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How To Self-Publish Your Book

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The main difficulty with self-publication is distribution, but if we have a ready-made outlet through an organisation, tourist centres or via magazine sales, then it is something to be considered - and will only add to our portfolio if the book is professionally presented. Once we have investigated all possible sales outlets (and only then) should we think about the production of our book (see How To Decide Whether to Self-Publish Your Book).
The finished typescript needs to be professionally edited before we do anything else. The reason for this is because after reading the thing for the umpteenth time, we become ‘word blind’ and even if the spell-checker appears to have weeded out all the spelling errors, there will still be dozens of typos that our eye has missed. It doesn’t matter how careful we are, if we don’t have this done, the first thing we’ll notice on receipt of the printed book is a glaring error right in the middle of the page!
The next stage is to obtain quotes for the actual book production from half a dozen different companies. Depending on the number of pages and copies required, a high street printer may be able to offer a better deal that an online company.
We must make sure of exactly what we will be getting for the price and what we will be required to provide prior to printing. Do we provide the text and the company does the layout? Or will we be expected to provide what used to be called ‘camera–ready copy’? That is, the whole book set out page by page and ready to print from a compatible computer programme.
If we are providing the complete layout from our own computer programme, it needs to be well-spaced. Study the layout of several printed book that feel easy on the eye and use these as a guide, i.e 1.5 spacing between lines and .75 margins.
Self-published novels often appear cramped and not at all reader friendly because the author has tried to cram too many words on the page to save money. At this stage, presentation is all: get it wrong and no one will want to read it!
The cover design and any illustrations must be the best we can afford. Avoid using material by well-meaning friends or relations because amateur artwork can be the kiss of death to a serious book.
If seriously considering self-publishing a novel or long non-fiction book, explore the possibilities of using Kindle (see How To Self-Publish for Amazon Kindle) or Matador, both of which are linked to a sales and distribution service.
Once we have an overall price for producing the book, we need to calculate our own selling price – taking into account that bookshops and distributors will require up to 60% discount on every copy sold – and the cost of postage within the UK and overseas. Books are very expensive to post these days.
Lastly, every book must have an ISBN (International Standard Book Number), which can be obtained from the ISBN Agency – see website.
Self-publication may not earn a fortune but for many types of book, this is the ideal way to get information on record for posterity. 100-page local tourist guides and histories, for example, can sell and go into re-print quite quickly if we do our homework and set up the right sales outlets, while 300-400 page novels often struggle to cover the cost of the printing.
Paperbacks are cheaper to produce than hardbacks – and cost less to post.
Nothing can ever take away the pleasure of holding your first book but don’t spoil that sense of achievement by cutting corners when it comes to proof-reading and lay-out, because the first thing you will see are the mistakes!


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