Monthly Archives: October 2009

Update on Status of D-Lux 4 Book Production

Yesterday and today I felt as if I made some good progress toward reaching a final draft of the book. I’m encouraged because I didn’t encounter any particular problems, and I was able to deal with a couple of issues that had been nagging in the back of my mind.

One fact that sometimes impedes my progress is that I don’t have a strong background in the use of some of the software I’m using, particularly Adobe InDesign CS4 for the Mac. It seems to be a great program and very powerful, but I don’t feel that I have the time (or willpower, maybe) to sit down and learn the program from top to bottom. I do have three good tutorial or reference books on the program, and I’m trying to get through the project by looking things up as I need to perform certain functions.

One of the actions I hadn’t figured out before today was how to suppress page numbers on the front pages of the book, such as title page, acknowledgments, etc. I’m used to word processing programs with a function such as “suppress page numbers.” I couldn’t find any such function in InDesign. But today I figured out that the way (or at least A way) to do this is to override the page number text blocks on the master pages. That turned out to be very easy; I just Command-clicked in those text blocks on the first few pages, which allowed me to go into the text blocks and delete the page numbers. Problem solved.

Another issue was putting headers at the tops of the pages. Again, the master pages feature seems to be the answer. I just put a narrow text block at the top of each master page with the book’s title, and overrode the text block on the first few pages of the book, and I believe the header issue is resolved. I haven’t tried to do running headers that reflect the current chapter or topic; maybe I’ll tackle that later, or in a later book.

I also went in today and cleaned up the table of contents, getting the page numbers in line with the text and making a few changes to reflect recent editing changes in headings, etc. More changes will be needed later, but this was another step toward getting the final version ready.

I also was able to take a few more photographs to include in the book. One consistent theme from the volunteer readers has been that the book needs more photographs. So I took a series of photos to illustrate the power of three different flash units for the camera, and I took a multiple exposure with 3 images to illustrate the Multiple Exposure feature of the camera.

I may be done with photographs for now, though I’ll remain open to the possibility of taking more if the need seems to be indicated.

Anyway, I may be ready to print out another full draft later today or tomorrow. I still need to find the right paper to print the text on and the right cover stock for the cover.

The Editing Process for Book About Leica D-Lux 4

I’ve pretty well covered the basics of the equipment and software I’m using to write, produce, and print my book on how to use the Leica D-Lux 4 digital camera. Now I’ll talk a little about the editing process.

I’ve always considered myself a fairly good writer, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten more realistic about my limitations. I can write what I believe to be clear and accurate prose about a subject I’m familiar with, but my first drafts definitely need improvement.

For this project, I read or at least consulted quite a few books about self-publishing. Several of them made a point of advising the writer to have his manuscript professionally edited. That is, don’t try to edit it yourself, and don’t ask a friend or relative to do it; hire a free-lance book editor.

This advice seemed sound to me, so I set out to find a professional editor. A Google search turned up a site called Book Editing Associates, at book-editing.com. It seemed quite reputable based on my reading of its pages. It is a site for a service that is a network of professional free-lance book editors. The writer submits a request for editing, providing information about the book and some sample pages, and may ask for editors by name, based on their bios on the site. I submitted 50 sample pages of my book and asked for 3 editors by name, because their bios indicated they could deal with a technical how-to book like mine. Their resumes were all quite impressive.

Two of the three responded fairly promptly; the third never responded; I assume she was too busy, or didn’t want to be involved with this type of book.

One of the three, who sounded excellent judging by her e-mail messages to me, eventually dropped out because she was fully booked for the next couple of months, and I didn’t want to wait that long.

The third was quite responsive, and she sent me a proposal to edit my manuscript, which was about 47,000 words long at that time, for about $2,700.00, doing two “passes,” one of them after I made the recommended changes, to see if any further changes were needed.

That price was much more than I had anticipated; I was hoping to pay no more than about $1,200.00 as an upper limit. So I negotiated, and she agreed to do just a single “pass” for $1,400.00. I felt that was okay, but in the end we didn’t make a deal because she couldn’t get started for more than a month — too long a wait for me. Next time I do this, I will know to leave more time to find an editor, because the good ones obviously get booked several months in advance.

I kept searching, and followed some leads from an excellent book by Aaron Shepard called Aiming at Amazon, about the print-on-demand process. I went to his site at www.newselfpublishing.com and eventually found a site that recommended a particular editor. I contacted her by e-mail, and she agreed to do the editing for $700.00. She was available to start within about a week. She turned out to be very reliable, and finished the job on time. Of course, it’s difficult to tell how good a job she did, but I found some of her edits to be quite astute and helpful.

The other part of the story was getting people to review the book for substance. The book has to go into minute detail about the operation of the Leica D-Lux 4 camera, and how to operate its controls, switches, and menus to take good pictures. I of course have the camera and have learned how to use it fairly well, but I am not a super-gearhead user like some of the people who contribute to discussion forums, nor am I a particularly accomplished photographer, though I used to develop my own pictures and have owned many cameras over the years.

I have learned a great deal about the camera and its uses on the Digital Photography Review web site, dpreview.com, particularly in its Leica Talk discussion forum. So I decided to contact one of the forum members who contributes a lot and has an excellent site for photography with the D-Lux 4 camera. His e-mail address was available through the forum, and he replied within a day to my request for him to read my draft. He said he wasn’t an expert on all aspects of the camera, but he would be happy to read my draft.

I sent him the draft and waited two weeks. Finally, he sent me a message saying he had turned out to be too busy to read it. I thanked him and moved on.

Next, I took a step I had been reluctant to do. I posted a message on the forum for everyone to see, saying I was writing this book about the D-Lux 4 and needed some forum members to read it and provide comments, to make sure I hadn’t made some mistake about the camera’s operation or about photographic principles. I was reluctant to do this partly because I didn’t want to appear to be promoting my book on the forum, which is a very valuable resource with some strict rules about non-commercial postings. I also wasn’t sure about putting the book draft out to too wide an audience.

Anyway, I made my posting, and got quite a few responses. Eleven forum members replied asking me to send them the draft, which I did. As of now, almost three weeks later, I have received some excellent comments from four of those readers. A couple of others read all or parts of the draft and provided a few comments. What was somewhat troubling was that several other people asked for copies, which I sent (electronically, as pdf files), and then I never heard from them again. I can assume they ended up being too busy to focus on the draft, or to take the time to write comments.

So, today I finished up revising the draft one more time based on an incredibly useful set of comments from a reader. This man was amazing; he asked for the draft one day, and started sending detailed comments, chapter by chapter, within hours after I sent it to him.

Of course, there is a slight risk, pointed out to me by one of the readers, that someone could post the pdf file on a file-sharing web site somewhere. I’m not too worried about that, though, because I think most people would want a printed copy of the book, and the pdf file that was sent out to several people is now obsolete by several versions.

One of the most important aspects of the editing process was to force me to wait for the edits; I have a tendency to rush toward publication, and now I have had to slow down and take my time, and pay attention to what the readers have told me. The other great advantage of this system was to have readers from the target audience for the book read the manuscript. These are the people who are most likely to catch errors and make valuable suggestions, which they have done to an amazing degree.

Now I have to iron some of the technical glitches I talked about earlier, and I hope to have another draft of the book printed within a few days.

More Equipment; More About Latest D-Lux 4 Book Draft

I’ve recovered from the slight funk I was in a few days ago after printing and binding a copy of my self-published book about how to use the Leica D-Lux 4 camera. There are still several problems to solve, but problem-solving is pretty much the essence of this project at this point, so I shouldn’t complain about the existence of problems.

Here’s a photo of the book draft that I was unhappy with, followed by a closeup showing the result of the perfect binding:

Here is the closeup:

You can’t really see a lot of detail about the copy of the book from these images, but there’s a lot of room for improvement. I plan to re-print the pages with new toner in the printer to improve the quality of the printed photos, and then I’ll probably have to experiment with different papers to work on the curling-pages problem.

As the book gets thicker, it has become apparent that I can’t follow my original plan of printing the cover on an 8.5 by 11 inch sheet of cover stock. When you factor in the thickness of the book’s spine, it becomes necessary to trim too much off of the pages to fit within the cover. So, I’ve ordered some legal-size (8.5 by 14 inch) cover stock. One problem is that the company did not carry that size for the same cover stock I used before, so I had to try a completely different type of paper for the cover. We’ll see how that works out when it arrives in a few days. At least I won’t have to trim the pages down drastically to fit within the cover.

By the way, before I forget to mention it, all the photos for this blog are being taken with the Leica D-Lux 4 camera, the subject of my book. It really is a terrific camera, which is how this whole project got started.

Back to describing the mechanics. Here is a photo of one more piece of equipment that I purchased. This one came from the same eBay seller who sold me the perfect binding machine.

This is a paper-scoring machine. It has only one very specific purpose, and it isn’t strictly necessary, but I think it will add a lot of convenience to the process of binding the books. This machine has one big lever that operates a scoring press (I made that name up, but I think it’s basically accurate). You place a flat book cover on the deck of the machine, lined up with the ruler, then press down hard with the lever, and the cover will be scored with a line that permits a clean, sharp fold. Then you turn the cover around and press on the other side of the spine, and there will be two clear score lines, separated by the width of the spine, so the pages can be inserted neatly, the cover folded cleanly, and the pages glued inside the cover.

That basically covers the equipment I am using, apart from the computer, which is a MacBook Pro.

Next time, I’ll start talking about the writing and editing, getting the ISBN, and similar matters.

Latest Draft of Leica D-Lux 4 Book; More About Equipment

In my last post I talked about the Martin-Yale 7000e paper cutter. I’ll talk some more about equipment in a little while. First, though, an update about the latest draft of my book about the Leica D-Lux 4 digital camera. For several reasons, the draft of the book that was completed yesterday looked terrible when I was done. I had high hopes for this draft, because I had just received the final edits from the copy editor on Friday, October 9, and I received some excellent substantive comments from a volunteer reader from the Leica Talk forum on dpreview.com. I incorporated all of those comments into a new draft in Microsoft Word for the Mac, then set up a new document in Adobe InDesign. I chose the page size to be half letter, or 5.5 inches by 8.5 inches, so I could print them two-up (two pages per sheet of paper, in landscape orientation).

I got the draft formatted pretty well in InDesign, and it printed out nicely on the Brother HL-4070CDW color laser printer. I printed in duplex mode, on both sides of each sheet of paper. So, though the book is now just over 200 pages long, I only needed about 50 sheets of paper.

When the 50 sheets came out, I used the Martin-Yale cutter to cut the sheets in half, yielding two stacks of the book’s pages. The first obvious problem was that the pages were curled. And, because the pages were cut apart, the two stacks of pages curled in opposite directions. So, when I put them together to form the whole book, there was no way to get the pages to lie flat; the two curves fought against each other, leaving a gap in the middle of the book.

The next problem was that the black text and color photos all had a bluish cast, and some of the photos looked awful. I checked the printer’s software, which says the printer is low on magenta toner. I ordered a whole set of new color toners, which will arrive tomorrow. I’m hoping that will fix the color problem. I may have to change to a different type of paper (I’m now using Hammermill LaserPrint) to deal with the curling problem.

Finally, I did a lousy job of binding and trimming, so the final book was not squared off properly, and some pages were loose. Oh, well, improvement will come with practice. At least he cover looked fairly good, after I changed it along the lines suggested by one of the volunteer readers.

On to the equipment. Here is a picture of the Martin-Yale 7000e paper cutter:

And here is a picture of the Brother HL-4070CDW color laser printer:

Now, some discussion of the machine I bought for perfect binding. This was the area I was most uncertain about, because book binding is completely new to me, and sounds a little scary. The books I mentioned earlier, by Rupert Evans and Roger Allen, talk about binding machines costing anywhere from about $5,000.00 to a million dollars, though they said you might find a used one for several hundred. I did browse around a bit, and saw a decent-sounding model on Craigslist for $2,500.00 used. I didn’t seriously consider it, though, because it would have been bought sight unseen, and if it had problems I would have no way to repair it.

Dr. Evans did talk in his book about using an electric frying pan to melt the glue for binding books, and I seriously considered that idea, but I decided it would call for too much ingenuity and probably would require me to improvise some other items, such as stands and presses to hold the book during the binding process.

Ultimately, I looked on eBay and found listings for brand-new perfect binding machines in the $700.00 dollar range. That seemed surprising, given the information about pricing in the books I had read, but those books are at least nine years old, and the market may have changed. So, I asked the seller some questions through eBay, and he responded quite quickly with helpful information about how the machine works and whether it would be suited for my application of binding paperback books in small quantities. I took a chance and ordered the machine. Here is a picture of it:

So far, I have been quite favorably impressed by the machine. I’ve bound about five practice paperbacks with it, and the results have been mixed, but I think that’s a function of my inexperience. The machine includes a device to “mill” the spine edge of the pages to roughen them so the glue will adhere well; the hopper on the right side holds glue pellets, which are heated by the machine to about 338 degrees F (170 degrees C), and then the melted glue is dripped all along the spine. You then use the machine’s big lever on the right to press down the cover against the glue-covered spine and hold it down for several seconds. The book is then bound; the hot glue dries and hardens very quickly. Then, three trims in the paper cutter and the book is (in theory) ready for distribution.

So, for now I’m working to improve some aspects of the draft, and then I’ll concentrate on working the bugs out of the printing process. I’m still hoping to publish the book later this month or sometime in November.

Equipment for Printing and Binding Your Own Books

In my last post I discussed the Martin-Yale guillotine stack paper cutter, which some say is the most essential piece of equipment for printing and binding your own books. Now I’ll talk about the other items that I acquired for this project.

First is the printer. I already had an inkjet printer, an HP C6180 all-in-one printer and scanner, which does a nice job for everyday printing. But it is not suited for printing the pages of a book, at least from what I’ve read and observed. One of the recommendations is to use a laser printer. One important feature is that the printer be a duplexing printer — that is, that it can automatically print on both sides of the sheets of paper. Somewhat ironically, I used to have one of the printers that was recommended — a Lexmark 4039 with duplexing attachment, but I disposed of it several years ago. Anyway, because my book is about a camera and will need to include color photographs, I decided a color laser printer was needed.

I did a fair amount of research on the internet. Actually, Amazon.com turned out to be a good place to look into color lasers, because many people have reviewed them on that site. It can be tricky to evaluate the reviews, because some people will say a printer is the greatest one ever made, and someone else will say it’s a piece of junk. I read through a large number of reviews and ultimately settled on the Brother HL-4070CDW. The C stands for color, the D stands for duplex, and the W stands for wireless, because it (theoretically) will connect to a wireless network.

This printer had more than 100 reviews on Amazon, many of them very favorable. One great feature was its price — when I bought it, a couple of months ago, it sold new on Amazon for only $325.00, which seems to me to be an amazing bargain. (Now it’s gone up again, but I believe the price fluctuates for some reason.) One of the complaints some buyers made, though, is that, even though the printer is not expensive, when you need to replace the color toner (four separate cartridges), that will cost more than the price of the printer.

I’ve found the printer somewhat tricky to use. When you print its demo page, it looks fantastic, with bright, vivid colors and great resolution. It’s not as easy to get that great quality from my own printing, though I’m starting to figure out how to tweak the settings. I finally figured out how to find the Brother “printer profiles,” buried in a system folder, that will help the printer yield better quality output. The duplexing works fine, and the speed is fine also. The print quality is no problem at all; it’s getting the color photos to look their best that is the biggest challenge so far.

Next time, I’ll discuss the binding machine.

Software and Equipment Used for Publishing Project

I relied on advice in the books I mentioned in the last post to select software and equipment to produce and publish my book about the Leica D-Lux 4 compact digital camera. The book titled Book Production and Design is an excellent guide to page layout for a self-published book. The software it recommends for this purpose is Adobe InDesign, a successor to PageMaker. In fact, the book provides a detailed step-by-step roadmap to setting up the book using InDesign. So, that is the software I bought. I have used other Adobe products for years, notably Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, and Premiere (for video editing). I like the Adobe programs, but a problem for a self-publisher is the expense of these programs, which are used by and designed for commercial operations. By careful shopping on eBay, I managed to find a legal, licensed copy for about $300 or so; an upgrade edition that was sold along with the qualifying product for the upgrade.

For the initial writing of the book’s text, I used Pages for the Macintosh. I recently switched from a Windows computer to a MacBook Pro, and bought a copy of iWork, a Mac suite that includes word processing, presentations, spreadsheet, etc., like Microsoft Office, but cheaper. Pages worked fine as a word processor, and I was able to save the document in .rtf format for importing into InDesign.

Because my book is about the use of a digital camera, I need to have photographs in it. InDesign is good at handling graphics, but I need to edit the images first. For that, I bought a copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements. I didn’t have Photoshop for the Mac and didn’t want to buy a copy, so I settled for Elements version 6.0. So far, Elements has worked out well for me. It has really grown from being a small-time version of Photoshop to being a robust program that allows me to do anything I need to do, including editing photos in RAW format, which is a fairly sophisticated feature. It also allows me to resize the images, crop them, adjust colors, and everything else I need to do to get the images ready for inclusion in the book.

I also bought a copy of Adobe Illustrator, thinking that it would help me include illustrations or drawings showing the camera’s controls. That hasn’t worked out, at least not yet, because I’m using the new Snow Leopard operating system on the Mac, and I haven’t been able to get Illustrator to run at all. I’m hoping that will be fixed with updates to the Mac OS or to Illustrator before too long.

That’s it for software, other than standard items such as internet browser (FireFox), web development (DreamWeaver), and other items needed for general work on the computer.

I’ll start my discussion of equipment by mentioning one item. In the previous post, I wrote about Rupert Evans’ excellent book, Book-on-Demand Publishing. In that book, he makes it clear that the one item you absolutely have to have to print and bind your own books is a heavy-duty paper cutter. I had, like most people, worked fairly often with a standard office-type of paper cutter, with the blade that swings down to trim a few sheets of paper. What Dr. Evans is talking about is called a guillotine or stack cutter. This type of equipment can slice neatly through a stack of one hundred or more pages, depending on the model. It is used to make the final trims of the book, after it has its paper covers and is bound. The book likely needs to have three final trims: on the right side and at the top and bottom. The result is a final-looking book, with clean, squared-up pages. Without a heavy-duty stack paper cutter, you can’t really achieve that look.

Most such paper cutters cost upwards of a thousand dollars; many of them are electrically powered, come with stands, have some automatic features, and cost thousands. But, there is one model that sits on a tabletop and is completely manual, but solidly built and able to slice cleanly through about 200 sheets of paper. That is the Martin-Yale 7000e. That is what I bought. I tried to find a new one, but everywhere I tried was out of stock, so I bought a “lightly used” one on eBay, for almost as much as a new one would cost. (I paid slightly over $600.00.) With my wife’s assistance, I have made several cuts, and it does what it’s supposed to do. We had problems for a while when it would not cut through the final few sheets, but we figured out that the cutting stick had been worn through where the blade comes down. I rotated the cutting stick (which is a piece of wood or plastic that provides a resistant surface below the blade’s cutting area), and now it cuts well again.

Next time, more about the equipment. After that, I’ll talk about getting help with editing.

First Installment of Technical Info

For the moment I will stop providing updates on the present, and concentrate on the (recent) past. I’m going to give some details about what hardware and software I’m using or planning to use, some points about how I chose it, and some discussion of sources of information.

First, the information sources. There are many, many books in print currently about self-publishing. One that is often cited is the Self-Publishing Manual by Dan Poynter, which is updated every couple of years or so. The edition I have is from 2007. It’s an excellent general reference work. Another one I’ve just started reading is The Well-Fed Self-Publisher, by Peter Bowerman, a follow-up to his two earlier books about freelance writing in general. But, as I said, there are many others.

A subset of self-publishing books is books about “print-on-demand,” which, generally speaking, is the process of having books printed in small quantities as needed, rather than in one-time batches of hundreds or thousands, as is the norm in commercial publishing. One good general book on this topic is Print-On-Demand Book Publishing, by Morris Rosenthal. Another one, which I recommend highly because of its frankness and very detailed “inside” information, is Aiming at Amazon, by Aaron Shepard, with copyright dated 2007-09, so it’s quite up-to-date.

Then I come to the two books that are the only books I have found so far that discuss the type of endeavor I’m working on — that is, self-printing and binding as well as self-publishing. The more recent of these two books is A Quick Guide to Book-On-Demand Printing, by Roger MacBride Allen, published in 2000. This is a very well-written and informative book, and it goes into excellent detail about the process of actually producing your own books, from page design all the way through to binding.

Finally, the book that is in some respects my primary “bible” for this project, though it’s getting a bit dated: Book-on-Demand Publishing, by Rupert Evans, published in 1995. This last book is my favorite in part because the character of the author shines through it in a very personable way. From postings on the internet and information in Roger Allen’s book (which acknowledges a considerable debt to the Rupert Evans book), it emerges that Rupert Evans is a college professor with a doctorate who enjoys printing and binding books in small quantities at his home, for himself, for neighbors, and, evidently, anyone who asks him. His book discusses in very useful detail the various alternative methods of printing, and how to select papers, printing devices, binding equipment, paper cutters, and the like. For an example, although he did purchase a commercial book-binding machine, he says that, if he were starting over, he would get an electric frying pan to melt the glue that’s used to bind books, rather than spending the money for a more elaborate machine that doesn’t accomplish the end result appreciably better.

There’s one other book I need to mention, which focuses only on one aspect of the process. That is Book Design and Production, by Pete Masterson. This is an excellent reference work with specific details about how to do page layout, cover design, and prepare a book to go to the printer.

If anyone knows of other good books in these areas, especially any focusing on printing and binding your own books, I would be very interested to hear about them.

In a future post, I will discuss software and equipment, among other matters.

Some More Details About the Self-Publishing Project

In the previous post, which was the first for this blog, I tried to bring the story fairly well up to date without going into a fine level of detail. This time I will again start out with a “snapshot” of the current situation, and then go back to fill in some of the gaps in the history of my venture.

As a general reminder, what I’m working on is a relatively single-handed publishing venture. I’ve written a book about how to use the Leica D-Lux 4 compact digital camera, and am planning to print copies of the pages, design and print paper book covers, bind the covers to the pages, then sell the books however I can, either online, through physical stores, or other ways.

What I think makes this venture different from traditional self-publishing is the self-printing and binding aspect of it. As I said in the previous post, many of the experts on self-publishing either assume that the self-publisher will hire a commercial printer to print and bind the books, or will advise the self-publisher not to try to do the printing and binding, because it’s too difficult or too fraught with pitfalls.

For the snapshot of what’s going on right now, I’m still waiting for the copy editor to send me back the edited copy of the book. In the meantime, several volunteers who I met online through a photography forum are reading the book and begininng to offer comments (some very useful, others not) about the photographic topics. I’m continuing to work with and adjust the software and hardware I will be using for the various aspects of the project. Also, I’m watching with some nervousness various posts on the photography forum saying that some people think the D-Lux 4 camera is going to be discontinued in the near future. That would not be good; there would still be plenty of the cameras in circulation, but I believe people are more likely to buy a book explaining the use of their camera if they have just bought a new camera.

Now I will go back and fill in some more of the details leading up to the current snapshot.

As I said last time, I had some trouble finding a topic for a book; my only other book, a World War II biography, was published in 1996. In the interim, I toyed with the thought of writing a novel. I made many notes on possible plots, characters, and scenes to include, but none of them ever really got me excited enough to start writing. I took some fiction writing courses by correspondence, online, and through local adult education offerings, but none of them really inpsired me.

Over the years, I spent a good deal of time selling things on eBay and Amazon, through Amazon Marketplace. I enjoyed that sort of activity. On eBay in particular, I enjoyed taking good-quality digital photographs of the items I was selling, and quite a few of those items were digital cameras. I have always been somewhat of a gadget lover and early adopter, and I would get the latest model of camera and sell the old one.

Eventually it dawned on me that I could combine several of my interests — writing, selling, and digital photography, by writing a book about a camera. I don’t remember exactly when and how I heard about the D-Lux 4, but I must have been browsing in the Digital Photography Review, www.dpreview.com, which I often do. I have to admit I was impressed by the Leica name, even though the camera is essentially a re-branded version of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3. The camera got very positive reviews, and the users on dpreview.com had many positive comments and stories about using it. Among those comments, people occasionally asked if there was a book available to supplement the user’s manual, as there are for other cameras, primarily the more popular DSLR cameras such as the Canon EOS series and the Nikons, etc. It turned out that there isn’t any such book (at least none listed on Amazon.com). I thought for a while, and then decided that would be a good project for me.

I had to be realistic, though — obviously, a book of this sort has a limited shelf-life. Digital camera models come and go like autumn leaves. On the other hand, Leica models might have a little bit more staying power; that company doesn’t come out with new models as often as a company like Canon or Sony. But the book probably wouldn’t be current for more than about a year, if I’m lucky. The camera has been out for a little over a year as of now, and it may be discontinued at any time.

So it didn’t seem practical to submit a proposal to a commercial publisher, because the camera has been out for a while, and it would take months for that process, from queries to possible acceptance to editing and publication. Also, as I’ve been reading in various books and articles, as the author of a book like that, I would not get a very big share of the sales proceeds — the money would go to the publisher, distributors, retailers, etc., with not much left over for me.

The solution was to self-publish. But, as I said last time, my first book was very expensive to self-publish with the aid of a commercial publishing company. I wanted to minimize the up-front costs. I’ve read a good deal about “print on demand,” the process by which an author contracts with a company that will print the author’s book, and then produce as many copies as are needed, but only when they are really needed for sales, so you don’t end up with an inventory of unsold boxes in cartons. (I still have hundreds of copies of my first book in cartons.)

Print-on-demand sounded fairly attractive, but the costs still seemed high. I haven’t looked at any figures lately, but I believe it would be somewhere around $5.00 to $10.00 per copy to produce the book I was planning. And that wouldn’t include full-color photographs, which I believe are needed for a book about how to use a camera.

The result of this thought process was the conclusion that I need to not only self-publish, but also self-print and bind. I have to admit that part of the attraction of that approach is that I enjoy learning new things and overcoming technical challenges like this. The idea of figuring out how to print and bind books that would have an acceptable appearance for selling commercially appeals to me.

That was the plan, then, and it still is. Next time, I’ll discuss more details about what software and equipment I’m using, and how the whole self-publishing project has unfolded so far.

If you have any comments or questions about the project, or about the general process of self-publishing, printing, binding, etc., please leave a comment. Thanks.

Bringing the Story Up to Date

I’m calling this blog “An Individual Publisher’s Journey.” I could have referred to my story as that of a self-publisher or a small publisher, but settled on “individual publisher.” I don’t know if that phrase is a common one or not, but it seems to describe what I’m doing.

Let me bring the story up to date, after a brief snapshot of the present.

As of today, I have a draft of my book with a freelance copy editor. The draft also has been sent out to several volunteers with knowledge and interest in the subject of the book. Yesterday I worked on calibrating my printer and monitor so the color photographs in the book have a better chance of looking like reality. I have a list of more photographs to take, and I need to re-design the book’s cover. I’m hoping to publish the book later this month, or maybe in early November. I still need to work on the index. I need to do some research on a topic suggested by one of the volunteer readers. I need to figure out how to blog; this is my first blog post, which I’m undertaking at the suggestion of another of the volunteer readers.

Okay, that was a snapshot of the status of the project as of today. Now I will enter flashback mode and describe what I’m trying to accomplish, and how I got to this point.

I have a full-time job working for a large organization, but ever since my high school days I have entertained visions of being a writer. For years I dabbled in writing stories, read magazines like Writer’s Digest, The Writer, and others, bought copies of Writer’s Market and many other books about how to get published. I submitted stories on occasion to magazines and had them quickly rejected. I submitted some non-fiction articles, and they were mostly accepted. I had a few reviews of computer printers published back in the 1980s.

Then, in 1992, after my mother died, I came into possession of a large collection of items that belonged to my uncle, Joseph Sailer, a U.S. Marine Corps dive-bomber pilot who distinguished himself in battle at Guadalcanal during World War II. He was killed in combat on December 7, 1942. My mother had spoken of her brother often, and hinted that she would like me to write his story some day.

So, starting in 1993, I set out to gather all the available material and add to it by interviewing his surviving military colleagues and doing research in military archives. I put his story together in a book called Dauntless Marine: Joseph Sailer Jr., Dive-Bombing Ace of Guadalcanal. I submitted the manuscript to about six publishers. Five of them either didn’t respond or rejected it summarily. The last one, Naval Institute Press, showed some interest, but decided not to publish it.

Rather than start another round of submissions to publishers, I decided to self-publish the book. I saw an article in The Washington Post about a biography of baseball legend Walter Johnson. The book had been written by a local author who wanted to control the publication himself. He hired a Washington publishing company, Farragut Publishing, to put the book together for him.

The book looked just like any commercially published book, and that sounded like a good approach, so I called Farragut. They were very professional and appeared to be (and were) quite reputable, and the project worked out well. Dauntless Marine was published in 1996 and got a few fairly favorable reviews. It appeals to a fairly narrow audience, mostly people with relatives who were at Guadalcancal (or were there themselves, though there aren’t too many left), or those with an interest in Marine Corps aviation history.

The one big drawback of this system of publishing was the expense. The book is hardbound and looks very nice, but I’ll never come close to recovering the costs of printing it. It’s available now on Amazon.com, where it sells roughly six copies per year. I have probably about 700 copies sitting around the house in shipping cartons.

I wanted to write another book, but had trouble finding a topic. Finally I realized that I could combine a couple (or more) of my interests and start a new book project. I have enjoyed photography for several decades; I used 35mm film cameras in the 1960s, including a Besseler Topcon and various Canon models, a Pentax, and others. I also did some Super-8 movie-making, and even a bit of 16mm filming with a Bolex. In recent years, when digital photography started to take over, I have used a series of increasingly capable digital cameras.

My most recent camera, which I bought a few months ago, is a Leica D-Lux 4. The D-Lux 4 is a compact, point-and-shoot sized camera, but with unusually sophisticated features and specifications for a pocketable camera. Leica is a prestigious brand name; the company’s other cameras, dating back decades, are very expensive (thousands of dollars), high-quality pieces of equipment. The D-Lux 4 is expensive for a compact digital camera (about $700), but relatively affordable.

The camera seems to have an enthusiastic following, especially on the Leica forum at dpreview.com, an excellent site for information about digital cameras. The camera’s user guide is somewhat impenetrable, and there is no third-party book about the camera available, as there are for other cameras, mostly the larger DSLRs (digital single-lens reflex cameras, which take interchangeable lenses).

So, my project was to write a guidebook to the D-Lux 4. The camera has been on the market for about a year now, and no digital model lasts very long these days, so I didn’t really have time to submit the book to commercial publishers. So I decided to publish the book myself. This time, though, I can’t turn to Farragut or another publisher like that, because of the expense. The book about my uncle was one I wanted to write no matter what, to make a historical record for the benefit of my relatives and my uncle’s military colleagues and others with an interest in his story. The camera book, though, is one I hope to sell and make some (not much) money from.

I have read several books about self-publishing; the frequently updated book by Dan Poynter and several others. One possibility started to intrigue me, though. Most of the experts on self-publishing expect the author to complete the manuscript, possibly going as far as doing the page layout in a program such as Quark Express, PageMaker, or, more recently, Adobe InDesign, and then submit a .pdf file to a printing company to have them produce the actual books.

There is the possibility, though, of going one step further with the “self” aspect of self-publishing, and do everything yourself, including printing and binding. When I saw posts on the internet asking about this, the experts generally would say something like, no, self-printing won’t work; it’s very complicated and messy, and never turns out well.

They may turn out to be right, but I’m in the process of finding out for myself. In other words, I am planning to print the book on a laser printer at home, then bind it with a paper cover, and distribute them, however I can, from home.

Okay, that is the basic story to date. Next time I will go into some more details about exactly what I have done so far, in terms of equipment, procedures, obstacles, etc.