Monday, July 12, 2010

Thanks to UPS and Lulu.com, I found a way to save money and time on book proofs, and found a better way to make corrections

While you'll spot many errors in a book manuscript when it's displayed on a computer screen, you'll probably detect even more when it's printed on paper--like a real book.

Two years ago, when I started in self-publishing, POD printer Lightning Source charged $30 for each generation of a proof that I submitted. The fee included next-day shipping (after about three days of their working and waiting), and seemed fair. The Lightning Source website mentioned that a $40 fee could be applied for each file revision, but I was never charged the $40 in those days.

My books typically required about six revisions, and I was glad to be paying $30 each, not $70.

This year, one my books went through THIRTEEN generations of proofs, and I was shocked to be charged $30 for the first plus $70 for the next 12. I'll have to sell a lot of books to make up the additional  $480 in revision fees. That's equal to the profit on about 60 books!

I got smarter for my new How to Get the Most out of a Self-Publishing Company. The book has 366 6 x 9-inch pages, and I paid Lulu.com just $11.82 for printing (much too high for normal books but OK for a proof) and $16.99 for "expedited" shipping. (Other shipping options range in price from $3.99 to $36.99, so if I was not in a hurry, I could've gotten a proof printed and delivered for just $15.81.)

On Saturday, after three brain-numbing read-throughs of my second-generation Lulu proof, I figured  I was ready to upload my PDF files to Lightning so I'd have a proof this week.

I realized that it was destined to have as-yet-undiscovered errors, but I had not yet seen a proof with my "real" cover (l let Lulu print the proofs with a quick-and-dirty temporary cover) and was willing to make the investment to see a more-finished book.

Then I had a thought.

If I could get a printout on paper, I could give it one more read-through and make corrections over the weekend, and then upload the PDFs on Monday or Tuesday and still get a $30 proof from Lightning Source by the end of the week.

I was vaguely aware that some of the copy-and-ship franchised stores could print from a thumb drive. I did some checking online and was both surprised and thrilled to learn that UPS Stores (formerly Mailboxes Etc.)  could accept files as online uploads, and that there was a UPS store just seven  minutes from me.

I quickly established a UPS account online and uploaded the file. This was around noon, and I was informed that my print job would be ready by 4 p.m. The price was just $27.31, including three-hole punching and sales tax and file storage. At a little after 2 p.m. I received an email notifying me that the work was ready for me to pick up. $27.31 was more than the minimum $15.81 that I could have paid Lulu, but I received the "book" in hours--not ten days. It was less expensive--and faster--than the $30 proof from Lightning.

I want to publicly thank Nayan Parikh at UPS Store #0171 on Cherry Street in Milford, CT for his fine work, quick service and fair price. The store is in a shopping center where I frequently spend time and money in other stores and restaurants. I had previously passed Nayan's store hundreds of times without being aware of its capabilities, and I wasted time and money. I will probably use its services with all of the books I publish in the future.

Unlike a Lightning or Lulu proof, the UPS proof didn't include a coated and colorful bound-on book cover. However, I quickly discovered that the three-hole-punched format is MUCH BETTER for proofing.

When put into a binder, the pages stay flat for reading and marking. And since my pages are formatted for 6 x 9 but UPS used 8.5 x 11-inch paper, there was plenty of extra space for my proofreader's marks and even for copy revisions. I really liked being able to insert tabbed dividers, and quickly started to use the pocket in the front cover to hold my red Sarasa editing pen, Post-Its, bookmarks and a small pad.

I had to go out of town yesterday and knew I'd spend some time in my car waiting for my wife. I took the binder with my proof, propped it up on the steering wheel, and got to work. It would have been much more difficult to do this with a normal bound book.

I am now up to page 173 and have found at least 200 things to fix which I had not noticed on my monitor or in the Lulu proofs. If all goes according to plan (HAH!), I'll finish my revisions tonight, upload to Lightning on Tuesday, receive the Lightning $30 proof on Thursday or Friday, approve it, and books will go on sale on Saturday.

I hope it works out on schedule. I want to start selling books soon to make up for the money I wasted with the $40 revisons from Lightning Source.

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