Helping authors publish

Category: Publishing

Make and Sell a Flip Book

I own a copy of a rather unusual book, Monty Python’s Flying Circus: Just the Words. It includes volumes one and two in a single flip book. Volume one starts at the front, but to read volume two, you flip the book over and start from the back. The two meet in the middle.

I started wondering recently if I could create a flip book and get it printed and on sale. This article will explain how I made such a book and put it on sale via Ingram Spark. KDP Print doesn’t support this type of book.

For my book, I used the Project Gutenberg text of Little Wars and Floor Games, both by H.G. Wells. I chose these because they are in the public domain, they fit together, and they’re books that I’m happy to have on my shelves but didn’t already own.

Create the Interior PDFs

First, I created the interior files. I used Vellum to create two interior PDFs, one per book. In my book, Little Wars starts at the front, and Floor Games starts at the back. I had to rotate the Floor Games PDF, so it was upside down, and the pages had to be reversed.

To do that, I used a program named pdftk. I used the command-line version, although I believe a version with a graphical interface is also available. The command I used was:

pdftk Floor-Games-Print.pdf cat end-1south output Floor-Games-Rotated-Reversed.pdf

Then I used pdftk again to combine the Little Wars PDF and the rotated and reversed Floor Games PDF into a single file. I also added a PDF of two blank pages between the two:

pdftk Little-Wars-Print.pdf two-blank-pages.pdf Floor-Games-Rotated-Reversed.pdf cat output back-to-back.pdf

The resulting PDF looked normal for the first half, but the second half was upside down and the page numbers went down instead of up.

The interior of Floor Games, after it had been rotated and reversed
The interior of Floor Games, after it had been rotated and reversed

Cover

Since this was an experiment, I created a simple cover on Canva. Again, the back cover had to be upside down. Because the book is very short, it didn’t have a distinct spine for me to worry about. I allowed Ingram Spark to add the barcode, and they added it to the default location. Normally, this would be on the bottom right of the design, but when the book is turned over to read the second book, the barcode appears in the top left, and upside down. A professional cover designer could have moved the barcode to a better location, although the barcode would still be upside down in relation to the back cover design.

On Sale

I uploaded the cover and interior files in the normal way. Ingram Spark approved it for printing, but KDP Print would not. I have approved it for distribution, so if you would like to see the finished product, you can buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or others (ISBN 978-1-912680-29-0). I have set the price deliberately low, since it’s on sale mostly so that people can see the results for themselves.

Conclusion

This was an unusual project that I undertook mostly as an experiment, but I’m pleased with the results. If you have a project that would suit the flip book treatment, we’d be happy to help. Email us for more information and to get started.

Animated gif showing the Little Wars and Floor Games flip book
The finished book

Why not make publishing your New Year Resolution?

It’s that time of year when many of us are figuring out our New Year’s Resolution. How best can we improve ourselves, get healthier, or earn more? For many amateur writers it can be an opportunity to dust off that old manuscript. This could be the year that you get published.

There are more routes to getting your book published than ever before. In some ways, that’s fantastic because there will be an option to suit everyone. In other ways, it can make for a bewildering labyrinth of unknown avenues. So how do you go about figuring out which path is right for you? Well, perhaps the most important question to ask yourself is what is your purpose in publishing?

What is your purpose in publishing?

If it’s about money, then I’m sorry to say there isn’t a single route guaranteed to lead to prosperity. For every big name millionaire author, there are thousands of talented writers who just didn’t make it. But there are also quite a few making a reasonable living. Regardless of their publishing route, these authors consistently put in hours of work marketing their books and making sales.

If you want to see your book on the shelves of your local bookshop, then again I have bad news. Traditionally published books usually only live there for a few weeks before they disappear into obscurity. Self-published books often don’t get there at all. However, with so much business moving online, a lot of bookshops now have websites. They list many more books than they can possibly fit on their physical shelves. Print-on-demand services like Ingram Spark are available to both traditional publishers and self-published authors. The benefit is that instead of keeping copies in stock, shops can just order in when a customer asks.

Sometimes people just want to see their name on the front of a book to share with friends and family. There is certainly something quite special about holding a properly printed and bound edition in your hands. Beware what are known as vanity presses. Some companies prey on the author’s dream of being picked up by a traditional publisher. They charge through the nose for poor service and take a slice of any royalties. Self publishing means you definitely get to see your book in print, and it can be done very cheaply.

If you have a clear vision of the finished book you want to produce, self publishing is the only viable route. It means that all rights are yours entirely and you get the final say on everything. Traditional publishers often make decisions according to their perceptions of what the book needs. This may not match an author’s vision. Some authors find letting someone else think about it comforting, but others find it creatively smothering. And of course, self publishing means you also keep hold of all future royalties, as well as your rights.

If you want to get into the ever-growing ebook market, platforms like Amazon KDP and Draft2Digital make it possible. Anyone can upload their work and start to sell. You do need it in a good format to upload, but there are software tools and experts for hire to help you with that.

Next steps

If you decide to go for a traditional publishing contract, the first hurdle is getting noticed. Often it depends on the whims of the publishers. Many great authors are passed over multiple times before being offered a contract. Next, you need to negotiate a contract, which can be fraught with problematic clauses. You can get an agent to help with this for a cut of the royalties. Be aware that ultimately they need the publisher more than they need you, which may affect the service they provide. Once you’re signed up, the publisher takes over the process.

If you decide to self publish, you can learn how to do formatting, cover design, etc. But you don’t have to. There are lots of companies, like ours, who can do the leg work of self publishing for you. Often the charges are much lower than a vanity press and you keep all your royalties. Many are small companies run by people passionate about what they do. It’s worth taking a look at the Self Publishing Advice Centre’s list of services and ratings. The information will help you decide who you want to work with (we’re rated Excellent!).

Whichever route you take, make it yours.

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