Self Print Publishing Options | Resources | Getting Published | More Publishing Options

Sarah Downey

If you are considering self publishing and want to hold your book physically in your hand, the range of choices can be confusing. Taking a look at three of the options available, we bring you some users experiences to help you decide.

With the advances in digital print technology it is now possible to produce full retail quality books ‘print-on-demand’ or POD – in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost of traditional offset (or lithographic) printing. This means as a self publisher you no longer have to worry about a minimum print order of 500 or more books – a printer can produce any quantity you need. When Alan Healy self published the firstTommy Storm book, he ordered his stock from China and shipped in thousands of books that filled his garage – books he had to sell in order to recoup his considerable investment.Thankfully print-on-demand technology means that you don’t have to do that any more!

Fran Mulcahy recently finished her book Finding Nancy, and wanting a book she could give to her friends and sell through her local bookshop, she went to Frank Kelly, MD of Lettertec in County Cork for advice. Lettertec’s website is packed with information. Fran told “I  recently completed writing my first book, Finding Nancy, I was keen to find out about printing companies in the south east of Ireland, as I’d decided to go down the self publishing path. Vanessa O’Loughlin recommended the company Lettertec Ireland Ltd based in Carrigtwohill Co. Cork. That recommendation was one of the most valuable pieces of information I took away with me from the Waterford Writers Festival Getting Published workshop.

The following week I contacted the Manager of Lettertec Frank Kelly and from that first contact I received exemplary service from all the staff.  I made an appointment to visit the office in Carrigtwohill and was very impressed with the neat, up to date premises and the friendly and helpful attitude of all the staff I encountered. On that visit I spent about an hour with Elaine Barry the Graphic Designer to discuss ideas for the cover design of the book. Elaine provides an efficient and professional service and actually reads the books, to inspire her imagination to produce a design that reflects the story to best effect. She wasted no time reading my book and contacted me later that same day to tell me she was enjoying the story so much she couldn’t put it down! By the following day she’d finished reading it and emailed me the artwork for the front and back cover for my consideration. I was over the moon with Elaine’s work and I didn’t require her to make any alterations; her cover design really captured the heart of the story.

‘On our first visit we also met Justin Tormey, who works on the manuscript. I’d emailed my draft word document to him prior to our visit and after a brief discussion regarding my preferences for the layout etc, he produced a hard copy of the manuscript for me while we were there. That hard copy gave me a good idea of how the final draft would look and I was able to take it home to proof. My book also contains photographs and Elaine assisted me with the placement of those as well. The time period from that initial meeting to collecting the finished books was just three weeks. I’m so pleased with the quality of the books I would highly recommend Lettertec to anyone contemplating having their book self published. Lettertec operates a state of the art printing facility utilizing the latest high tech digital equipment. In fact Frank has recently acquired a new piece of equipment which he proudly boasts is the best available printing machine in Ireland today.”

Finding Nancy is now available at The Book Centre in Waterford, and Fran will be launching it at the City Library on 9th May (all welcome!)

If you have a book that is highly illustrated or contains photographs and want complete control of your books presentation, offer a print on demand service through which you can order as little as one copy, making it ideal for anyone who wants to create a memory book for grandparents, or a gift book for a special friend.

Blurb is a UK based online service that enables everybody from novices to professionals to create customised books with their easy to use software. You can design and make photo books, portfolios, wedding books and just about anything you can imagine. For anyone that considers themselves slightly technically challenged there’s a host or tutorials & demos available to guide you through the process.The site also offers aspiring authors & photography pros the opportunity to sell their books in the handy online store and most importantly keep 100% of the profits.

Blurb was born when founder & keen photographer Eileen Giffins wanted to make her own high quality photo essay book, something of bookshop quality, which turned out to be an extremely challenging, expensive & time-consuming process . Necessity was the mother of invention, so Eillen set out to provide a simple, quality product and the Blurb story began in 2005. Eilleen had tapped into a niche market and last year the company’s new customer base grew by 44% and they shipped 1.8 million books to 69 countires across the world. They’ve also launched local language websites in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch & Portuguese.

Today, the service has been extended to embrace social and mobile media. All books can now be shared with friends and family via Facebook  and can even be created using personal Blogger, WordPress or Typepad blogs. Another great Blurb feature allows users to create an ibook for the iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.

If you’re sick of storing all your treasured pictures on your PC or phone & never seeing them, you can now hook up your Instagram account with Blurb and create a modern photo book with a classic feel. Whether you’re a writer, poet, photographer, chef or world traveller you can share your passion with the world or just make a book to take pride of place on your coffee table. You can see from the examples below that they make beautiful books! I’ve spoken to several authors who have looked at the Blurb service and they all agree that the software at their website is very easy to use.



Many of you will be familiar withAmazon’s Createspace platform – the part of the Amazon machine that allows you to produce print on demand books. Making your book available not only on Amazon, but if enabling you to upgrade for $25 to a broader range of online POD retailers, Createspace has millions of customers worldwide.

Alison Wells told me, “I used CreateSpace when I self-published my space comedy novel Housewife with a Half-Life. I found the process quite straightforward and there were guidance prompts along the way where I was unsure.  CreateSpace provides a Word template which takes care of the bulk of the formatting. This was really helpful. The only drawback I experienced was the high cost of shipping the proof copies, particularly if you require a speedy delivery.

‘I feel quite astounded that you can create a physical book, proof it and have it uploaded to Amazon and available to customers within a few weeks. The finished product is of excellent quality, comparing really favourably to other printing methods and with traditionally printed books.”

Find out more about how Alison launched and promoted her book at her blog Random Acts of Optimism.’s Vanessa O’Looughlin also test drove the Createspace service and told me, “I’ve recently published a contemporary romance True Colours (as Vanessa Fox) in eBook format for Kindle, and knew I wanted to produce a paperback at some stage so my non-techie family could read it at least. It’s selling extremely well (in the top 20 in three categories at, woo hoo!) so this weekend I opened a Createspace account and set about creating my book. Not being one to read the instructions beforehand, my first attempt to upload my manuscript was a total diaster with text bleeding off the page. I looked quizzically at the screen trying to work out how to adjust my margins (measured in cm) to the size suggested on the screen (measured in inches).  At this point I could have gone back to the Createspace instructions, but I had a copy of Catherine Ryan Howard’s Self Printed, so grabbed that instead. Catherine takes you through the Createspace process step by step and in language we can all understand, and because Self Printed is a physical (Createspace!) book, I was able to open it next to my laptop and follow the instructions without having to flick between windows in my browser trying to remember what to do. I could aslo feel the page quality, weight and texture, and see how she had chosen to format her book.

As a result of following Catherine’s instructions, I had the book interior correctly loaded in minutes – the bit I had missed was a nfity template Createspace provide in Word format for you to load your text into, margins in place!

I don’t have a full back cover & spine from my designer yet for this book, so I created a proof cover using Createspace’s cover creator which although fun to use does produce rather predictable looking ‘self published’ covers that Catherine sternly warns new publishers against if you want your book to compete commercially. You’ll see why below – on the left, my Createspace cover (respectable but a bit self published looking), on the left the real eBook cover from Design for Writers.


I think you’ll agree a professional cover is a worthwhile investment for any book!”

So what else do you need to think about before you decide on the best option for printing your book? You need to:

  • Set up distribution channels, whether that is through your local book shop, or sales from a website
  • Find a way to tell people about your book, online through a blog/Facebook and Twitter account
  • Write a press release for your local press/radio

BUT before all of that, you need to employ a professional editor to look at your book and make sure it’s in the best shape it can possibly be, and then find a different editor to do a final copy edit/proof read to make sure you have no typos/grammatical errors. Your readers will not appreciate paying for shoddy work.

Catherine Ryan Howards book Self Printed,The Sane Person’s Guide to Self Publishing had heaps of information on promoting your book as well as how to produce an eBook. It’s a must buy for anyone serious about becoming an independent self published author. Also look at theAlliance of Independent Authors website to see what they can do for you. A non-profit global organisation giving self published authors support and a voice, they have meet-ups all over the world.


About the author

(c) Sarah Downey May 2012

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