Blurbing It Out

This time around, I went with Blurb. To read about the last time I published books, and how to do so yourself, read here. I published a few books in the past month, Do You Dare Eat That, PorFA! (ISBN 9781715282417),on Amazon, M’s Adventures in Peru — A Love Letter (ISBN 9781715299149), on Amazon, and Tales, Tall and Short, About Food in Peru (ISBN 9781715324087), on Amazon. I published them all on Blurb.com — you can too.

It is fairly easy to publish on Blurb. You can upload a print ready PDF with photo and illustrations all included or you can use their software to layout your book. I found that the layout program was a bit clunky for me as I find it easier just to use one of the book templates in my word processing system. The only tricky thing so far has been figuring out the sizes. Luckily, the Blurb computer figures it out for me. Unlike in the old days of the printing press when the broad sheet could be folded and cut into 16 pages, Blurb uses six as the divider. If you upload less, Blurb will add blank pages at the end.

You can even upload the cover and back cover in the same PDF. I did and Blurb worked with me. It even troubleshoots pre-flight (printing). My page size was not quite what it was used to using for the “bleed” (variable area around the outside of the page) even though I made the size of the books according to what I thought was a Blurb size. Blurb’s computer just quickly says that it is not a standard size. When you see this message, you just choose the option to have it auto-fix it and it does. The books turned out great. Blurb also tells you if the images you are using are too low quality, too low in pixels for printing. You can adjust them right there by replacing or re-sizing. I still went with one that was “lo-res” and it turned out fine. I was concerned that it would look pixelated, but it did not.

The minimum page count is 20 pages, but you can go as high as you want. I think, but do you want to publish a 600 page book?

For the photo type of book and the hardbacks, the prices are higher. The cheapest, with the highest profit margin for you, is paperback. The good thing about these paperbacks is that it includes color photographs in the cost. If you buy more than 10 books at one time, you get a discount. Blurb will even mail out the books for you! Once done setting it up, you can buy it for yourself and send out the link so others can purchase it. Books are hard to find on Amazon so it’s best to search by ISBN or author name.

Then, when you get to the next process which is where you set it up for sale or not. If you do want to sell it, you can choose to hard back, paper back, paper type, and your profit margin. You can also choose an ebook for five bucks. The book will then be on sale on Blurb with an ISBN of its own. Yay! If you click on the “Ingram” publishing option, the book will be distributed through the Ingram distribution system, a central warehouse system. It takes about two weeks for the book to show up on Amazon. When it shows up on Amazon, they add their markup.

My children’s book, a 7 x 7 inch photo book cost around $26. If I buy it and send it through Blurb, I can get a quantity discount but it’s rare that I’m sending more than ten books to the same place. The “coffee table book” of M’s Adventures in Peru cost $42 because it’s a hardback with outer sleeve. Wowsa. The cheapest was the standard paperback size for the Tales, Tall and Short, About Food in Peru, at around $16. I set a small “profit” on that and marked it up accordingly.

The paper versions of the books look good and even the images that the Blurb software warned me were “low resolution” turned out okay. I will be printing more with Blurb, but I’ll probably move all the books to the paperback size.

Dressing Up for the Tourists

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The villagers wait to perform at my “village” resort in the jungle.

Having been to many tourist destinations, I often think about the theater that goes on for my benefit. Nowhere is it more apparent than in places where the “natives” dress up in tradition costume for tourists. I don’t have any deep thoughts about this but it’s just something I notice. And makes me think of words like “experiential” and “interactive” — nothing deeper than that.

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A non-performing child suffering from the heat while in “daycare” on the bench.

These thoughts occur to me quite a bit when I look through my photos. One place where it was evident was in the Amazon when we were transported for a “visit to an indigenous village” I felt this most acutely. No one lived in the village as the “natives” all lived in Iquitos and commuted to work every day in the village. They looked suitably poker faced and bored. I suppose they didn’t dream of being actors. Or maybe they want to show that their culture was one of seriousness… This makes me wonder about humor in native societies. I never see anything about humor in museums. I would imagine that most societies have a sense of humor.Wot wot?

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A child performer adjusting his headdress.

The Blood Tree

The weather was hotter than the inside of a blister. Perfect time to go for a walk. So I went for a walk “in the jungle,” but really it was just on the outer perimeter of my lodge, in the Amazon. I was trying to be cool about the squidgy mud squelching up the side of my leather shoes, getting close to the bare skin of my ankles. I as trying to be cool. Then I got bitten by a spider. A zap of fire engulfed my ankle. I looked down. There was a tiny black dot on my ankle. Then it was gone. That’s how small it was. To my credit, I remained calm.

WHAT was I thinking?

There are times to remain calm. And then there aren’t. This wasn’t. Apparently.

IMG_1798.JPGThis I found out when I casually told our guide that I had a bite. Never have I seen anyone move that fast. I didn’t even see him move. One minute he was across a pool of mud. The next right next to me! Then he took out a small plastic bottle and rubbed my ankle. This was the sap from the “blood tree” and it’s a magical potion. My ankle no longer hurt and there was no bite. I wish I had some of that Amazonian jungle blood with me now. Then I’d have the remedy to all bites. Will a company start selling this some day? Will all the secrets go the way of the dodo?

Amazon Woman

img_1964I doubt that this beautiful lady’s life is some romanticized imagining, but, she certainly didn’t need to smile or even tolerate me. She could have told me to eff off. Instead, she put up with my lens.

img_1940This lady, in her practical rubber boots and long sleeves (and ripped t-shirt), was a strong contrast to the locals who dress up in traditional costume for the tourists every day. img_2246

I wish her well.img_1954

Independence Publishing – Publishing Your Own Book

The thing I like most about blogging is that it’s such an easy way to write. To tell a story. I can only think of a few people whom I’ve met who didn’t want to tell me their stories, and even then, they certainly had a story to tell. The skill of storytelling is a form of art. I support everyone’s right (ha! write!) to tell their story.

M's Adventures in Bangladesh, the book.
M’s Adventures in Bangladesh, the book.

After I published my photo book, M’s Adventures in Bangladesh, I got many, almost desperate (so great is this desire to share a story and to be published), questions about where to publish for yourself. In the past, this form of publishing was sometimes called “vanity press” but I like CreateSpace’s term better: independently publish. The printing process keeps getting more and more democratic. Most online sites have free options and publishing costs keep getting lower and lower. They even offer e-book publishing for those who want to publish in that format.

Blurb.com: on all the bloggers’ lips, apparently, it’s easy peasy and they will take your entire blog and convert it to a book for you.

Lulu.com:  less known, but I chose it because supposedly it would be easy to get my book on Amazon… but it’s not as easy as one might think. You can get an ISBN for your book if you want to sell your book in a brick and mortar book store.

CreateSpace: Amazon (yup, the magic word) owns this publishing house.

Also, there are many online printing companies to choose from (Snapfish, Vistaprint, etc.). My first attempt was going directly through my iPhoto program, but there were too many aggravating glitches in the program for it to be worth my while, plus they did not offer bulk discounts. I found Lulu easy. Perhaps for my next book, perhaps on Colombia or on food, I will try one of the other options. In many parts of the world, printing on the local economy is a very viable option, but for an ever-moving expat, online is the way to go.

Of course, you don’t have to sell your book. So, all you writers, bloggers, storytellers, raconteurs, tell your story. Even if, you end up doing a limited print run, of one.