Sunday, August 16, 2015

Advice for Creating Your Book

I just read an excellent precis by Bernard Kempinski in which he discusses the general topic of getting published. It's entitled Thoughts about Writing for Model Railroad Press.

This passage caught my eye:
The other drawback to self-published books, at least the ones I have seen so far, is that they have lower production values. That means the photos are dull looking, the page layouts are crude, and graphics are rudimentary. Very few of us are all world class modelers, expert photographers, talented writers, capable editors, professional graphic artists, and whizzes at page layout. 

But self-published books can be very useful for niche topics. For example, a book just about modeling the railroads of the civil war will probably never be published by a major house. I know because I floated that idea and it was rejected by the publishers. But I may still do it as a self-published book. 

Another good topic for a self-published book would be your model railroad. The late Dan Zugeleter did just that. He wrote a book about his own HO scale C&O layout. He tried to tie in as much prototype information as possible, but in the end it as a paean to his layout. He hired several photographers, including Paul Dolkos and I, out of his own pocket to take the photos. Through pure dint of will he got a publisher to print and sell it, an amazing achievement. Afterwards, the publisher told me he would not do another book like that because it did not sell well. 

However, a book like that is ideal for self-publishing. Some less generous people call it vanity press. In any case there are no unhappy publishers to deal with. It would be a great record of your work and who knows, it could take off. Just don’t bother with vanity publishers that require large upfront fees. 

The entire article is included on Bernard's blog here. He discusses the use of established publishers, self-publishing, writing for magazines, and the advantages and disadvantages of each. Originally prepared as a presentation for a meeting, his thoughts are from someone who knows about what he writes!

I have maintained, throughout the process of creating my three books on VIA Rail, that if I can do it, anyone can. That means you, gentle reader!