Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Publish and Be Published. How? Making it.

Free photocopying. Ideally, aim to do your copying for free, which for most people means doing it on the sly at work. You’ll save financially and you can copy just the number of novels you need. If you’re really jittery about getting caught copying at work try coming in early or staying late. My big fear is paperjams I can’t clear. An answer is to use a pseudonym that can’t be connected to you, or keep your name off everything but the cover, then copy that elsewhere. Alternatively, be upfront with your workplace and negotiate. I’ve known people to get 1p copies this way.
Copying for free means doing your own collation and assembly. With A4 this is straightforward. With A5, measure and mark where the staples should go. Lay the novel face down on some polystyrene or thick cardboard, then staple through into the soft material below. Lift the novel and bend the staples over by rolling over the prongs with a round pencil. Fold the novel along its spine by hand. For a crisp edge, use a thick stemmed marker pen like a rolling pin along the fold. You can also stack your novels, put a phone book or similar on top, and leave overnight.
Commercial photocopying. Obscurity costs, and right here’s where you start paying. It’s essential you think hard about how many copies of your novel to produce. The more you have produced, the lower the production cost per novel. But that’s no good if they just end up sat in boxes in front room. Aim to produce as few copies as seems viable. I chose to do 200 copies of BCL for no better reason than that I’d read this as a sensible minimum in Peter Finch’s self-publishing guide. Weigh up the choices by getting quotes for different size print runs from each copyshop you contact.
When getting prices for copying get recommendations from friends and, above all, shop around as prices vary wildly. I was quoted up to £1800 for BCL, which ended up costing £324.
When getting quotes and actually placing the order for the work, go out of your way to be clear. Spell out exactly what you want, even if it feels like you’re insulting someone’s intelligence. Specify number of copies, number of originals, whether stapling and collation are included, where on the novel the stapling should be done, and whether delivery is included. Ask what margin is needed to allow for stapling. To give a sense of how this stuff is expressed, the invoice for BCL states; 200 sets of 90sides copied on white 80gsm, double sided, finishing= 2 x staples @ left. The work should be zero rated for VAT. Get confirmation of quotations and orders in writing, even if only by email. I used a Peckham firm called Clearaprint. They were ace; cheap, friendly and quick, they delivered the novels neatly boxed in less than two days.
Around this point in the process is a good time to consider what to charge for your novel. I aimed to keep the ‘retail’ price as low as possible, while covering costs, including stuff like postage, review copies, damaged returns from shops, etc. I found the lower the price, the more likely people were to take a chance on my writing.
Digital options. If you’re skint or want to save trees, some electronic options are either free, cheap or lessen the slog of distribution. One option is to put your novel on a blog. I’ve now done this at http://theblackcarleaving.blogspot.com/ . See http://www.blogger.com/ for tips on blogging your novel in a readable format.
Alternatively you could turn your novel into a PDF file and let people download it from your website. There’s free PDF conversion software available at http://www.pdf995.com/ . More simply, you could offer to email your novel to interested people as an attachment. This way you still get the sense of an exchange happening as you would selling a paper version of your novel one to one. Or you could set up an email list, and email your novel to people serialized in instalments. It’s easy to set up an email list for free. See http://www.notifylist.com/ .
You could sell your novel mail-order on 3 ½ inch floppy disc. A novel easily fits on one disc, which will pop neatly into one of those little wage packet envelopes available in stationers, although you need to put some extra padding inside. Bought in bulk from places like Office World, 3 ½” floppies cost about 25p each.
You could be really adventurous and do your novel as a spoken word project. You’ll need some way of recording sound, but it’s easy (ahem) to get recording software for a PC now. A CDR holds 74 minutes of sound (about 14800 words) so a 74,000 word novel will fit on 5 CDs. Spindles of 50 blank CDRs are £10 in pound shops, so if you burn the discs and do the packaging yourself, you’re looking at a cost of about £1 per novel. Some people worry that certain digital options offer no protection from plagiarism, but I think that finally the methods of production and distribution won’t stop someone determined to rip you off.
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