5. You don’t have to be professional to look professional
What I mean here is, even though you’re publishing yourself, you still need to present a professional product. In my State, you can publish a book using your name as the publishing company, and not worry about filing any paperwork declaring yourself a business/publishing company to your state. (Please refer to your States laws.) I wanted to present a more professional look, so I took the steps to establish a publishing company by filing the proper paperwork, and created Talking Dog Publishing. This was my first step in presenting my books in a professional manner. The next step you need to take involves a little more research simply by looking into books in the genre you’re writing.
- Are the covers in color or b&w?
- What is the page font, spacing, size?
- What do the copyright pages look like?
- Should you be writing a forward or a prologue?
- Do you need a table of contents or an index?
- Should you include an author bio or picture?
- What type, if any, imagery should you be using in the book?
- What are books of this nature typically priced at?
All of these questions can be answered by spending some time online, or shopping at your local book store. This research and implementation is the first step in ensuring what you’re about to produce is a professional product, but remember you’re not looking to copy what someone else has done, you’re just looking to learn what the industry standard is, so you can ensure you’re offering a high quality professional product. With all of this information, take the time to ensure your book is formatted properly, and you’re presenting the most professional product possible.
6. Getting your book to print
Now unless you have a lot of capital behind your books, and can afford to print tens of thousands at once, which would allow you to print through an off-set printer, GREATLY reducing your print costs, you’ll probably be looking for a digital printer, just like I did. A quick internet search will reveal dozens of websites, boasting the cheapest rates for printing a book. Now you may be like me, and at first want to build a relationship with a local print shop. While I whole-heartedly support shopping local, I went to at least a half a dozen local print shops and all of them told me almost the exact same thing, “You’d have to order too many books from us, for us to be competitive with an online printer.” Most suggested looking for an online printer outright, because online printers are designed to accommodate and specialize in book printing. Now comes the tough question, which online printer? There are so many to choose from, and navigating the terrain can be confusing as there are so many factors to consider:
- What is the initial price?
- Is there a discount for bulk pricing?
- What cover stock is offered and are there upcharges?
- What is the page paper weight and do they offer options?
- How much does it cost if you need to add a page to the book?
- How much do they charge for proofs and do they offer an option for a proof?
- How much do they charge for shipping?
- How long does it take for them to print a run?
All of this can be daunting. What I can tell you is this, if it’s too complicated for you to navigate, it’s not the right printer for you.
I first settled on a printer out of Arizona. They had the lowest rates I could find, were able to work directly off a format I was familiar with, they offered an online bookstore to list my books (although shipping was fairly expensive per book as they were a smaller operation), and they printed a product that looked professional. As with most online printers, the more books you order, the less expensive you spend per book. While this is a great incentive, I often found myself spending more money, ordering more books than I felt comfortable ordering to get the best rate to ensure I had descent enough margins to make it worth it. To top it off, every time I wrote a page, my book got more expensive, as each additional page cost more money to print and I’d sometimes stifle what I wanted to write to save cost. Despite all of this, I was happy with the results, got margins I was happy with (roughly 50% when selling directly) and printed my first and second book with them. Well after a year with this printer, I went to print a third run of my first book, and found the prices rose, and not just slightly, by almost 25%, pricing it way out of my range of comfortability, eliminating any margin I’d get selling to independent retailer (more on this in another post). So almost a year in, I was back to the drawing board. This is where I learned, bigger is not always bad.
This time around I took a serious look at Amazon CreateSpace. It is Amazon’s division dedicated to those who self-publish, and for purposes of this section, I’ll talk strictly about their benefits to printing. While at first their online quality verification process seems daunting, taking the time to learn it, ensures you are getting the highest quality product they can produce, and then the benefits seemed to stack up from there.
- Their pricing structure is fixed, which means whether you order one book or 1,000 books, the price per book is the exact same.
- Their shipping is reasonable. Going with a bigger company allows you to benefit from the relationships they’ve made. While ordering 1,000 books vs twelve will cut your shipping cost per book slightly, it’s pennies verse dollars, and you’ll never feel compelled to order more than you are comfortable with.
- There are more sizes considered standard which avoids odd size upcharges, and many more options for sizes to print overall.
- There are more options for cover styles and finishes, color, B&W, Matte, Gloss, as well as more choices for interior pages.
- Page count becomes less daunting, and less stressful as each page you add doesn’t nickel and dime you. Up to 104 pages is the same price regardless of page count. After that, prices jump every roughly 25 pages, which means you don’t need to sensor yourself to save cost.
Their process for getting you to print is clear, cost effective, and because of how large they are, the thing you can count on the most, consistent. They produce so many products through their printer, they can afford to keep their prices consistent and low, without fear that when you reorder in six months, prices will have skyrocketed. I am certainly not saying they are the only option, or even the cheapest option for your book specifically, but through my research, they are certainly the most consistent option, and in trying to self-publish, having something consistent to count on, takes worry out of planning.
To Sum Up
The key to self-publishing is to present a professional front, so when people pick up and look at your product, its quality matches any other book they’ve seen, and they’d never know you’re self-published. The simple key to doing this, is research. The next step is to find the right printer and remember cheapest is not always best, beware of hidden and spiking costs, and most importantly, consistency is key. If you don’t have to lock yourself into purchasing a specific quantity to get a discount, you won’t tie up those funds so you can use them in other areas to help get exposure for your book. In my last post, I took you through the process to get you to the point where you were ready to print your book. In this post, I’ve tried to help you navigate the confusing field that is printing your first book. Next we’ll dive into the nerve wracking process of offering your book to the public for purchase.