Lulu or BookSurge

May 4, 2009

Drinking From a Cold Spring, Erin Lee Gafill

Drinking From a Cold Spring, Erin Lee Gafill

I put together our manuscript using In Design and the cover in Photoshop. I followed the guidelines from Lulu and, even though I knew I had a ways to go in terms of editing and color correction for the cover, I ordered four copies from 

This was a 150 page book, soft cover, perfect bound, 6″ x 9″ with no graphics inside, all black & white text. The cost, including  delivery was about $50. 

It took about two weeks for my four books to arrive. During that time, I had a couple of problems, and posted queries to the Lulu help e-mail. I never got a response back. I did get an email query from their sales department, but when I said I wanted to take them up on the offer but was still awaiting tech support, I never heard from them again.

My four books arrived, and they look good. All the problems I see are problems I created. The color cover was a bit darker than on my printer, but that is one of the reasons I got a print, so that I could see how their printer rendered the photo.

I did find myself frustrated by the lack of support, though, so, during the waiting time I researched a couple of other companies.

I checked out Wheatmark – they offer some great .pdf resources for marketing that I downloaded and have gotten a lot out of. There price structure was too high for me. I want a printer, like LuLu, that will just print my finished manuscript. They offer this service, but the inital outlay of money was pretty high.

I checked out BookSurge after reading about it on someone’s blog…I wish I could find their blog… They offer just what I want, but they have humans you can call for tech support. They have “design” teams that review your files before they hit the press and flag them if they see obvious problems. I haven’t gotten my books yet, but, from what I’ve heard their quality is comparable to LuLu. They are also wholly owned and operated by Amazon. This is great if you want your book in line to be sold by the largest bookseller in the world, not so good if you think Amazon is Satan.

Now  what about cost. For $200 they go through the whole project including giving you an ISBN etc. I ordered 250 copies of my book initially and they waved the $200 set-up fee. The printing cost of my book is $4.00, plus shipping. This is over $1 less per book than LuLu and I get customer service to boot. They offer 35% royalties to authors for Amazon sales.  I am very excited.

The down side is that the print time is 4 – 6 weeks for the first run. Quite a bit longer than Lulu, but, so far I think it is a good tradeoff.


My main goal with a self-publishing project is that the book not look self-published when it is sitting on a shelf, or someone is holding it in their hand and turning the pages.

I am no great designer, but I have some facility with InDesign and I usually can see when something looks bad. So, my first step is to go to a bookstore and look at books of the approximate size and style I am producing. Once I have one in I like, I buy a copy and use it as my template.

I have already decided I like the way this book looks, so, I measure the margins. I count the lines per page. I note the way the headers and footers are populated with author names, book title, and page number. I estimate the font size. (it will surely be between 8 pt and 12 pt) I look through the front matter. (everything before the actual book) I look at the back matter.

Before I go to InDesign, I prepare the content in Word. It is an easier program to work with for things like spell check, inserting page breaks, and editing. I don’t “place” my content in an InDesign document until I have a pretty clean copy of the text. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but if you do major edits in InDesign, you may find it throws your formatting off, so, I like to get most of the work done in Word first.

Now, I create an empty InDesign file of the appropriate size (6″ x 9″ in my case), give it the correct size margins (inside 1.1″, top 1.25″, bottom 1.75″, outside 1″ in my case).

I then go to the master pages and insert my headers and footers, just like in my template book.

Now, I go to Page 7 of my InDesign Document, leaving six blank pages for “front matter”. I “place” my word document at the top of page seven, holding down shift, so that InDesign automatically creates enough pages and text boxes to fit your manuscript and populates the book with the text.

Now, if I have created my Styles in Word, (see my post Preparing a Word Document for Publication) my Chapter Headings are in one style, my body text is in another style, if I have any “special styles” for poetry, quotes, captions, etc. those pieces will automatically be imported in the correct style.

Now before you do anything else, go through the whole manuscript and see that everything is basically how you expect it. Check that everything is there, start to finish, and that all the styles are correct.

I will describe finishing touches in a later post.

After years of marketing and promotional services for artists and other creative types,  I am working on the publication of a new book of essays by my wife, Erin Lee Gafill. Drinking from a Cold Spring will be published on April 24, 2009, on Nepenthe’s 60th Anniversary.

Erin is a working artist in Big Sur, California. Together we live in the Log House above Nepenthe, pictured at the top of my post. Besides being a gifted and award winning painter, Erin has maintained a writing practice through her on line journal. These writings focus on the tension between creative practice and day to day life.

I believe that creative expression is the highest form of human expression. Through creativity in all it’s forms, people attempt to make visible, that which is invisible. The attempt to synthesize a subjective experience into a concrete part of the objective lexicon is the primary purpose of a creative life. By exercising a creative practice we bring our own point of view more in line with the methods and mysteries of The Creation.

No one lives a life of pure creative expression. Every day life gets in the way of focus. These distractions can be internal or external, petty or profound, personal or global.  Drinking from a Cold Spring is an attempt to document the integration of life and creativity. It speaks directly to every person who has ever picked up a pen or paint brush; changed a diaper or cooked dinner; stood on stage before an audience or sat before a potters wheel; loved and lost or been left to wonder at the meaning of it all.

Its central message is stay present. Stay focused. Get out of the way of who is really doing the work. Keep your head in the work, stay out of the results.

Being able to bring this manuscript to fruition has been an exciting experience. Through the process, we have crafted a group of seemingly disparate essays into a narrative that we hope will be of value to others.

Working on this project already involves learning a myriad of new skills and the use of new publication and promotional tools. Through this blog, I will document my ideas and experiments, methods and technologies, successes and failures. By taking the time to record this information, I intend to memorialize a set of activities for my own record, as well, I hope, to provide insight and information for the use of others who are trying to develop commercial success in support of a creative life.

We will see.

Tom Birmingham