Step 1: Your Company
A self-publisher must first establish his own company. This is quite an easy thing to do. It just involves filling out a few forms, choosing a name and getting a business number. If you already have a company, you might be able to use it for publishing. The self-publisher has the advantage of keeping every penny he earns in sales, but the burden of shouldering the cost of production and marketing. There are many ways to minimize cost. What is essential is that you have a well-written, interesting book that is attractively designed. This is imperative. Then, how you produce (print or e-publish) and market your book can be as complex as you wish and have time for.
Step 2: Editing
A writer will have studied the elements of writing, grammar and punctuation, and will have done his best to polish his manuscript. After the writing is done, if that writer decides to self-publish, he should hire a professional editor. I always maintain that every writer needs an editor—and if an editor writes a book, even he must hire an outside editor. The writer is just too close to the manuscript to catch everything. The work of the most famous writers has been scrutinized by a publisher's in-house copy editor. I think bypassing this step is always a big mistake. You have every chance to perfect your book before it's released, but once it's on the market, your work will be subject to the scrutiny of ruthless reviewers. Not only must the grammar, spelling and punctuation be flawless, but the elements of writing should be tight and polished. Proofread before going on to step 3.
Step 3: ISBN & LCC Number
A self-publisher must purchase his own book of ISBNs, which for Americans are available from Bowkers and for people in other countries from their national ISBN agency. Americans should also get a Library of Congress Control number for each title, which is free. Click here for more information.
Step 4: Interior Book Design & Typesetting
Once the writing and editing are done, the interior pages must be designed and typeset. To create a book that meets professional standards, you need to hire a book designer or study book design: fonts, typography, page layout, optimizing graphics and working with printers to make sure that your interior meets their criteria. I have used the Adobe Creative Suite since the first version was on the market, and now use the Design Creative Suite 5; InDesign is for page layout, and it is used in conjunction with PhotoShop, Acrobat Professional and Illustrator. Once the design has been done, the typesetting begins: applying that design to the rest of the book.
A novel is generally one of the least complex kinds of books to design. It has running text, chapter headings and numbers, headers, page numbers, which are consistent throughout the book. There is also a title page, copyright page, table of contents, dedication, acknowledgments and any other parts of the book that might be included, such as a foreword or introduction. The novel is a simple long manuscript for page design.
In nonfiction, the interior design will probably be much more complex, as it is likely to have multiple levels of subheads, references, bulleted and/or numbered lists, quotations and other elements. It may have photos, illustrations, charts, diagrams, tables, footnotes, a bibliography and an index. It may also have appendices and additional front matter.
Children's pictures books have a wonderful combination of color illustrations and writing, all put together in a fun way that is appropriate for the book.
Coffee table books, manuals and business books have their own design elements, which must be done properly.
Step 5: Book Cover Design
The right book cover will help you sell your book. It is meant to attract buyers. The book cover should complement the interior. Book Cover design requires study and practice. What makes good cover? Some elements are appropriate and attractive colors, a good cover image—a photo, an illustration or some other graphic. Cover fonts should be bold and legible, and the book title should be clear from about 20 feet away. The book cover design includes the back cover, which is prime marketing real estate. The spine must be precise. In fact, absolute precision with regard to the dimensions of a book cover is a requisite. If these aren't correct, a printer will reject the file. If your book is hard cover and has a dust jacket, extra measurements and content come into play on the flaps. If you want a hard cover book with foil or embossing on the case board or dust jacket, extra files must be created for the printer.
Step 6: Proofreading
The entire interior and cover must be carefully proofread before sending the book for print. Not only must the words be checked, but so must the layout. Do this yourself if you are good at proofreading. If you are not extremely detail-oriented, you will be likely to miss typos or omissions.
Step 7: Printing
By now, you will have researched printers and chosen the one you will use. There are many good printers. I recommend Worzalla (offset and digital printing; hard and soft cover), 360 Digital (digital printing; soft cover) and Lightning Source (digital POD printing; hard and soft cover), to name but a few. Choosing a local printer isn't necessary. In addition to the cost of printing, check the shipping costs.
A) POD—Print on Demand (NOT Publish on Demand)
If you want to print 25 books or fewer, choose print on demand. Your cost per book is likely to be higher than a short or long print run, but your total cost will be lower. This is always done using a digital printer. (See "D" below.)
B) Digital Printing for a Short Print Run
If you would like to print and market a minimum of 25 books and up to about 500 (sometimes 1000 or 1500, depending on the printing company you choose), you will have a short print run, which is done using a digital printer. (See "D" below.)
C) Offset Printing for a Long Print Run
If you are printing a lot of copies of your book—a minimum of 1000 to 2000 or more, depending on the printing company—it will be done using offset printing. (See "D" below.)
D) Printing Machinery
A digital printer is a piece of equipment that is different from an offset printer. The difference is in the machinery. Each machine has capabilities and limitations, but the quantity of books you plan to print will determine whether your book is printed by a digital printer or an offset printer. Printing companies often have both types of equipment and can produce whichever you need. Some printing companies have only one type of equipment.
Step 8: Marketing
After your book is printed, you will have to market it. You can sell it via your Web site, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and other venues. You might be able to put it in bookstores. Your marketing plan must be thought through before you start the whole process of self-publishing if you want to sell your book. I cannot stress this enough. You will have to arrange for your book to be shipped to buyers, whether retail or wholesale. Click to see a short list of simple, inexpensive marketing tips. These tips are helpful for self-publishers and writers whose work is published traditionally.
What to Avoid: Vanity Publishing or Subsidy Publishing
If you use a vanity publisher or subsidy publisher, you will not be self-publishing, but rather, buying the services of another publisher. You will not be the publisher—the company you hire will be the publisher. Using a vanity publisher should almost always be avoided. There are better ways!
October 16, 2010