As some of you already know, I am working with a few people on a co-operative publishing venture that I am not yet quite prepared to announce officially, and so I am having to learn a few things as I go, which is always an amazing and terrifying experience, especially since I am trying to do things as open source as I can. Here are a few of the things I have learned:
1. In Canada, ISBN numbers are granted free of charge through Library and Archives Canada, with the requirement that the publisher send a copy of each publication to be catalogued in the national archive.
2. You can create ISBN barcodes very easily using an online barcode generator, like the one provided through www.terryburton.co.uk/.
3. The Gimp is an effective image editor for creating book covers and dust jackets, though the learning curve, especially for someone like me who has never really used this kind of software before, can be pretty steep. I must confess that it took me several days of playing with the thing to get a real sense of composing an image in layers, and I get the feeling that I am only just scratching the surface of what the program can do, though I am very pleased with what I have managed to create so far.
4. Inkscape is my latest self-education project. The program is used to produce vector images, which can scale to any size and retain their image quality. I am using it to design some logos and whatnot, but I have only just begun, so I am currently hacking my way through a test project and getting to know the user manual.
5. I have already mentioned sharelatex.com, but I have also been using scribtex.com as I continue my education in writing LaTeX. Along the way, I have also found stackexchange.com to be an invaluable resource when the answers I am looking for are somewhat less than intuitive.
6. I have learned that though there are print on demand publishers in every design and flavour, very few of them allow authors merely to submit print-ready files without purchasing a publishing package. There is lulu.com, of course, and it is an acceptable option as far as it goes. There is also Amazon’s createspace.com, which offers similar services, with greater default distribution but less choice in terms of book sizes and bindings. The best option seems to be lightningsource.com, though they really only deal with publishers, so you will have to create yourself as a publisher in order to deal with them, and you will need to set up credit with them in some way as well, even if only through a credit card.
In short, I have learned that some parts of learning to self-publish high quality books are far easier than I had imagined, some are far harder than they should be, and most of them require a certain amount of trial and error, though I think I may now finally be exhausting the trails and errors and getting to the point where I can produce books with some proficiency. Of course, I might still be wrong. I have been before.