Sunday, October 31, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Publishing Tutorial Pt. 2: Night of the Living Dummy Book & Review

Ah, yes…the infamous dummy book: the thing that’s such a pain to put together, but so important to include in your publishing packet. Everyone has their own way of doing it; this is just the way I’ve been approaching mine.

In general, your dummy doesn’t need to be completely composed of finished illustrations. You can do finished sketches of what the finals will look like, and include a couple of finished spreads so the publisher has an idea of how the rest of the book will look, as well as your approach to style. I’ve been including fully finished pieces in my dummies since the work is already done, and why not show that to a publisher when it has the potential to impress? However, if you’ve just got an idea going for a book, don’t feel like you have to go through and complete everything before sending it out. There’s a huge possibility that, if an editor decides to publish your book, he or she may want you to change some of the illustrations, resulting in a lot of extra work if you’ve completed everything already.

When I began sending out dummy books I was getting everything printed at Kinkos as double sided color copies on 11” x 17” paper, then cutting the excess paper off and stapling the copies together in book form. This was all fine and dandy, but rather expensive (about $30 per book, and that was because the employees usually forgot to charge me for a double sided copy rather than a single sided one). If you get the dummies sent back from the publisher, it’s fine, but since I’ve been sending most of my work to the UK I haven’t been getting it back (self addressed stamped envelopes don’t work for international mail, unfortunately). So I finally wised up and took the advice of the Amazing Ms. Jade Nellans who had used to produce dummy books for publishers. They’re much cheaper, plus they don’t look “too” published. The only downside has been that Lulu doesn’t support my book size, nor does it have something proportional (my book is 8” x 6”), so I set it up in its original size on 9”x 7” paper and cut off the excess. If you end up needing to cut off extra space it can be done without having to remove the staples---I have done it both with a Xacto knife and a pair of scissors. If you’re good with scissors I would suggest using those as it’s a bit easier to manage. When I attempted the Xacto I ended up cutting my finger (not badly), which was a first for me. I managed 3 years of art school with no Xacto based incidents only to be done in by a dummy book.

 Dummy books: the original print from Lulu (with extra space) on the left, and the cropped version on the right.

Full spread of the Lulu dummy--the print quality is excellent.

Setting up your dummy for Lulu can be a bit tricky if you’ve never done it before, so I’ll attempt to go through the process. The good news is that once it’s done correctly and you upload it, you never have to redo it! My friends that have used Lulu have all put their books together using InDesign, but since I’m a bit InDesign illiterate, I set each spread up in Photoshop, then saved it as PDF and combined all the files together in Acrobat to make one LARGE PDF document. There are two things to keep in mind when making your PDF: 1) you don’t need to include your cover art as Lulu has that set up separate, and 2) you have to include a single blank page at the beginning and end of the document (before and after the endpapers), otherwise the printing will be out of sequence. I made the mistake of not doing this the first time I got my dummy printed and all of the spreads were off. I changed the PDF file, reuploaded, reordered, and everything was peachy keen. And speaking of uploading, my file was so big I had to use an FTP client (I used FileZilla, which you can get here if you don't already have an FTP client) to get it on Lulu’s page, so be prepared to do the same.

Setup in Acrobat. I set everything as single page spreads because I was paranoid about how it would print if I did everything as double page spreads...better safe than sorry. The color mode is in CMYK for printing.

Now, I know what you’re thinking…with all this extra work, what’s the price for the new books? Are you really saving money? Well, my friends, yes I am. Through Lulu the books only cost about $10 each. Shipping has been around $14 when I have ordered 4 books. Even with that, they still cost less than what I was paying at Kinkos, and the quality has been much nicer. Turnaround is great, too; the last order took about a week to receive, and that’s including printing and shipping. Not too shabby, if you ask me…

Well, there you have it: my entire book process. I hope that someone has found it useful, and moreover, I’m hoping that soon all of this work will pay off.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Publishing Tutorial Pt. 1: Researching Publishers and What to Submit

So with all my continued talk of my book and trying to get it published, I thought I should do a little overview of the process of sending it to publishers…you know, in the off chance someone out there may find the information helpful. There’s actually a lot that goes into submitting a project to a publisher, and while it’s a lot of work, it’s definitely worth while and a great learning experience. Since there’s so much info, I’m splitting it up into two posts. This will cover researching publishers/submitting your project, while the next will cover putting together your sample dummy book.

So, you’ve written and illustrated a book and you want to get it published… Before you submit your work to a publisher you have to have a publisher (or several) to actually submit it to. How do you go about this? Well, there are several avenues you can take. A couple of great resources I have found are the Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market (US-based) and Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook (UK-based). Both have a selection of children’s book publishers (as well as other markets for children’s illustration) as well as tips on what publishers look for, and how to write for the children’s market. Each give a rundown on what kind of books each publisher publishes, such as fiction, non-fiction, novelty books, young adult, etc. Both are valuable books to have in your illustration library, plus they’re reasonably priced and available from Amazon. However, if you want that whole “try before you buy” thing you can always head to Borders or Barnes and Noble and have a look through while enjoying a half double decaf decaffeinated half-caf (with a twist of lemon).

As you’re flipping through Market and/or Yearbook, look for publishers that would be interested in what you’re writing. For example, since my piece is a picture book for a younger audience, I wouldn’t send it to a publisher that only publishes education-based material. If you submit your work to a publisher that doesn’t publish your genre, it makes you look unprofessional--don’t waste your or the editor’s time. Just do your research. Another thing to look for in publishers are ones that are open to submissions. A lot of the big publishing houses do not accept unsolicited manuscripts or work that isn’t being submitted by a literary agent. Trust me, reading the phrase “we do not accept unsolicited submissions” will get to you, but just keep researching. There ARE publishers that love to get submissions from up and coming authors and illustrators, so don’t get caught up in the ones that won’t look at your book.

When you’ve come up with a list of publishers to submit to, it’s time to get your submission all together. You’ll want to write a cover letter outlining your book, the audience it’s best for, and your credentials as a writer/illustrator. It shouldn’t be more than a page, much like a cover letter you would submit to a potential employer. You’ll also want to include the manuscript of your book, and a dummy book to give the publisher an idea of the pacing and layout, as well as your illustration style (I’ll write more on the dummy book in my next post). If the publisher returns submissions (in the event they reject your submission), include a self addressed stamped envelope so you can get your dummy book back. Put everything in a nice, professional looking folder and package it so that it will arrive undamaged. I also recommend including a business card, promotional mailer, or both that the publisher can keep so they have your contact information on file. The presentation folders I have been using come with a space for you to put a business card on the front cover; I like them a lot because it means the publisher knows my name before opening the folder.

Once you’ve got all this together you’re ready to go! Pop it in the post and get ready to wait a minimum of 3 months for a response. Don’t be too surprised or disappointed if you get a rejection…it’s just the way the business works, and seemingly more so nowadays with the poor global economy. Just stick with it and give it your all…and good luck!

Up next I’ll have a post on putting together a dummy book using