Tips for Creating a Chapbook

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If you don’t know already, a chapbook is a small book filled with poetry, usually from the same poet. It is usually less than fifty pages in length. I just got done making one with my creative partner, using my mother’s poetry. Here are some hints of how we got it done:

The first step in creating a chapbook is to pick the poems. It’s best if they follow a theme.

Next, decide what embellishments or illustrations are going to be used. They can be anything from clipart to photos to illustrations. I used pen and ink illustrations, reduced town to pure black and white, one to a poem. So the format had one poem with one facing illustration. It’s best if there is spacing between poems like that, so each one can be savored and enjoyed individually.

Next, decide the format. We chose 6″ by 9″ perfect bound, because it allowed higher quality than a folded, stapled, booklet style, at the same time as being less expensive to print. Shop around, both at your local business supply stores, as well as at online self publishing places like CreateSpace.

Then, get the illustrations and decide what is going to go with what. Choose a good, readable font, and if the font is going to be some kind of handwriting, make sure it’s large enough to read. As you format the poems, make sure you know how wide the margins should be with the publisher you have picked.

Design the cover – again, check the minimum print resolution – how many pixels for inch, measurements, that kind of thing. Make sure to leave space for the bar code if you are using CreateSpace.

Tip: When creating the interior file, make sure you set the page size and margin width before you begin, that way you are doing it correctly from the start.

Lastly, when everything is the way you want it, convert the file to PDF. Do the same thing with the cover art. The PDF format locks the file so your format stays the same and can’t be changed. It forces the printer to make it just as you wanted it. LibreOffice will do file conversions very easily, and GIMP will convert your cover art into a PDF as well. Both are free programs with no ads or spyware.

Then send your PDFs to the printer, whether it’s an office supply store’s printing services, or CreateSpace, or wherever you want to use. Happy creating!

Essential Tips for Aspiring Writers

I’ve watched the publishing industry change radically over the years, helped publish a few books, and in all of it I’ve seen that certain things remain true. So I have come up with some tips and rules to help protect you from career-breaking mistakes.

Do not ever pay an agent fee or pay a company a publishing charge. Those are used by vanity publishers and scam artists to separate you from your money and give you nothing. I don’t care how good they make the deal look stay away!

If you are an aspiring writer and want to be published traditionally, do not let your desire blind you to scam artists. Get a copy of Writer’s Market, find an agent that will look at your work. Do not pay anyone. Be particularly wary of any unsolicited emails from publishing companies with glowing testimonials, compliments about your work, and promises of big profits. I’m looking at you, SBPRA!

Carefully check any contracts to make sure you retain control over your work. Look for hidden fees. Get someone else to look at it with you if you have to.

When you self publish, and even if you don’t, use a beta reader. Have one or more people carefully read your work, looking for typos, misspelled words, awkward grammar, or anything else that will make your work look less than its best. The more eyes, the better!

Write what you love, write what you know, and never ever write something you don’t know without expert help. That is, talk it over with someone who knows the subject and then listen to what they have to say!

It’s easier than you think to self-publish!

There are some really great places to self publish these days. I love on-demand publishing. You provide the content, design the cover, do the editing, then submit the book. They will give you an ISBN, catalogue number, etc, and they will make the book available in print or in ebook format or both, depending on what you choose. When a customer buys the book you get part of the money and the printing company gets part. You keep the rights to your book and there is no up front cost.

I love this! For someone with a little know-how, it isn’t hard to make a good quality book that is easily the equal of anything in print. The books look as good as anything on the shelf. And you don’t need an agent, a contract, or anything else to make your work available to the public.

My two favorite self publishing companies are and Createspace is run by Amazon and is a little more user friendly, with a wider distribution available at the free level. But is good too. I’ve published books for others but will soon do one for myself. I’ve noticed that more and more established authors are switching to print-on-demand, and it’s becoming a lot more accepted in the industry.

Have you ever thought of publishing a book?

Pros and Cons of Print On Demand Publishing

I started talking about this my last post about print on demand publishing, which is an increasingly popular way of getting books published.

Print on demand is nice because it doesn’t generate as much waste by printing books no one will read. You get a bigger share of each book’s cost, you have full control of everything, and you retain your rights. Unlike traditional publishing, you won’t have an editor telling you to include something or leave something out. You won’t have forced rewrites. On the other hand, you may not have the benefit of their experience in knowing what is salable. Also, quality control is entirely on you – you can print something that’s rough and half finished, or polished like a precious stone. It’s all up to you.

I personally like that, because I think people have much wider interests than traditional publishing companies will admit. Print on demand also lets you have more control over how much your book costs as well as how much money you will make.

Print on demand has drawbacks too.

You won’t have help with marketing your work, although that can be mitigated with good keywords and by picking a publisher that is partnered with the big bookstores. If you really want marketing help, most self publishers do offer those services but at a price, and it’s not necessary.

You won’t get an advance payment either. And you won’t have an agent to shop your work around and be a go-between with traditional publishing companies. That can be a drawback, because you don’t get that chunk of money, but at the same time if your book is popular you will end up making a lot more.

You also won’t get the name recognition or prestige of saying “I was published by Ballantine, Baen, GP Putnam and Sons, whatever…” however, that is becoming less important as more famous authors publish using ebooks and print on demand.

You won’t see your books in stores unless you buy copies (at a deeply discounted rate if you are an author) and sell them on consignment at the store. That’s not hard to set up, and that way you can sell your work at out of the way, locally owned places and control who sees your book.

Most of the cons of on demand publishing can be turned into pros, with a little thought. Flexibility, lack of waste, better profits. It’s all good!