Zen and the Act of Publishing a Book (part 2)

zenLately, I’ve been learning lots about self publishing a book. For many reasons, mostly just to see what is possible and to discover if the process is accessible and profitable for teachers. I believe it is. [this is a sequel to Part 1Read the backdrop there.] Self-publishing has gotten dramatically easier and though (like with anything) there is a learning curve and hills and valleys getting to the final version – it isn’t that hard and if you love learning as I do – can be done and mastered in a few 8 hour days. Here is the process that I went through – from neophyte and book publishing imbecile to renowned publisher! ** please note – I will be discussing POD (Print On Demand) books not ebooks. POD allows the author to both produce a downloadable ebook AND a real book that can be bought and shipped. It is not paying upfront a lot of money nor just “vanity” press.

Before we begin – here are the two books I self published. You can order them and support EFL Classroom 2.0. All profits go to help sustain our community. 1. Zen and the Act of Teaching 2. Electric Chair for the Sun – selected poems.

Step ONE – Content is King You have to have something that people want to buy. You can’t fluff it, no matter how you try. Readers are more and more saavy online these days. The competition fierce in self – publishing. This may seem obvious but I wanted to start here and say: Everyone has something to say! Think of your own specialty, interest. Look into what you have already written. You’ll find your diamond in the rough! Me, I had lots of poetry that nobody had read and for teaching, a series of Zen aphorisms directed at teachers that I thought would make a nice reflective teaching journal. Oh, yeah, last thought – get someone to proof read it and be meticulous!

Step TWO – decide what online POD book maker you’ll use and study up! I decided to use Lulu. Mostly because of their book marketing ability (I’ll talk about that at the end of this post). There are several other options though. WordClay, Blurb, Xlibris among others. Here’s a big list.

Step THREE – design your book to the publishers specifications. This is the hardest step. Time consuming and you’ll have to learn lots. The best way is to download a template from the bookmaker/publishing site and input all your content into that without changing it. I highly recommend this route. You can use microsoft word or pdf but most will want your final uploaded draft as a pdf file. You can easily convert your word file to pdf. DON’T use any of the online converters for this. You’ll be endlessly disappointed. Simply – 1.Open the document in Word. 2. Choose File then Print. 3. Choose your document converter (Adobe PDF printer or Universal Document Converter). If you’re using Adobe PDF printer, you can just click OK, specify the filename and location for your PDF file, then Save it. If you’re using the Universal Document Converter, click Properties then choose Document to PDF, Color, Multipage in the scroll bar. Click OK then Print. (also within Adobe PDF printer you can change the page size – hit “properties” . This is very handy and might be necessary to make the book into the right size you want to publish). This is what I did for my poetry book. However, it was even easier for my reflective journal. I decided to produce it with power point! Yeah, you heard me, powerpoint. You see – I wanted a nice background and this is very difficult in a traditionally printed / made book. What I did was formatted the whole book in ppt and then uploaded to Scribd. Scribd automatically converts power point to PDF. I then downloaded the pdf, changed the page sizes and I was good to go!

Step FOUR – Make the cover. Lulu made it easy for me. They have a handy wizard cover maker. However, for my poetry book, I used the Picasa 3 editor to make the cover and back pages. Download to your computer and import your background image. Basically, find a nice background in high resolution (at least 800px). Use this and then add your other images / title etc…. Convert this jpg into a pdf and insert/add to your other pdf document. It is the same process as that above. Open the photo, choose print and select Adobe PDF printer, click OK then Print.

Step FIVE – get someone to read and review This is like step 6 but crucial. People buy books because others recommend them. It’s a truism you can’t avoid. Send copies to people you think would do this for you or are highly respected in the book’s topic. This is the stage I’m at right now! [if you’d like to review either of my books – please contact me and I’ll send you the full ebook. Then go to Lulu and write a review!]

guyandbooksStep SIX – marketing and getting the book “out there” This is the weakness of POD self publishing. Big publishing companies have the advantage of large, well organized and guarded networks of promotion and distribution. However, the good news is that with web 2.0 – getting the word out about your book is getting easier. Still, you have to do some leg work or should I say – “mouse work”.

Here’s what I recommend at a minimum.

1. Make a sample copy (first 15 or so pages with one page containing a link to where the book can be bought) and upload to all major online publishing platforms. I uploaded mine to slideshare, authorstream, scribd, doxtop, docstock and many others. Also upload on ebook platforms like Issuu, Yudu, and Qoop

2. Open a discussion on your social networks. Your social networks can provide great recommendations and awareness. Twitter too can really get the word out fast that a book is out there.

3. Use your PLN, “Personal Learning Network”. They know and love you and will help. Just don’t be pushy! Write a blog post or multiple posts about the book. (like I’m doing). Put it on your blog or personal page. If you don’t have one – make one! (I recommend weebly as a great place to make a quick personal page).

4. Send your book to traditional publishers. Yes, this works! Many best sellers started out as self published books. Also, get an agent if you really think your book is special and have him/her take it to book fairs. The largest and best bet is the Frankfurt Fair, held every fall.

Step SEVEN – make it Portable Reader ready Kindles, iPads and other portable readers are growing exponentially. Your book should be converted into the ePub format so it can be bought and read on these devices. This is too long and detailed a subject but I’ll report back once I’ve done this in the next few months. If interested, here’s a brief post about this.

Step EIGHT – Pour a glass of wine, enjoy, you are a published author! Don’t let it be said that only big companies can successfully publish and sell beautiful books. You can too and YOU DID! The world is getting flatter and thank god. You are participating in the greatest free flow of information ever – it has ramifications that we are only beginning to understand. For the most part, they are beautiful consequences that benefit billions. Be proud, be published!

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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3 Responses

  1. Excellent advice, David. I’m a self-publisher of sorts, still with plenty to learn and experiment with, so I will be returning to this post multiple times in the future, I’m sure!

    Thanks muchly,

    – Jason

  2. ddeubel says:


    Thanks for dropping in. I just got home after a relaxing jaunt through Japan and playing catch up. Lots more to relate about publishing and I’m sure to have a part 3 and 4.

    Kyobo just installed a book making machine and I’m going to try it out this weekend. I’ll report back here with pics. Supposed to be the latest technology and will bind your pdf in under 4 min.

    I really like the fact that you can make a book on Lulu and like me, send it to your agent who can use it to hawk at book fairs. Unfortunately, he does take a commission but it is one way to get the publishers to take a deeper look at your work than just handing them a bunch of wrinkly papers.

    I”m waiting for my hard copies too – when they arrive shortly, I’ll post up about the quality.


  3. Look forward to hearing about those developments Dave.

    I’m currently doing ‘World Adventure Kids’ in a video/audio book format on YouTube, but there should also be a print version and a decent e-book version as well, so watching these sorts of things with a lot of interest right now.


    – Jason

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