Monday, 25 July 2011

Step 6: Producing your Book

The many choices available 
As can be seen from earlier chapters, instead of just producing the traditional printed book, you now have the choice of a series of other media such as audio books or the electronic ebooks or eaudios. There are pros and cons to each publishing format, so it is best to use your target market to determine which form or which combination of forms is right for your book. It may be that your book is only appropriate for publication in one medium or it may be appropriate for publication in all four.

Remember, the more ways you can publish your book, the more sales potential your book has as it can be repackaged. Also remember, though, that the more ways you publish your book (depending on the medium) the more cost involved, so take time to decide which medium is not only right for your target market but right for your budget.

The Printed Book 
The traditional book has always been and will, for a long time yet, continue to be the most popular form of book publishing. When publishing a traditional book it is important to keep all of the following specifications in mind:

  • Book Specs: Quantity, Size (including spine width), Binding
  • Cover Specs: Colour, Thickness, Stock, Finish
  • Contents Specs: Pages, Colour, Thickness, Stock

Different specifications are used for different purposes so I will now go briefly through each.

This is pretty much determined by your intended use of the books. Add together how many you want for

  • personal use (eg. self distribution to family, friends, work mates etc.), 
  • how many you plan to sell direct (e.g. from your shop, from stage, from your website etc) 
  • and, if you are looking at bookstore distribution, how many the bookstores have ordered

Whatever total you come up with, if you round it to the nearest standard mark eg. 250, 500,1000, 2500, 5000,10000 etc. you will find you get the most economical price per book for your current requirements.

There are standard sizes for standard styles of books e.g. novel or picture book, so if your book fits a certain genre and you want it to look like the others currently on the market, it may be best to stick to these standards. Saying that, however, there are also standard paper sizes in Australia and if you keep your book just under the standard sizes you will find it cheaper to print. But if you are looking at global distribution of your book, there are other international distribution sizes that are accepted by every country in the world. Obviously, your book can be any size you would like, but if you want to use distribution channels internationally the standard sizes currently accepted may not necessarily be A5 or A4 so check with your distribution channel before determining the size of your book (see Chapter 13 for more details). Your book's spine width is determined by both the number of pages and the stock it is printed on, so always talk to your publisher to find out the exact thickness of the spine before completing your design.

It is important when producing a book to think about binding.

Saddle stitching (2 staples in the side) is always the cheapest form of binding. However, this form of binding means your book has no spine, so if you want to put some text on the spine of your book this binding would not be the best choice for you. Binding is heavily dependent on the number of pages involved, as anything less than 40 pages has to be saddle stitched as you can't realistically progress to the next level without at least 40 pages.

Likewise once you have more then 60 pages you can't realistically saddle stitch your book and you progress to the next level anyway. Once you have 40 pages, your book can be perfect bound which is the most popular method of binding books today.

Perfect bound or Burst bound books are glued straight into the cover without the need for staples or stitching. When a book reaches a certain size, though, it needs to be stitch bound before it is glued. This method of binding is used for books with a large volume of pages.

So far I have described methods for binding soft cover books but then of course there are also hard cover books. Only perfect or stitch bound books can have hard covers and hard covers are available in several formats: printed directly onto, printed on cover sleeve, die cut to show print on page 1 etc. Really, when it comes to binding anything is possible, but remember the fancier your binding, the more expensive your production costs. To keep production costs down it is always best to stick to the standards, and soft covers will always be cheaper to print and distribute (due to weight) than hard covers.

Cover Specifications: 
It is important with cover specifications to always keep the following in mind:

  • Colour
  • Thickness
  • Stock
  • Finish.

The colour of the cover is generally CMYK (also known as full colour) as that is most economical, however custom colours are also available, for example metallic gold lettering can be quite effective.

The thickness of the cover is important. For example most covers are around the same thickness as a business card (ie. 300gsm). It you want to cut costs a little, you may want to print on a thinner stock and if you want a particularly thick cover (for whatever reason), you will want to print on a thicker stock.

Once you have determined the thickness of the stock you want, you need to pick the stock you wish to print on. For covers, a general favourite is a Matt art as it has a nice finish with or without a laminate. For what is right for your particular book it may be good to speak to your publisher about what stocks are best for you.

The finish I always advise is a laminate of some sort to protect your cover from getting damaged by the weather or general day to day handling. Depending on the cover design or the nature of your book's content, gloss or matt may be more appropriate. However if you are looking to distribute your book via print on demand services, only gloss is available at this stage so that may be a sensible choice if the type of finish doesn't make much difference to you and you wish to use this distribution method.

Content Specifications: 
It is important with contents specifications to always keep the following in mind:

  • Pages
  • Colour
  • Thickness 
  • Stock.

The number of pages is a very important part of any contents spec, as the more pages you have, the more each book costs to produce.

The colour of book contents is almost always black and white for text-heavy publications and full colour for graphics-heavy publications.

Stock thicknesses vary depending on use and requirements, but the current averages are around 80gsm for black and white and 128gsm for colour.

The stock itself can also vary quite significantly but the most popular standard at the moment is 'woodfree' for black and white and 'gloss art' for colour. Depending on your print method, however, certain options may or may not be available so always ask your publisher for advice on which specifications are best for you.

Audio Book 
For the audio book, most of the above specifications still hold, but there are some additional specifications that need to be taken into consideration as can be seen below.

  • Book Specs: Quantity, Size, Packaging
  • Cover Specs: Colour, Thickness, Stock, Finish
  • Contents Specs: Length, Colour, Thickness, Stock, Finish, Medium

There are a range of packaging options available from plastic CD case to plastic DVD case to plastic sleeve, to paper sleeve, to cardboard sleeve etc. Each of these are available in single or double sided and can be sold individually or assembled into just about anything e.g. paper CD sleeve inside the book's front cover.

As with production of the book, the more complicated the request, the more the cost involved, so if you want to keep the production costs down stick to the standards. My favourite is a CD in DVD case. Why? Because the DVD case is around the same size as a book, so you can tie the branding in quickly and easily.

Cover Specifications: 
Cover specifications remain the same, even though it is a different medium we still need a cover. The cover still needs to be printed on a certain stock of a certain thickness with a certain finish, so as such, the exact same specifications for traditional book production as seen above hold for ebook production. The general standard is full colour printing either straight onto the packaging if it is a paper or cardboard base, or if plastic, a 150gsm gloss insert is the standard. Finish is always supplied assembled so that it is ready for you to distribute.

Contents Specifications: 
The contents still need to be labelled in some way, whether that be printed directly onto the disc or via a label stuck onto the CD. As such, the same specifications; colour, thickness, stock and finish, still apply. The only difference for an audio book's content specifications is, instead of pages, we need to know the length of the audio and we also need to know the medium e.g. CD vs. DVD. The standards for contents are once again full colour and the thickness is generally very thin, around 60gsm if it is a label so that it is barely noticeable, or nothing at all as it is more common these days to print directly onto the device. Stock is either adhesive or the device itself, and the finish is always installed on CD.

Producing an eproduct is always very economical as generally the only cost involved after writing, editing, illustrating & designing is the production. If it is an ebook the production is merely conversion into the final format and even if it is an encrypted pdf or has animated pages, the most complicated ebook is relatively cheap to produce.

With the eaudio it is, likewise, economical to produce even though there will be more initial cost than the ebook (eg. studio hire, artist voice recording, sound editing and production), once completed, there will be no ongoing reproduction costs as there will never need to be any reproduction. There is one other cost which is the website to distribute the products, but a basic website including hosting and domain name registration can be set up relatively inexpensively these days, making it really easy to begin making money from your books.

Specifications for producing eproducts are really simple.

  • Book Specs: Quantity, Size
  • Contents Specs: Pages/Co/our or Length, Finish

'e'Product Specifications: 
The quantity is always one as there is no production. The size is whatever you want it to be for an ebook (I generally recommend the same as the book) and an eaudio has no size. There is no binding or packaging as there is no physical product. Likewise, there are no cover specifications as there is no cover, though I recommend you use the existing book cover art and display in 3D form on your webpage, either as a book or CD, to give your customer an indication of what they are buying.

Similarly the pages and colour (ebook) or length (eaudio) is really the only content spec required as there is no thickness, stock, or medium for something supplied electronically. The finish is generally just that... supplied ready for electronic distribution.

Once you know exactly which specifications you need to be aware of given your choice of publication, make sure your publisher is aware of them. Once this has been done, just sit back and watch the magic happen. Sometimes the production process can take up to 6 weeks depending on the product being produced, but once your final product arrives ready for you to distribute as you so desire, your project is complete and your dream has been fulfilled as you have now successfully published a book.

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