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 most deadline, we 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 the books early if they are not well perceived? Many authors spend years writing their book, but then only a few days making sure that files are 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 that your event will be a success.
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 6 x 9. 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, 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 Maryellen, or Billy any time.
Do I have a cover designed?
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, we really do recommend having a professional design your cover. The magic number here is 600, meaning that your cover should be 600 DPI, or dots per inch. The lowest DPI you would ever want to design with is 300. Designing your cover at 600 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 bookstore. 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.
Do I need an ISBN and Barcode?
If you want your book in the bookstore or on Amazon you will need to have both. It also gives the book a more professional look and will prevent you from scrambling to get one and from having to reprint the book if you do get accepted to a bookstore 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 elsewhere, I recommend leaving a 2 x 2 blank space on the bottom right of the back cover so it can be easily placed on the book.
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 is 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, we recommend 100 books to start. We start at 25 books as our minimum order, 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 is printing the same quantity of books 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.
500 seems to be the perfect number. Regardless, we will always print only how many you need and what is right for you.
Should I have my book proofread?
The answer to this question is yes. The next question is by whom. Proofreaders can be very expensive and there isn’t even a guarantee that they will find all the mistakes. Even books in the bookstores have mistakes in them and these come from the major publishers with proofreaders on staff. Still, you don’t want your book to look self-published and should at minimum have one person proofread your book. This person could be a teacher you know, English major, an avid reader, or maybe even somebody that does freelance proofreading. 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?
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:
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 Twitter, 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 now easily connected from anywhere in the world. When you have the possibility to connect with millions of people, it certainly gives you a good chance of connecting with people in your niche.
Where do I sell my books?
The answer to this question is everywhere. Bookstores used to be the main place where distributors would distribute for people. There are two problems with this. First of all, bookstores 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, bookstores, 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 there to buy your book. 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.
How much should I sell my book for?
The best thing to do if you are unsure about pricing is to go to the bookstore 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.
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. 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. Understanding how Google works and appeasing them is the number one ingredient for success. We do not offer marketing services, but we do offer you the platform to succeed. Our author web pages allow an author to have an online presence with their book. Just like Amazon, an author gets his own web page to sell their book or ebook. This eliminated the need to spend thousands of dollars on a web site design, hosting costs, credit card merchant accounts, shopping carts for checkout, and may other headaches. On top of this, we do not take 60% of each sale like Amazon does. All of this alone makes our marketing plan much more effective than most, both effectively and profitably.
If you do find a firm that can help with your marketing plan and presents concrete proof of how they can sell many books for you, you should of course take it. The problem is most marketing agencies are like car mechanics. You are never really sure if you are in the right place, and it can be an expensive lesson to learn when you are not. As exspensive as most marketing plans are, they better work. This cost is already in addition to the book printing, cover design, formatting, ISBN, editing, etc….
The best course of action is to try to line up a potential customer base even before you go to the printer. Once the books are delivered to your door, you should already know what you are going to do with them. Our author web pages also link your book to your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages. This can help you spread the word and even get reviews for your book. Local book signings are also a great idea to sell books and find different groups that may have interest in your book.
We don’t make outrageous claims like our marketing package will make you a New York Times Best Seller or we will get you on Oprah’s couch. You have to ask yourself anyways, “Could somebody really promise to make my book a best seller without even reading it in the first place?” What we can offer you is practical solutions which could work for you, especially if you have a good book and can potentially build a following.