Tips for Publishing a Print Book
(Questions or problems with these instructions? Email Dana Delamar at firstname.lastname@example.org)
These tips assume that you have a completed manuscript. Make sure that you are finished writing and editing (barring minor changes, such as proofreading) before attempting to create a print book, or you will cost yourself a lot of time and money. You will also need to create any front matter and back matter, such as advertising for your other books, at this time, so that you can determine the overall page count for your book. (I highly suggest taking a look at other print books in your genre to determine what kind of front and back matter you may want to include.)
Note that the entire process of creating and proofing a print book will typically take anywhere from three to four weeks, so plan accordingly.
If you are also creating e-book versions of your story, I suggest creating the print book first for these reasons:
- You get the benefit of the additional proofreading opportunities offered by reading your content on the printed page.
- You may have to edit the text slightly here and there to get a good-looking printed page, and you will want to incorporate such changes into the e-books so that they match. Updating multiple copies of a file is a pain!
Note: Many people think that you need to remove smart (curly) quotation marks and em (—) and en (–) dashes before creating the e-book versions of your manuscript. This is not true. You want these in both your print book and your e-book. Therefore, you can use the print book file as the basis for the e-book file.
Before you can tackle the nuts and bolts of creating a print book, you need to make several decisions:
1. Decide whether to do print on demand (POD) or pay for a print run. I chose POD because I didn’t want to take delivery of inventory and pay a large upfront cost and deal with storage, but if you are planning to personally hand-sell your books in large quantities, you may want to consider paying for a print run due to the lower per-book cost.
2. Decide on a printer. CreateSpace, Lightning Source/Ingram Spark, Lulu, BookBaby, and others all provide similar services. CreateSpace is owned by Amazon, and offers a better royalty if you think you are going to sell the majority of your titles on Amazon. CreateSpace is also very user-friendly, allows you to submit a Word file (other printers may require that you have Adobe InDesign or other specialty software), and has very low proof costs and no maintenance fees or change fees (which can quickly add up at other printers). I chose CreateSpace for these reasons. However, other printers may offer more trim sizes and other benefits, so be sure to evaluate the pluses and minuses of each.
- To evaluate your royalty options, you will probably need to know the book’s trim size and how many pages it will be. If you’re not sure how to choose a trim size, I suggest downloading several of CreateSpace’s easy to use Word templates (use the ones that contain sample formatted content) and then pasting your content into the various templates to get a rough idea of the page count. (Make sure you include any front matter and back matter, such as advertising for your other books.) Print out a few pages so that you can get a good feel for whether the page and font size works for you.
- The 6 x 9 trim size is slightly larger than the typical trade paperback and is a good size for most novels. (If your content comes out to fewer than 100 pages in 6 x 9, you may want to choose a smaller trim size so that the book doesn’t seem floppy or insubstantial.)
- Regarding font sizes, you will probably not want to go below 9.5 to 10 point, and you will probably not want to go above 11 point; however, fonts vary in their sizing, so print out test pages to make a decision. If your core audience is in their forties and up, you will probably not want to go smaller than 10 point. When choosing your font, be sure to italicize a chunk of text in the various fonts so that you can evaluate the readability of the font in italic. (Garamond 11 pt is a good default choice for most books.)
3. Decide whether to purchase your own ISBNs. CreateSpace will provide you with a low-cost or free ISBN (depending on the distribution channels you choose), but you cannot take that ISBN with you if you decide to later use another printer. Because I don’t know what the future holds, I chose to buy my own ISBNs from Bowker (U.S. only; if you live outside the U.S., use your country’s ISBN service). You will need at least two ISBNs per book (one for the print format and one for the e-book formats), so you may want to buy a 10-pack or larger of ISBNs. Note that Bowker recommends buying one ISBN per e-book format; however, since the large publishers seem to be using only one ISBN for all their e-book versions, I have chosen to do the same.
- For CreateSpace, you do not need to purchase the ISBN barcode artwork from Bowker. CreateSpace will create the barcode artwork for you and incorporate it into your cover art; you just need to supply them with the ISBN number for the print book. (Other printers may require you to provide the barcode artwork.)
- Before you start working on your print book, be sure to fill out at least the title and format (print or e-book) information for your ISBNs at www.MyIdentifiers.com. That way you can keep track of which ISBNs you have assigned to which formats of your books.
4. Next, decide on how much flexibility you want with distribution. If you want to get your book into libraries and make it available to retailers other than Amazon, you will want to select the Expanded Distribution option with CreateSpace (Note: Your book will not be available to libraries unless you get your ISBN through CreateSpace). Note that selecting ED will greatly increase the cost of your book and will greatly cut into your piece of the royalties. I chose not to select ED, since I figure that the print market for my book isn’t huge, and those folks who want it in print can buy it from Amazon or my CreateSpace storefront. However, your print market may be much larger, particularly if you are writing nonfiction, YA, middle grade, or children’s books.
If you are interested in getting your book into libraries, obtain a Library of Congress Catalogue Number (LCCN). (If you are writing nonfiction, YA, middle grade, or children’s books, the library option may be more appealing to you. For most genre fiction, I think the odds of getting libraries to order your book are low, so I didn’t bother with this option.)
5. Now you’re ready to hire a cover artist. Provide the artist with the specs from your chosen printer for your trim size and page count (the specs vary from printer to printer, so make sure you have the right details). CreateSpace has a cover creation service, but you can probably get more flexibility and creativity from hiring your own artist. I highly recommend Scarlett Rugers (http://www.scarlettrugers.com).
Tip: Your cover may come out darker in print than it looks onscreen. Be sure to order a proof copy of the book to evaluate how it looks before putting the book up for sale.
Once you have these decisions made and an artist hired, you’re ready to move on to the next stage—book layout! The tips below are based on my experience with CreateSpace, and may not apply if you choose another printer.
If you are reasonably familiar with Word, you should be able to do your own print layout. However, if you don’t know how to work with headers, footers, section breaks, and aren’t comfortable modifying templates, you may want to hire someone to do the print layout for you.
1. Use the appropriate CreateSpace template for your chosen trim size. You can create your own template, but this is much more bother than it’s worth. I don’t recommend it! I do, however, recommend using the CreateSpace templates with the sample formatted content instead of their blank templates, because you can easily see what should go where.
Tip: The first page in your document will be a recto (right side) page. Note that the margins in the template will be set up with an additional gutter margin that will vary between recto and verso (left side) pages. Leave these margins as is. The gutter margin is needed for the book binding process (otherwise your text will be cut off on the inside [bound] edge).
2. Paste your content into the template, chapter by chapter, being careful not to overwrite the section breaks. If you need additional chapters, carefully copy and paste one of the existing chapters, again being careful not to delete or paste over the section breaks. For tips on working with the CreateSpace templates, see this document.
- If you need to add any sections, make sure you double-check the header text and the numbering of the pages in the footer. You may need to go into the footer and reset the page numbers to continue from the prior section. Otherwise, they may start over again from page 1.
- If you need to delete any sections, such as the Table of Contents, make sure you delete the section break at the end of that section as well as the text.
- Double-check the text at the beginning and end of each chapter to make sure you didn’t make any mistakes. An easy way to do this is to open your existing document and the new one side by side.
- If you apply automatic hyphenation in Word, CreateSpace ignores it (unless you submit a PDF), and your page count and print preview will be off. You will also have to spend additional time monkeying around with hyphenation. Therefore, I do not recommend using this option, but of course, the choice is up to you. I have done two books without hyphenation and have been very pleased with the results. (It’s easier to correct a few poorly justified lines than to try to police thousands of hyphens.)
- Select the entire document and in the Paragraph dialog box, click the Indents and Spacing tab, and set Line Spacing to Single.
- Select the entire document and in the Paragraph dialog box, click the Line and Page Breaks tab and clear the check boxes next to Widow/Orphan Control and Keep With Next. This will ensure your pages will be the same length at the bottom.
3. Update the headers with your author name and book title.
4. If you have not already done so, convert your straight quotation marks and apostrophes to smart (curly) quotation marks and apostrophes. Likewise, convert (--) to em (—) dashes. An easy way to do this is to use the AutoFormat tool in Word and make sure the options for quotes and dashes are selected. Do not skip this step, or your book will look unprofessional.
5. If you are using separators between your scene breaks (such as * * *), add a Separator style to the template. Center the style and put 6 pt of spacing before and after it.
Tip: For fancier scene breaks, you can select characters from the Wingdings font family. For example, I created this:
6. Select a font and size for the chapter headings and headers and footers. Update the CSP - Chapter Title style as needed. I chose Palatino Linotype 14 pt for my headings and Palatino Linotype 9 pt for the headers and footers.
7. Design the title page. Be sure to select a font that conveys the overall “tone” of the book.
Tip: If you’ve created a publishing company/imprint, have your cover artist design a graphic for you that you can put on the title page as well as the spine of the book.
8. Now print out the first 10 pages of the book and the last 10 pages and double-check the headers and footers. If the headers and footers contain text you don’t want (or are missing text), this may mean you have inadvertently messed up the section breaks. If you are having trouble fixing them, I suggest downloading a new copy of the template and studying how the section breaks and headers and footers are set up in that document.
If you’re satisfied with the results, it’s time to upload your book to CreateSpace and order a proof copy.
1. You can upload a Word file instead of a PDF, and CreateSpace will do the PDF conversion for you. If you want to upload a PDF, be sure to select PDF/A. While you are waiting for the conversion process to finish, you can upload your cover art.
- During the upload process, you are given the opportunity to use the Interior Reviewer to look at the page layout. Take advantage of this step! This is your last chance to look for any errors before you order the proof.
- Depending on what fonts you have chosen for the document, the Interior Reviewer may tell you that you need to embed the fonts in the document. To do so in Word 2007, click the Office logo button in the upper-left corner, click the Word Options button, then select Save on the left side of the dialog box, and then select the checkbox next to Embed fonts in the file. (Note that your file will now take a VERY long time to save. If you find you have to make extensive changes later, turn this option off temporarily.)
- If you have inserted any transparent boxes into the file (for example, if you are putting a box around some text), you may get a warning similar to this: “The interior file contains transparency. Transparency will be manually flattened during our processing and may cause a color shift.” You can safely ignore this warning.
- Do not select the Expert Path in CreateSpace. It truly is for experts who plan to upload PDF files and have professional design tools at hand. Stick to the step-by-step process.
2. Once you are satisfied with the results from the Interior Reviewer, approve the document and then proceed to the Digital Proofer. Take a good long look at your cover in the Digital Proofer to make sure that the spine and the front and back cover look okay. Be sure to use the Zoom feature to see all the fine details. The Digital Proofer is very accurate, so if you see something that looks off, don’t assume that the Digital Proofer is wrong. Make corrections to the cover as needed! (Note that the Digital Proofer is no substitute for a physical copy, which is the only way to know for sure if your cover is too dark, but it can save you time and money by allowing you to correct obvious cover mistakes.)
3. Once you are satisfied with how the cover looks in the Digital Proofer, order a physical proof copy. You may want to order two copies so that another person can assist you with the final proofing. Do NOT skip this step! Even if you are making a minor change to the book, you will want to look over the final results before putting the book up for sale. It is all too easy for something to get messed up during any revision, and the proof copies are cheap. Even if you are only updating the cover, you will want to make sure that the cover looks good in print, even if it looks great on your screen.
4. Once you’ve received the proof copy, you will want to look it over carefully. My suggestions:
- Cover: Look over each element of the cover. Does it look good in print? Sometimes the cover will be much darker and the colors will need to be brightened up. Are all elements properly aligned? Is anything getting cut off or squeezed?
- Text: Read the entire book cover to cover. You will be amazed at how much different the read is when you’re looking at a single-spaced smaller page vs. your double-spaced onscreen draft. You will see more repetitions and notice some awkward phrasings that you didn’t see before. You will also see some lines where the words are too spaced out due to the right justification. In those cases, you can edit the line by removing a word or two. I suggest buying some tape flags and marking each instance you want to correct on the proof copy itself. The flags will allow you to easily find the errors and correct them in your Word document.
- Title page: Does your choice of font and spacing look good? Does the title page text match what’s on the cover?
- Copyright page: Do you have the correct year and name for the copyright holder? If you’ve included an excerpt from another book at the end, do you have a separate copyright line for that excerpt? Have you included photo credits (if needed) and the appropriate cover designer credit (if needed)? Have you listed the ISBN? Is it correct?
- Chapter headings: Do a separate pass to double-check the numbering of chapter headings. Trust me on this.
- TOC: Double-check that the table of contents matches the number of chapters and that the chapter names match. Seems redundant, I know, but do it anyway. Again, trust me on this.
- Headers/footers: Do a separate pass to double-check headers and footers. You should not have header text on the opening pages of a chapter. If you do, this means there is a problem with the section break before that chapter. (Most likely it is simply a page break, not a section break.) Make sure that you have page numbers only on the pages where you want them.
5. After you’ve made any necessary changes, re-upload the corrected files and order another proof copy. Do NOT skip this step. If you’ve made any changes at all to the files, make sure you look over another proof before putting the book up for sale.
Note: If you’ve had to brighten up the cover, be extra careful in reviewing your proof. Often when a stock photo is lightened, defects in the original photo become more visible and may cause odd bright spots on the cover when it is printed. (These spots may not be obvious on a computer screen.) I’ve seen this happen four times now, so check every millimeter again. Yes, it’s tedious!
6. Once you’ve got a proof that you’re happy with, approve the book for sale and pat yourself on the back!
If you get stuck or decide that you'd rather have someone to format your book for you, I provide this service (and more) through my company, By Your Side Self-Publishing.