Monday, January 28, 2013

Introduction to Self-Publishing

Today's lesson is more of a review/tutorial about self-publishing than a lesson.  Self-publishing is when an author/creator publishes his or her own creation.  It's also sometimes referred to as vanity publishing.

All of my paper doll books are self-published.  There are a few reasons for that.  First, I've been called a control freak.  I guess that's kind of true.  With self-publishing, I'm in control of the whole process and that's nice.  Second, it's also been said that I have a fear of rejection.  Again, I guess that's kind of true (I mean really, who doesn't?!).  With self-publishing, I don't have to worry about that.  If I chose to submit my work to a publisher and it was rejected, no problem.  I'll just do it myself.  I'm kind of at that point now where I want to get together some work for "serious" publication.  Self-publishing is also nice because you can control the quantities.  Do you have a daughter who would love a bound paper doll book?  Or a niece who wants her wardrobe in doll form?  You can do that with a self-published book.  Buy one, buy a thousand.  It doesn't matter.

My publisher of choice is  I like them for several reasons.  It's free to publish.  The site is very easy to use.  There's a great community available to answer any questions.  The pricing is reasonable.  In fact, there's a cost calculator right on the home page.  You determine your own mark-up on each item.  But the primary reason I use is distribution.  They have two distribution packages available for selling your books: extendedREACH and globalREACH.


This chart is straight from their website.  There are distribution packages for ebooks, but I won't be going over that since it isn't terribly relevant.  I've thought of creating an ebook as an instant download so that people can print their own dolls, but I just haven't decided if that's really what customers are looking for.  As far as the print distribution offers go, there are the two listed above: extendedREACH and globalREACH.  I use the extendREACH program.  It's free (sort of...) to use.  All you have to do is meet their book requirements.  There is a list of book sizes available for Amazon distribution.  If your book doesn't meet the requirements, then it doesn't qualify.  Long story short: BEFORE you lay out your doll and spend days/weeks/months perfecting it, make sure you fit the guidelines! 

This chart has all of the combinations available.  I wanted a soft-cover, full-color book.  I also wanted it to be large enough to cut out.  I publish my dolls in the full-color, US letter, perfect bound option.  The minimum amount of pages is 32.

Now this all sounds complicated.  It really isn't.  I create most of my images in standard letter size anyway.  And chances are, most of you have the software already on your computer to create a PDF to upload for publishing.

With Lulu, there is step by step process for publishing a doll.  I'll go over that in detail with a real project in the next lesson.  For now, I want to explain what you need to do and know before you even start a project!


A completed doll
A scanner if the doll is in a non-digital medium
An image editing program (I use Photoshop or Illustrator, depending on the doll)
A pdf program
A account (if you want to publish.  Not needed for the lesson!!)

These dolls are going to be printed.  That means you have to think about dpi, file size, guidelines, and page numbers, while meeting the minimum page requirements.  I've worked out a little formula: 

A full-color, perfect bound, letter size book needs a minimum of 32 pages.  There is a title page (back and front = 2 pages).  I like to include an introduction (back and front = 2 pages).  You need a copyright page as your last page with an ISBN number on it (blank front with copyright/ISBN on back = 2 pages).  So that's 6 of the 32 pages already accounted for.  That leaves 26 pages for a doll and outfits.  Or, 13 one-sided pages.  Remember, the back needs to be a blank page so that the outfit can be cut out.  And I place the doll on the back cover.  The covers are made of a card stock that makes for a rigid doll so that works out better than having the doll on the interior paper.  13 outfits is a lot less daunting than 32 pages!  With my Goddess dolls, I had 12 outfits, so I included an directions page to meet the minimum.  With the Yearbook, however, I chose not to have a doll on the back.  I had all of the dolls on interior paper with directions for making them rigid or magnetic or whatever.

This is a lot of information to take in!  In the next lesson, we'll look at setting up your files and talk about dpi, guidelines, and exporting a PDF.  In the meantime, take a look at the dolls I have on Lulu or do a search on the site for paper dolls.  Mine are not the only ones up there!


  1. I may have to refer back to this post some day. I have been a writer most of my life and have tried over and over to get children's stories published. It is so hard nowdays with so many publishers requiring you to already be published before they will even glance at your work. But now that I have started drawing my own paper dolls, creating a book with some doll sets and self publishing sounds like it might be fun to give a try!

  2. I plan on writing at least one more, maybe two, tutorial. I wish there had been a step-by-step process available when I put together my first book! Having said that, there is a great community at Lulu and a lot of information available. I've heard that children's books can be next to impossible to break into. Self-publishing might be a good starting point. The Elf on the Shelf book started out as a self-published book and that's pretty encouraging!

  3. This is wonderful information Julie. May I ask if the book you published with dolls throughout the book was on a heavier paper? The book I am planning has multiple dolls.

    1. I've put together several books now and the one complaint I have is the paper weight. It's lovely, smooth paper and it's perfect for outfits but not nearly thick enough for dolls.

      There are two ways I approach this. The first option is include the dolls in the pages with instructions to glue them to heavier paper. It's an imperfect solution. The second way is to include multiple dolls on the covers. I had 4 dolls (2 on the front cover and two on the back cover) when I created the Fairy Tale Fashion book. That's the better solution, I think.

      I sometimes wonder who buys the paper doll books. Are they collectors who never cut them out? Are they kids who cut them out and actually play with them? Knowing how people use the books might influence the way I create them.

      Ideally, I'd print books on cardstock but I haven't had time to research if this would be possible.

      Overall, I would say that the Lulu books I've purchased have been really nice and I'm always pleased with how they print. Let me know if you have any other questions!