Before we can talk about a self-publishing pipeline, let’s talk about the one used in traditional publishing. I’ve written five books with traditional publication houses and been an editor on as many more, and with minor variations it was always pretty much the same.

A traditional publisher always provides an MS Word template to use that contains the proper Styles so that their typesetting process works smoothly. Once you’ve had written your manuscript, you use Word’s revision features to workshop things between yourself and various editors. I used Word a bunch, and had even started using OpenOffice on the last two books I did the traditional way. It supported all of the Styles and revision features that we used, so it was fine.

Because production schedules overlap, and because you may want to have chapter 5 under technical review while chapter 1 is going through style review, you write each chapter of your book as a separate document. As you finish chapters, the lead editor slurps them up and distributes them to the various other people that need to touch your book. The comment, revise, return to you — repeat until everyone is happy.

Once all of the edits are done, the publisher takes all of your final manuscript documents, imports them into (guessing) Adobe InDesign, then applies some scripting and macros on their side to begin to lay out the book per the embedded Styles. They have someone go through and place illustrations, callouts, etc., but that’s much more of a thing in instructional books than in fiction. My guess is that the fiction pipeline is even simpler.

After the type has been set, the publisher produces a .PDF file for final read through. We always used Acrobat (full version) to mark up the final .PDF. You always found something that was still wrong with it at this stage. Either some edit had been merged incorrectly or dropped, or the typesetter did something weird and the same sentence was on two pages, or captions were transposed on an illustration.

Eventually, everyone would agree that things were done, and that didn’t mean that you’d actually found all the errors/problems. It just meant that everyone was sick of looking at it, and deadlines loomed. There’s a printing press in China or Canada that has a timeline slot with your book’s name on it.

For a variety of reasons, I’ve chosen to self-publish LFBD at the moment. I’ll talk about why in another post. One of the impacts of that decision though is that all of those things that were handled by the publisher are now on you, and not all of them are obvious. Clearly, editing is on you, or on someone you’ve hired. Cover art. Pushing the Publish button. But also, who manages the workflow? Who keeps track of production stages and deadlines? Who decides what font and at what size to set the type? You. It’s all on you. There are a hundred little details to deal with, and if you don’t do it, they’re not going to happen.

In the upcoming posts in this category, I’ll detail my production pipeline for you, from setting up your work space and writing your first word, to handing things off to an editor, to getting cover art, to making .mobi and .epub files, to the gigantic pain in the ass that is prepping your manuscript for an actual print edition.

And why should you care about my production pipeline? Three reasons. First, I worked in production art and print production for years and I’m intimately familiar with all of the professional tools in the pipeline. Second, I’m a software geek (and not just a user, check my resume 😉 and when it comes to evaluating software and putting it together in a useful, efficient fashion, I’m The Shit. And Third, I’m super humble. Wait. That’s not the third thing. The Third is that if you’ve read my instructional books, you’ll know that following along will be almost as good as me sitting there in the room with you, pointing over your shoulder and teaching you what to do. It will also certainly be less creepy. I mean, you don’t even know me. You don’t want me showing behind you in your home and pointing over your shoulder.

Buy Lincoln, Fox and the Bad Dog on right now, or get the first half for free right here if you're still on the fence (.epub download to read in iBooks, Google Play Books, etc.)

2 thoughts on “Technical Self-Publishing Pipeline: Part 1

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