When you have invested considerable time and effort into the completion of your manuscript, you will will probably be keen to get your book published. However, you should take some time to understand what is involved in the process of publishing books. The production quality of a book, whether available in print or ebook format, will influence the decision of readers to choose one book over another. In this section, I will look at some of the things you should be aware of as a self-publisher.
The topics listed below describe activities commonly involved in publishing books. I have placed the information in what I consider to be a logical sequence and I hope that you will find what I have written useful.
Before the rise of self-publishing, the vast majority of writers who wanted their book published would find the process long and difficult. Publishers would receive many unsolicited manuscripts from hopeful writers. Often publishers would only consider manuscripts that were submitted to them through an agent and finding a good agent was no easy task. Aspiring authors became accustomed to receiving rejection letters and eventually many gave up, leaving their manuscripts to gather dust, unread by their potential audience. Some paid to have their books printed by a vanity press, which could give them the sense of fulfilment of holding their own book. However, few had access to the many skills needed to deliver a high quality finished product. They could be left with hundreds of books which they had to store and might struggle to market and sell.
When an author was offered a publishing deal by a traditional publisher, it could take years for the book to appear on shelves. Authors might be required to rewrite their manuscript a number of times and the text would need to be proofread and edited. Other skilled professionals involved in the process would include cover designers and people with experience in the formatting, printing, distribution and marketing of books. The costs involved could be considerable and authors were often fortunate to earn more than their initial advance. An author would typically receive only a small percentage of the book sale price and very few went on to earn a good living from writing alone, even if their books sold well. However, writers with a publishing deal were able to focus on the creative side of their writing career, rather than worrying about the book production process.
The growth of the Internet has provided writers with new opportunities to self-publish, market and sell their books, without the need to get a deal with a traditional publisher. Whether distributed through their own website, or platforms such as Amazon and iBooks, self-publishing has enabled many writers, who would have been rejected by traditional publishers, to find a readership. However, to be successful a writer will still need to acquire or employ the many skills needed to deliver a book that is of the quality readers are accustomed to. In addition to being well written and having an appropriate title, the book should be proofread and edited, by someone with suitable experience. The book should have a cover design that can attract buyers and whether published as an ebook or physical book, will need to be correctly formatted.
The process of writing a book can last for many months or even years and you could be left feeling both exhausted and elated, after achieving the goal of writing a book. Having written your book and had it properly edited and proofread, you might now be ready to move on to the next stage, of getting your book published. If you have a publishing deal, the publishing house should manage the process of turning your completed manuscript into an ebook, hardback or paperback, ready for distribution and sale. You will be able to focus on what you are going to do to market your new book and you might begin thinking about the next book you are going to write. However, if you are a self-published author, you will now have the responsibility of turning the completed manuscript into a properly formatted document, which can then be sent for publication.
Formatting the manuscript of your book for publication is something that you could do yourself, or you might prefer to hire someone to do it for you. Each platform to which you will be sending your book file for publication will have requirements for submission and you should ensure that understand what they are. There will also be differences between the formatting requirements for an ebook and those necessary for a book that will be published as a paperback or hardback. Many authors earn the majority of their money from ebook sales and most of those sales take place through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Authors could also sell their books online through other platforms, such as those provided by Apple or Google, or through their own website. Another option would be for an author to use an ebook distribution service, such as Smashwords.
There are a number of pieces of software that you could use to format a manuscript on your computer, before saving it in the file type required by each platform to which you submit your book. You could use a word processor such as Google Docs, Microsoft Word, Apple Pages or the open source LibreWriter. You could use a dedicated book writing program, such as Calibre, which is available free and supports many different file types. You could also purchase Scrivener for the writing of your book and, if you are a Mac user, Vellum to design your book. Rather than describing in detail the methods for carrying out each aspect of the formatting process, we will instead highlight some key elements which you should be aware of when choosing a piece of software that will best meet your requirements.
The three main sections of a books interior that will need formatting are the content pages, the information required at the front of the book and the optional information at the back of the book. The first pages of a book should include the title page and a copyright page, which will have information such as the name of the copyright owner, a suitable copyright statement, the ISBN number and the publishers name. You also have the option of including pages for acknowledgements or dedications, a list of contents, preface and introduction. Within pages at the back of the book you could include information about you as the author, such as a short biography and website address, along with text and images promoting other books that you have written and published. Unlike the main text pages of the book, these front and back pages should not have anything printed in either the header or footer.
Before preparing an ebook file of your finished manuscript, you should download and read a few ebooks. Take some time to appreciate how they display on different device screens and decide whether some ebooks have features that you either like or dislike. Consider elements such as the fonts used, pagination and line spacing. If an ebook includes no images, or only a few between paragraphs, text should be allowed to flow, so that it changes according to the size preference of the reader. Body text in ebooks should not be full-justified, paragraph indentation should be managed using settings within the software, rather than manually adding spaces and margins should be small. However, an ebook that uses many images and has a complex design should use a fixed layout, to maintain the intended appearance, which could be the same as a print version of the ebook.
When your ebook is correctly formatted and ready to be published you will need to upload it to the platforms on which you wish to make it available. Each platform will require you to provide the ebook in a file type that they accept. You might be able to convert your book into the appropriate file types using the software in which you formatted the manuscript, or you might need to use other software to do so. The ePub format is widely supported on digital devices. Most platforms will also accept uploads of Word documents or text files and then convert them into their own format, such as Mobi format on Amazon. Test the performance of your ebook on different devices, so that if any issues arise they can be addressed. You might also prefer to use professional formatting and conversion services, particularly if your book contains many images, rather than being primarily text.
The formatting of a paperback book is more complex than an ebook and if not done correctly can leave you with books that do not look professionally published. The formatting will also need to be completed before the cover can be designed, as the size of the finished book has to be accounted for. The money that you invest in having a well designed paperback book could be repaid many times over through increased sales and unlike an ebook you cannot simply provide readers with an updated version to download, with any errors corrected. You should be able to find templates online that can assist with the process of formatting a paperback, though you might prefer to learn how to build your own from scratch. When you understand how to create your own custom templates, you will be better able to make changes that you want to your book.
There are a number of elements and standards that you should be aware of when putting together a print version of your book. Use styles to maintain a consistent design throughout the book, ensure any images used are of the correct resolution and embed suitable fonts, to ensure good readability. The layout of a print book uses a ‘mirror image’ format, in which pages on the left have a narrower left than right margin, whilst pages on the right have a narrower right than left margin, allowing room for book binding. Left hand pages are typically even numbered and pages on the right odd numbered. Begin each chapter on a new page, correctly format paragraphs and use appropriate section breaks, headers and footers. Remember that the trim, or physical dimensions, of a printed book will effect production costs. The completed manuscript can be converted to PDF, ready to be sent for publication.
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