New Self-Publishing Options from Blurb and Book Design Templates

by | Aug 19, 2014


For many years self-publishers have been frustrated.

I’m not talking about the usual ups and downs of indie publishing. No, I’m talking about authors who want to publish books with lots of full color photos or illustrations, and who want to take advantage of the reduced risk and convenience of digital printing and print on demand distribution.

Until quite recently, when authors would bring me these kinds of projects, I had to tell them, “Sorry. That’s just something we can’t do you, unless you’re willing to either give up all your profit or, worse, subsidize every copy of your book that you sell.”

The reason was simple. Although there were digital “presses” capable of turning out gorgeous color books, the prices were way too high to allow you to discount them for retail sales and still make a profit.

Eventually Lightning Source, the Ingram print on demand vendor, introduced color books. But since these were printed on high-speed equipment and less than optimal paper, the color quality was really only suitable for the most basic instructional books or business books with color charts and graphs.

But recent–and brand new–developments look to finally change this situation.

Blurb.com, Partnering with Ingram, Moves into Color POD

For years, Blurb.com has produced beautiful, high-quality color books in quantities as low as 1 copy, by using the best equipment and materials.

I’ve often used these books as prototypes for client’s books. When you send a book overseas for offset printing to take advantage of lower prices, you’re going to end up waiting 8 to 10 weeks before the finished books arrive back to go into distribution.

Uploading your files to Blurb, you can create prototypes you can use for sales and marketing, and get them in a few days.

Now, Blurb has entered into an agreement with Ingram to produce lower-cost color books that you can put directly into Ingram’s world-best book distribution system.

“Authors can publish in print and ebook formats from a single file, output to Amazon Kindle, sell on Blurb.com, and via the new Ingram partnership, have a presence in over 39,000 locations worldwide at retail and online stores.”–from Blurb’s press release today

I spoke yesterday with Eileen Gittins, founder and chief executive of Blurb, about this new initiative. Eileen emphasized that our culture is becoming increasingly visual, and publishers need to respond.

Here are some highlights:

  • Printing–Blurb’s new offerings use Ingram’s existing capabilities for book production, so we already know what these books will look like (see more on Ingram’s color capabilities below).

  • Trim sizes–These books (Blurb refers to them as “trade books”) will be offered in three trim sizes to start: 5″ x 8″, 6″ x 9″, and 8″ x 10″, all industry-standard sizes, in both hardcover and softcover.

  • Ebook conversion–Right now, for authors using Blurb’s excellent Bookwright layout software, they will provide conversion to reflowable (Kindle) ebook format directly from the same file. Since this is a new service, it’s currently available at no charge.

  • RTF import–Bookwright will now support direct RTF file import from your favorite word processor.

  • Streamlining–You won’t need separate accounts at Blurb and Ingram to use the print on demand service, either. Everything will be consolidated in your Blurb dashboard. That’s convenient.

  • Software–One of the best reasons to use Blurb, in fact, is their software. In addition to Bookwright, they have an excellent Adobe InDesign plugin that puts Blurb’s book templates right on your own PC, where you can lay your book out and experiment as much as you like.

  • Short discounts–Here’s one wrinkle that could be useful to some publishers. When Ingram launched Spark and closed Lightning Source to new self-publishers, they also pretty much killed “short-discount POD” publishing. But authors who know how to manage, promote, and sell their own books can make a lot more profit with a short discount (one below the usual lowest retail discount of 40%).

Blurb will offer authors a choice of discounts: 25%, 36%, or 55% on these trade books for POD distribution. And you can set your discount book by book, unlike some vendors, where you have to pick one discount and use it for all your books.

  • Pricing–I haven’t seen the final pricing for print on demand production, but if Blurb really wants to become an option for lots of indie authors–particularly those used to publishing black and white, text-based books–they will need to be competitive with CreateSpace and Ingram Spark. They might be able to demand a premium based on their software and other support services, but pricing in this field is well established.

After talking to Eileen, I think Blurb is on exactly the right track. They are responding to the needs of the indie author community, and are rapidly expanding the kinds of services they offer.

For instance, you can also use Blurb for offset printing, limited warehousing and order fulfillment, ebook conversions, and for sales either on their site or, using a Blurb widget, on any website you like. And these sales (which are outside the normal book distribution channels) will earn authors 100% royalties.

I’d keep an eye on Blurb because it looks like they are aiming to become a viable alternative not only for your color books, but for standard black and white print on demand as well.

And that would be very good news indeed.

Ingram Color Examined

Coincidentally, I happen to have on my desk samples from Ingram of their “Standard” and “Premium” color printing. These correspond to Blurb’s “Economy” and “Standard” levels of production. Confusing, huh?

Here’s what Blurb says about these:

“Authors have two print options: Economy and Standard. Economy printing offers a lower print-on-demand starting price, while Standard printing features a wider color range and richer blacks.”

My examination of the samples leads me to agree with this statement. While Ingram’s Standard color (Blurb’s Economy) is fine for low-end color like instructions, diagrams, and charts and graphs, it’s really unsuitable for artwork, photography, or any printing where you want a full, vibrant color range.

Ingram’s Premium (Blurb’s Standard) is much better, and would be suitable for somewhat more demanding uses like travel books, cookbooks, illustrated memoirs and the like.

Keep in mind that neither of these offerings will produce truly high-quality printing like you see in coffee-table books, art books, or photography books. These books use different equipment and much better paper stocks to get those rich colors and deep blacks.

Brand New “2Way” Templates Make Photo Books in Word Easy

For authors who use Microsoft Word to lay out their books, creating photo books has been quite a struggle. One that many users have simply given up on because Word really is difficult to master when it comes to placing photos accurately.

Trying to create captions, get everything on the page properly, and have it look right–a tall order for most authors who just want to get on with their work.

Well, help is here. Tomorrow we’ll be making available for sale for the first time, 2 brand new templates, Spectacle and Iconic.

These templates are specifically designed for photo books, with captions, running heads, chapter openers, title, copyright, contents, and about-the-author pages already set up for you and ready to go.

And these templates truly are “2Way” capable. What does that mean? It means that once you have your book laid out in Word using our template, you can output both a PDF for print book production, and ebook formats too, all from the same file.

These time- and labor-saving 2Way templates have been a huge hit with authors, and it’s easy to see why. We’ve now got 5 different designs to choose from–3 text based and 2 photo oriented–and they can save you from having to format your book twice. Once for print and once for ebook conversion.

And they are all available in a full range of trim sizes.

So tomorrow, head over to Book Design Templates and check them out. If you’ve been waiting to do a photo book and you use Word, this is for you.

tbd advanced publishing starter kit

18 Comments

  1. Syed Kamal

    Help from this community is sought in the following:
    a. Does bookwright support superscript? Unfortunately Booksmart doesn’t. Mine is a legal case and I need this feature.
    b. How to bring an MSWord manuscript into bookwright?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
  2. Adn Frs

    Hello,
    I just received my proof from createspace and was very disappointed with the quality so I am investigating other POD avenues, namely Blurb, Lulu or Ingram Spark. My book has many photographs and I would like to get your opinion on photo quality provided by Blurb, Lulu and IS. From you article I am under the impression the Blurb is really the only provider to use when including high resolution photos. Is this correct? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Reply
    • Tom Hemeon

      The book I did using Blurb turned out to be a very high quality product. As good as any book you would find in a book store. The only thing you have to keep in mind is that the brightness of a picture you see on your computer screen will be quite a bit darker when printed. Order cheap copies for proof reading so you can adjust the brightness. Here is how my book turned out.
      https://www.blurb.com/books/1109607-in-the-doorway-between-day-and-night

      Reply
      • Marty Ittner

        I am a book designer that used to love Blurb, but recently they changed vendors for trade books that are generated from a pdf. The new product has a different type of cover finish, I call it soft touch–they call it matte–which cracks on the front hinge by the laminate pulling away from the cover, creating a white line. The advice from Blurb: lighten it up so it doesn’t show so much. I’m sorry, but lots of book covers are dark! I am now scrambling to find another vendor. The interior paper however, is much improved. I hope Blurb can get their vendor issues resolved.

        Reply
  3. Tom Hemeon

    I just spent days setting up a 42 page poetry book on Blurb only to find out that you can’t sell a trade book from Blurb on Amazon; only photo books and the smallest photo book is way too expensive. I guess I will have to revert back to Createspace and its awful process. Are there anyother print on demand sources for selling on Amazon?

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Sorry to hear that, Tom. Most POD vendors distribute to Amazon CreateSpace, Ingram Spark, Lulu, and so on.

      Reply
    • Pete

      Can’t you just generate a trade pdf via Bookwright and put it up on Createspace yourself? Then just use blurb for the ingram global retail network and blurb-direct channels?

      I agree it would be more convenient if Blurb trades could be sold on Amazon, but I don’t see why the two are mutually exclusive.

      Reply
      • Tom Hemeon

        Not sure if you have access to a copy of the pdf on Blurb for your own files. I will try this in the future as I have already recreated the book in Word for createspace and am awaiting a proof copy. I have software to convert a pdf to word for revisions so that would have been great if I had access to the file. I really do like the Bookright templates as my book has quite a few photos as well as the poetry.

        Reply
        • Pete

          Hi Tom,

          We’re in similar boats – I also want to use them to publish poetry in an 8×5 format.

          It seems like a needlessly difficult battle. You can’t export a high quality pdf so my idea above is impossible. Bookwright doesn’t have templates for trade books or poetry so you pretty much have to use booksmart. And you can’t export from booksmart to bookwright so far as I can tell. Or to createspace. These seem restrictions designed to lock you in. Apparently these guys never heard of open systems …

          I’m thinking of trying the blurb indesign plugin but since indesign costs money and introductory indesign videos look daunting, I’m not certain that’s a good idea either. I wonder how did you put your blurb trade book together?

          Anyway from your reply here I guess what you’ll do now is use the pdf as the basis for two separate editions, an Amazon and an Ingram, each with different ISBNs?

          Reply
  4. Loretta

    Joel,

    Great info! I came to your site to see what you had to say about Blurb and the new trade sizes! Great info! I’m working on a Blurb trade book after my successful Kickstarter, (and am excited to submit a future digital cover to your contests!)

    The Blurb color trade options impressed me because, and I called to confirm, there are no extra charges for ink heavy pages. My local trade digital publisher would look at the files and charge extra for lots of color photography. A person at blurb told me I could have all the color photography i’d like on the pages – no extra charges.

    It did take me a LONG time to find the tiny “search” bar on your page to type in “Blurb”. Lots of people must come to your page to search something specific – any way you could consider making your “search” more prominent?

    Reply
  5. Chris Behrens

    Hi Joel,

    Interesting info.! I posted on one of your other posts about switching my book from Xlibris to C-space. I just got my proof copy from CS and I am a little disappointed. Some of the text is slanted on several pgs., and my interior B&W’s aren’t as crisp as I would’ve liked. Even the cover color is slightly off, in the sky portion, the blue doesn’t pop like it did on my first shipment from Xlibris. The cover will do, but I am hoping they can fix the interior issues. Have you ever heard of this?

    Reply
  6. eileen goudge

    Great post, Joel! Chock full of useful info. We need to know this stuff even if it (occasionally) makes my eyes cross having to learn so many new things. BTW, thanks again for hosting me on your site.

    Reply
  7. Kim Wolterman

    Thanks for the article. I am currently working on a book that will contain several hundred photos, so this is interesting news indeed. I agree that Blurb’s pricing will need to be more in line with the other vendors, and they also need to look at their 240 page maximum on the premium books. With regards to your MW template for photo books, can additional text be added to each page or are you limited to just captions on the photos? Also how flexible is each page in terms of the number of photos that can be placed?

    Reply
  8. Jo Michaels

    I direct authors to your templates all the time, Joel. I love how they look, and it’s a great resource for those who self-publish. Thank you for keeping your templates up to date, and thank you for providing such a valuable resource at such an excellent price. WRITE ON!

    Reply
  9. Gretchen Meyer

    Mr. Friedlander, My comment is not about this article, but about a past article of yours regarding drop caps. I am attempting to use them as the first letter of the first word at the beginning of each chapter in my manuscript. My text is in Garamond 11 and the drop cap is in Vivaldi. It gives a very elegant look, but I am unable to keep the drop caps where they belong. When I scroll back to check my text, most of them have moved – either to the left, away from the word, or to the right, encroaching on the word and as a result the drop cap is disfigured. I have gone into options and embedded them as directed by Create Space, but nothing works. Can you possibly help me? What am I NOT doing or what am I doing wrong? Gretchen Meyer

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Gretchen, I don’t think I can help from this distance. I don’t know the software you are using or anything else about your book layout. There’s no reason they should be “moving.”

      Reply

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