cover design to do the spine and the back cover. I chose a slightly different shade of blue for the spine. I put the title and my name in white, and chose not to print the Lulu logo on the spine. For the back cover, I used Lulu to color the back cover all black. Then in white, I typed in my blurb description of the book. I could not find a way to make it fully aligned down the right side for a nice crisp straight line. If anyone knows how to do this, let us know. I even tried typing my blurb in Word and doing a full alignment, and then copied and pasted it into the Lulu screen, but it didn’t work. Oh well, this would not be my final product anyway, so I left it as is for now.

The Sample Copy: After a few minor adjustments and some spell checking, I ordered a sample copy on Saturday, May 3rd. My cost for the book was $9.99. Shipping was $7.44 for Priority Mail. The book shipped from New York on Tuesday, the 6th, and arrived at my home in St. Louis, Missouri, on Thursday the 8th. Wow! Excellent shipping time! (Note: Media Mail would have been cheaper, but would have also taken a few days longer to receive. Also, Lulu does not offer any tracking for media mail, so if the package is lost in transit, you are out of luck.)

No, I didn’t have to buy a sample copy, but I believe it helps to have the book in hand to get a feel for it. How is it going to look to the reader? It really helps to step away from the monitor and spend time with the book during this process, so I highly recommend taking the time and money to do this. I spent $1.99 on some red ink pens so I could immediately begin revising the text which is what I am still doing at this time.

Click to view larger and in higher resolutionThe Book Cover: I hate it. The lettering on the cover is fuzzy. My photo looks great and the quality is excellent, except there is an orange shine in the top corner, which probably came from a vase which was sitting on the table where I photographed the image. There’s also a glare in the bottom right corner which I didn’t notice before, and the collage placement of my photographs is not very good on the top right side. Back to the drawing board.

The Interior: Wow! The inside looks great. The gutter, that space down the middle between the pages, is a little tight and I found myself having to open the book wider to be able to read it. So, I’ll have to fix that margin. Also, the page number at the bottom is too close to the text. I will bump it down. I also think the top margin is too wide, so it may need to be adjusted as well. I am still currently reading the text, but so far, my spelling and grammatical errors have not been too bad. My red ink pens are getting some use though!

Marketing Investments: Yay! My economic stimulus package arrived via direct deposit on May 6th. I’m using most of it to pay bills, but I decided to treat myself to a few helpful books I’ve been wanting. They are: Jeremy Robinson’s POD People and Janet Elaine Smith’s Promo Paks. I immediately began reading POD People and highlighting ideas in it. It has been a great motivator. I even posted about it in LLBR as being a valuable resource. Total investment: $25.93. I haven’t read Janet’s book yet, but I will post more about it when I do. By the way, just an aside that doesn’t really matter but Jeremy’s book contains spelling and grammar mistakes. See…no one is perfect! 

Read about the rest of Shannon’s experiences with Stealing Wishes at The Lulu Book Review.