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For the last two years, I’ve used an online publishing company called The Book Patch to publish my Challenge B class’s short story anthology. In an effort to help other directors through the self publishing process, I’ve written this post to address the general process you should follow when submitting your book to The Book Patch as well as a list of frequently asked questions (taken directly from the Challenge B Facebook page!). Although this post is written expressly for Challenge B directors publishing their short story anthology, the directions could apply to anyone wanting to publish a book with the Book Patch.

So you’ve decided to publish your anthology through The Book Patch. Where to start?!

First off, take a look at some of your own books and figure out the general size that you want your self-published book to be. Trade paperback? Letter sized? Something eye-catching and unusual like a square? The Book Patch has an extensive list of sizes to choose from so once you’ve figured out that part, go here and download the appropriate template. {Note: Each template is provided for both Microsoft Word (PC) and Adobe InDesign (Mac). I cannot speak to how the InDesign files work because I’ve only ever used these files on a PC. In theory, the general process should be the same for both but I cannot confirm that.}

Customizing the template

Once you’ve downloaded your template, open it up and start customizing it. Anything that is enclosed by square brackets [] is meant to be replaced by your own text. [Book Title] would become Challenge B Short Story Anthology, for example (don’t forget to delete the brackets!). The first page of the file will appear on the right side of the page so you may find it helpful to set up your word processing program to display two pages side by side. I find this to be a very helpful way to keep track of which content will be displayed on the front of a page and which will show up on the back side. If you, like me, want to ensure that all stories start on the same page, make sure that they are all on the same side of your two page spread. If they don’t end up that way automatically when you copy and paste the short stories into your template, simply add a blank page at the end of the previous story or the beginning of the current one. Here’s a screenshot of what I mean:

Two Page View

You are not required to include all of the pages that the template includes. If you, like me, prefer only one title page, then simply delete the extra pages. I wanted the dedication page to appear on the front of the page so I switched the order of the pages you see in the screenshot above: after my customization of their template, the dedication page appeared on the left of my two-page spread and a blank page appeared on the right

Copy and paste the text of your students’ stories into the template in the appropriate place (I used the pages that had been set up for chapters). Add blank pages where necessary to make the first page always start on the front or back as illustrated in the screenshot above. Once you have your text in place, you can begin to insert the illustrations.

Inserting images into your template

Before you begin adding illustrations to your book, make sure that all of your image files are JPGs. If they are some other file format, you will need to convert them. Once you have your JPGs, all you have to do is find the place where you want the illustration to appear, and then click Insert > Pictures > then navigate to the location on your computer where your image is saved. Click the image and it will be placed in your file. To adjust the size, click one of the corners and drag in or out depending on whether you want to make it smaller or larger. TIP: make sure that your students provide their illustrations to you in the same aspect ratio as your book size. For example, if you know that you want your book to be a trade paperback size (6×9), then have them provide the illustrations to you with a portrait orientation (taller than wide). If you know that you want your book to be square, then make sure their illustrations are, too. This will save you much heartache with trying to make your illustrations work with your pages! 

For a visual step-by-step through this process, check out this screencast. This will also show you how the Picture Tools menu can help you adjust how your text will wrap around your image. 

NOTE: I highly encourage you to use Word’s built-in help feature anytime you run into an issue that you can’t figure out. Simple click the “Tell me what you want to do” link at the top of the window and then type in a few words: insert image, adjust margin, etc. 

Designing the cover

The Book Patch gives you several options when it comes to your cover art, which will be printed in full color–unless, of course, you design it to be black and white! You can upload a single image for the front cover and a single image for the back cover, or you can design the entire cover–including the spine–yourself by using one of their templates. You can find those here. A word of warning: designing the entire cover will require some sort of graphic design program and experience since you will need to design both the artwork and any text you’d like the cover(s) to include. Here’s a sample of the cover from my first book: 

As you can see, this one image includes art for the back, the spine, and the front. This is what is meant by the full cover image. If you don’t have the capabilities to design this sort of cover, I recommend using student-designed art for the front cover. As with the illustrations inside the book, be sure to instruct the students that the cover art should match the book’s proportion: if it will be taller than it is wide, they should design their artwork accordingly.

Working with various file formats

Working with the Book Patch is a fairly straightforward process if you have the correct file types available to you. If you don’t, you’ll have to do a bit more work but the good news is that there are several online tools that can assist you. Once you’re satisfied with the text part of the book–the actual stories and any other photos you may choose to include–you’ll need to save this file as a PDF. 

Because PDFs are an uneditable format, I recommend requiring your students to send you the digital copies of their books in whatever file format your Word processing program takes: if you have a PC and use Microsoft Word, have them send it to you in a .doc file. If you have a Mac and use Pages, then have them send it to you in that format. Being able to easily copy and paste their text into your chosen Book Patch template (see the beginning of this post for that link) is key. You don’t want to have to convert PDFs into .docs just to get their text into the template!

If you gather your students’ artwork and have all of it scanned at a local copy and print shop, ask them to provide the illustrations to you as separate JPG files. This will allow you to easily import them into the template when it comes time to do that. If the artwork is provided to you as a PDF, you’ll need to use an online tool to covert it to JPG. Ditto for the cover art. Be sure that it’s provided to you as a JPG in the appropriate aspect ratio to work with your chosen book size.

In conclusion

I’ve used the Book Patch for two years now for my Challenge B short story anthology and I can recommend them without reservations. The price is great, the quality is amazing, and the submission process is relatively straightforward. However, I’ll admit that I’m more technical than many and so that’s why I wrote this post. If you find that all of the above is simply too much to think about when it comes to producing this book, then by all means choose something less stressful and do that instead. If you do decide to use the Book Patch, I hope you’ll find this information instructive.

Frequently Asked Questions

The following questions were asked on the Facebook page for Challenge B directors. I thought it might be helpful to have all of these addressed in one place. If you have additional questions that are not addressed here, please feel free to leave a comment and I will attempt to answer it.

Does the Book Patch provide templates?

Yes. This is the best starting point for making a book. Choose your book size, download the template, and begin editing.

What size does the book have to be?

The Book Patch has a wide variety of different book sizes, ranging from 4.24” x 6.87” all the way up to 8.5” x 8.5”.  

Can you upload a .doc or .pages file?

No, you must upload the text of your book as a PDF and the cover as a JPG. Most word processing software will easily convert their native format to a PDF.

How do you get the cover image?

You will need to create a JPG (image file) for your book cover. If you have a scanner, you can scan your cover art and save it as a JPG. Most office supply stores can create a JPG for you, too, although you’ll need to specify that file format since they often default to PDFs.

How much time does it take?

The time it takes to create your book will depend on several factors: your familiarity with Microsoft Word (or the word processing software you’re using to create your file), the length of the book, the complexity of your design, whether you’re adding photos, etc. Unless you are using a computer that won’t read their templates, I highly recommend starting with the Book Patch’s template in your chosen size. This will save you a lot of time (and possible headache!) because you won’t have to figure out margins and all of the dummy pages will already be set up for you

How long does it take the receive the books?

This depends on the shipping method you choose. I’ve always gone with the least expensive option and have received my books almost two weeks to the date from the date I placed my orders (for the last three orders I’ve placed). If you need to receive your books by a certain date, I recommend contacting the company directly to ask what they would recommend.

Can you add photos to the books?

You can add whatever you’d like to the book. The interior pages can be black and white or color (more expensive) so photographs are a nice touch, especially if you want to include a student’s artwork with his/her story or add class photos to the back. Keep in mind that color prices are substantially more than black and white, so you may want to get an estimate of your book’s price before you spend too much time creating pages of color photos that you may not ultimately be able to afford to print.

If you’re not familiar with adding photos to a Word file, I recommend using the “Tell me what you want to do” button at the top of the page where you can type “insert photo” and find specific directions.

What margins do you recommend?

I recommend downloading the template that matches your chosen book size.

Can you see a final proof before you place the order?

Yes, part of the ordering process includes a review of the text of the book and the cover. If you see anything that needs to be fixed, you’ll need to go back and do that, then re-upload the modified file.

Do students have to send me their stories in the same size/file format as the Book Patch requires?

No. The Book Patch requires the final file to be uploaded in PDF format, which is typically not an editable format. Since you will be copying and pasting the content of each student’s story into the Book Patch’s template, I recommend having them send you the file in Microsoft Word so you can more easily copy and paste into the Word template from the Book Patch. I would also recommend making sure that each student uses the same specifications when creating their story file (font, size, spacing, etc.) so that your task of ensuring consistency throughout the final file is easier.

Does everything on the Book Patch have to be a PDF?

The interior pages of your book must be uploaded as a PDF. The cover file needs to be a JPG.

What shipping method should I use?

This depends on how quickly you need to receive the books. For what it’s worth, my turnaround time using their slowest method of shipping has been two weeks from the date I place my order to the date I receive them. If you have specific date constraints, I recommend contacting the company and asking them this question so they can assess your specific shipping needs.

Do all of the fonts have to be the same?

The fonts do not all have to be the same but if you look in almost any book, you’ll see that they usually are. ::smile:: As a former editor, I highly recommend ensuring consistency throughout your book by using the same specifications throughout: the same font face, size, style, weight, etc. I could write extensively on this topic alone but that’s all I’ll say for now!