Self-publishing. It ain’t been easy
My fifth book is co-authored, but unlike the other four is self-published, and is just out. I thought I would record what the latter part of the process of self-publishing has been like, as it was certainly interesting, and not perhaps what I was expecting. Covid-19 and Brexit both hindered things quite a bit.
It all started in November 2019, so has taken just over a year from idea to fruition. The book is a hardback celebrating the great fell and mountain photographer, Pete Hartley. The first ten months were all about (co-author) Denise Park sorting through some 60,000 photographic images and working with me to make a suitable selection of 400 or so to go in the book. This took countless hours of work, and many discussions about inclusions/exclusions. Having pulled together the necessary contextualising text and done a dummy layout in Word, we had the material ready to hand over to a graphic designer to produce the camera-ready artwork. On 29 October I posted the text file, and all the folders of original hi-res images into a Dropbox, and in effect handed-off the project for a while to a professional.
Before that we had already investigated and selected a printer. This was important to get right as the images needed quality paper and printing to show them off to best advantage. Fortunately, we were recommended to contact (and get a quote from) Latitude Press, in the Lake District. Having seen samples and had a warm welcome we agreed the quote with them. It gave me an extra good feeling that they were based in the Lakes, and had printed two excellent recent books about the area. Having said that the actual print works recommended by them was in the EU, but were likely to be able to turn the work around within an agreed 4-5 week window. [For those interested in the finer details of the book, I am happy to discuss if you want to contact me for further info on our particular print specifications. Below are details of the print company.]
Back with the layout phase, we were fortunate that our chosen graphic designer was also a fell runner and very sympathetic to, and in tune with, what we were looking for in the look and feel of the book. Again it is pleasing that Britas Design are based in the Lakes, just outside Keswick. The deal was that if we could get the camera-ready PDF files to the printer by 6 Nov we could have a 17 Dec delivery for the final copies of the books. A tough ask.
At this point (31 Oct) we decided on a process for accepting pre-orders of the book. Denise also researched post and packing options. We found a supplier of cardboard wraps and inner bubble wraps, which with postage were going to add £5 to the cost of delivering books to folk. We agreed a payment to a photographer for reproducing two of their photos of Pete, and quietly waited for progress/info on the layout.
We decided that we would advertise the book on 7th Nov which would have been Pete’s birthday, offering pre-orders. We had decided to deal with the payments for, and the despatching of, pre-orders ourselves – which added quite a burden, which mostly fell on Denise. We started sounding out publications for a mention, including Fellrunner and Trail Running magazines, and flooded every social media channel we could access with info on the book, and how to order. Meanwhile, we had missed the print deadline, but had received the first few pages from the designer.
By 16 Nov only a third of pages were done, so we agreed a new deadline of 29 Nov, which Latitude fortunately were happy to go with. This still allowed a new delivery date of 21 Dec, which was getting tight, but amazing to hear. We supplied them some pages to do a test print, to ensure we were happy with the result.
Even on 23 Nov we were STILL making small corrections to the text as we proof-read the pages as they came through to us. On 26 Nov we agreed the final proof copy, and the next day it was received in the Czech Republic at the print works. We were contacted by Latitude on 1 Dec that somewhere in the process of making the final PDFs an error had occurred in the cover layout and in the internal cut marks positioning. As they were unable to ‘rip’ the files to the press, they couldn’t proceed with our printing. We were already passed our deadline so this needed to be rectified as a matter of urgency or we would completely miss our newly allocated printing slot. Anxious emails and phone calls between Denise, the designer and Latitude Press ensued over the next 24 hours until Denise received an email at 13-31 on 2 Dec saying they had finally managed to ‘rip’ the files and now needed final approval to go to print that afternoon. This hiccup even more confirmed our wisdom of hiring a professional for the layout rather than trying to do it ourselves (which we did consider at one point). Now the fun started.
On 5 Dec we were informed that it would be two pallet loads, which would be delivered to Denise’s business address, in a small road in Clitheroe. A week later the news reported port delays, but we avoided the worst of these. Then the books were held in customs on 17 Dec. The packaging was all labelled and ‘postaged’ in readiness. TIP: buy your Royal Mail postage online,as it is slightly cheaper and lessens issues at PO itself.
We were then informed that the books would be delivered on a 40-tonne ‘international’ articulated wagon which didn’t have a tail lift, so the wagon sides would be raised and a forklift truck would lift the palettes off the wagon. This wasn’t the original plan! The international freight company then contacted Denise to say they had Googled her business address and were concerned that the wagon would not make it down the small road of Denise’s business address. A quick decision was made to have them delivered to her home address instead – but as Denise drove home to meet the wagon, unannounced roadworks had been set up outside her house with the road being closed to traffic. Another rapid decision had to be made – and it was decided to divert yet again to a delivery company based in Manchester where the books could be unloaded and reloaded onto a smaller English wagon.
Eventually, on 21 Dec, two palettes weighing one and a quarter tonnes of books were unloaded onto the road outside Denise’s business address, and Denise and her secretary embarked on carrying 94 boxes of books inside the clinic before the inclement weather could also add it’s toll. We had a distribution company booked (Despatch Bay) to deliver them in bulk into the Post Office system, and they did a marvellous job in that people started receiving them on 22 Dec. The designer, printers, delivery company had all worked wonders to get a good number of the books in people’s hands prior to Christmas. Thanks to you all.
We were thrilled to receive our books today. Thank-you for getting them here so speedily. Wow – what a tribute to Pete – really impressive. Makes you smile and admire, and yet feel sad and nostalgic at the same time. Well done.
A real trip down memory lane, it is excellent, exceeded my expectations. Please accept my thanks on a great book and pass on my thanks to everyone involved in its production.
A lot of hard work, but we are really pleased with the result – and so it seems are purchasers. Even after all the issues noted here, we both decided that we would consider self-publishing again.