More detail on Self-Publishing a Book

This blog covers:

Different ways of publishing
The parts of a book
Self-publishing: tips and tricks
I will also give a detailed guide of setting up for the layout of a book in a coming blog.
I will start by using some examples of the different types of books and journals that you might consider using for your work.

– limited run small books for family only (using SNAP™ or Officeworks™ or the like)
– booklets (16 to 48 page size) e.g., about the size of a journal or magazine
– books (paperbacks, hardbacks), perhaps 250 to 400 pages.
– e-books – a good way to economically achieve international availability using Apple iTunes, Amazon Kindle and KoboBooks, however marketing e-books has its own difficulties
– websites and blogsites – most family tree programs will automatically produce family history reports as well as family tree charts. All these are easily placed on the web.
– articles in magazines and journals (2000 – 7000 words usually). Examples in Australia are: Queensland History Journal, History Australia, Victorian History Journal, and the genealogical magazine, Ancestor
– photo essays/ captioned photobooks
– Powerpoint™ and audiovisual presentations and videos
– social media, such as Facebook™, can be used as an interactive way of publishing

Today, however, I will limit my discussion to producing a non-fiction book. But we do need remember that some authors have no desire and feel no need to spend the money needed to produce a book – that is not their purpose in writing.

front cover
back cover
title page (full title & short running title)
legal page (back of title page, NLA Cataloguing in Publication entry, copyright statement, ABN, publisher details, year of publication, printer details)
contents page
list of illustrations and maps and family charts
list of appendices
preface (and foreword?)
acknowledgments (record the details as you get each piece of help)
endnotes (could, alternatively, have these at end of each chapter); consider use of footnotes as well
index/s (general index, place index, people index, or just one general index)


Most non-fiction books serve quite niche markets. Although most of us would love a commercial publisher to accept our ‘masterpiece’ for publication, the reality is that only established authors and writers of textbooks will achieve this. This reality is especially so in the family history/ social history genre. Simple mathematics will soon show that a book with a potential market of around a 1000 copies is of no interest to a commercial publisher who would have to face all the costs of assessment, editing, proof-reading, and indexing as well as production and distribution costs. So lets consider whats involved in self-publishing. With modern home computers, user-friendly software and digitisation of the printing process, self-publishing is not all that daunting. The big advantage is that it gives you complete control of your product, its appearance and quality, and the financing of it. You take control of the artistry of the book. In fact you take total control, and YOU decide when you need to call in help and from whom.

So what are some of the decisions you will need to make?
Choosing the cover (the image, the fonts, matt v gloss)
Choosing size of book (A5, B5, C5, A4 etc)
Choosing the thickness of the book (and thus its weight)
Choosing the paper type and weight and quality
Choosing a font to suit the content as well as being easy to read, and commonly used by printers (e.g., Garamond, Times New Roman)
Copying similar books by professional publishers; looking at examples by other family historians
Placement of illustrations and maps
Use of colour
Use of ‘white space’
Margins and gutters
Headers and footers
Page numbering
Endnotes v Footnotes, or both?
Sections (each chapter a new section)
These choices will determine the ‘look’ of your book, its artistry, its readability, and its relationship with the reader. They are important decisions.

In my next blog, I will discuss marketing and promotion, selling your book, and distributing your book.

The Ins and Outs of Self-Publishing

I am going to present here material that I developed on techniques of self-publishing for a number of talks that I have presented on this topic in the last year or so.

These days, more authors are facing the daunting task of self-publishing. Although time-consuming, preparing a book in a format and appearance that equals that of professional publishers is not all that difficult from your own computer using a common program like Microsoft Word™. Nor do you need special word processing skills. Some key points are:

Weight of the book. Keeping the book below 500g will save postage costs. This means restricting an A5 sized paperback to less than about 320 pages. This is important for overseas sales.

Front cover. The appearance and design of the cover is very important for sales. If the customer does not pick up the book, they won’t buy it.

Maps, plans and images. Use these generously. They help to make your history story understood, and they make your book attractive. The cost of colour plates dispersed throughout your story is no longer prohibitive. Maps are easy to draw, and names easy to add using free software, such as Goggle Picasa™. Most family history programs have easy systems to draw ancestry charts. Digitised images of old prints, drawings and paintings held in many archives and libraries are readily available at low cost or free, and are out of copyright.

Fonts. Choose a font that suits your story. In my recent book, Two Squatters, I used Garamond 11pt for my text, but for the cover, I used Lucida Calligraphy because it seemed to match the cover image better. You should not mix fonts too much. However, I found Times New Roman was better than Garamond for chapter headings and headers and footers.

Endings. Work hard on writing a good concluding chapter. Everyone knows that the opening paragraph in the opening chapter is important, but equally a satisfying conclusion is important. This is hard to control when one is writing non-fiction. Avoid making it too much of a summary or repetition.  It is not a place to deposit information you have not used elsewhere in the book, but forgot to include.

Footnotes and Endnotes. Extensive footnotes can disrupt the flow of the text, make the appearance of the page messy, and can be a constant distraction. Placing these as endnotes at the end of the chapter avoids this, but means that the reader may have difficulty finding the last page of a chapter to look up an endnote. Many non-fiction authors group the endnotes together after the last chapter. If you do this, re-start the numbering of endnotes for each chapter by using section breaks. This avoids you ending up with huge reference numbers in the text.

Promotion and Marketing. Ideally, plan this before you go to print. Set up your own website. This can be done using a DIY website provider. Set up a blog site such as that offered by WordPress™. Plan to write new blogs regularly – 500 words every month. Link these to social networks such as Twitter™and Facebook™. Hold a book launch, but make publicity easier by linking it to a literary festival. Pricing your book is difficult. Your recommended retail price needs to be high enough for you to cover your out-of-pocket costs of printing, images, ISBN and barcodes, and up to 40 percent commission by many large booksellers. Selling privately, selling online, and selling through specialty outlets, such as the RHSV, are important if you are to recover your costs.

Legalities. Include your legal page on the reverse side of your title page. This should include your publishing name and ABN, publication date, a copyright statement, and the cataloguing information from the National Library. You obtain this from the Library beforehand and reproduce it. This also ensures that your book appears in the Trove search system. Register your book with Books in Print™. This makes sure that your book is listed internationally. Large bookshops and libraries will then be aware of it.

Next time I will continue with some more detail on aspects of self-publishing. Specialist non-fiction works will nearly always have small markets, and are relatively unattractive to commercial publishers, so self-publishing will become the norm for many authors in this genre. Fortunately, modern home computers and good word-processing software allow the self-publisher to achieve standards of publication equal to those of mainstream publishers.