Authors Checklist

There are a few details that an author should make sure are in place before file submission and the printing of their books. Many authors are in a hurry to print their books and most times this leads to problems. While we are extremely fast with our turnaround time and can meet any deadline, I always give one piece of advice: make sure your book is completely ready before submission. If you rush your book to print for an event and the book has mistakes that were missed, what good does it do to have books early that you are not happy or proud of? Many authors spend years writing their book but only a few days making sure that it is print ready. Below is a checklist of what an author should pay attention to and think about before going to print. We are here to help at every stage and can assist with any part of the process. Following this list will ensure that you are happy upon receiving your books and your events will be a success.

  1. Is my file formatted correctly? Most authors start out by writing their book in the standard 8.5 x 11 page size in Microsoft Word or whichever program they use. Unfortunately these programs do not ask authors in the beginning what size they want their book printed. The problem is most finished book sizes are either 5.5 x 8.5 or 6x9. This means that your 8.5 x 11 document now needs to be formatted to this size in order to print properly. Since the final size is much smaller, this means that not all the words will fit onto a smaller page, thus making more pages and a re-flowing of words from page to page. Chapters also will move and the overall structure of the document will be compromised. If the Table of Contents was done first, these page numbers may also be thrown off and the order will not line up. If you have not written your book yet, follow this advice and you will be fine. If you have written your book and it was done in the 8.5 x 11 format, fear not we are here to help. You can fix this problem yourself and know how to format correctly from the beginning in the future. If you have any problems or need assistance, feel free to contact me anytime at 813-886-0065 x108. I also greatly recommend a program called the Book Design Wizard 2.0 for Microsoft® Word, which can be purchased from our website. This program is excellent for understanding Microsoft Word and properly writing a book including formatting, page numbering, headers and footers, fonts, and setting up a Table of Contents. Understanding Word can be very difficult and this is the best software out there for authors. Here are the basic steps to format your book to size.

    On the top left corner of Microsoft, click on File. From there, scroll down to Page Setup. This will take you to a box with tabs on the top. You will first click the Paper tab, which will be pre-set at the 8.5 x 11 size. What you want to do is type in what your book size will be. For instance, if you want your book to be 6x9 when printed, type in 6 for width and 9 for height. Make sure you have selected Apply to Whole Document and then click ok. This will make each page size in your document the proper size. Secondly, click on the Margins tab. Set all the settings at .625. This will give your document the correct amount of spacing all the way around and make sure your words will not come too close to the edge and not go down too far into the gutter. I also suggest you look at all your pages and make sure the Chapters have not moved and the pages are in the correct places. When a document re-flows, paragraphs can move and words can move from page to page.


  2. Do I have a cover designed? Any body that tells you "You can't judge a book by its cover" has never written a book. Your cover is what will inspire people to pick it up at a book store or catch their eye on your website. I definitely recommend using a professional to design your cover, but it can be done on your own. If you are going to design the cover on your own, I don't recommend using Microsoft Word. This program is not made for that and the finished product will not look as good. The main thing to remember is no matter who creates the cover, it should be designed .5 an inch larger all the way around to allow for bleeds and trim. The cover can be submitted as one piece or 3 separate pieces, but either way it needs to be .5 an inch larger all the way around. The spine can be calculated with our Spine Calculator found in our Tools section in Authors Central.

    The main thing to remember is how important your cover is to your book. We can assist in helping you design the cover you want at an affordable price or you can use your own cover designer. While formatting your insides can be done on your own, I really do recommend having a professional design your cover. The magic number here is 300, meaning that your cover should be 300 DPI, or dots per inch. You can do more, but you can't do less. Designing your cover at 300 DPI will ensure that the words and pictures will come out clear and not be fuzzy or pixilated. If you don't have any knowledge of this element, I again recommend using a professional. The last thing you want is fuzzy words on your cover and a picture that is hard to make out. This is also how it will look on Amazon and on the shelf of a book store. Also, it is not recommended to have a picture of yourself on the front cover. If you are famous that may be acceptable, but for the rest of us it will more than likely turn off the reader.


  3. Do I need an ISBN and Barcode? If you want your book in the book store or on Amazon you will need to have both. It also does give the book a more professional look and will prevent you from scrambling to get one and re-print the book if you do get accepted to a book store later. They are not necessary to have for selling your books on your website or events, but again the bar code gives your book a better look. We can do all this for you and place it on your cover. If you are having your cover designed else where, I recommend leaving a 2x2 blank space on the bottom right of the back cover so it can be easily placed on the book.


  4. How many books should I print to start? There is not an exact right answer for this and you should obviously never do more than you can afford. As the quantity of books ordered increases, the unit price decreases. Dan Poynter, who has written what has become the Bible for self-publishers and known as the "Book Futurist," recommends starting with 500 books. This will get your unit cost at a good price and allow you to send out promotional copies to places that may have interest in buying bulk orders. If 500 is too many, I greatly recommend 100 books to start. We do print 50 books to start, but our biggest price break is the jump from 50 to 100. It really all depends on your budget and the intentions you have with your book. One of the main things you want to avoid doing is printing the same quantity too many times in succession. For instance, if you think you can sell 500 books over time, it is a better deal than printing 100 books 5 times in a row. You will end up spending much more money and your unit price will be higher, thus limiting the amount of money you make per sale. The key is finding the middle ground between over-extending yourself and shooting yourself in the foot, and 500 seems to be the perfect number. Regardless, we will always print only how many you need and what is right for you.


  5. Should I have my book proof read? The answer to this question is yes, the question is by whom. Proof readers can be very expensive and there isn't even a guarantee that they will find all the mistakes. Even books in the book stores have mistakes in them and these come from the major publishers with proof readers on staff. Still, you don't want your book to look self-published and should at minimum have 1 person proof read your book. This person could be a teacher you know, English major, an avid reader or maybe even somebody that does freelance proof reading. Do not count on yourself or your significant other to be your last line of defense in spotting errors in your book, unless of course you or your significant other is an English teacher. You never know whose hands your book may up end in and where this journey may take you. If your book ended up in the one person's hands that you always dreamed it would, do you want them to only notice how many grammar mistakes your book has?


  6. How can my book look like other books? My advice here is to go to the book store or find books that you have in your library. Pay attention to how these books look and how they were created. See which books you like the best and why. Notice where the title and copyright pages are and how they were created. Notice the Introduction section, the Table of Contents, Forward, and Acknowledgements pages. If you haven't written your book yet, type these sections out the same way you see in books already created. If you have written your book, you can still go back and add these pages. Again, the goal here is not to look self-published and produce the best possible looking book you can. There are many resources that you can use and many are free. I advise everybody to read Dan Poynter's Self-Publishing Manual, which we do sell here. Don't worry, you can do it and we can help. After you go through the process once, you are already an expert.


  7. How do I sell my books once I receive them? If you are asking this question after you receive your books, it is too late. Having a marketing plan is a vital part of the process and something to start planning immediately. The questions you need to ask yourself are the following:


    1. Who is my target audience and niche? Legendary blogger and best selling author Seth Godin describes this group as your "tribe." The key to success is finding a group of people and concentrate on building a following. These days that has become much easier with the growth of the internet. Before you write your book, you should know who you are writing it for and be finding outlets for where you can sell to. Once written, authors begin to establish a following through blogging, their website, social media outlets such as Facebook, and writers groups. The key is not to try to sell to people all the time but instead give them information and answer their questions. People don't always want stuff shoved down their throat and daily updates and newsletters about being sold something, but they do appreciate helpful advice and useful information. Depending on your book, the good news is the odds are in your favor. In our internet age, people are connected from everywhere. When you have the possibility to connect with millions of people, that certainly gives you a good chance of connecting with many people in your niche.


    2. Where do I sell my books? The answer to this question is everywhere. Book stores used to be the main place and distributors would distribute for people. There are two problems with this. First of all, book stores are unfortunately slowly going out of business. Distributors don't accept everybody and take a large percentage of the sale to do so. With so many people buying books online, this is where most of your efforts should be placed. Amazon, book stores, and Barnes and Nobles.com are all options, but these again are options that take a percentage out of your pocket. If you are having great success there and many people are finding your book on their own, I wouldn't recommend changing anything. The problem is people have to find your book there, and that is the hard part. When people go to Amazon or B&N.COM, they are looking for a specific book and not browsing. In order to sell books there, you would need to tell them to go by your book there. The point is you could set up your own website and distribute the book yourself. It takes a little more work, but you get to keep 100% of the money and it is much more rewarding. Social networking is the wave of the future and where most people congregate these days. We have marketing plans and options to help you succeed and set you up for success. You can do it on your own and we can show you how.


    3. How much should I sell my book for? The best thing to do if you are unsure about pricing is to go to the book store and find the section that has similar books to yours. These should be in the same genre and relatively the same size. Check to see how much these books are selling for and go from there. You don't want to be way under these prices because your book will look cheap, but you also don't want to be over priced because people will not buy the book. The key is to find a good middle ground for the price of your book and this is mostly dictated by what other books similar to yours sell for.


    4. Should I invest in marketing help? This question depends on how much knowledge you have in marketing and your understanding of the internet. Since most books are being sold online, this is where most of your efforts should be focused. I will tell you it can be done, but it can be difficult as well. You may spend hours of work trying to promote your book and be in the wrong places. You may set up a website yourself but not have an understanding of how to make Google notice. As a business owner, I can tell you that understanding how Google works and appeasing them is the number one ingredient for success. Our marketing program and team of experts understand exactly how to do this and can show you how to have success. Marketing is the one part of the equation that people seem to fight the most but yet it is the most important. The way I explain it is it is like when your car breaks down and you need it fixed. You know you need to go somewhere and you can't do it yourself. Once you are there, you are at the mercy of that mechanic. All you can do is hope you are at the right place and the cost won't be too much. From the mechanics point of view, they can charge what they want because they know you need it.

      The problem here is that most marketing agents work this way. They sit on the answers and charge a large amount of money. The problem is it is hard to tell the good from the bad, and once you have to spend a lot of money to find out. You can view us as the mechanic that will only charge you a fair price for what is actually broken and won't give you the runaround about 5 other things that they found wrong as well. Our marketing program is well worth the money and we understand exactly how to help each other. Unlike many "one-size-fit's all" plans that are out there, we find out exactly what you need and what will work best for you. For more information about what we offer and what the costs will be, please feel free to contact Billy anytime at 813-886-0065 x108 or email me at billy@printshopcentral.com