If you’re anything like me, you like to know the answer to every question leading up to something you have to do. You need to know every tiny step prior to taking it because you just can’t bear the thought of mis-stepping. If you’re anything like me then you also know that mis-steps are inevitable and despite your best efforts to try to avoid them, they will happen. So what did happen prior to launching the book? How did we get from upload to launch? What in the world happened in between? As promised I’ll share my far-from-perfect process leading up to the book launch in this series: Upload to Launch.

Choosing a Print on Demand Service (POD) 

Before you can even begin to entertain uploading and party planning something has to happen before uploading the the book. You must first decide how you’re going to get your manuscript transformed into a tangible book. You need to choose a printer, or (in my case), a Print on Demand service or POD. There are an abundance of blogs out there that provide information on the different printing options for self-publishers. I chose POD beause it was the best fit for me.

After loads of research and tons of procrastinating (because I’m really good at that) I chose Ingram Spark (a division of Lightning Source) as my print distributor. A lot of factors went into making this decision including overall print cost, print quality, and services relevant to me. Though not the most inexpensive of all the PODs out there, they offered the best services to fit my needs.

Since my book is illustrated, I thought it best to select a POD service that could print in hardback because not all PODs offer hardbound printing. In fact, the most cost effective services scimp in the hardbound printing department. They just don’t do it.

When I started this journey, I had my mind made up that I would print in paperback because hardbound was just too expensive and I simply couldn’t afford it. I figured I could pay for hardcover printing later once I reaped a profit from my book sales. However, as the weeks went on and I conducted field research and paid close attention to the quality and presentation of children’s books on bookshelves in commercial bookstores and libraries, I quickly began to see that printing in hardcover was a no-brainer.

Now, it’s easy to criticize and say Who doesn’t know that? But you tend to look at things from a very different perspective as a publisher versus just being a writer. Self-publishers play a double-duty roll. You not only write and create the manuscript, but you then have to conduct the business of an actual publishing company – paying  for and managing the illustration process, paying the printer, managing distribution, calculating expenses, developing and executing a marketing plan, the list goes on-and-on. And these tasks are far from simple.

I definitely needed to cut corners due to my small budget, but I didn’t think that printing was where the cut should take place. After all, this is an illustrated children’s book. And more often than not, the first thing that attracts children to a book are the pictures.

As a classroom teacher, I have seen the process by which children select books, and believe me, they can be very brutal and critical of books when the books don’t meet a certain quality or standard. Kids put a book back on the shelf or toss it on the table if it looks too old, raggedy, dull, or complicated. Kids want simple, clean, bright, attractive, and fun looking books and illustrations.  Cutting corners on print quality was not an option. Of course, I’m referring to the independent process of children selecting books. If an adult is present naturally they can intercede for children and help them in their selection process. But the goal of getting children to read is to move them toward independence in reading. So thinking about independent selection is important when making your print choices for children’s books.

You will need to pay close attention to all aspects of printing: the size of the book, the type of binding, cover finish, paper quality and weight – everything. Be sure to choose a paper quality and cover quality that will enhance your illustrations. Order samples ahead of time. Some services provide free samples, others require you to pay for samples. Either way, get the samples. In the end, you will not regret it.

Though I couldn’t choose the best quality for every aspect of printing, I did my best to choose a quality that enhanced the illustrations but still didn’t completely break the bank. As a result of all of that attention to detail, I must say, the book is stunning! I couldn’t be happier with the print quality. Admittedly, I feel a little sting in my pocket every time I have to place an order for new books (because you have to pay the POD for your own books), but the reaction of a parent or child the first time they set eyes on my book is absolutely priceless. It’s like spraying that cool anti-itch mist on a bug bite. It’s soothing and makes the sting bearable.

Eli Cover Quality

Questions? Input? Feel free to leave a comment/question below and write on!

Next in series: The Proof Copy Process

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