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Self-Publishing Tools for Science Artists

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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I owe a lot to self-publishing technology. If I had been born before the age of blogs and inexpensive scanners, there is no way anyone outside of my immediate family would have ever seen any of my work.

Since the beginning of my online blogging and illustrating, I’ve wanted to take my science storytelling and comics to the next level: physical publishing, sometimes called “books.” It’s pronounced buuuuks.

I’ve been sending query letters and manuscripts to publishers for years to no avail. Every time I get a rejection letter I remind myself that J.K. Rowling’s manuscript that would one day become the international success Harry Potter was rejected dozens of times. But I would hold each rejection letter and stare at each rejection email and wonder if it would ever be possible.

Oh, it is.

It’s called Amazon self-publishing. Their sister company Create Space makes it possible for people like me to side step the gatekeepers at the publishing houses and make their book available to anyone who knows how Amazon works—in other words, just about everybody.

I must say, it was incredibly easy to publish my comic collection, Amoeba Hugs and Other Nonsense, on Create Space and now Amazon. If you are looking to publish anything from a novel to a full-bleed colorful picture book, it’s possible. They provide Word document templates for the interior of the book, as well as instructions for calculating the size of the spine of the book (based on the number of pages) so you can design the cover art.

Create Space makes some of its profit by selling services like copyediting and cover design to users, but you do not have to use them. I didn’t go for any of that high-end stuff. The only cost I incurred while making my book was ordering a $4 physical proof to make sure everything looked perfect before I made the book available on Amazon.

If you’re an aspiring author, illustrator, or both looking to get your work out there and are getting tired of receiving rejection letters and the proverbial cold shoulder from the publishing industry, take matters into your own hands. It’s a beautiful time we live in, when content creators have the power of self-publishing.

Katie McKissick About the Author: Katie McKissick is a former high school biology teacher turned science writer and cartoonist based in Los Angeles, CA. Her first book is called What’s in Your Genes? and will be in bookstores December 2013. Her work can be found at www.beatricebiologist.com. Follow on Twitter @beatricebiology.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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