Hit the Books with Dan Milnor│Getting Started in Self-Publishing | Blurb Blog

Hit the Books with Dan Milnor│Getting Started in Self-Publishing
11 Jan 2018

Hit the Books with Dan Milnor│Getting Started in Self-Publishing

You’ve got a great idea for a beautiful book you can share and sell far and wide. Next step—make your book. But where to begin? Should you start with the front cover? How to decide on the best paper type? How many images should you use?

We put these questions to Blurb’s very own Dan Milnor—writer, photographer, prolific self-publisher—for some pointers on getting your self-publishing project off to a flying start.

Q: Why make a book to sell and how do I know when I’m ready to start?

Dan Milnor: Deadlines aside, there’s no wrong time to start making your book—but understanding the ‘why’ will help kick things off. Is it to promote your work and talent, grow your business, raise awareness about an issue? Or is it simply a way of pursuing your passion? Clarifying your intent first will help inform later decisions.

Q: How do I know what materials to use, or how to pick a trim size?

DM: Purchase a paper swatch kit to get a real feel for your different options. Create one or two small, affordable test books printed on the one or two papers you think you might like the most.  When you’re choosing your trim size be guided by your images. If you shoot a lot of square mobile images, then a square trim size will work best. Or perhaps you shoot mostly landscape images with your DSLR. Then look for a match in the landscape formats. And although it might not be your main motivation, costs are always top of mind. Consider affordable formats that are priced to sell.

Q: What is a good starting point for page design?

DM: Let your content dictate your design. For example, serious images that invite the reader to really study your work require a page all to themselves. Things like page numbers and captions are NOT mandatory and often distract more than anything else. Keep things clean and simple. Let your images do the talking.

Q: How many images do I need to get started?

DM: A trick question. You could make a book using only one image. But getting a good handle on your images, and a grasp of your workflow is critical.

Q: How many pages do I need?

DM: Another trick question. You need the exact number required to tell the story and not a single page more.

Q: What is a good starting point for page design?

DM: Let your content dictate your design. For example, serious images that invite the reader to really study your work require a page all to themselves. Things like page numbers and captions are NOT mandatory and often distract more than anything else. Keep things clean and simple. Let your images do the talking.

Q: Any tips for the book cover?

DM: Do it last and take your time. Your cover is your books first impression and a key factor when it comes to sales. Think about your favorite books or publications and use their influence. Browse bookstore shelves for inspiration. Try a template. Most of the time you’ll end up throwing out your first design—and that’s ok.

Q: How do I keep my self-publishing project on track?

DM: Establishing a budget and a timeline are key to keeping things on track. To help you gauge the scope of your project and avoid mistakes, try making a small book, a ‘gateway book’—softcover, minimum page count—and build from there. Remember that making mistakes is part of the creative learning process.

Q: What font do I use? And what size?

DM: Find a font that has a connection to your work, or a font that adds drama in some way. In terms of size, think smaller than you might expect and keep your type column width realistic—not across the entire page.

Q: How do I know when the book is done?

DM: Again, deadlines aside, there are no set rules. When you think you’re done, print one copy just for you. Then get a second opinion from someone you trust. Printing just one tester copy means you can always go back and make any tweaks.

Q: How do I show off my book?

DM: Promoting your book can start long before it hits the shelves. Why not start a blog series that charts the making of your book?  Then with beautiful shots of your book on your social channels, blog, mailing lists, and website, you’ll soon build up a buzz. The Blurb book preview tool makes it easy for your followers to buy your book direct from the Blurb Bookstore however they engage with you.

You can listen to Dan talking more about getting started in self-publishing below. Or if you’re already feeling inspired, why not get started today?


Holly Head

Holly is a UK-based freelance writer, who is still slightly stunned that she gets to call writing all day her job. When she’s not scribbling down ideas for clients on both sides of the pond, you’ll find her engrossed in a new book, or attempting to take beautiful photos that don’t feature her thumb over the lens.

  • eternalee

    Thanks for posting this!