monday, october 01, 2007

Foray Into Self Publishing

I've been investigating a few options for publishing a book over the past few months.  A local art group did a presentation on one of these services, and it seemed easy enough (though a bit of legwork).

I started with a service called Lulu.  This service doesn't offer any software for creating your book, unless you are using their photobook format, which I found to be somewhat limited for my purposes.  You can format your book in PDF format, which provides greater flexibility over page layout and formatting, which works perfectly for the project I'm putting together.  Each page must be formatted separately.

I ended up getting through about 105 pages of the book and decided to send it to press - just so I wouldn't get too far into it and find out that it wasn't something that would work for me.  The book priced out in the sub-$20 range overall.  Printing and shipping got the book to my door in under 10 days. 

The result - Sadly, the print quality isn't at all what I'd expected.  The shadows are too muddy, and the middle gray tones in the black and white images seem to be full of noise.  A closer inspection reveals a lot of print "dots" in the images themselves.  I'm not sure if their photobook offers better print quality, but I wouldn't recommend their regular books if you have a project that requires high quality images.

My next stop was a service called Viovio.  I was attracted to this service because they do allow you to upload pdf files - which means that i could take all of my files designed for lulu and submit them here.  I did have to merge all of my separate pdf files into one single pdf - a daunting task, considering I have 100+ pages to merge, but this was made very simple through Acobat Professional's merge feature. 

I was a bit frustrated with their FTP "verification" procedure, which left me stuck in the mud for a few days - but they came through after I got ahold of one of their support reps through the online chat feature.  I'm still a firm believer that customer service is often the make or break aspect of a lot of online transactions, and these guys came through. 

I received my book in less than 14 days.  The price was more than double that of Lulu, but I did select a few more expensive options for the printing, in particular, the perfect bound option and higher quality paper.  The book is "perfect bound" book, as opposed to the saddle stitch book I received from Lulu.  The cover is high gloss, and quite impressive.  That said, there were a few issues.  Color images were of good quality, but had a noticeable green or blue shift.  Minor color shifts are typical of short-run publications, or so I am told.  The black and white images were right on, and of good quality - with the exception of those images that I had forgotten to convert to greyscale.  Images that were not grayscale ended up with a blue shift.  This, of course, was my fault so I can't hold their service accountable. 

Downsides to Viovio - They imprint their logo on the back cover of your book.  You can remove this for an additional fee (about $3.00) but for my purposes, this wasn't a concern.  Unlike Lulu, they do not have offer ISBN on their books, however, if you are marketing a book at that level, the quality of the print job ultimately reflects upon your work - so is it worth that trade off?  Other than that, I found the process to be superior to Lulu, but it does require a bit more technical knowledge as far as layout.  The tradeoff is that you do have more control over the appearance of your book. 

The purpose of this project was to find a service that could generate a nicely bound, professional looking presentation that I could use when courting galleries.  I'm still looking for options. Of the two services I've tried thus far, Viovio really came out ahead.  Given that I started this project using PDF as my layout format, I'm stuck looking at publishers that support that.  This eliminates other popular options such as Blurb, which requires use of their editor and does not support PDF.

The jury is still out.  More to come...