Wednesday, October 26, 2005


A View Into Self Publishing

By Cheril N. Clarke

copyright 05

Anyone who is literate can write a book. Most people are able and want to write one, but not many actually have the time, discipline, passion or attention span necessary. Do you have a book in you that you seriously want published? Do you have all you need to see it through to the point of completion? If so, then the next logical step is to decide how you want to be published. There are a few options:

Approach a commercial, medium or small publishers that handle all aspects from editing to marketing.
Use a subsidizing publishing company, which will print and bind the book for you at your expense using their ISBN number to identify them as the publisher of record.
Publish yourself, incurring all of the cost but keep 100% of profits.
The focus of this article will be on publishing yourself. And it is an attempt to give you basic direction and knowledge of the industry through the eyes of a self-published author of fiction. “Writing a book is a creative act. Selling a book is a business. A finished book is a product.” –Dan Poynter, The Self-Publishing Manual,

If you want to have your book copyrighted in your name, bypass middlemen and go straight to a printer, have complete creative control and have a faster turnaround time, get tax breaks for owning your own company and keep 100% of your book’s retail price (minus production costs) then self-publishing may be for you. Keep in mind that it does require work and is not a get rich quick scheme. You have to love this business to succeed.

The first step is to write a business and marketing plan. More information including templates can be found at These plans will help you determine what type of legal structure (sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation etc.) is best for you. They will also help you think analytically enough to narrow down your target audience, write a thorough plan of action defining how you plan to reach them as well as project future earnings against an opening day balance sheet and marketing tactics.

Once your plans are written and your business is set up you will want to find a very good editor for your manuscript. Do not rely on friends to edit your book. Pay a professional who will take your raw work and help you polish so it is the best it can possibly be. Even after it has been edited it will need another round of proofreading. It’s cheaper to do these things before the book is printed than it is to correct an error later on. It’s less embarrassing too. You can ask other authors for recommendations on good editors. Query those who are recommended to you and send them all the same sample chapter so you can see their editing style and determine if you two will work good together. Editing may cost you between $700 and $1500. You do not want to be cheap in this area. It is critical to the overall success of your book.

After the editorial phase is out of the way you will need to either design your book yourself or pay a professional to do the typesetting and layout. Writing a book in Microsoft Word is fine, but I highly recommend that it be typeset/design by software such as Tex or Adobe InDesign to avoid problems that may occur when it is time to print the actual book. Likewise, the cover design should be created by a professional with your input on what you want. People do judge books by their covers and a bad design may turn quite a few people away from your book no matter how good the content may be. The back cover is valuable space that should be used with effective content about your book to get a customer interested in buying it. It should include your book’s category, a description, testimonials or blurbs obtained by pre-publication reviews*, the price, bar code and photograph of the author (optional, and may not be effective if you are a first time author). That space can be better used by putting additional info or promises to entertain and enlighten the customer if they buy it. No one cares what you look like. They care if you can write and tell a good story. Typesetting and a cover design may cost you anywhere from $1000 + depending on who you choose to hire to help you. Again, you do not want to be cheap here. The goal is to produce a handsome book that looks just as professional as the ones produced by commercial publishers.

The ISBN (International Standard Book Number) and barcode can both be obtained by contacting R.R. Bowker, which the United State’s ISBN agency that performs many of the standard services in the publishing industry. If you want your book carried by bookstores you need an ISBN and barcode. ISBN’s are generally sold in blocks of ten for either ten different books or different versions of one book. (audio version, 2nd edition etc.) The current price for ISBN’s can be obtained from

Once the book is edited, typeset, has a cover design and all the necessary technical filings (including copyright with the Library of Congress – are completed the next thing you will want to do is request quotes from printers. When dealing with printers it is a numbers game. What I mean by this is that you can order a short run of 25 books and it may cost you $4.00 per book, and you may order 1000 books and it cost you $2.00 per book. When dealing with print runs the higher your run the lower your cost per unit, which will come in handy when you have to deal with middlemen like distributors and bookstores. You can research tons of printers online and put all of the quotes you get back in a spreadsheet for easy comparison and selection.

Before you go ahead with your first official print run though you should print Advance Reading copies of your book to submit to key reviewers and publications such as Library Journal and Kirkus reviewers; they will want your book 3-4 months before it’s official publication date so plan your time line accordingly. A good review in one of these publications can lead to book sales to libraries. Plus, most magazines operate on a 2-3 month lead time your book should be available at the time the review is printed, which will also help sales. You can use excerpts from these reviews on your back cover or on the first page of the book.

Once your book is in print the real work begins: selling it. This is where your marketing plan will come in handy. You should already know exactly who your target audience is and have a plan to reach them. You should be submitting press releases to magazines and other publications that read members of your audience. You should have promotional materials, such as post cards, bookmarks and business cards made up with your books cover art and ordering information. A website is a must have and it should be sleek, easy to navigate, pleasing to the eye and give the viewer a reason to buy your book. Put up testimonials, a sample chapter, copies of interviews you’ve done or reviews you may have received. You can pay a professional web designer or you can do it yourself if you know how. Promotional materials may cost you a couple hundred dollars. A website may not cost you much if you design it yourself, but it can cost you $300 + if you hire a professional to design it for you.

There are other things that you may or may not require such as: trademarking a company logo, stationary, letter head and envelopes, PO Box, voice messaging system etc. If you plan to publish more books whether your own or others then you should definitely look into legal requirements in your state to get more information on how to file a fictitious business name as well as collecting sales tax.

There is much more to learn about the business, but I hope this article has given you some insight into the industry. For more information I highly recommend reading “The Self-Publishing Manual” by Dan Poynter and “The Publishing Game Series” by Fern Reiss.

1 comment:

Shelia said...


Good points and to piggyback on what you said, Dan Poynter's book is a must have for anyone considering self-publishing.

Shelia (Badge#16)

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