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Planning Retirement Online

Every car tells a story

                              November 2006


EVERY CAR TELLS A STORY - in print for the price of a gallon of petrol

by Brian Bold


Like so many of us, I have always dreamed of writing and publishing a book, perhaps more as an achievement than a moneymaker. On retirement, I made this one of my main projects. After several years of writing courses, I found my genre – travel writing – well perhaps I found my subject and I called it travel writing because I was on a travel-writing course. I decided I would describe seminal journeys in every car I’d ever had, and I could remember at least twenty. It gave me a vehicle – no pun intended – to describe forty years of car history ( not too detailed on technicalities), forty years of family life in a changing social environment and some actual journeys with anecdotes and interesting characters.

ROAD WORKS - Drives of a Lifetime

By the beginning of this year, after three years persistence, I had enough written to think about seeking a publisher, or an agent to find a publisher. You are recommended to consult The Writers’ Yearbook to find the addresses for the above. There are dozens to choose from, and only a small indication of who might be looking for your particular type of book. It was just as I was starting the process of preparing a brief to send to agents that a new member joined our travel-writing group. “Why don’t you check out Lulu for self-publishing?” my tutor said. Well, reader, I did and that’s why I am holding a copy of my first book, ‘ROAD WORKS – Drives of a Lifetime’, in my hand a few months later, having paid around ?5 for this life-fulfilling experience!

Let me explain the process of Printing on Demand (POD). The printing of a book takes place only when there is an order, a technology that is giving writers control over the publishing process. Lulu ( ) is an American website which offers self-publishing services using POD.

Here’s what you do: You upload an electronic copy of your manuscript, and an image of the cover you want on your book, and they will arrange for a copy of a perfect-bound paperback book (this is like any normal paperback) to be sent to you within about ten days. Up till now, printing has taken place in the US or Spain, but there are trials currently underway with a UK printer, which should speed up the waiting time.

All you will pay is the production cost of this single book, around ?5 for a book of about 250 pages, and the postage. There are other companies offering POD, but none I have yet found that charge such a low fee, or provide such excellent aids to create the print-ready version of your manuscript.

There will obviously be corrections required to this first-proof copy, so you will need to create further copies. Once you are happy with your final draft, you will be ready to publish. Your book will become available for sale on the Lulu website at the price you set. At this stage Lulu will charge you 20% of the royalty you make on each book you sell. You can also, for a small extra fee (around $99) arrange for your book to be given an ISBN – an official book number enabling it to be ordered by bookshops from wholesalers – and have your book made available for sale on Amazon and other on-line bookshops.

Your published book will still be produced on demand, single or multiple copies, depending on each order, and there will be no volume discount on the unit price of the book. Obviously if you have written a blockbuster which is likely to sell thousands of copies, the business case for POD doesn’t compete with normal off-set volume printing, but for the majority of us writers, sales are likely to be only a few hundred and for us the POD approach is economically risk-free.

There is, of course, nothing to stop you approaching agents and trying to win a publishing contract, as well as following the POD route. If a publisher does accept your book, one aspect worth bearing in mind is that it will take typically a year before the book will appear in print.

Now let me tell you a little about the technical aspects of producing your book. Lulu requires your book file to be in a special format for printing, a pdf file. I thought I would have to buy special software to create this file, but no. Lulu provides a conversion from most word processing software to pdf format. I used Microsoft Word, and Lulu provides word-processing templates for the different book sizes they offer. After conversion you can download and review the pdf version of your book before you proceed with publication.

For the cover, you are required to upload a jpg file, the same type of file we get from our digital cameras. You will need some basic image handling software for creating your own cover. Paintshop Pro and Photoshop Elements are two suitable packages, but there are plenty of others. Templates are provided to enable you to make your cover image the right size, or you can use a design from the Lulu cover library.

All details of the Lulu processes are provided in comprehensive guides on their website and there is a forum where other writers share their experience.

When you publish your book, you can either make it available to the public or retain ordering rights with yourself, where only you can order copies. You can make your book available either in printed or download form, or both if you want. And if you want to update your book, or create special editions, these can be produced in minutes by uploading new files.

I hope I have encouraged you to investigate POD and Lulu further. Now you have read this article you are only a few weeks away from holding your own book in your hand.

If you’d like to check out the results of my adventures in publishing, pay a visit to my Lulu storefront at



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