Part 1: POD & Lightning Source & Covers
Every good journey starts with a to-do list. The major sites you must see in Spain, the ten most disgusting things you need to dare you spouse to eat in Asia, the bucket list you’re going to kick into action once you make friends with that rich guy on TV. Though the list below is a little more average, it’s just as important to make. With it, you can get your POD pushed through with minimum effort; without it, the time delays will make child-birth seem like a preferable option to book production.
So what are the vital steps I’ve needed to take in my POD journey?
- Create my e-book covers (Complete with compelling blurb and kick arse reviews).
- Create the internal PDF for my books (With the ever divine, and free, PressBooks. No need to read up on margins allowances, fonts or regulations – this tool does it all without you having to waste your time reading the design fine print).
- Sign up for a Lightning Source Account, and validate it (And just to be on the safe side, make an extra copy and stand by for requests of extra validation).
- Purchase my ISBNs and set up my titles (With additional research to figuring out what the hell the terms ‘laminate’, ‘perfect bound’ and ‘stitch bound’ refer to).
- Generate my book cover templates and back cover barcodes (Yep, the cover fun doesn’t end with your designer, you need to submit it in the format and templates Lightning Source require. Why? The only plausible explanation I can come up with, is shits and giggles. The ISBN agencies also lead you to believe you have to purchase the matching barcode for your ISBN, but I have a little secret, with Lightning Source you can generate it for free…)
- Submit your files (And wait…. And wait…)
- Submit your file revisions (Hopefully learning about my mistakes will mean you can skip this step with your own project and avoid all the Greek style plate smashing I’ve been doing to de-stress…)
- Order a proof (For a bizarrely expensive cost).
- Hey presto! Start making those printing orders because it’s a goer!
Treat the above like your road map to POD and follow my lead…
It’s time to tackle the Print-On-Demand book cover…
E-book covers translate well into print covers. Why? Because the designers use the KISS principle – Keep It Simple Stupid. A cover that has wow factor as a thumbnail can’t help but pop at the print book cover size. If you want to learn more about cover design see my previous post or listen to my podcast interview with e-book cover designer Kit Foster.
But the real challenge is making sure your blurb is a dynamite stick of words ready to blow a reader’s mind. I talk about creating your book ‘pitches’ here if you need a little awesome-blurb-writing-refresher-course. However, the key things to remember are:
- The blurb is a sample of the writing in your book, it has to entertain, and intrigue in equal measure.
- It must introduce your character, the villain, the world and the obstacles faced by your protagonist. Don’t include subplots; they come out in the reading of the book!
- It needs to mention what the protagonist stands to lose or gain.
- Finally, you have to leave the reader hanging with a statement or question.
If your e-book has been out there for a while, you may also have some kick arse reviews you can add to the back of the book to further intrigue and entice your reader to buy. Below are the conversions of my e-book covers to print book covers. As you can see, the front cover is the same as the e-book version, the spine is of the same font (and for The Grand Adventures of Madeline Cain, part of the title has been removed to make it fit nicely on the spine), and the back cover is very simple.
I limited each blurb to 150 words, basically one paragraph, so the back cover wouldn’t look crowded and I could add several review blurbs without going into the blank area at the bottom where the barcode for the cover needs to be. For non-fiction (in my case the E-book Revolution book I’m creating) you should always have a short 50-100 word author bio and photo about yourself on the back. Proving your credentials as an expert is vital to convincing an audience to buy a non-fiction book, particularly in print, as they are paying a lot of money in comparison to an e-book. You need to give them a reason to give you a chance, just don’t fake superhero credentials, ok?
Before you design a print book cover you need to know:
- What the dimensions of the book are going to be. I would suggest you use one of the two most common – trade paperback (6”x9”) or regular paperback size (5.5”x8.5”).
- You need to know how many pages your book will be when it’s printed – this dictates how thick the spine has to be and how little the writing will need to be on the spine. Just promise me you won’t make your book dimensions so large that the spine becomes a sliver that has to be read with a magnifying glass. We will go through how to create the interior and find out that all important page number in Part 2 of this series.
You then need to put this cover into a Lightning Source template, making sure that all of the text, images and logos fit within the correct areas in the template. The biggest advantage of the template (only just eclipsing its ability to annoy the crap out of you) is that it generates a barcode coded to your ISBN. Why is this important? Every print book is required to have an ISBN and barcode on the back. Many authors are lead to believe they have to buy their barcode from the ISBN agency in their country. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer to save my $40 barcode cost and replace that with a perfectly good free one, thank you very much – so watch out for Part 5 of this series where I talk about Lightning Source cover templates and free barcode generation.
This is the very simple first step of that processes to holding a real, shiny book in my hands *happy dance*. As part of this process I also want to be very honest in what it has cost me to set this all up. So at the end of each post I am going to put a running total of project costs, so all you wonderful indies out there have a guideline not only to the process, but the mullah involved.
In the next post we’ll look at how to create the internal PDF file for your Print on Demand (POD) book.
Until then, why not leave a comment below voting for your favourite of the above three covers? What content did you put on the back of your book? Would love to hear what you think is most important. Encouragement as I struggle through the process is also appreciated!