Saturday, April 19, 2008

Self-Publishing Experience at Blurb

I just uploaded my forth book to Blurb Publishing. This is a revision of the previously published Spanish Missions of San Antonio. The first was soft cover against a black background. This is a hard cover using a white background.

I tend to process my photographs dark and in the printing process they came out even darker so a lot was lost against the black which is why I want to try white this time.

Here is some of the things I believe I have learned from the first three. Well actually from the first two because the third one was a test of converting Microsoft Publisher pages to TIFF, which worked surprisingly, well. Although the next time I do that I will, again, work more carefully.

My first suggestion is to work slowly and methodically. Converting from digital to four color printing does not improve the photograph. In fact if there is the slightest problem it will most likely be magnified so careful preparation is essential in my opinion.

After you have selected the template you wish to use for your photograph—place your cursor on the template and record the exact size. Then set your cropping in your imaging software and crop the image to fit the template. Don’t just stick the photograph in the template and shift it around. Get it right before you upload. There is a reason for that.

Once you have cropped the photograph to match the template—resize to the exact size of the template. That gives you the benefit of selecting the resizing method rather than relying on the publisher. Once it is resized then sharpen before you upload. The process tends to loose sharpness so do not forget this step.

Also, very important, set the color profile to sRBG. Even though my Nikon files are in Nikon sRBG, for this new book I reset all of them to sRBG IEC61966-2.1 just to be sure they were all exactly the same.

This time I worked directly from the original NEF files, not from previous conversions to TIFF or JPG. Since I am using Capture NX I could not save to PNG. On my first book I used Paint Shop Pro and was able to save the files as PNG, which I prefer to using JPG.

In order, this is the workflow that I found to work well:

(1) Crop the photograph to match the exact size of the template you are going to use.
(2) Resize the photograph at 300dpi to the exact size of the template [if you decide later to change templates, redo these first two steps to fit the new template.]
(3) Set the color profile to sRBG, preferably a sRBG standard not your camera manufacturers’.
(4) Do any required post processing, levels/curves, cloning, saturation, etc.
(5) When finished post processing, enlarge to 100% and sharpen as preferred. I used USM, but those using PS may have other preferences.
(6) Export to a JPG file and upload to Blurb

From my first two experiences I have decided to lighten some of my photographs. Most will not have to worry about this step I have great expectations for the new book and hope that some find the above information of help.

I was a little disappointed with the quality of the first book. However, after looking through several issues of Aperture magazine and some of the recent photographic books that I have purchased there is not all that much difference. It just looked worse because I had seen the originals. I am excited about self publishing. Eventually I may try some of the more expensive publishers to see if there is a noticeable difference.

BTW: Once you have uploaded a book, you can remove it from your Blurb BookSmart software by Exporting it to another file and then deleting the copy in Blurb. That may not be an issue unless you are working of seven or eight at a time.

Addendum: Something I failed to mention is font size. On the first two books I selected a font size that looked good on the screen. In the books, the font size looks out of proportion, even kindergardenish. So I have reduced the font size on the new book.

I tend to use fonts that I feel are less common, effective and appropriate to the theme of the book. Some of these fonts are not as easy to read at Times Roman or Arial so they do need to be somewhat larger but I have leaned for the books to make them slightly smaller than what looks best on the screen.

The book done in Publisher was originally either a 12 or 10 point Times Roman. After downsizing the pages from 8 1/2 x 11 to 8 x 10 the font was further reduced. However, in the book it is quite readable and feels appropriate to the page.


  1. Thanks Gary. Surprised that you have to do another Mission just to see the difference between black page and white page. I look forward to hearing your comments when the book is printed.

  2. Paul, it wasn't so much a have to. I mentioned a couple of the things in the previous book that disappointed me, things that I felt I had not done as well as possible, but mainly it was that some of the dark photos, like one of my favorites, the chandelier against the blue, that got lost in the black background. They weren’t biggies, but I wanted to see if reducing the font and changing to the white background would look better. To do that I felt it was best to compare apples to apples by doing the same book. As you know, my whole life is an experiment.

    I wanted the Missions book to be a belated Christmas present and a Thank You gift. Apparently that was an experiment that went amiss and I alienated a few people because of religious beliefs. It was still the best work that I did last year and that is what I wanted to share not a theology. That stupidly was my bad.