On print-on-demand publishing workflows

I’m sharing here my answer to a question I received, related to my editorial activity with Greyscale Press:

I’m working on an experimental publication myself with a group of people and i wondered if you could help me out:

How do you manage to workflow for such a publication all the way over from Github to amazon. I think it is an amazing process.

Could you say me how this works?

My process for publishing on amazon is the following:

  • Get an account on your print-on-demand provider of choice (Lulu, Amazon Createspace).
  • Create publication, upload PDF for interior and cover files (in the case of the Manifestos, the interior is generated with Pandoc, the cover is made with Scribus).
  • Wait until the files are approved.
  • Validate the result – a few hours later, books are available to be ordered and printed.

Whenever I make an update, I do the following:

  • Generate new PDF
  • Generate new cover, since the spine width varies according to page count (I made myself a little tool for the calculation).
  • In CreateSpace, replace the interior and cover files.
  • Wait again for approval (during that time, the book will be unavailable for ordering).

A decision to make when publishing revisions, is if you want (A) to replace the previous version (as explained above), or (B) create a new publication – that’s what I did with revision 0.8 of the Manifestos, as there were big changes, and I wanted the previous version to co-exist.

As you see, it’s a simple manual process.

If you want to setup an entirely automated workflow between Github and your print-on-demand provider, the thing Michael Mandiberg did it with Print Wikipedia would be the way to go. His solution is to publish the volumes on Lulu with a browser automation tool (check out PhantomJS for more info).