Briefly, here are the steps to getting your picture book or illustrated book printed and published:
Getting an ISBN and Barcode for your book
1. Register your publishing company [you have to set up one first if you haven't already have a company] with the National Library. You just need to fill in a simple form available from the National Library [ask for the ISBN department] to get your registration number.
2. Apply for an ISBN for your book - this is another simple form to fill at the same place. You need to fill in information of your book, like title and author's name and provide the front cover of your book. The ISBN number as well as barcode is provided free and is usually available in half an hour, assuming there isn't a queue [there usually isn't].
3. You may also want to apply for the CIP [Cataloguing in Publication] data for your book which is another form from the same place.
[More detailed information on the above may be obtained from the National Library's site: http://www.pnm.my]
Getting your book ready for illustrating and printing
- Decide on the size of your book - illustrations should be provided according to the book size or in proportion [illustrations may be bigger than the book size but not smaller to ensure quality]
- Decide on the number of pages - optimum pages for print purposes are 16, 24, 32, 36 [ie mulitples of four]. Your story itself may only take 22 pages but the printer will still give you 24 pages - you can leave the extra pages blank or use them for promotional materials.
- You need the following front matters: Title page, copyright page - which should be planned into your book.
Looking for illustrators
1. So you've written your story and are looking for a suitable illustrator. Some places where you can find local illustrators [apart from googling]:
- the SCBWI local website: www.scbwi-my.org
- visit the Annexe Gallery's KL Alternative Book Fair / Art for Grabs event where freelance artists often take up stands to sell their work - check them out on Facebook or - www.annexegallery.com
- you can also find illustrators at Central Market
- check out the artists' colony at the Craft Complex, Jalan Conlay
Working with illustrators
- Look at the illustrators' existing work to see if you like their style for your story
- Talk with the illustrator to see if you can work together successfully
- Have a clear idea how many illustrations are required for your book and work out a budget - how much are you willing to spend?
- A one-page full-colour illustration may start from RM150; a black and white (simple illustration) may start from RM50. Covers (front and back) costs more. In general, I like to work out a package deal with the illustrator for the whole book or series of books. Be willing to pay more for an experienced illustrator or for more detailed work which may require some research by the illustrator. It helps to pay the illustrator an advance followed by progressive payments for progressive delivery of work.
- Before deciding to proceed with the illustrator, ask the illustrator to provide, for free, rough sketches (or roughs) of the illustration you require - eg, a key character of your story. You should not expect the illustrator to provide roughs for every page.
- However, once you have agreed to appoint the illustrator, ask the illustrator to provide roughs for each illustration which you will approve before he/she proceeds with the actual illustration. This avoids a lot of grief. If you or the illustrator decide this step is not necessary, you may find it difficult later to change any completed illustrations that are not satisfactory and the illustrator may feel he/she should be paid extra for the additional work which you thought should just have been a correction... see what I mean?
- Depending on how experienced the illustrator is, be prepared to talk through your story with him/her and if necessary, for each page of your book.
- Agree with your illustrator on a suitable time frame. Sometimes the illustrator may misjudge the amount of time needed and starts to fall behind schedule. Then sit down and agree together on a new deadline. This is better than getting frustrated and abandoning the work - you can't use what has been done and you don't have a complete book.
Getting to print
- Find a layout artist who can help you select a suitable typeface and design the book for you. If your illustrator is also a layout artist, you can get him/her to do that. This is a separate job and requires separate payment.
- The layout artist should be experienced and be able to prepare the files for printing - the right resolution, crop marks, bleeds [ie for pages that have require printing right up to the edge] and so on.
- Show the printer the quality of paper, binding, finishing [eg glossy cover or spot varnish or matt cover or embossed title etc] you want - bring book samples. When you have more experience, you will be able to provide detailed specifications such as grammage of paper, type of paper and the different types of finishing - learn from your printer.
So your book is printed. How do you sell it? This question should be asked before you start publishing but is frequently not done. I have made the same mistake and I still have stocks of my earlier books published two years ago. They are good books, well written and illustrated and produced to high quality. We enjoyed the whole creative process and we had our book launches, readings and related activities. But we would be lucky if we recovered our costs.
There are lots of excellent books and website where you can find information on marketing and selling your book. But what do you do if the local bookstore does not want to take your book? Or they tell you to find a distributor and the distributor wants 60% of the book cover price with returns - ie if your books do not sell, they will return them to you.
You can produce e-books or print-on-demand and there are a number of such publishers online. You can use a digital printer [rather than traditional offset] and print small quantities. However, that will increase your per unit cost and you will have to sell your book at a high price [to cover not only your printing/illustration costs but also the percentage required by the distributor or bookstore]. This may not be such a problem if you are able to sell the books yourself directly.
In other words, list down all your costs from the start.
I have not pointed out the need to have your book edited [the text, illustrations and overall concept] and many self-published books would have been better with external input [not counting your relatives and friends]. There is no harm in being open and listening to what others have to say [the SCBWI is a good source], give them due consideration, based on the research and information you have gathered and the final decision is yours. Read and look at other books in the market.
I wish you success.