How to write and publish an origami book part 3: Production, marketing, motivation and other considerations

In parts one and two we looked at proposing and writing your book. This final part considers the final steps. It also looks at issues affecting the entire process like motivation and project management.

Producing the book

Using a commercial publisher has several advantages over self-publishing. They should have experienced production staff, or freelancers, who can take your manuscript and make a beautiful and functional book. They may test the book with its intended audience to check the instructions can be followed successfully. They will edit and proofread to correct any errors and improve the work for your readers.

However, the more you can do to help the publisher, the better. Produce the manuscript in the required format. Ask friends or family to check your work. Aim for the best quality work that you are capable of.

Marketing the book

Part 1 considered the marketing of your book before you even started writing it. Marketing is more than promotion: it means researching your audience, competitors and tailoring your work. The subject and audience of your book are part of your marketing: Who are you targeting? Why will your book meet their wants or needs?

Publicising your book is a distinct activity. Traditionally this is done by press releases to relevant media and a book launch. Journalists are pressed for time and appreciate easy to file reports relevant to their audience. Give them appealing pictures of you and your work. Try suggesting words to use, perhaps a Q&A:

Why did you write “Action Modular Origami to Intrigue and Delight”? I’ve always been fascinated with folding paper since childhood. Some of the best origami has an action that adds an extra appeal e.g. a bird that flaps it wings. The inspirations for the book were Robert Neale’s Pinwheel-ring-Pinwheel (Magic Star) and Skeletal Octahedron. In my experience, these models are always popular with children at mathematics masterclasses and workshops.

What makes you qualified to write this book? I’ve spent many years teaching origami to children and adults, so I know what origami is appealing and how to explain difficult steps. I’ve also made many origami instructions and edited the work by others. Knowledge of other creators’ work means that most of the models in the book are novel.

What challenges did you overcome? I wanted more models like Neale’s but found only a few created by others. So, I purposely created new action modular origami.

I used Affinity Designer for drawing the diagrams and the free open source typesetting program LaTeX for writing and compiling the book. This was a learning curve for me as Designer was a new program and LaTeX is not a WYSIWYG system i.e. you write code to format text. However, more experience and new features in Designer (e.g. artboards and symbols) helped and the programmability of LaTeX allowed me to customise commands.

I wanted to make animations to help make pictures for the book and to show off the unique features of the action modular origami: how they move. I used dynamic geometry software Geogebra to create the animations, although some were very hard to model. In the end, some were approximated whist others used limited animation i.e. very few frames.

How do you feel about the book? Writing can be hard but enjoyable. Seeing the printed book is rewarding, but it can be hard to be objective as each page reminds me of the compromises made. For me, the most important thing is that people enjoy folding the models and have an experience similar to mine in creating the origami.

When people ask, “Do you have a book of models?”, I can now answer, “yes”. I can also answer “yes” when they ask if I have a book explaining some of the pedagogy and examples of good origami models (Learning Mathematics With Origami, co-authored with Sue Pope, and published by the Association of Teachers of Mathematics (ATM), in 2016). Before, I would have suggested several books but now I can recommend these two.

Motivation

Sometimes the difficulty of writing a book is not the writing itself but having enough confidence and motivation. You also need sufficient project and time management skills.

Let’s take these in order. Sometimes you can be overawed by other people’s work and think that you are not worthy. Remember that nobody is born a writer: if they can do it, then why can’t you? I’m sure you’ve seen some books that didn’t seem very good: well, there’s an opportunity for your high quality work.

Writing a book takes time and effort. If you are motivated then you will apply yourself and not become distracted. Writing your proposal should convince you that your book is worthwhile: if not, then why should anyone else be convinced? I found that making a cover helped me: the cover made the book feel real and writing the blurb made me want to see the book for real. However, do not become too attached to your cover as the publisher may use its judgement to make a different one. You may find a mood board helps i.e. a collage of similar or inspiring material.

Think about the achievements you’d like to have by the end of your life. How much would you regret not having written and published your origami book?

Project management

A book is a project so use some project management techniques. Break down the process of producing the book into smaller and manageable parts. Define the deliverables, list the tasks, estimate how long each task will take and put them in order with dependencies. Allow for contingency, flexibility and replanning. For example, time how long it takes to diagram one model. Use this to estimate the time for all of the models. Schedule known downtime like holidays and birthdays. What extra resources will you need e.g. software, printer, paper, specialised skills of others? If you need to obtain permission from other creators, do this before diagramming their models.

List the possible risks with their probability and impact. How could you mitigate them? You probably don’t need sophisticated project management software: I found a spreadsheet sufficient for planning and tracking progress.

Accounting

If you are writing for an income then you will need to keep records and pay taxes on profits. A simple spreadsheet of expenses and income will do. Cash accounting suffices for low incomes. Consult HMRC or your tax authority for details. You can pay an accountant to help; only do this if you can’t stand the thought of doing it yourself or believe that the benefits outweigh the costs.

Writers, illustrators and photographers in the UK can receive extra income by joining the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society (www.alcs.co.uk). The separate Public Lending Right scheme is for books in public libraries (www.plr.uk.com). If you’re outside the UK then similar organisations may exist for your country.

Self-publishing

These articles described publishing with traditional commercial publishers. Self-publishing using print on demand has been a viable alternative for some time. If you want a few printed books for your friends and family then you can do this with self-publishing. It’s easy if you have the skills to meet the technical requirements. There’s no need to pay for the extra services of vanity publishers.

With self-publishing you have more control and can keep a higher proportion of the selling price for yourself. However, you have more responsibility and will need to do more of the work that your publisher would do (or find others to do it for you).

Another possible disadvantage is for consumers: the price of a self-published book may be higher than if it were commercially published. This is because larger print runs benefit from economies of scale, especially for full colour printing. However, some publishers may still charge a higher price as they have larger overheads to cover.

Use a reputable commercial publisher if you can: you can always self-publish later.

Conclusions and further reading

Good luck with your book. I hope that you have found these articles helpful. They are based on my experience and are limited to the most salient or typically neglected aspects, so read further for other viewpoints and advice (see below).

Further reading

Most articles relating to origami publishing seem to focus on diagramming techniques, tips and aesthetics. Not many origami authors describe their publishing experience. One exception is Paul Jackson describing the troubled experience of producing Festive Folding:

Jackson, P. (1991) ‘Festive Folding: a book with a story’, British Origami, 151 (Dec 1991), p. 14-16

Meenakshi Mukerji wrote a short article about her fairly straightforward journey to her first published book and gives a few useful tips.

Mukerji, M. (2008) ‘My Book Writing Experience’, The Paper, 97, p.46

Marc Kirshebaum wrote a couple of guides for origami book writers accessible at cfcorigami.com/resources. Although aimed at self-publishers, the first guide briefly discusses some pros and cons of commercial publishing compared with self-publishing.

Kirshebaum, M. (n.d.) Self-Publishing Guide, Available at: https://docs.google.com/document/d/17Mz_KNRoXopNs9L9F6485iG4V6cyis-csKkvm8AF1S8/edit

Kirshebaum, M. (n.d.) Kindle Publishing Guide, Available at: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1GG5iGZJgmF1sLxvap4ot6latHeRGB5OSF6OxDUcUCHM/edit

Book proposals, industry and writing

Many books are aimed at fiction writers who have their own challenges. These two books are welcome for non-fiction authors who don’t need to find an agent:

Brodowsky, P. and Neuhaus, E. (2006) Bulletproof Book Proposals. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer’s Digest Books.

Shoop, F. (2011) How to write and publish non-fiction. Newhaven: Golden Guides.

These two books give a good overview of publishing and its development:

Clark, G. N. and Phillips, A. (2014) Inside book publishing. Fifth edition. London: Routledge.

Owen, A. (ed.) (2017) Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2018. Bloomsbury Yearbooks.

Many guides on writing exist. Here are some resources that you might find useful: the first is for narrative writing and the others are for factual text. Drivel Defence takes text that you paste in and assesses sentence length; it can also suggest simpler words.

Bingham, H. (2012) The writers’ and artists’ yearbook guide to how to write: the essential guide for authors. London: Bloomsbury.

Plain English Campaign: Free guides. Available at: https://www.plainenglish.co.uk/free-guides.html

Plain English Campaign: Drivel Defence. Available at: https://www.plainenglish.co.uk/drivel-defence.html

Turk, C. and Kirkman, J. (1989) Effective writing: improving scientific, technical and business communication. 2nd ed. London: E & FN Spon.

Graphic design

If you are designing your own book, then you will want it to be effective and attractive. Even if you aren’t, you’ll want your sample contents to work in your favour. As with all advice, use your judgement if you don’t think it’s relevant.

Dawson, P. (2012) Graphic design rules: 365 essential design dos and don’ts. London: Frances Lincoln.

Julien, A. (2012) Digital fonts: the complete guide to creating, marketing and selling. London: Thames & Hudson.

Marshall, L. and Meachem, L. (2012) How to use type. London: Laurence King Publishing.

Williams, R. (2008) The non-designers design book: design and typographic principles for the visual novice. 3rd ed. Berkeley, Calif: Peachpit Press.

Career advice and provocation

Sometimes motivation and a can-do attitude are as important as the content of your book. As well as Shoop (2011), these sources might make you think about what you’re trying to achieve, and why. As with the graphic design advice, use your judgement, especially for the late Paul Arden’s small and provocative book.

Adams, S. (2011) Publicizing Books Online. Available at: origamiusa.org/thefold/article/publicizing-books-online.

Arden, P. (2003) It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be: The world’s best selling book. London; New York: Phaidon Press.

Lang, R. (2014) Careers in Origami. Available at: origamiusa.org/thefold/article/careers-origami.

Rotten Park Road (2017) How to Make a Film for Nothing (and Other Useful Information for Wasters)

Shaughnessy, A. (2005) How To Be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.