When the writing is over, the hard work begins

I HAVE BEEN working on the manuscript for a new book, which I plan to publish. I will not reveal what I am writing about … at least, not yet!

As I have been doing for the last few years, I write my text on Microsoft Word, and then re-read it several times, revising and correcting errors of fact, spelling, and grammar. At this stage, I am not too fussed about formatting because this has to be done using other software.

To upload a manuscript to publishers like lulu.com and Amazon KDP, it is best – if not essential – to prepare the final manuscript as a formatted .pdf file. The characteristics of the file need to match what will eventually appear on the printed page. Currently, I am using Serif’s Affinity Publisher software, which is a bit fiddly at first, but it does not take long to get used to it (there are many useful tutorial videos on-line) Using a preformatted template appropriate to the size of book to be produced, I flow my Word text into the Affinity software.

Screenshot from my Affinity Publisher

Once it is in the software, each page shows what will eventually appear on each page of the finished book. Using Affinity, I can add illustrations, add page numbers (which change if additional pages are added), an index, and more. I can also edit my text further and shift the formatting of the pages and the spaces between paragraphs to suit me. This stage of the book production is time-consuming but important.

When, eventually, I am happy with what I have produced, I can export the entire book as a .pdf file. This can then be uploaded to the printer’s website, be it lulu.com, Amazon, or another.

Although the writing can be difficult at times, the final formatting of the book to produce a suitable .pdf, which will ensure that everything is in the right place in the printed book is quite demanding but worthwhile at the ‘end of the day’.

Problems! Problems! Publishing

ALL OF MY books have been self-published. Until recently, I used a ‘print-on-demand’ website called lulu. The process involved first writing my manuscript and formatting the text and any illustrations on Microsoft’s Word software, using a template (for the size of the book) downloaded from lulu. When I was happy with what I had produced, I was able to upload it to lulu’s website. Then, the fun began. Lulu converted my Word document into a .pdf file and when that was done, I could download the .pdf to proofread and make other checks. Almost always, something was lost in translation: what appeared in the .pdf was far from what I wanted. So, endlessly I had to keep adjusting my Word file and uploading it to see whether the latest version produced what I wanted in the lulu generated .pdf. It was tedious and somewhat nerve-wracking to say the least. Then, last summer, disaster struck.

I had just completed the manuscript for a book about west London and was looking forward to uploading it to lulu. It did not take more than a couple of minutes to discover that lulu was no longer accepting manuscripts in the form of Word files. The requirement was to prepare a correctly formatted .pdf file. I was stumped. I had no idea how to do this and felt despondent because I then believed that I might not be able to publish another paperback myself.

Many months passed. Then, while I was perusing some articles on the lulu website, I discovered that one can format .pdf files using software such as Adobe’s InDesign. I investigated this and found it to be quite costly. However, soon I became aware that there is a cheaper option, Serif’s Affinity Publisher, which I bought and downloaded.

At first, Affinity looked impenetrable but there are many on-line tutorials, which I watched before tackling the software. After a few false starts, I began to get the hang of the programme’s basics. Using the relevant template downloaded from lulu, I then inserted the text from my Word manuscript into the Affinity system. After several days of moving the text about and inserting some illustrations and the page numbering, I produced something that looked acceptable. I converted the Affinity file into a .pdf file using the software’s ‘export’ function. Then, with some trepidation, I uploaded my new Affinity-generated .pdf file on to the lulu site. To my great joy, the proof that lulu produced was exactly as I wanted it. So, the Affinity software has proved to be up to the job.

Having found a method to upload to lulu without the problems caused by lulu’s conversion from Word to .pdf, I moved on to finishing and pricing the book. To my horror, I discovered that lulu has increased its prices dramatically. The book, which I created could not be sold to the public for less than £ X plus at least £3.99 postage, which in my opinion was forbiddingly excessive for a book of the size I had made.

Then, I looked at Amazon, which has a book publishing service. Using a new ISBN, I uploaded my .pdf, and after looking at the proof they generated, I looked into the pricing. To my great delight, they can sell the paperback at 58% of lulu’s price excluding postage, which does not always need to be paid. I have seen a copy of the book produced by Amazon and I am happy with its quality. Amazon have captured me from lulu when it comes to book publishing.