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How to Have a Disastrous Small Business Self-Publishing Experience (Part 1)

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How to Have a Disastrous Small Business Self-Publishing Experience (Part 1)

I’ve been around books and publishing my whole life, so I’ve seen people do some rather crazy things with their books. To help you understand what not to do in your self-publishing journey, here’s a little story about Bob and everything he did wrong with his publishing. Bob of course isn’t real, but I have seen everything you are about to read happen at one time or another … more or less … (and not with my involvement, of course!).

Bob has written a book for his small business, and starts doing some research online about who can help him self-publish it. He chats to a few companies that would manage the whole process for him and gets a few quotes, but they are higher than he expected – over $10,000.

Bugger that, thinks Bob. I’m smart. I know how to manage a project. I can do this myself.

So Bob enlists his wife to edit his book, because she reads a lot. And one of the companies mentioned proofreading, but Bob reckons a few of his mates reading it will do him just fine. They know how to spell. Bob also remembers that the kid over the road prints a video-game newsletter for his friends, and for $800 Bob enlists him to do his book cover and interior. And the local printer – who usually does brochures, posters and mail outs – says “of course” she can print Bob’s book. She can print anything!

Bob now thinks he can get the whole thing sorted for under $5000. Stupid rip-off self-publishing companies.

So Bob’s wife reads the book carefully, and “edits” it with the best of intentions. But she doesn’t notice that Bob refers to a glossary that isn’t there. She doesn’t realise that his Forward should be a Foreword, and also that his Foreword isn’t actually a Foreword or a Forward but a Preface. She doesn’t notice the jump between Australian spelling, US spelling and – occasionally – no spelling. She applies the grammar rules she learned at school, which are often wrong, and doesn’t notice the numerous copyright infringements.

But, Bob’s happy! And his wife thinks it’s awesome.

He passes the book to the kid over the road. The kid doesn’t know how pages are meant to be placed in a book, or how page numbering works, or to have a larger margin on the inside of the page to allow for the spine. And he doesn’t know anything about book genres, so he creates a cover that he and Bob think looks great but is completely inappropriate for Bob’s target market.

Bob’s wife loves it.

Bob then supplies the files to the printer. When they try to set up Bob’s book for printing, the files supplied by the kid fall apart. The fonts aren’t embedded. The colour mode is wrong. The image resolution is low. The margins are incorrect. The left-hand pages should be on the right-hand side and vice versa. The spine width on the cover is wrong. Not the sort of problems you have printing your video-game newsletter on your inkjet printer in your bedroom. And Bob gave the printer and the kid different sizes, so Bob’s print quote is wrong too.

When they finally get this all sorted with the help of somebody at the printer who actually knows how to professionally prepare files, Bob’s books are printed at last. But, as the printer isn’t an expert book printer, the binding is poor, the spine is out of alignment, the colour is flat and the lamination is peeling.

Bob isn’t happy – and he doesn’t yet know about all the typos and other mistakes people are going to find in his book because reading a lot and being good at spelling don’t actually qualify you to work on a book. But, he doesn’t have the time or the money to start again, so he decides to soldier on.

* * * * *

Tune into the next instalment in two weeks to find out how Bob takes his poorly produced book and leverages it into annoying the bookstores, messing up his publicity and doing a whole lot of damage to the reputation of his business.
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