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.

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Next time: The Stages of Editing

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The Stages of Editing

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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.

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Next time: Edit for Free

 

Edit for free

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Next time: Legal Deposit Libraries

Legal Deposit Libraries

What are they?

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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/

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Next time: The Three Routes to Print Book Production

Print Book Production & Distribution

Introduction

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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.

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Next time: Typesetting

Typesetting

What is it?

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Courtesy of Felipe Hefler/Freeimages.com

Typesetting involves arranging your text (and pictures if you have any) so that it resembles a proper book, rather than a school essay on A4 sheets.

Trim Size

Whether you typeset your own book or employ a designer, you first need to decide on book size. This is often referred to as trim size in the publishing industry as it’s the size pages are trimmed to after printing.

If you hire a designer, they may well advise you on this. If not, the easiest way to determine page size is to measure a few recently published books in the same genre as yours. It’s also helpful to be aware of industry standards. It’s a good idea to pick a commonly used trim size, both for ease of printing and so that the book looks right. Below are some standard book sizes:

book-sizes-2

Personally, I think the best size for a novel in the UK is 19.8cm (height) x 12.9cm (width), otherwise known as B Format. In the US, Demy or A Format are more common.

Nonfiction books come in a greater variety of sizes. I’d recommend both American Royal (6″ x9″) and Royal (234cm x 156cm) as convenient, frequently used sizes. However, it very much depends which genre you’re writing in. Text books, for instance, are often larger and might even suit an A4 format.

Most printers use most (but not all) of the above as standard. Many also have a range of other sizes available. It’s important to investigate printers and decide which you want to use before you approach typesetting, particularly if you’re using a service, like Lulu, that has limited options.

Page Multiples

Another good reason for picking a printer before you start typesetting is that, due to trimming and binding methods, some print in rather high page multiples.

What does this mean? If a printer works in a multiple of sixteen, for example, your finished book will have a page count of 16, 32, 48…160, 176, 192 and so on. So 155 pages will become 160 with the end pages being made up of blank sheets.

The lowest possible page multiple is two. A sheet of paper has two sides so a book can’t help but have an even number of pages. This isn’t an issue. If your book ends on an odd page, the final one will just be blank.

The problem occurs with higher page multiples where you could, potentially, end up with a dozen or more empty pages at the end of your book. This isn’t an insurmountable issue. It’s easily fixed by inserting an extra page here and there between chapters or sections. It’s just important to know beforehand if you need to allow for this.

Can I typeset my own book?

Certainly!

Most designers use expensive programmes such as Adobe’s InDesign or Quark Express to typeset books. The cost of these and the time it takes to learn how to use their features, make them impractical for small-scale self-publishers. On the other hand, a good proportion of home computers have Microsoft Word installed on them. If they don’t, then it’s available at a fraction of the cost of InDesign or Express.

I’ve heard it said that it’s impossible to produce a decent-looking book in Word. I don’t believe this to be true. If your book is a novel or largely text-based, it’s more than possible. It’s probably not going to look quite as fancy as a professionally designed one but you can produce something good enough that hardly anyone, except a professional typesetter, will notice the difference.

Click here for step-by-step guides on typesetting in Word. There’s nothing mysterious or overly technical about the process. However, it is going to take many hours, even days, to do it right. You need to decide if your time is more valuable than the cost of hiring a professional to do the job for you.

Some DIY companies such as Lulu and CreateSpace, provide preformatted templates. However, these still require a significant amount of work to make your book look professional. I discuss this option here.

If you have a more complex, heavily image-based book, it’s probably time to call in the cavalry and hire a designer. If you don’t have the money for this, then you could consider publishing through Blurb.com who provide templates and design software.

How to find a designer?

There are many excellent designers out there. Inevitably, there are also some less impressive ones. Unfortunately, doing an internet search, returns both varieties. To discriminate, take a look at their websites. They should be full of book layouts and/or cover designs that they’ve produced. You can get some idea of quality from this.

By far the best option is personal recommendation. Do you know anyone who’s self-published? Did they hire a designer? Were they happy with the results? Do you think their book looks good?

Failing this, try going straight to the horse’s mouth and look at books themselves. Browse through as many as you can either in a bookshop or library. You can also do this online using Amazon’s Look inside function. When you see a professional-looking layout you like, check the copyright page. If you’re lucky, near the bottom, it will helpfully state Typeset by So-and-So Book Designs. If not, keep going until you find a book that does. Explore the designer’s website and then contact them to get an idea of price and to ask if they work with self-publishers. Some will, some won’t.

How does the process work?

If you’re anything like me, using a designer can feel a bit intimidating. You don’t know what to expect or what questions to ask. Even the word ‘designer’ conjures up images of an alien world you’re fairly sure you don’t belong in.

The fact is, though, that there are many designers out there more than happy to work with novice self-publishers. If in doubt about anything, simply ask. If someone’s happy to take your money, they should also be willing to work with you and explain the process, as long as you don’t make unreasonable demands of them.

Always get a quote before committing yourself. In the UK, quotes are often given without VAT so check if this is included. If not, then multiply by 1.2 to get the actual price you’ll pay.

It’s also important to clarify exactly what service you’re buying to help avoid future disputes. Check the designer’s website or ask the following questions:

  • What timescale is involved?
  • How will the designer get a feel for your book? Is there an initial consultation with you?
  • Will they typeset the first page or chapter for your approval before continuing with the rest of the book? If they do, will they provide one design or several for you to choose between?
  • How much are alterations charged at?

The above by no means represents a list of requirements that a designer must fulfil. For example, if, for the quoted price, just one design is produced, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad service. It’s just important to be clear about what to expect before you go ahead.

There is, however, one point on which there can be no leeway: you should own the completed design. It’s always courteous to acknowledge the designer (on the copyright page). However, after you’ve handed over the money, you should be able to use the design in any way you want without permission from, or consultation with, the designer. This is usually more of a problem with less reputable all-in-one package providers than with individual designers but it’s always worth double checking.

How much will it cost?

Prices vary immensely. For a simple novel you can be looking at anything between £1 and £5 per page. This refers to the completed typeset page, not the raw A4 one you present to them. The average novel (if there is any such thing) has approximately 250 – 300 words per page. Simply divide your word count by 275 to see roughly how many pages you can expect to pay for.

Typesetting a book with complex elements, such as images and charts, will cost considerably more. Here, you’re looking at anywhere between £3 – £30 per page, depending on how complex your formatting is and which designer you pick. The sheer number of factors involved with this sort of book makes it impractical to estimate a cost. It’s very much a matter of getting quotes from designers.

How long will it take?

Typesetting is a fairly speedily process although, obviously, this depends on how busy the designer is at the time. Generally, though, it shouldn’t take longer than a few weeks.

Can you suggest a designer?

Chandler Book Design http://www.chandlerbookdesign.co.uk/ is a reputable, reasonably priced firm, more than happy to undertake work from self-publishers. I have no affiliation with them and accept no liability for any contract you take out. I simply mention them as I was very pleased with a book cover they created for me. They also come in at the lower end of the market at £1 per typeset page for a simple, text only, book such as a novel.

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Next time: Cover Design

 

Cover Design

Anatomy of a Book Cover

20161020_164341-1A book cover is divided into three main areas: front, back and spine. These should match the size of your typeset pages, with a border of a few millimetres to allow for paper movement during trimming.

Designing a cover involves attractively arranging the following elements within these spaces:

On the front:

  • Title
  • Author
  • Image (photo or illustration)
  • A brief, relevant endorsement or shout line to capture the reader’s interest (optional)

On the back:

  • Price
  • ISBN and barcode (if you have them)
  • Book blurb
  • You also occasionally see some or all of the following: a website address, acknowledgement of cover designer and author info/photo.

On the Spine

  • Book Title
  • Author
  • Your publishing company’s logo e.g. the penguin of Penguin Books fame. This latter can be omitted. The chances are you don’t have a publishing company and even if you’ve made one up, you probably won’t have a professional-looking logo to go with it.

A Note on the Book Blurb
Ostensibly this is to sum up what your book’s about. Its real purpose, though, is to persuade the reader this is something they absolutely have to buy.

Use short, well-spaced, paragraphs and language appropriate to your genre. For instance, blurbs on novels often employ emotive and compelling language whereas a user manual, aimed at the general public, may well suit an authoritative but accessible tone.  If you’re unsure how or what to write, look at other bestselling books in your genre. Analyse their use of keywords, sentence length and structure.

The first couple of sentences are particularly important as they’re often the only ones that are read. Overall, your blurb shouldn’t be more than a couple of hundred words. Ensure that the text is carefully proof read. A mistake here won’t reflect well on your book.

Sometimes, the book blurb also includes reader/reviewer quotes. However, if you don’t have a really good quote, from a relevant source, these are best omitted. Doing them badly is definitely worse than not doing them at all.

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Design it Yourself

Your book cover is the single most important part of the production process. Although I would encourage authors to have a go at typesetting, I wouldn’t recommend a DIY book cover, unless you’re skilled in design.

Why? Because the cover is the first thing buyers see. If it’s rubbish, it’s the only thing they’ll see because they’ll scroll right past it onto the next book which doesn’t look like a pile of pants. They won’t read the blurb, they won’t download a sample and they certainly won’t buy a copy.

If you do have design skills and want to create your own cover, the first step is to make or download a template.

To do this, you’ll need to know your book’s dimensions, page count and the paper you intend to use for printing. Paper thickness varies immensely and different printers have different options on offer. The thickness of paper, along with the page count, determines spine width so you can’t design a cover without some basic information from your printer.

Fear not, though. No complex mathematics is required. Almost all printers have helpful spine width calculators on their websites. Simply enter your book’s size, page count and paper type and they’ll give you a spine width.

If you’re lucky, your printer will even provide a downloadable template. Below is an example from CreateSpace:

cs-template

You’ll see there’s a space marked out for the barcode. This is simply a note to you, or your designer, to leave this area blank. CreateSpace will add an ISBN and barcode at a later date.

If you’re wondering what the weird shaded bits are: that’s the bleed. The dotted lines are the expected area of your cover. However, due to paper movement during cutting, you need to allow roughly 2–5mm of space round them. Don’t put any text or other important elements into the bleed area as you can’t guarantee they’ll be visible when printed. Equally, ensure the cover image continues to the outer edge of the bleed in case the cut is made there.

If your printer doesn’t provide a template, you’ll have to build one yourself remembering to add in a suitable bleed area.

OK, I have a template. What do I do now?

My advice? Hand it over to a designer. Other than that, you’re on your own. Even if I were proficient using Photoshop and technically knew what to do next, I have no eye for design and little idea which pictures, colours and fonts make the difference between a professional cover that attracts readers’ attention and one that looks like it’s been vomited up by a disturbed five-year old.

However, if you’re really determined, here are a few common sense tips:

Getting inspiration: Look at books in a similar genre. Other, similar, products are easily your best source of information. What colour schemes, fonts and images do they employ? How do all these elements contribute to the overall feel of the book? Remember, readers need to know, at the briefest of glances, what to expect inside.

Sourcing an image:

The image on the front cover is key to attracting buyers and helping them recognise your book’s genre. There are a number of stock image websites you can purchase pictures from:

If money is tight, you could try one of the following sites which provide either free or low cost images:

Always check licensing terms before using a picture. I’ll talk about these sites in more detail when I discuss marketing as they’re a great source of images for websites and social media.

Your cover image must be extremely good quality. By this I mean it has to have plenty of pixels, at least 300 pixels per inch when it’s blown up to fit the size of your cover. This will ensure it doesn’t look fuzzy or pixellated. Remember, images always look clearer on-screen than when printed so if you’re using a lower resolution image, always order a proof copy.

Keep it simple: If in doubt, the simplest designs are often the best. Don’t use dozens of fonts and images but settle for one or two.

You could splash a single image over front, back and spine, making sure all these elements look good as separate entities as well as a whole.

Alternatively, I’ve seen the following method applied to good effect. Fill the front cover with a single image and then use a small part of the picture, like a motif or echo, on the spine and back. For example, if you use a portrait of a woman with a flower in her hair, you could take the flower and repeat it on the back cover. Another option is to pick out the main colour of the image and fill the back and spine with that.

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Using a Designer

See my post on typesetting for advice on how to find a designer.

The process is more or less the same here: don’t be afraid to ask questions and always check price, timescale and exactly what’s included. For cover design, you should also ask the following questions:

  • Is the price for a template or custom design? Template design is not to be confused with downloading a blank template from CreateSpace to give to your designer. In this case, the template serves to provide information about the size of the book and position of elements, such as an ISBN. It’s simply the outer shape within which the original, unique design will be created.
    Template design, on the other hand, is where the book elements have fixed positions and your photo, title, blurb etc. are just dropped into pre-arranged spaces. The template may even already include a picture. These services tend to be significantly cheaper but aren’t ideal. They don’t look as professional and other people could use the same design, severely affecting your branding. If you’re paying a designer, ideally, you want them to come up with original, custom-made work. However, if you can’t afford that, template design is an option.
  • Does the price include an image or do you pay extra for this? Images are usually sourced from stock photo libraries, like the ones listed above). If you want the designer to come up with an original illustration, this will be considerably more expensive.
  • Who picks the image? You? Your Designer? Do they advise on which image would suit the genre you’re writing in?
  • How many design rounds are included? A design round is when the cover is sent to you, you suggest changes and it goes back to the designer. If alterations aren’t included in the price, how much are they charged at?
  • How many designs will be produced? Just the one or two/three for you to choose between?

The above isn’t a check list of essentials, just a guide to help you better understand the service you’re paying for. If, for the quoted price, just one design is produced and alterations are charged extra, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad service. It’s just important to be clear exactly what you’re paying for.

Once you’ve established this, you’ll need to email over the elements you want on your cover: title, author name, book blurb, image etc. If you have an ISBN, the designer may be able to source a barcode for you, either free or at a small charge. Otherwise, contact the printer you intend to use and ask their advice.

If you’re using a service like CreateSpace, where the barcode and ISBN need to be in a specific place, they should provide you with a downloadable template, like the one shown earlier in this post. You can then just email this to your designer.

It’s very important that you double-check the ISBN is correct and everything else is proof read to within an inch of its life. Your designer isn’t a proof reader and it isn’t their job to spot errors. If the title is misspelt because you sent it that way, it may well cost you to have it corrected.

You also need to make sure your designer has all the relevant information about your book’s physical properties. They’ll need to know its exact size, including a spine width. Look on your printer’s website for a spine width calculator or template creator.

Some designers who do a lot of work for self-publishers, have relationships with printers and may advise you about, or even arrange, this next stage. If this is the case, you don’t even need to think about the spine width as they’ll work it out automatically.

Once the designer has all the information, they’ll create a cover and send you the design, usually in PDF format. This will be done either via email or a service like Dropbox which allows for larger file sizes. You’ll then download the cover to your computer and upload it to whichever printer you’re using. If you have any problems with this process (for instance, how to use Dropbox) ask your designer. This isn’t a stupid question: it’s not unreasonable to want to access something you’ve just paid £200 for.

How long will it take?

Like typesetting, it depends how busy the designer is but it’s a fairly quick process. Usually it’s a matter of a few days to a few weeks, assuming you provide all necessary information and pay promptly.

Can you suggest a designer?

Again, I recommend, Chandler Book Design.

I’ve also heard good things about Design for Writers and am impressed by the covers displayed on their Facebook page.

If you’re looking at the cheaper end of the market, then Go On Write does reasonable template designs and offer cheaper original (custom) options.

How much will it cost?

Just as with typesetting, price varies greatly. You can pay anywhere from £150 to £600 for an original design. Template covers, on the other hand, start at just a few pounds upwards.

Chandler Book Design and Design for Writers both charge around the £200 mark.

Go on Write offers template design for print books from $80 (approximately £64)

If you want the designer to create an illustration, rather than using a stock photo, it will be considerably more expensive. I would argue this is an unnecessary luxury for the small-scale self-publisher.

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Other Options

If you can’t afford a designer and don’t have the money to create a cover yourself, there are a couple of other options.

Do you know any young designers or talented artists? They may be willing to do the work at a reduced rate or even free in exchange for you promoting their work. This would involve linking to their website from your own, mentioning them prominently across social media and acknowledging them in the book itself. It’s worth approaching them with a marketing plan so they can see how your efforts will promote their work as well as your own.

Failing that, you’ll need to use a service like CreateSpace or Lulu who boast free cover-creation software. The book covers produced using this method aren’t usually very sophisticated from a design point of view but it’s considerably easier than doing the job yourself. I’ll outline this option in more detail when I come to discuss CreateSpace.

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Next time: Printing

Printing

printing-plate-1030849_640For many self-publishers, printing is where they make their most expensive mistakes. Large print runs can see them shelling out hundreds, or even thousands, of pounds, only to have piles of books sitting round, unsold, for years afterwards.

Making the wrong decision, here, could cost you dearly so it’s important to take time to consider all available options before handing over any money.

Size and Method of Print Run

The most obvious decision is how many books you want printed. The answer to this question will determine which printing method you choose.

Traditionally, all books were printed using offset lithography. The set up costs are high but the price per unit is considerably cheaper when producing books in the thousands. Even today, this remains the best method for longer print runs (of over about 750 copies).

Digital printing is a relatively recent innovation. It’s revolutionised the publishing industry by making smaller print runs economically viable. If you want a few hundred copies or less, your printer will almost certainly employ this method. Set up costs are low so the cost per copy stays relatively stable, no matter how many you print. This means printers won’t offer great discounts for bulk orders. However, it’s always going to be cheaper per book to order 500 copies rather than five.

The speed of the digital method has made it possible to print books on demand so that a copy is only produced when a customer makes an order. Some care is needed with this term, though: different people mean different things by it. Many traditional printers who offer short, digital print runs refer to these as Print On Demand because a publisher or author can order any number of copies, at any time (on demand). This is very different to a Print On Demand company, such as CreateSpace, who print and dispatch copies directly to customers, as and when a purchase is made.

This type of fulfilment service is an important development in publishing that makes the author’s life much easier but it comes at a price.

Firstly, the cost per copy is higher.

Secondly, bookshops will rarely stock Print On Demand books. This is because they generally work on a sale or return basis where they have the right to return an unsold book. This isn’t usually possible with POD.

Even with these two drawbacks, POD remains a very attractive proposition. You don’t have to decide how many books to print, store them or deal with order fulfillment.

In addition, the whole bookshop issue may well be moot. As I’ll discuss in my upcoming post on distribution, your chances of getting your book onto the shelves of all but a few local shops are virtually zero. Even if you do, the commission they charge (known as a trade discount) is likely to make it unprofitable, unless you print in the thousands. A first time self-publisher should never be thinking of printing in the thousands, at least until they’ve ascertained demand.

Which method do you recommend?

As you might have guessed, I’m a fan of Print On Demand. However, even if you opt for this, it might also be worth doing a short digital print run of 50 – 100 books. It can be very useful to have a small store of copies to sell through your website, to friends and family, to send as review copies and to use for general promotional purposes. In addition, if you do decide to sell through local and/or specialist bookshops, you can supply them using this stock.

If you find demand is high in these areas and you see your stock dwindling, simply order a reprint.

This combination is the one that suits me best and that I’d recommend for most self-publishers just starting out. However, it may be that your book has different needs. Before you make any final decisions about the size of your print run, hold on for my upcoming posts on distribution and marketing. The choices you make in these areas will greatly influence decisions on printing.

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Book Properties

Once you’ve determined the size of your print run, you still face a plethora of decisions about your book’s appearance. The good news is that these are a lot easier to make, providing you base your choices on sound economics and don’t get carried away with the idea of seeing your name embossed in gold foil.

Book/Trim Size:
You should already have decided on this during typesetting but do make sure the printer you choose offers a book size that matches your internal layout.

Format
Do you want paperback or hardback? It’s possible to get hardbacks at most printers but they’re significantly more expensive.

The only time I’d advise you to explore this option is if the other books in your genre are published exclusively in hardback. For example, short picture books for very young children where their usage requires them to be particularly robust.

If you’re engaged in a special project, such as a memoir or gift for family members, you might consider going the extra mile and getting your book bound in hardback. However, if you’re publishing a text-based book and looking to sell to the general public, I’d strenuously advise against the expense.

Binding
Your printer will, almost certainly, use perfect binding . With this method the pages are trimmed down and stuck to each other and the cover using very strong glue. If you look at most modern novels, you’ll see a small layer of transparent glue between the pages and the spine indicating they’ve been bound in this way.

There’s also the option of having your binding sewn. Here, the pages are grouped and sewn together, generally onto an extra bit of fabric which is inserted between them and the spine. You’re likely to see this approach taken on high-end art books and the like. For most books, though, it’s an unnecessary expense. Modern glues mean there’s little chance of a book with perfect binding coming unstuck, even with prolonged usage.

There are, of course, a number of other options. Saddle stitch or staples are often used for smaller books. In addition, certain academic books or user manuals sometimes employ spiral/coil binding. Again, unless there’s a very good reason, I’d avoid these methods as they’re likely to be financially prohibitive.

INTERNAL PAGES
Paper Type:

Bookwove: This is the most common type of paper used for book printing. It has a slightly rough feel which novel-readers will be familiar with.
Art Paper: A smoother, heavier paper available in matt, gloss or silk and best suited to art/picture books.
Offset Paper: Smoother than bookwove but also thinner, this paper is ideal for text books. It handles black and white photos fine but doesn’t quite have the quality of finish offered by art paper.

Paper Weight:
Paper weight is measured in grams per square metre (gsm). Getting the right weight makes a huge difference to the feel of your book. A thin, flimsy page looks cheap but too thick and your book will feel clumpy and amateur.

The ideal weight for a text-only paperback, such as a novel, is 70 – 80gsm although you can get away with 60gsm.

Hardbacks often use heavier paper of around 100gsm.

Books that require extra quality or durability, such as art or children’s picture books, usually employ paper of between 150 and 200gsm. If you’re unsure or your book has special requirements, consult your printer. They’ll be more than happy to advise you on the right paper for the job.

Paper weight is by no means the only thing that affects the sturdiness and feel of your pages. Other factors, such as opacity (see-throughness) and the type of paper used also have a huge impact. Paper weight, though, is a good place starting point for ensuring your pages look and feel right.

Paper Colour:
Novels generally have cream or off-white pages. However, if you have a book with lots of illustrations, white is often more appropriate. Check other books in your genre to get an idea of what’s standard.

COVER
Cover board:

Just as with internal pages, weight is important for producing a professional-looking book. For a novel or text-based nonfiction, such as biographies, opt for cover board around 240 – 250 gsm. Much thinner than this and you risk the cover curling over time. Much heavier and it looks and feels like cardboard. 300gsm may be suitable if you’ve written a book that will get heavy usage, such as a children’s, cookery or textbook. It’s also better for larger books where it will be harder for the cover to hold its shape.

Just as with internal pages, there are a number of other factors which determine the look and feel of your cover, such a lamination techniques. However, cover board weight is a good starting point for ensuring a certain level of quality.

Matt or gloss finish:
The choice, here, depends on both personal preference and what’s standard for your type of book. I’d strongly recommend a matt finish for most genres. I think gloss, for novels at least, looks cheap and screams self-published. Often matt is no more expensive (or only a few pence more per copy) and makes a huge difference to the look and feel of your book.

Special finishes:
Many printers offer a variety of bells and whistles to make your book look extra special, including linen laminate, foil blocking and embossed lettering. I would advise against these for the same reason as I’d avoid hardback: they cost too much and are largely unnecessary. You can produce an attractive, professional-looking book without them.

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Using a Printer

How to find a printer

Personal recommendation is always a good place to start. If you know anyone who’s self-published, ask where they had their book printed and if they were satisfied with the service and book quality. If you used a designer and were happy with their work, they may have a relationship with a printer and be able to coordinate the process.

Failing that, look again at books themselves. Check copyright pages to see if printers are listed. If they have an online presence, take a look at their websites. Some will only be interested in dealing with big-scale publishing houses but an increasing number are happy to work with self-publishers and offer smaller print runs.

Can you suggest a specific printer?

For short, digital print runs I’d recommend the following:

Biddles biddles.co.uk
I had my novel, Falling Through the World, printed by their previous incarnation (MPG Biddles) and they produced a book indistinguishable in look, feel and quality to any you’d find on the shelves of a high street bookshop. They’re happy to do smaller print runs of just 10 copies upwards. They also have an optional add-on service, supplying an ISBN and barcode, registering your book with Nielsen and sending copies to all legal deposit libraries for just £40.

Clays clays.co.uk
I know less about Clays from personal experience but have heard very positive reviews of them. In the communication I’ve had with them, they’ve also been the most helpful and professional of all. They’re established, reputable printers who have really embraced the world of self-publishing. They’re also exceedingly helpful, willing to answer questions and guide you through the process. Print runs start at 50 books and prices are extremely reasonable.

Book Printing UK bookprintinguk.com
I came across Book Printing UK when I was pleasantly surprised by a book a friend of mine had printed with them. Both their prices and quality are reasonable. You can order any quantity from just a single copy upwards, although it’s only when printing in the region of 25 or above that the unit price drops to an acceptable level. Their instant estimate form lacks B Format (129 x 198mm) but it’s the same price as A5. Simply let them know you want a custom size when ordering.

For Print On Demand, I recommend CreateSpace. I’ll discuss this option in greater detail in later posts.

Again, I have no affiliation with any of these companies and accept no liability for any contract you take out with them.

How much will it cost?

Costs obviously vary immensely depending on the format and length of your book, whether you have colour interiors or any special requirements for internal paper or cover board. If you want to get an immediate idea, Book Printing UK have an instant estimate tool. Additionally, Clays, Biddles and indeed all printers I know are more than happy to get back to you speedily with quotes.

The best way to find out how much an individual project going to cost is to get quotes based on your individual specifications. However, to give you a general idea, I’ve provided a few quotes based on a text-based book with the following specs:

  • Paperback
  • B Format (198 x 129mm)
  • 300 pages (or 304 for Clays who work in multiples of 16).
  • Interior: B&W, text-only
  • Pages: cream or off-white 70/80gsm bookwove
  • Cover: 240 – 255gsm cover board with matt laminate finish
  • Postage to UK address

book printing comparison.JPG

Please note: unlike design services, there’s no VAT on book printing.

How does the process work?

The first step is to provide your printer with the correct files for cover and internal layout. Generally, they’ll require these in PDF format. Providing the cover should be relatively simply. Assuming you used a designer, it’s just a case of uploading whatever file they sent you.

With your internal layout, it’s important to make sure that fonts are embedded. If you’re using Word for Mac, this happens automatically when you convert to PDF. In Word for Windows, follow the instructions here, ensuring you select ISO 19005-1 compliant (PDF/A).

If your printer has any further special requirements, they’ll be listed on their website. If you’re unsure, just ask.

Once you’ve handed over your print-ready PDFs, they can begin the print run. If you order a printed proof, they’ll post this out to you first and then wait for your approval before starting the main run. All you need to do, then, is wait for the box(es) of books to be delivered to you.

How long will it take?  

The printers listed above offer a turnaround of between six and fifteen working days from receipt of print-ready PDFs (or approval of your proof). They’ll also, unsurprisingly, expect receipt of payment in full (Clays, Book Printing UK) or a deposit (Biddles) before they start printing.

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Next time: Pricing a Paperback