Publishing Your Own Book

Image of Iris Carden's books with the caption: Getting your own work in print can be an expensive hobby.

Publishing Your Own Book

Blog post by Iris Carden

Someone contacted me asking if I could turn their idea into a book. I don’t do that for a number of reasons, a key one being that my health issues mean I struggle to have the energy to put my own ideas into books.

What I can do is tell you how I publish my work. I know that doesn’t help if what you were actually after was a ghostwriter. If, however, you’ve written a story you love, and your challenge is how to get it in print, then these instructions may help.

Getting your own work in print can be a very expensive hobby. I know people who have spent thousands of dollars to have their books printed. I don’t have that kind of money, and fortunately, it’s possible to publish without spending so much. This is the most cost-effective way I have found.

Self-Publishing with lulu.com

Step 1. Prepare your work.

Have it in Microsoft Word (particularly important if you are publishing ebooks as well as print books.) Use the the formatting that Word provides for body text. Use Heading 1 format for Chapter headings (the Lulu software uses this to create a table of contents for ebooks.) For a novel, set your page size to A5.  For picture books I use a square page. I do my front matter (Title page, copyright, etc) in a seperate file, so I can do both a print version and an ebook version from the same book body file. The front matter will be different for each type of publication. Do a final edit.  Check grammar spelling.

Step 2. Check your legals.

Make sure what you are publishing is all your own original work, not subject to someone else’s copyright. 

This also applies to your cover art – if you take an image from the internet, check that it is copyright free.  I use photos I have taken myself, or art I have produced myself, to ensure there are no copyright risks.

If your work is non-fiction, check for anything that could be construed as defamatory (it’s safest to have anyone who appears in your work read it, and give you written permission to publish.)  

Remember, very few self-published books will ever earn enough to pay the legal costs for a copyright violation or a defamation suit.

Step 3. Get your ISBN.

(Optional.) It is possible to use a Lulu ISBN instead of your own, but having your own makes your book more discoverable (ie easier for people to find), and the work is tied to you. 

The only place to buy ISBNs in Australia is from THORPE-Bowker Identifier Services at myidentifiers.com.au .    If you are publishing your book in two formats (ie print and ebook) you will need two ISBNS. 

When you buy your first ISBNs you will have to create an account with THORPE-Bowker.  Once you answer all the questions to set up the account, you will be able to sign in and go to your “My Account”  section to manage your ISBNs.  You choose the ISBN you are using for your book, and enter the book’s details. Save, and now your ISBN is now legally and officially assigned to your new book.  (If you can’t provide all the details of your book yet, you can update it later, but remember to do so.)

Note: Do not buy expensive barcodes from THORPE-Bowker. Lulu will create them for you for free, and will place them on the cover of your book.

Overseas readers will have to do an internet search to find out who is licensed to sell ISBNs in their country.

Step 4. Let the world (or at least all Australian libraries) know that your amazing book is about to come out.

(Optional). Go to The National Library’s Prepublication Service 

https://www.nla.gov.au/content/prepublication-data-service and give them the details of your book.

While you’re there, copy or download the notice that says a copy of the book is lodged with the National Library. Add this notice to the front matter of your book.

I don’t know if similar services are available in other countries.

Step 5. Upload your book.

Go to lulu.com and follow the instructions to publish your book. 

You will need to create an account, including advising how to pay you your royalties (you will need a PayPal account.)  You will also be asked to fill out tax forms (I can’t remember if these are done on the site or if they are posted or emailed.) 

Choose the size of your book.  If you are doing a novel, it will be the A5 size.  Other sizes are available, but you will have to reformat your work to fit the size. 

Note: for a colour book, there are limited sizes available, and you will have to format to fit the sizes – and Lulu’s programs won’t do a picture book in ebook format (something I learned from difficult experience.) 

You will be offered the choice to input your own ISBN or use one of Lulu’s.  If you’ve bought your own, upload it here. 

When asked if you want “global reach” say yes – this is a free service that lists your book with pretty much all online bookshops, and also lists it with suppliers who sell to physical bookshops. 

Lulu will automatically produce a barcode of the ISBN and place it on the back cover of your book. 

For ebooks, you can upload multiple files, eg, a front matter file and a book file. 

For a print book, create a PDF file of your book, adding the front matter to the body of the book.

When you’ve filled in everything and uploaded everything, click on “create your book”.

Step 6. Create your cover.

Choose a cover design and colours from the options available and upload the image you are using.  Lulu will automatically put the title and your name on the book.  Click on the empty text sections at the back of your book to write in whatever information you want on the back of your book.  When you’re satisfied with your book cover, click on “Create cover” and wait for the Lulu software to do its magic.

Step 7. Sales information.

Write up the information to promote your book to buyers, and set the price.  (Basically, you get to set how much you want from each sale, and the site adds in the costs of printing, and Lulu’s share, etc.)

Step 8. Order your proof copy.

Order one copy of your print book (or download your ebook).  

Step 9. Approve it to go to market.

Once you’ve received the final product, you have two choices: either re-edit and go back to step 5, or go to your Lulu account and approve Global Reach.   You can do this at your “My Projects page” by clicking “Approve Global Reach”.  Also “Approve Google Book Search”, which allows anyone who searches for your book on Google to read the first couple of pages and hopefully say “Wow, what a great book, I really need to buy a copy.”  

Step 10. Create your “Author Spotlight”.

Your “Author Spotlight” on Lulu is a page that is basically a bookshop for all of your books.  Everything you create in future will automatically be listed there.  Make a note of the internet address of your spotlight (mine’s www.lulu.com/spotlight/IrisCarden ) and give this address to anyone who expresses an interest in buying your book. This will be the cheapest place for customers to buy your book, but will also be where you get your greatest amount of royalties from the book.

Step 10. Do your Legal Deposits.

This is a legal requirement for books published in Australia. Buy two more copies of your book. 

Send one to the National Library.

In Australia, the address is:

Legal Deposit
National Library of Australia
Canberra ACT 2600

Send one to the State Library.

In Queensland, the address is:

Discovery
State Library of Queensland
PO Box 3488
South Brisbane QLD 4101

Again, overseas readers will have to research what the legal deposit (or equivalent) requirements are in their own countries.

Step 11. Tell everyone.

Lulu will distribute your book, and will list it with distributors, but won’t advertise.  The National Library will tell other libraries about your book if you did step 4, but won’t make any recommendation. You need to tell everyone you know about your great literary masterpiece.  If you use social media, promote it there.  Advertise if you can afford it, but otherwise tell everyone you can in every way you can. (I also give a copy of each book to the local library, but again, that’s optional and there’s no guarantee the library will accept it and put it into circulation.)

Note: all this information was valid at the time I last published a book. Some of it changes from time to time.

By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.

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