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Monday, 17 September 2012

A Way With Words - The Ease Of Self Publishing

Those of us who write are seldom lost for words, or care to admit admit that we are. I suspect most people who write blogs fall into this category.

The question remains however, just what to do with these words once they are written (apart from the aforementioned blogging)? Which publishing platforms can help you take your writing project to the next level and produce something of value that you would be proud to share with friends on the coffee table?

A friend of mine who has just returned from an African adventure, getting up close with elephants, mating lions and wildebeest. He showed me a handsome volume he had produced to share with friends and family. What impressed me most was the quality of production; the platform in question being Blurb.

The 'Blurberati', both the company and a community, passionately believe in the joy of books – reading them, creating and sharing them and of course, selling them. With Blurb you have a two-in-one opportunity. You can feed your desire to self publish and also sell what you produce through their marketing platform.

Blurb's authors earned a million dollars in profits last year. They have shipped more than 6 million printed books (excluding custom and offset orders) to 69 countries since their inception in 2006 so they are clearly on to a winner! I should also note that they have had a million authors over the same time period and better still, if you sell a book through Blurb you keep 100% of the profit.

So I decided to 'bench test' the Blurb platform myself so that this review had more substance and I could hold the finished product in my hand to give a fairer assessment to readers.

The thing that impressed me first up was the functionality that gave me several options to set out my book.

You can build it online, or do as I did and download their Blurb Booksmart software. It's a 45 MB download and they recommend 1 GB or more of memory - 512 MB is the minimum.

If you require further guidance or motivation have a look at Blurb's Bookstore section and see the staff picks and best sellers. The preview option of any choice is excellent providing a full screen preview of all pages before purchase.

Preview before purchase
As a practicing digital artist and wearing my 'other hat' I decided to put Blurb to the test myself. My project was to publish a soft-covered forty to fifty page digital art book to test the quality of image reproduction and the finished product overall.

Blurb's user interface is simplicity itself and you can change template options with ease. Whether you want to use text, pictures or a photo layout there are plenty of professional options to suit.

The easy to use templates with their drag and drop functionality
Having added your pages and content you can then preview the book and re-edit as and when needed. There are themes, background and ornaments.

The review panel has full zoom functionality
Flick through page by page and click the edit button if you wish to make changes

Once all is in order click the publish button and you can view a final preview and then order the book. Is it expensive? The answer is that it is surprisingly reasonable for such production values.

A 20 page softcover book using standard paper costs $US19.95 and there are discounts for volume purchases, so giving a copy to the extended family for Christmas becomes a viable option.

A 40-60 page softcover using Blurb's high-end Proline Pearl photo paper bumps up the price to a realistic $US 43.42.

So now I have the finished product in my hand and I am delighted with the result. Judge it for yourself (below) and I am pleased to record that I have already sold a copy through their bookshop.

Had the first Duke of Wellington (who uttered the immortal words "Publish and be damned!") been living in today's digital world he would no doubt have re-phrased his utterance to "Publishing is so damned Easy". So it is with Blurb.
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