Thursday, 5 December 2013

How to make yourself a book thing

The last post talked about how important it is to celebrate our writing achievements ourselves: we need the celebration for new creative energy and we can't afford to depend on other people for it. The most exciting achievement for a writer is often holding the finished book - but that does depend on other people, plus the time between finishing a story and holding the published book can easily take two years or more. The solution: make yourself a book thing, now. Something you can hold, hug, lick.

I have four ways of making a book thing - each one's explained below, so you can pick whatever appeals to you most and suits what resources you have. You don't have to wait until the book is perfected: as with celebrating, I'll make a book thing when I've finished the creative big push, before I edit. On a big project, I make might a book thing at each landmark stage. It has multiple uses:
  • a physical object to hold and treasure: a satisfaction and celebration
  • something to give your beta-readers: your friends and family will read a book thing much more easily than a document on screen
  • a working book to help you plan redrafts, edit, or write a synopsis 

Ringbinding and gluebinding

Perfect for: novel-length books, quick solutions, and if your own printer can't do booklet-printing

If you have a university in town, you have an academic binder’s.  They specialise in making just 2-3 book-type things (theses), so they’re perfect for one-offs.  You can have a standard cardboard-backed cloth spine and glue (my local shop charges £5 for that) or go the whole hog and get a hardback version like the official final thesis. Alternately, a print shop can do ring-binding for about the same price. They supply the cardboard back and clear plastic for the front. Ring-bound books can open flat, but if they're used lots the plastic rings often come loose. You can print the book yourself (double-sided) or get them to print it.

Sewn A5 booklet

Perfect for: short stories, little gifts, if your own printer can do booklet-printing

Check if your printer has a "booklet" setting. If it does, it will sort out all the page settings for you! Make the first page the cover, then leave a blank page (for the inside of the cover) so the story starts on the first right-hand page. To sew it, fold it in half and make 5 evenly spaced holes through the spine. (I push an embroidery needle into a cork head first, as a makeshift awl, to make the holes.) Use embroidery thread. (If you're being fancy, pull it through beeswax to strengthen it.) Make sure the thread is 2.5 times the length of the spine. Push the needle through the centre hole, from inside the book, leaving about 10cm inside the book (to tie up at the end). Sewing downwards, go in at the next hole, then out at the next hole, then back over yourself.


Repeat the same pattern for the top half. Your thread will end up back inside the book, and you can tie it off with the bit you left behind at the beginning.

Stapled A5 booklets

Perfect for: longer stories in a more convenient size, if your own printer can do booklet-printing & you have a long-armed stapler. You end up with a batch of loose booklets, though, rather than a single combined book.

You're printing a whole novel in booklets (folios) and stapling each folio. (You need a long-armed stapler for that; normal staplers won't reach to the middle.) Use the printer's “booklet” setting. It’s difficult to fold more than 8 sheets and each sheet has 4 pages.  So print separate booklets for pages 1-32, 33-64, 65-96, 97-128, 129-160, 161-192, 193-224…  Remember to  add a blank page after the cover page (for the left-hand inside cover). 

Coptic binding

Perfect for: going seriously fancy, for people who like crafts, and if your own printer can do booklet-printing

If you want to get fancy and have time, sew the folios coptic-style instead of stapling them. I have an artist mother who specialises in book-making, so obviously I staple mine! My mother sewed the ones in the picture, but I have sewn coptic books before and it's a wonderfully soothing craft. 

Print your book in folios, as you would if you were just stapling each folio. The sewing technique is quite similar to just sewing one folio, but you keep all the thread on the inside of the fold, and with each stitch you loop it to the previous folio as well. Here's an excellent tutorial with clear photographs of each stage.

I'd love to see photos of any book things you make, so do share!

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