Self-Publishing from the Poop Deck

December 14, 2013  •  2 Comments

I just finished my first book, Becoming What’s Left:  A Desert Erosional (see Preview below)  The full 24-page book of poetry and photography in print version as well as an ebook for the ipad are available through Blurb.  I am currently working on producing additional e-versions compatible with Kindle and other platforms.


As with the beginnings of any new venture, the bookmaking process was fraught with various setbacks and stumblings and numerous frustrations. It would be all too easy to extend that long-armed rifle with the pointy finger and start shooting my mouth, but when I aim my attentions away from the coiled crouch of production I come away amazed at the tools and opportunities available to individual artists for creating and marketing their own publications online.

Not ten years ago, the road to publishing, whether it was a novel, a book of poems, and/or large format photographs, was bottlenecked by the whims of large publishing houses where an unknown author’s manuscript usually ended up lost in the translation of what was sellable in a handful of editors' eyes.  Self-publishing was considered a vain and presumptuous undertaking.

All manner of publishing opportunities are available nowadays from online, one-stop, plunk your picture and print services, to more sophisticated self-publishing software, to e-books - all from the comfort of your treadmill desk.  Some of the easier to use sites are fairly rigid in their offerings of templates and use of text if you’re looking to produce a more complex photography book.  If you plan to create a number of books and enjoy the design phase as well as want more control over the whole process, software such as Adobe In-Design or Serif’s PagePlus may be more to your liking.  I just purchased, PagePlus for that reason.  If you download the free version first, you can then upgrade to the full program for $20 less than the price originally advertised.  If you have upgraded to Adobe’s Creative Cloud, I think In-Design is a part of their full subscription.  I use Serif’s SketchBook for drawing with my Wacom Tablet and find the user interface easy to navigate and learn.   I’ll keep you posted on my journey into PagePlus.

After rummaging around several self-publishing sites, I found Blurb to be the most flexible in terms of formatting and text placement.  You can choose to use their online service, which has pre-set templates, or download their BookSmart program which is relatively customizable.  They also offer an e-book conversion for the ipad and a low quality PDF, but not for Android platforms, hence my move to PagePlus which offers e-book conversion to Kindle, Android, enhanced PDF and others.  The online service and program are free to use.  With most online self-publishing sites, you only pay for actual printed copies, e-books, or PDFs.

Although these self-publishing opportunities are a boon to authors, artists, and photographers, and advance purchase of a minimum number of copies is no longer required, finding one's way through the maze of self-publishing chill's the brain. The term self-publishing can mean anything from total control over writing, editing, printing, marketing and distributing one’s own work to hiring someone else to perform one or more of those elements.  Becoming knowledgeable about such services and how they interact can save you time and money.  

The printing, e-book conversion, PDF preparation, are sometimes included in online self-publishing sites, but sometimes not.  Distribution to online sites like Amazon or main street bookstores like Barnes and Noble are usually not included.  Some sites will print your book, but offer no e-pub services.  Some sites like Blurb as mentioned above offer e-books, but only in specific formats.  Most sites like Blurb offer marketing by way of a store and links to social media sites along with badge previews of your book, but not much beyond that.  Some companies offer a full spectrum of distribution and marketing services.

Distribution and marketing are two different animals.  You can distribute your creative work to every bookstore and cyber shelf on the planet, but if you don’t shout about it from atop tall mountains of social media, email, book signings, etc., you’re no better off than ten years ago.  Most of us, particularly girls, were brought up to shy away from self-promotion in favor of helping others.  It’s been okay in the past to be discovered and pay someone else, such an agent, to do all the shouting.  Today, though where each individual artist has been given the opportunity to hold the reins to guide the promotion of their own work, it has become more acceptable to toot one’s own horn.

In the times of old sailing ships, a structure called the “poop deck” was constructed over the aft cabin where the helmsman, with an elevated view, could direct the crew and ship’s navigation.  I invite you to join me here on the poop deck for future navigationans through the sea of creative opportunities.  Toot, toot!


Sue Bishop(non-registered)
Really interesting Deborah - I've been looking into Blurb et al myself. And I totally agree with you, it goes against everything in my nature to blow my own trumpet - I just can't do it!
Tina Davidson(non-registered)
Your photographs are stunning! I love the visuals they provide for your poems. My favorites were Goblin Valley and Living Liquid.

I had never heard of Blurb so thanks for the insight. Congrats on your book!
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