St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Publishing and Printing Your Own Book for $25

Not too long ago, to get your book in print was very hard. Very few books are accepted by publishers for printing. Most of us aspiring authors ended up printing a few hundred of our own books at our own expense to get them on the market. Even if you had a book all written and the pictures ready, you still had to use expensive professional services to get each page laid out, and each picture processed. It was expensive, a lot of work, and took a year or more to get it ready. Three hundred copies of you own book might cost you $2500 up front and take you a year!, the huge online bookstore, has changed that dramatically. You can get your own paperback book into print for $15 or less! Amazon has rapidly become one of the largest publishers and printers of new books in the whole world by taking on the support folks who want to self-publish their own books. There are alternatives to Amazon, including, however, I believe Amazon is by far the best deal for a new author., Amazon’s print-on-demand book publishing and printing service makes getting your book into print quick, inexpensive, easy as well as having it available world wide through the Amazon online bookstore, where they will print, sell, ship all for you and pay you a royalty per book.

For several years, I have been gathering material for my latest book, “Making Maple Syrup in the USA since 1650: A Brief History.” This January I decided I had enough material and began the process of putting it together. I will take you through the steps, which if they sound difficult, it is because I haven’t explained it very well, as it is quite easy!

My book consists of several of the newspaper articles I wrote about making maple syrup over the past seven years in the Leader, a collection of 100+ year-old recipes collected from various very old cookbooks, and many articles from very old books, magazines, agricultural handbooks, etc. The recipes and articles cover the practice of making and using maple sugar and syrup from Native American times up to modern days. My own family traces syruping from the 1650s in CT., and I collected this information on my own quest to understand how my own ancestors may have incorporated this into their lives.

I had scanned in many photos, scanned some of the recipes and old articles, preferring to use them in the original look found in the very old source documents where it was usable, otherwise typing up the parts that were of interest along with some interpretation of old terminology

Of course, these sources are long out of print and out of copyright, so I am free to use them. Some I found from the Google library of scanned books from the past. Those are free to use, however, one should explain that did the work in making them available for my use. Some are from my own collection of old books and magazines and some from museum and library collections I have found over the years.

To put the book together, I opened up a blank Microsoft Word 2002 (my older version) document. Almost any word processor that will let you insert pictures will work including the free program, Open Office.

I created a free account on, so I could read their requirements. Essentially, you have to pick a book size from many choices. I chose 8x10 as I had many pictures that I wanted in large format. The cost per book is based on the book size and number of pages. To get real value, I chose to have small margins and most of each page devoted to print. I also chose a font of Times Roman and size 12 – a combination I consider very readable.

In my new Word document, I set pagesize, margins, and page numbering, and chose a bold font for the title of each article according the createspace recommendations. The headings are very easily turned into an automatic table of contents in Word.

One at a time, I inserted my articles and scanned items into the new Word document. I added some picture captions in text box format. I put exactly what I wanted on each page, positioning text and pictures. It ended having 125 pages all in a single document.

I chose to have the text wrap tightly around each picture so as not to have any wasted white space around them—again to make less pages total.

After getting it all nicely laid out, I printed each page on my laser printer (very cheap to do as I refill my toner cartridges many times at home). I then carefully proof read everything and passed it to Margo and Scott for more proofing, and when happy with it, declared the editing and layout done!

With a free downloaded program (Dopdf), I created a file from the Word document in the pdf format that book printers want. I checked the pdf to make sure it looked the same—it always has been perfect, but you need to check. Newer word processors have the pdf creation built in.

Next I needed a wrap-around cover. The 8x10 book cover is a double page size with a little extra for the spine. Createspace helped me calculate that with 125 pages, I needed a cover 16.25 x 10 (two 8 inch pages plus .25 inches spine).

With that information, I created a new blank Word document with page size exactly that measurement and then built the back, spine and front of the cover in that single page just like I had put together pictures and text in the book insides. I converted it to pdf.

With contents and cover complete and both in pdf format, I followed through on createspace filling in their blanks online for title, author, and a half dozen other descriptive items, found the price per book for me to buy one or more copies was $2.36 each plus postage for delivery. I set my selling price at $10 to reflect what I thought was a reasonable return for my work.

I entered my credit card and ordered a proof—the first time I had to pay any money. The proof was the $2.36 plus $3.59 shipping with delivery of my first book in one week. The postage did seem outrageous. I got it, found it was perfect, and then completed the book process having it put for sale on and My royalty on those sites is about 4.00 per book. Books I sell myself, I can make more money.

I ordered 25 books, delivery in one week, for $59 for the books and $15.50 for UPS shipping, costing me $2.98 each. I got them in 6 days and took them along

to the Wisconsin Maple Syrup producer’s meeting in Neillsville, WI., where I sold ten, making a profit of $7.02 each or $70.20. I have ten left. In the first week, two books sold on Amazon giving me $7.28 royalty there.

In summary, I had the book information ready after a few years of collecting and digitizing it ahead of time. I spent a week assembling it – probably about 10 hours total in layout of the book and cover. It took about 30 minutes on createspace to get the book ready there. I waited a week for a proof, and okayed immediately and ordered 25. A week later I was on the road selling them as well as having them for sale online. My upfront investment was just the cost of a single proof copy mailed to me. I didn’t have to order 300 books to get a decent price.

Most of the work is in getting your words into the computer, your pictures into the computer and doing the layout of the book. You do have to learn how to use a computer, however if you are resistant to that, it is almost a sure thing that either your kids or grandchildren can do that part for you with ease—as it is taught in schools nowadays!

Some of my books are also in electronic book format for a book reader. To do that on Amazon, you use their Kindle Direct program. It is also free, and is actually even easier, as you don’t worry at all about your page layout. You just take your word processor big file of everything and it gets processed directly to e-book reader form. No cost at all!

For more info, you can contact me at Go online to and search on “Russell B Hanson book” and you will see what it all looks like. This can be your way to get that book into print without mortgaging the house!