Put yourself in print


Creating a one-off book has never been easier

THIS IS NOT about publishing the novel gathering dust under your bed or on your laptop. This is about creating a book that will bring you and your friends and family great pleasure, a one-off book about a subject close to your heart, a book that won’t be found on the shelves of any shop in the world. Vanity publishing of the best kind.

With technological advances, there are plenty of novelists bypassing publishers and making money all over the world. (Vampire-lit author Amanda Hocking is one high-earning example.) But what has been even more interesting is the way people are using the technology to create personal mementos in book form. The democratisation of publishing has led to the dubious cliche that “everyone has a book in them” finally becoming true.

Visit one of the most popular websites for this one-off publishing activity, blurb.com, and you soon get an idea of the variety of ideas people have for their own personal books. People are publishing their family histories, angst-filled teenage poetry, blog posts, wedding memories and photographs of their dogs. The joy and passion in these publications married with top-class design make them beautiful works of art. And the best thing is, if you can write a word document or upload photos on to a computer, you are equipped with all the skills you need to be the proud owner of your very own beautifully designed book. On blurb.com there is a tantalising button on which is written simply Make Your Book. It really is that easy. So what are you waiting for?


Corkonian Catherine Ryan Howard is perfectly placed to advise budding book-makers about publishing their own work. Not yet 30, she has published four books for sale in online bookshops in the last few years including her debut, Mousetrapped, a non-fiction account of her time spent working in Disneyworld, Florida, which has sold over 10,000 copies. She is also the author of a how-to self-publishing guide. Her latest book is a satirical novel about the dieting industry called Results Not Typical. She is currently writing her fifth book.

In addition to the tomes she sells on Amazon and e-book sites, she has created books that have a print run of exactly one copy for family and friends. “I think what people probably don’t realise is how easy it is to publish your own book by using these websites. You just upload the content and after that it’s ridiculously simple to make a book that looks like something you would see in a bookshop. You don’t have be a design whizz kid or a techie either,” she says.

For her Mother’s 60th birthday, Ryan Howard used blurb.com to create a book featuring all of her mother’s photographs of her garden. “My Mum had a real problem getting around to printing the photos, so they were all on her computer. Without telling her I got hold of them and created a gorgeous coffee table book of the photographs for her birthday,” she says. Kathleen’s Garden cost €70 to produce – and Kathleen loved it.

Ryan Howard used another website, createspace.com to make a book of the emails exchanged between her and one of her best friends. “She lives in the US, and when I sent it to her as a Christmas present, she thought it was some kind of voodoo magic. These kinds of books make the best gifts,” she says. Another example is the CD-sized book of photographs Ryan Howard made filled with pictures taken on her backpacking adventures, which she treasures.

Of course there are still plenty of people who want to fill books with words and try their luck at actually selling them. For these writers the advent of self- publishing sites has been a blessing when it comes to saving not just money but time.

“Before this there was a lot of blood, sweat and tears, dealing with printing and design and all the rest, if you wanted to produce a book to sell yourself,” she says. “Now you can do it all, writing, publishing and putting it for sale on Amazon, the biggest book store in the world, without leaving your desk.”

The books are printed to order, so when someone buys one of your books online it is printed and dispatched by the website you created it from. The only cost to you as the publisher is the cost of one original proof copy which you have to buy.

Even with all these self-publishing developments, Ryan Howard says there is one thing has not changed. “The hardest part is still writing the thing,” she smiles.



Perfect for keepsakes and customised coffee table books


For paperbacks


Similar to createspace but with more hard cover options

Smashwords.com, kdpamazon.com

For ebooks