Self-Publishing Blog

Welcome!

squirrel-304021_12801When I set out to publish my first novel, Falling Through the World, my head buzzed with questions. What was involved? Where should I start? How much would it cost and most basic of all: could I really just go ahead and publish a book from my sofa?

There’s no shortage of information out there. However, sifting through it can be Herculean task. Each article, book or blog post merely highlighted fresh areas I didn’t understand and left me with even more questions.  I learnt, rather too late, how to write the perfect novel. I discovered reams of information on individual services but had no way of knowing which would suit me. I even waded through a 300 page book whose sole purpose was to inform me how brilliantly witty the author and all his previously published works were.

I needed an idiot’s guide, something that wouldn’t expect me to already know the terminology and processes involved but would, instead, lead me through it, step by step.

This blog attempts to do just that. I’ll take the reader through the basic stages involved in publishing: Editing, Typesetting (internal layout), Cover Design, Printing, Distribution, eBook production and Marketing.  At each stage, I’ll outline the options available, whether it’s possible to do the work yourself or if you need to hire a professional. I’ll also give an idea of approximate cost and timescale and wherever possible, links to reputable companies that provide the service in question.

In time, I’ll also provide step-by-step instructionals on how to use Word to design the internal layout of your print and eBook as well as suggestions for producing a few marketing materials.

More than anything, I hope to demystify the process and encourage anyone with a manuscript hidden away in a drawer that self-publishing is a viable and rewarding option.

____________________________________________

Next time: The Stages of Editing

The Stages of Editing

internet-594148_1280
Image courtesy of markusspiske via Pixabay under CC0

Editing isn’t a single transaction where you hand over your manuscript to a professional and it comes back, a few weeks later, gleaming and perfectly polished.  It is, instead, a collaborative process, roughly comprising three separate stages: critical assessment, copy edit and proofread.  After each, your manuscript will come back to you with suggested changes.  You’ll need to sit down and review these, deciding which to apply before your book is ready to continue to the next stage of editing.

 

Critical Assessment/Structural Edit

This is an appraisal of your writing (hopefully) carried out by a qualified editor. It provides an objective critique of what’s working and what’s not and looks at areas such as characterisation, plot holes, pace, flow, readability and structure.  It tells you if your style is compatible with the genre you’re writing in and if there’s anything that just plain doesn’t make sense. A good editor will give you constructive suggestions on how to improve your work.  You may well find yourself undertaking some lengthy rewrites as a result of your feedback.

To provide this service, some editors read a synopsis of your book and a sample of about 10,000 words.  This is an excellent, cost-saving method of performing a critical assessment.  Others read the whole book which is obviously a pricier affair.

You won’t receive detailed line-by-line feedback.  This stage isn’t about picking up individual spelling mistakes and typos.  Instead, you’ll be given a general report of anywhere between two and ten pages, outlining issues with your work as a whole.

Your editor may be able to advise you on whether there’s any chance of getting commercially published and/or if self-publishing is a viable alternative. Some services have links to agents and occasionally act as talent scouts.  However, this only happens in truly exceptional circumstances. The main aim is to help you make your work as compelling and effective as it can be.

Copy Edit

A copy edit takes place only after you’ve made the changes suggested by the critical assessment.  Some authors choose to put their book through several rounds of critical assessment, submitting revisions for further editing, before moving on to this next stage.

Although a copy edit may, like a critical assessment, look at issues such as structure, generally its focus is more detailed.  A copy editor examines your writing on a line-by-line basis.  They search for errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar whilst also ensuring that characters, timelines, viewpoints and even such minutiae as how you write dates, are all consistent.

He/she roots out clumsy sentences and makes suggestions on word choice.  They might advise you to re-write certain sentences or paragraphs but are unlikely to suggest broader changes.  They may also fact check and make you aware of any legal issues you could encounter.  You’ll generally receive your work back with tracked changes in a Word document.  This enables you to decide which suggested alterations to keep and which to discard.

Proofread

This is the final stage of editing.  It’s often confused with a copy edit and, indeed, the two do overlap.  However, a true proofread takes place only after you’ve made the alterations suggested by the copy editor and your work has been laid out exactly as it will appear inside your book (typesetting).  It’s literally, as the name suggests, the correction of your book proofs before they go to print or your eBook is uploaded.

Its focus is narrower than that of a copy edit and doesn’t deal with issues such as structure.  It’s there to pick up surface errors, anything that got through the net during the previous editing stages.  Like a copy edit, it looks for errors and consistency in spelling, punctuation and grammar.  A proofreader also searches for glitches in formatting and layout, page numbers, chapter headings, references and footnotes. The big difference from a copy edit is that you don’t expect rewrites at this stage.  Any substantial changes will alter the layout and cost you serious money (if you employed a designer for typesetting) or blood, sweat and tears (if you did it yourself).

Babel’s Tower of editing

The above explanations are designed to give you a general idea of the processes a manuscript traditionally goes through in order to become a polished book.  However, the reality isn’t quite as neat as the theory.  There are a plethora of companies out there, many of which offer subtle variations on services and the titles they use to refer to them.

For example, you’ve probably noticed there’s some overlap between what’s involved in each stage of editing.  At times, this confusion extends to the providers themselves with some referring to what is essentially a copy edit as a proofread and vice versa. In addition, critical assessments may be referred to as editorial reports, critiques or manuscript assessments.

Try not to worry too much about the technicalities.  Simply read the description of the service offered and decide if it’s what you’re looking for.  If in doubt, clarify with your editor exactly what you’re getting and whether they expect to see your book before or after it’s been typeset.  Asking questions is always OK if you’re paying for services.  If anyone makes you feel stupid or doesn’t answer clearly, move on and give your money to someone who’s willing to engage with you.

______________________________________________

Next time: Edit for Free

 

Edit for free

piggy-bank-850608_1280
Image courtesy of luxstorm at Pixabay

For obvious reasons, you’re not the best person to edit your own book. Even spotting spelling mistakes is a struggle, let alone evaluating its quality and effectiveness. However, if you don’t have the money to hire an editor, then here are a few suggestions to help you self-edit more effectively.

Use your computer

Word comes with spelling and grammar tools. These are often set to pick up, highlight and even autocorrect mistakes as you go along. You can also run a manual scan to check each suggested error in turn. You’ll find the spelling and grammar tools under the Review tab in Word for Windows and under Tools in Word for Mac.

Don’t expect these to pick up every mistake. Even the most advanced spell checker still leaves you ‘wondering around’ in a ‘dessert’ with ‘sweet running down your back’.

In my experience, grammar checkers are even more unreliable. They have the habit of completely misunderstanding the structure of any sentence more complex than ‘The cat sat on the mat.’ As a result they offer some rather bizarre corrections. Always rely on common sense above automated suggestions.

Spelling and grammar tools won’t tell you if you’re consistent. For example, do you have single speech marks in one place and double in another? This is where the Find and Replace box comes in. It’s located on the far right of the Home tab in Word for Windows. On a Mac, a handy search box on the top right hand side of the screen fulfils the Find function. Use the drop down menu by the magnifying glass to open the Replace panel.

Using Replace All, you can automatically alter a word or symbol wherever it appears, correcting hundreds of mistakes with just one click. If you need to be more circumspect, the Find Next option will take you to every instance of the word in turn for you to replace it with your chosen substitute or edit it manually. You can specify further options, such as whether you want Word to make changes regardless of capitalisation or not. To do this, select the More button (bottom left of Find/Replace pop up box) in Word for Windows and the cog (in the Find/Replace panel) in Word for Mac.

A further, ingenious tip I’ve just been handed is to listen to your work using text-to-speech software such as Natural Reader. This can be helpful to root out right spelling/wrong word mistakes such as ‘sweet/sweat’ along with a multitude of other minor errors often missed by the human eye.

These tools are invaluable when ensuring consistency and accuracy but on their own, they’re not going to give you a polished, professional-level manuscript. For that you need the subtlety of the human eye.

Reread your work

To increase your effectiveness, try some of the following tips:

  • Allow some time between writing and editing. This should help give you a bit of distance.
  • Print your book on your home printer. For long books this will cost you in ink and paper but most people notice errors more easily on the printed page than on a screen.
  • For the copy edit, set your line spacing nice and wide at 1.5 or above. This makes mistakes easier to see and allows you plenty of room to add corrections. Obviously, this won’t be possible for your proofread where the book is already set out exactly as it’ll appear in its final form and line spacing fixed.
  • Circle every punctuation mark and then go back and check for consistency and accuracy (oh fun!).
  • To increase your chances of spotting spelling mistakes, read your work backwards. This should help you focus on the letters in words rather than automatically tripping along with the flow of the sentence.
  • Reading aloud can be helpful for spotting flow, sense and grammar issues.

Get friends and family to help

You can, of course, get friends and family involved. However, even if they’re good spellers, remember editing is a highly skilled profession. It’s all too easy for the average mortal to miss errors, particularly if the subject matter interests them. As for a reliable critical assessment, you can pretty much forget it. Most people simply don’t want to offend you by offering constructive criticism.

Even given these reservations, it’s undoubtedly true that the more people who read your book pre publication, the better. Each one will bring a fresh opinion and offer suggestions, some of which might even be helpful. At the very least, half a dozen people reading your work should help eradicate some of the worst typos and spelling mistakes.

Ask an expert

If you’re writing about a specific subject (whether that be fiction or non-fiction), try to persuade people in that field to read your manuscript. A simple internet search will help you find hobbyist, support groups and professional bodies. For example, if one of your main characters suffers from Alzheimer’s, find a support group and ask if anyone would be willing to read your novel. A carer will immediately pick out something that doesn’t ring true and may have valuable insights which could help you improve your work.

If you’re writing a history, see if there’s anyone in the field who could read your book and offer suggestions/pick out obvious mistakes. Assuming they have something nice to say, this could also be useful for finding endorsements or even a ‘shout line’ to put on your front cover.

Another option is to network with other self-published authors writing in the same genre as you and offer an editing exchange. Obviously you’re at the mercy of someone’s good nature here. You may end up putting in many hours’ work while they just skim read your book. However, if you can agree ground rules, it could prove a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Plagiarism and piracy are not, in reality, huge issues for self-published authors. However, if sending out drafts of your book makes you nervous, attach your manuscript to an email and send it to yourself or a trusted friend. In the event of a dispute, this will prove that your ownership of the book predates anyone else’s.

______________________________________________

Next time: Hiring an editor

 

Hiring an editor

smallerThere really is no substitute for hiring a professional. If you have any money at all, after cover design, this is where it should be spent.

Where can I find an editor?

The following are reputable companies that offer critical assessments, copy editing and proofreading. I have no affiliation with any of them and accept no responsibility for any contract you might take out. However, personally, I’d be happy to use any one of the following:

www.addisonandcole.co.uk

www.bubblecow.com

www.literaryconsultancy.co.uk

www.oxfordwriters.com

www.thebookspecialist.com

You can also find freelance editors via the Society of Editors and Proofreaders (www.sfep.org.uk). Simply search their directory using keywords such as ‘historical fiction’. You’ll be presented with a list of proofreaders who deal in that area. Click on any name to see details of that person’s experience, training and qualifications with further links to either their website or email address. If they look right for you, contact them and ask about availability, what they charge and their terms and conditions. Always make sure both of you understand and agree on issues such as timescale and exactly what service they’re providing.

What about regional differences in style?

English style and spelling varies widely between different countries. Any company or editor you choose should be experienced in your dialect, whether that be British, American, Australian or one of the many other variants of English spoken across the world. Always check this. If you use an established company, it shouldn’t be an issue. Most will be able to match your book with an appropriate editor whatever the location of their head office.

If in doubt, check before you hand over any money. You don’t want 80,000 words corrected according to the Chicago Manual of Style if you’re in the UK or the Oxford Style Manual if you’re in the US. However, I’ve never heard of this happening with a reputable company like the ones I’ve listed above.

Do I have to make the changes the editor suggests?

Of course not. Do bear in mind, though, that you’ve just paid a great deal of money for someone’s professional editing expertise. Don’t get precious about your work and defensive about every correction. However, if, after investigation, you believe the original spelling/grammar was correct or more appropriate, simply ask the editor why they’ve made the change. At the end of the day, it’s your book and you can overrule or ignore any suggested changes.

How long will it take?

A Critical Assessment usually takes between three and six weeks although many companies offer a ten day turnaround for an additional fee.

Copy editing and proofreading each take between two and five weeks. Again, fast track services are sometimes available. For example, Addison and Cole offer to complete a proofread in five working days for a charge of 50% on top of their usual fee.

You’ll also need to factor in the time it takes you to correct mistakes and do rewrites. Depending on how extensive these are and how many rounds of critical assessment your book goes through, you’re looking at anywhere between a few months and a year or more to complete editing.

How much will it cost?

Prices are always variable and to make matters more confusing, different companies have different methods of calculating costs. Some work on a flat fee, some charge per 1000 words and others by the hour. The following is designed to give you a rough idea of what you might expect to pay but is, by no means, a definitive guide.

Prices for a critical assessment are the most variable. For an 80,000 word novel, you can expect to pay anything between £300 and £750.

Assessments based on 10,000 to 15,000 word samples can be completed for around the £100 mark.

Copy editing is priced at £10 to £15 per 1000 words.

Proofreading comes in marginally cheaper at £6 to £10 per 1000 words.

Specialised non fiction, poetry, short stories and picture books are generally priced on a different scale, at least for the initial critical assessment. Check first whether the company in question edits your type of manuscript. Assuming they do, expect to pay in the region of £100 – £200 for a critical assessment of a two to three thousand word short story, two to three hundred lines of poetry or a children’s picture book.

Have you ever used an editor?
How did you get on?
Please share your experiences by leaving a comment.

______________________________________________

Next time: ISBNs

ISBN and Barcodes

Before we get started on book production, let’s tackle a couple of issues self-publishers tend to get confused about: ISBNs and legal deposits.

What are they?

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It’s a row of 13 digits containing information about your book which allows it to be conveniently catalogued.

for-use

The ISBN is used to create a barcode to store the data in a form which can be scanned into a machine. This is usually found, along with the ISBN, at the bottom right hand corner of the back cover.

These two together allow your book to be easily entered onto a database and made available to wholesalers, bookshops and lending libraries and through them, your customers.

So I need to get one

Not necessarily. You don’t need an ISBN to sell your book directly through your own website, to friends and family or at corporate/social events.

It is, however, necessary to have one to sell through bricks and mortar or online bookshops. At this stage, you’re probably thinking, ‘Duh! That’s exactly what I want to do!’ However, I’d advise you to wait for my posts on distribution and weigh up the economics of each option before making any decisions.

As we’ll be discussing later, one of the more economically viable ways to distribute your print book is to use CreateSpace to access Amazon. If you do this, they’ll give you an ISBN and barcode for free. Lulu also provide a similar service with free ISBNs.

In addition, many companies that offer self-publishing packages, such as Matador, provide an ISBN and generate a barcode for you. This is usually done either free or at a small cost. Technically, like Lulu and CreateSpace, they then become the publisher of your work and you publish under their imprint. Providing they’re reputable, this matters not a jot. In fact it has the advantage that you don’t have to deal with registration or data management.

What about eBooks?

You don’t need to worry about ISBNs for eBooks. Amazon, by far the biggest market for digital books, doesn’t even use them, preferring its own ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number). You’ll be given one of these for free when you upload your eBook using KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

Most of the other major retailers, such as Apple’s iBooks and Barnes & Noble, may like you to have an ISBN but don’t require it. There’s only the occasional one, like WHSmith, who insist upon it. However, if you access these markets via Smashwords, as I suggest, they’ll automatically assign you an ISBN for free.

There’s nothing to stop you buying an ISBN for your eBook. It’s just that it’s a waste of money. The one thing you musn’t do is use the same ISBN for your eBook as for your print book. This will cause untold confusion. Technically, you should also use a different ISBN for every format your eBook is available in whether that be PDF, ePUB or MOBI.

How do I purchase an ISBN?

If you decide you do want to buy an ISBN, it’s a simple process.

You need to purchase from whichever agency supplies the country you’re living in, regardless of where you intend to sell your book. In the US, this is Bowker, in Australia Thorpe-Bowker. A simple internet search will tell you the agency which provides ISBNs for your country/region.

In the UK or Ireland, Nielsen Holdings is the sole distributor. To buy an ISBN, head to nielsenisbnstore.com/Home/Isbn.

The cost is currently £89 for registration and one ISBN. Further ISBNs can then be bought for £34.28 each or you can go all out and get a block of ten with registration for £149.

The purchase process is quick and easy. Add the quantity required to your basket and register as a new user, filling in all relevant information. Your company structure is probably best described as sole trader but ‘Other’ may also be an option.

After payment, you’ll need to complete information about your book, such as its genre, title, publication date, size and number of pages. Some of this information won’t be available until your internal layout (typesetting) is well on its way. This creates a slight hiccup as the ISBN is usually placed on the copyright page so you can’t fully complete typesetting until you have it. If you’re working with a designer, he/she will advise you on the logistics of this. If you’re doing the layout, yourself, it’s simply a case of having everything else done but leaving a space on the copyright page, ready to receive the 13 digit number, when it arrives.

Assuming the information you provide is correct and there are no glitches, you should receive your ISBN(s) by email within 10 days.

Nielsen’s Free Listing Service

Obviously, the ultimate point of an ISBN isn’t to have a pretty string of numbers on your book cover but to reach bookshops. Purchasing an ISBN automatically registers your book on Nielsen’s database. Its details will then be available to bookshops and lending libraries across the UK and beyond.

One consequence of this is that you’ll see your book pop up on Amazon with the information about physical properties and expected publication date you provided.

Inclusion on Nielsen’s database doesn’t indicate that your book will be on the shelves of Waterstones. On a practical level, it simply means that anyone walking into a bookstore should be able to order a copy to collect later. I’ll tell you more on the logistics of this in the distribution section.

How do I edit my listing?

Once your book is listed, it’s a good idea to be able to edit its details yourself. That way you can add an image of your book cover when it becomes available and keep information about availability and price up to date.

To do this, register with Nielsen’s Title Editor (nielsentitleeditor.com). It’ll take five to ten days to get your account set up. After that, simply login, locate your book by using the search function and then click ‘Edit Book’. You are, however, limited in what information you can change once an ISBN number has been issued. Changes to size, binding and publisher will require a new ISBN.

Further Information on ISBNs

If you’re in the UK or Ireland and have any queries, Nielsen provide lots of information on the process at their website: isbn.nielsenbook.co.uk

In my experience, they are more than happy to answer even the most stupid of questions from inexperienced publishers. You can email them at: isbn.agency@nielsen.com

If you live anywhere else, contact your national or regional agency who will be happy to help with any of your concerns.

How do I get a barcode?

Once you have an ISBN, your designer or printer should be able to provide you with a barcode either free or at a small cost.

If you’re publishing via an all-in-one package provider, they will usually deal with barcodes for you.

CreateSpace provide one for free.

If you want to know more about barcodes and find advice on software to create one yourself, BIC (Book Industry Communications) provide a helpful guide: bic.org.uk/30/Bar-Coding-RFID

CreateSpace? Matador? Smashwords? EPUB? MOBI? Help! I’m completely lost!

I’m aware I’ve used a lot of terms that you might not be familiar with yet. If you’re feeling a bit bamboozled, fear not. All will be explained in simple posts as we go along. For the moment, just be aware of what an ISBN is and where to get one if you need it after deciding how you’re going to distribute your book.

______________________________________________

Next time: Legal Deposit Libraries

Legal Deposit Libraries

What are they?

library-at-the-british-museum-1473521-639x467
The old British Library: FreeImages.com/David Hewitt

When you publish a book you are usually required to send a copy (or number of copies) to your national library/repository. The rules on this vary between countries. Wikipedia provide a helpful list of legal deposit rules per country, here.

Below are instructions for the UK.

Print Books

Technically, you’re legally obliged to send a free copy of your print book to the British Library within one month of publication. The address is:

Legal Deposit Office
The British Library
Boston Spa
Wetherby
LS23 7BY

It’s a common misconception that you only need to do this if you purchased an ISBN. In fact, simply printing your book and making it available to the public is enough to activate the legal requirement. In reality, there are thousands of self-publishers ignoring this rule and I’ve never heard of any of them suffering the slightest consequence.

If you’re publishing via an all-in-one package provider, they usually deal with legal deposits for you but do check this.

If publishing with Lulu, CreateSpace or another similar company then the situation is complicated. Legal deposits are usually the publisher’s, not the author’s, responsibility. Technically, the publisher is CreateSpace/Lulu. However, in a case like this, The British Library requests that the author themselves send a print copy of their work, along with their address so that a receipt can be issued. It doesn’t matter that CreateSpace/Lulu is the publisher of record or that their headquarters are in the United States. In a recent email, The British Library confirmed with me that books published in this way still fell ‘within the criteria of the Copyright Act of 2003, which basically states that anything that is distributed in the UK, regardless of where it is published/printed, is liable for deposit.’

In addition to the British Library, there are a number of other legal deposit libraries including Oxford’s Bodleian, Cambridge’s University Library and one each for Scotland, Ireland and Wales. You’re not legally required to send these a copy of your book unless requested to do so. This is unlikely to happen unless you really hit the big time!

To find out more about legal deposits in the UK, go to http://www.bl.uk/aboutus/legaldeposit/printedpubs/

EBooks

The British Library only needs your work in one format and currently prefers that to be print. Therefore, if you’ve already sent a copy of your print book, you don’t have to provide an eBook as well.

If you’re only producing an eBook then, technically, they will require a copy of it. However, according to their website, they’re the ones who’ll get in touch with you to discuss transfer. This gives you the green light to basically sit tight and do nothing. In the unlikely event they do contact you, you must, of course, comply. For further information, visit: http://www.bl.uk/aboutus/legaldeposit/websites/elecpubs/

______________________________________________

Next time: The Three Routes to Print Book Production

Print Book Production & Distribution

Introduction

blur-1283865_1920
Image courtes of Pixabay

There are three stages a manuscript passes through in order to become a book: internal layout (typesetting), cover design and printing. Decisions about which services you use to complete these stages (particularly printing) will be closely connected with how you plan to sell your book. For this reason, I think it’s important to consider distribution at the same time as production.

You can approach production in three basic ways: project manage the process yourself, use a DIY service like CreateSpace or Lulu or go all out and buy an all-in-one package where the work’s done for you. The route you choose will depend on how much work you’re willing put in, the money you have available and your plans for distribution.

Route One: Project manage the process yourself

Taking this path, you maintain full control. You either do your own internal layout and cover design or contract the work out to a professional. You then select a printer and tell them how many copies you want produced. These can be sold via your website, at corporate or social events or through online/bricks and mortar bookshops. If you require an ISBN, you’ll buy one either from your national ISBN agency or your printer, if they happen to provide that service.

The advantage of this method is that, as long as you hire decent designers and printers, you’ll get a professional-looking book for less than the cost of an all-in-one package. The disadvantages are that you’ll still spend a significant amount of money and have to liaise with and manage designers and printers yourself. If you choose a large print run, you could also, potentially, end up with hundreds of unsold books filling your living room for the next ten years.

Route Two: Publish using CreateSpace (or Lulu)

Just as with the previous method, you can either complete typesetting and cover design yourself or hire a professional. CreateSpace also offer a third option by providing their own cover creation software and templates for internal layout.

The main difference with CreateSpace, though, is in printing and distribution. Books are sold largely through Amazon using a system called print on demand. Basically, when someone buys your book, CreateSpace makes up a copy then and there and posts it out to them. You don’t have to do anything. You simply earn a royalty for each book sold.

They also have an expanded distribution option. This uses the same (print on demand) production process to supply wholesalers such as Bowker and any bookshops willing to order through them.

CreateSpace can be used either as a standalone solution or as one of many distribution channels. It’s a non exclusive deal so you can follow route one to book production (project managing the process yourself), sell your book through bookshops, your website or anywhere else you choose, and upload to CreateSpace as just another outlet.

This option involves little to no initial financial outlay.  CreateSpace even provides a free ISBN if you don’t already have one. It’s one of the few economically viable ways for a small-scale self-publisher to access the all important Amazon market. The only real disadvantages are that CreateSpace produce books of slightly lower quality and their cover creation tool isn’t the most sophisticated from a design point of view. However, the difference in quality is only marginal and you can circumvent the design problems by avoiding the system tools and hiring a professional to create your book cover.

Lulu provides an almost identical service. However, I’m less impressed with their offering. As I’ll discuss in more detail later, the royalty you receive, at least for selling a standard-sized novel on Amazon, isn’t as good as with CreateSpace. It’s well worth investigating both options, though and comparing production costs and royalties for your particular book specifications before you decide who to publish with.

Route Three: Buy an all-in-one package

There are hundreds of companies out there (sometimes referred to as author solutions services) that offer packages to take your work from manuscript to printed book. These usually encompass typesetting, cover design and printing. Most provide you with an ISBN and barcode and some even throw in a bit of basic proofreading. Several also have facilities to sell your finished book and offer distribution and marketing packages at additional cost.

In the past, a few poor companies have given this sector a bad name. Overcharging and obscure and unflattering contract terms, along with poor design and production values, have tarnished the reputation of the whole industry.

However, there are established, reputable providers out there (such as Matador and Silverwood Books) who offer an honest, professional service and take pride in the quality of their products. They have many years experience and can offer valuable help and advice as well as producing high quality books. Furthermore, their distribution networks are often more extensive than the average self-publisher could hope to access on his/her own.

Providing you pick a reputable company, the only real disadvantage to this option is money. Because someone else is doing the work for you, this method usually involves the greatest financial outlay. For this reason, it’s important to think carefully and be realistic about your book’s potential before you make any decisions. However, there really is no beating the service offered by the top package providers for convenience, book quality and advice given.

I’ll be discussing all of these options in more detail in later posts.

______________________________________________

Next time: Typesetting