The Machine that lets Authors DIY

I have alluded to it a little, but I’m going to take this time to elaborate on my “other” job. As you might know, I’m working retail at Sur La Table, which is a lot of fun but not a full-time gig. To pick up a bit of the slack from not working a 40-hour week I have been working with my mom formatting manuscripts for authors who are interested in self-publishing.

What does that even mean?

First let me show you the book-making machine:

The Espresso Book Machine

This machine will print the cover and the pages, affix the pages to the spine, wrap the cover around, then chop them into a perfect softcover custom book. All in a matter of minutes.

Amazing, right?

My mom had been working with this program, called Flash Books, for quite a while before leaving to take a full-time load of coursework for her graduate program. The popularity of the book-making machine has increased since then, and because she left on good terms, they have been offloading some of the formatting work onto us. Basically I take the manuscript and change all the settings so it will print properly on the book machine. I will also adjust font, add page numbers, table of contents, headers and footers–anything it takes to get the book ready to print. I have two projects under my belt now and after holding the finished copy in my hands I am so excited to take on more clients!

Getting picked up by a major publishing house is really hard, since they are really selective. This makes it easy for any author to realize the dream of holding their own book in their hands. Some authors write memoirs and print them to pass along to children, grandchildren, or other relatives. Others sell them for $10-$15 at book fairs and make a minor profit (it costs $8 to print a book). Some who do want to get published by a large company print their book through Flash Books in hopes of getting it picked up.

It is enjoyable for me since I have always been a formatting freak–often obsessing about the appearance of my college papers and essays rather than the content. Whoops! It has also been a great opportunity to learn more about what the newest version of what Microsoft Word has to offer–which is a lot!

Here is a cool article the area newspaper ran about the DIY Book Program last summer.

Overall this has been a cool opportunity and I can’t wait to help more clients!


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Staci blogs about travel at

5 thoughts on “The Machine that lets Authors DIY”

  1. This is awesome! I’m a freelance editor for a self-publishing company, so I see the “text” part of things, but I’ve never seen how it actually becomes a book! Really cool :)

  2. My previous job was at a medium-sized digital publishing company doing just this! It’s fun, right? Often hilarious and/or depressing, though, at the kind of bizarre, barely intelligible things people want to “publish’. Haha, I have some gems saved…

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