Self Publishing: Printing Problems!

by Caitlind Alexander
(Los Angeles, CA)

One of many books on my site

One of many books on my site

This author tried self-publishing but found printing was the problem.

I was having trouble finding a traditional publisher for my first children's books, even though I had successfully published adult books. Part of my problem was that I wasn't real good at self-promoting myself to publishers, or to agents.

That, of course, was going to be my downfall in self-publishing as well.

I sent the book around to a number of places.

After awhile, I gave up and decided to publish it myself. I paid someone to illustrate it, did the layout and design myself, then paid a local print shop to do the printing.

I won't tell you the problems I had with printing. Let's just say that it's best to go with a company that is very experienced at doing books, especially if you aren't!

Printing problems!

There are so many stupid little things that I never knew about (i.e., use only one space after a period to save space, find out how many pages fit on the printer's signature (printing plate) and make your book multiples of that or you will be paying for blank pages at the end of your book, etc.).

This approach also meant that I was the main person to do the editing on my book. I thought I was ready, because I had worked as an editor before.

Then I picked up the book six months after it was printed to reread it and found I had messed up on a plot point. I had my characters (teenagers) reading a specific book in their car, then they toss the book into the back seat, then lose their brakes and jump from the car before it goes over the cliff. A chapter and a half later, the book shows up again!

Yeah, the book was important to them, but I don't think anyone would have climbed into the back seat during a life and death moment to get it! A simple stop at a bookstore to buy a new copy could have solved the problem, but....

Anyway, since I wasn't that good at self-promotion, the book flopped. I thought all I had to do was offer it to bookstores and go on a few radio talk shows or something. Yeah, right. I did a few radio talk shows and went to quite a few elementary schools to do free talks. It resulted in a few sales, but believe me, I was making far less than minimum wage!

To make a long story short (yeah, I know, too late!) I gave up on writing for a bit. Then I found out I couldn't quit. Now I just put my books up for free on a children's book website.

Anybody can print them out and read them (as long as they don't sell them or steal them, and yes, I have a brother who's a lawyer). I'm working at locking the pages down and charging a subscription price to the site, but all in all this works for me. I satisfy my need to write, I feel like I'm helping children improve their literacy by having fun books to read, and a few dollars a year for website hosting is a WHOLE LOT cheaper than what I was paying to have my books printed. Now I just have to work on that self-promotion thing....

Visit Caitlind's site, Learning Island, featuring books YOU download and print (or read on a device), not Caitlind!

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May 08, 2013
Electronic Print!
by: Steve Barancik (webmaster)

I just visited Caitlind's site out of curiosity. Amazing stuff is happening! I followed a link to Amazon where I found what looks like over 200 books by Caitlind, mostly available for e-readers at 99 cents!

Mar 01, 2008
Self pub: the problem is the printing!
by: Steve B.

What a fascinating account, Caitlind. And it doesn't sound like it's over!

Your experience with the local printer is worth its weight in gold to everyone it keeps from going the same route.

But me personally, I'm even more fascinated by what you're trying to do with your website. You're dealing with two conundrums I often ponder myself. Namely...

1) How to "monetize" e-publications, and

2) Giving your "customers" (I put that in quotes since you're not charging yours yet) a successful printing experience. I went straight to your "how to print" page to find out how you prescribed people print in a traditional, two sided, bound in the middle manner, and it was every bit as much about trial and error as I figured it would be.

Regarding 2), do you have a sense of the experience of your customers? Is there a lot of frustration? Do some give up? Do some contact you to say, "It's not working?" I'm very curious!

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