Self-publishing a book of poetry, best way to do it Print-On-Demand?
November 30, 2021 3:57 PM   Subscribe

My sister and I have been collecting all of my mother’s writings. We thought it would be nice to publish a print-on-demand book of the best pieces. How best to do that?

My sister and I have been collecting all of my mother’s writings—poetry mostly, as well as a few stories from her childhood. We know that she has friends who always enjoy her writing, so we thought it would be nice to self-publish a book of the best pieces.

Instead of making the books and ordering a certain amount ourselves, we thought the best idea would be if we could design the book, and then have Amazon list it as a Print-on-Demand book.

That way, the only copies printed would be the copies people wanted.

Also, it would allow us to just send a link to her interested friends and they could just order it from Amazon easily.

The book would mostly be text, although if there wasn't much of an increase in cost, it might be nice to intersperse a few black-and-white photos here and there that related to the stories/poems. (Like a photo of her at five-years-old next to a poem about that time)

We would also hope to be able to have the cover be in color, so that it could feature a nice photo or artwork.

Can someone tell me what the best/easiest/cheapest way to do this would be—or if it's even do-able?

We're thinking the book would probably be around 6" x 9" and run between 100 and 200 pages.

If there was also a way to set it up as a "real" book with a valid UPC symbol/ISBN number that would be great.

Have any AskMeFites done something like this?
posted by blueberry to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
People do this all the time, and there's a million tutorials on youtube for Kindle Desktop Publishing POD setup and formatting. (Note: many of them are doing this so you can Make Money Fast!!1! with various schemes but the formatting and publishing/listing process is exactly the same. But also there's tutorials directed at indie writers with actual books, too, and they will go into more detail on page layout.)

There's no significant barrier to entry except for time getting your file set up and designing the covers. Most of the tools you'll need will be free or you already own them (like Microsoft Word). There are plenty of videos for getting set up as an author on Amazon for Kindle Desktop Publishing. There are also freelancers who will do the formatting and design for you, if you wish to outsource that part too.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:22 PM on November 30, 2021

Print-on-demand publishing with Amazon KDP is pretty easy, as long as you pay attention to the dimensions of your manuscript & cover. They have good documentation. You can create a color cover using something like Canva or use their built-in cover maker. Just be sure that you are using images that you have the right to use. Black & white images can be in the book at no extra cost. Amazon will provide a free ISBN if you are publishing through them, but you would have to get a new one if you ever want to publish somewhere else.
posted by belladonna at 5:30 PM on November 30, 2021

Kdp print on demand quality is no longer very reliable, many people have been complaining about it. Apparently Ingram Spark creates higher quality books.
posted by Zumbador at 9:06 PM on November 30, 2021

If you don't want to go the Amazon route for whatever reason, is pretty great. Reliable enough and user-friendly enough that three of my Amazon-hating self-published-author friends use Lulu exclusively to sell their books.
posted by MiraK at 4:54 AM on December 1, 2021 [4 favorites]

IngramSpark does create higher quality books, at the cost of being neither free nor easy for those unfamiliar with making book covers.

I'd suggest Amazon or Lulu. If you're selling exclusively via Amazon you can use their ISBN, but you cannot use that anywhere else. Otherwise, you'll need to purchase your own ISBN.
posted by telophase at 10:45 AM on December 1, 2021

As others have noted, Amazon and Lulu are free. Of course you have to pay for author copies, but you get these at a good discount.

A few notes on method: both Amazon and Lulu will work best if you provide a print-ready PDF. If you have Word, it can produce this. You'll also want to do the cover, separately, as a PDF; start with the template they provide. The cover can be in color without changing the printing cost.

The good news and bad news is that book design is entirely up to you. That means you will have to make sure yourself that the poems look good, the font is nice, the pages have proper numbers and headers, the typos have been kept under control.

If you use photos, make sure they are good for print resolution, not just web resolution.

Finally, note that both Amazon and Lulu allow you to make paperbacks or softcovers. You can use the same interior PDF for both, but the cover may need to be adapted because it'll be a different size.
posted by zompist at 1:35 PM on December 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

I used Blurb to "publish" a hardcover book with a print run of 1 and was satisfied with the interface, final product and price (around £20). It even has a UPC code and ISBN. They also have options to sell on Amazon.
posted by stuck on an island at 2:45 PM on December 1, 2021

It's a great idea for exactly the reasons you mention and completely possible.

If it's mostly text and a few pictures, and it's not important to you to have special formatting this isnt too complicated, but you'd probably want to follow a tutorial.

One thing i learned the hard way. Use the size formats that are genetically available. Custom sizes increase the minimum cost.
posted by jander03 at 8:36 PM on December 2, 2021

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