Do you have a manuscript you’d like to publish? Nowadays with Print on Demand (POD), Amazon.com, and eReaders like Kindle, Nook, and iPads it’s easier and less expensive than ever to publish and deliver books to readers.
Basically, there are three ways to publish a printed book.
1) Hire a literary agent to pitch your manuscript to large publishing houses that will give you an advance, pay royalties and promote your book. With this option, you won’t have any role in the editing or design process or own the copyright, but you will assist with marketing your book. This option works best for people who are famous or infamous; as most unknown or first-time authors’ books are rejected.
2) Go to an independent publisher, small imprint, subsidy or vanity press and pay them for producing (editing, design, printing) your book. With this option you won’t have much control over the editing or design but you’ll need to do all the marketing yourself. You’ll receive royalties on any copies that are sold, and the publisher will most likely own the copyright.
3) Self publish and take on all the responsibilities of producing and marketing your book and own the copyright. With this option, you’ll keep all profits from book sales. You’ll also need to determine whether you want to print your books traditionally (1000 copies at a time) or use POD (print on demand) services. Or you can forgo printing, and just publish your book electronically. Although the information in this article is written for those who want to publish a printed book, some of the processes apply for eBook publishing too.
If you choose to self-publish, you’ll be the general contractor of your book production, distribution and marketing team. This means you need to become familiar with the publishing process, the costs involved, selecting the right vendors, creating a realistic time line and writing a viable marketing plan.
Select Your Contractors
First you’ll need to research and interview editors. Find someone who works in your genre, ask to see a sample of books they’ve edited and have a sample edit done on your manuscript. Then search for a cover designer and interior layout artist. Later you’ll need to get pricing from proofreaders, indexers, printers, marketing consultants, and distributors.
Job Flow and Time Frames
The table below shows average time frames for all the processes a typical manuscript may go through in its transformation into a printed book. Some processes can take place during the same time. For example, a designer can be working on your interior comps while you’re reviewing the cover comps.
The Cover Design Process
There are designers who specialize in cover design, interior page layout, and some who create book covers and interiors. You should review portfolios and interview several designers before selecting one who meets your criteria and style. Request a written estimate itemizing the costs for cover and interior design. Ask about other expenses such as stock library images, scanning, custom photography or illustration.
You and your designer will have a meeting to discuss cover ideas and solutions that may involve typography, photos or illustrations. A good designer will like to know your preferences before beginning the creative process.
Your designer will create several front cover ideas (comps) and perhaps several variations on one of the themes. The designer will email color PDF proofs to you and your editor. You’ll select one of the comps and give your feedback. The designer will make adjustments to the comp until it meets your approval. Several rounds of edits to the cover design are usually included in the estimate; after that, there usually is an additional fee to make more adjustments and revisions.
The Book Interior Design Process
Ask your designer if their books are custom designed and have unique formats, or if your book will be created from templates. This will make a difference in price. If the designer will be creating a custom format he/she will take several sample pages from one of your chapters and try several different treatments for each one. These treatments will show you the sample pages with different fonts, type size, design, alignments, margins, etc.
The designer will present these sample interior format pages to you and your editor in a PDF file and ask for your feedback. Then he/she will modify the format to your approval. Once you give your designer your approval, then he/she will do one sample chapter layout with this format. Then after you approve that chapter, the designer will lay out the rest of the book.
If you decide to make changes to the format after the book has been laid out, it may take considerable time to correct all other similar pages with the same format treatments. In a situation like this, you most likely will be billed by the hour to make the changes.
Edits and Proofreading
You should be completely satisfied with the content of your manuscript before it reaches the design and layout stage. This means your manuscript must be professionally edited and proofread first. You’ll also need to make all your decisions regarding content and the placement of any inserts (drawings, graphics, worksheets, charts, photos, etc.) during the writing and editing process. Avoid making major edits during the design and layout phase. It will cost more money, delay the process, and may put you at risk of missing your printing deadline.
In addition to having the manuscript proofread before it goes to the designer, the interior layout file should be proofread again before it goes to the printer.
There are several ways you can submit your changes and corrections to a designer. You can use red ink on printed hard copies or email an errata file with your list of edits or you can use the electronic “Sticky Notes” feature provided in the Adobe Acrobat software.
Printing and Distribution
Once you approve the cover and interior layout, your designer will upload the files to your printer. Your printer will give you one more proof before the book is printed. You can use a POD printer with a partnership with Amazon to get your book listed on Amazon.com, or you can print your books conventionally and work with a distributor to get your books into brick and mortar bookstores and online retailers.
Convert Your Book into eBook Formats
After your book is designed you can convert it into the various eBook formats (Kindle, Nook, MobiPocket, PDF, iBook) and set up accounts with online retailers. This is the topic of a whole another article.