I often get asked questions like, “How do I get my book printed?”
The most desirable way, of course, is to be accepted by a mainstream publisher like HarperCollins or Penguin Random House and get paid author royalties beyond your wildest dreams. However, I have found that there is so much competition that even getting your manuscript in the door to be read is a major feat and usually requires hiring an agent. Even then, there are no guarantees that an agent will land you that coveted book contract or that a publisher/editor will even take the time to read it. I’m not trying to dissuade you from seeking a traditional publisher if that is your goal, because it does happen; I’m just saying that it is usually not an easy task and could take years.
Fortunately, there are several other options to publish your book now without having to wait.
I use a Tennessee-based print-on-demand (POD) company called Lightning Source (www.ingramcontent.com), which is owned by Ingram (the main company book stores order their books from). I am signed up as a publisher to use them as my printer. Ingram now has a program for individuals not wanting to go into the publishing business, IngramSpark (www.ingramspark.com ) which is also a POD, and books through Ingram Spark are printed by Lightning Source and IngramSpark also offers ebook services. The nice thing about these two options is that the companies will take care of adding your books to major online retailers like Amazon and fulfill the book purchases as they are ordered. Both of these options do require some knowledge of how to create a print-ready file or you will need to hire out this task or pay the companies extra for that service. Also, these companies charge a nominal set up fee to prepare your print-ready files for press.
Speaking of Amazon, I think that one of the easiest and most economical options available is Amazon’s CreateSpace ( www.createspace.com ). CreatesSpace provides all of the tools that you need to self-publish your book including downloadable templates to use for the layout and instructions for every step. It is also a POD option, so when someone orders your book through Amazon, CreateSpace prints it and Amazon ships it and pays you the retail price of your book (which you set), minus their printing costs. You won’t make as much money per book as you would having them printed by a traditional printer and selling them yourself, but then you don’t have to do anything. They take care of the customer payments and shipping.
For instance, using CreatesSpace’s calculations, to order a 200 page 6×9 book, it would cost you $3.25 per book for the printing plus shipping and if you set the price at $14.95, you would receive approximately $5.72 royalty on each book. The nice thing about this option is that there are no upfront printing or setup costs and you can order as many or as few as you like at any time to sell locally and then keep any profits you make on them (your retail price minus the Amazon’s wholesale price). There are calculators and more info at this link www.createspace.com/Products/Book/. You can also create Kindle books using their converter if you want to go that route as well. There are other similar alternatives including LuLu (www.lulu.com), Blurb (www.blurb.com) and BookBaby (www.bookbaby.com), but as far as I know they all charge upfront costs for setup.
Like Lightning Source and Ingram Spark, all of these POD printers will do all of the layout (including cover design) work for you, for an extra fee, which can add up quickly. However,they also have templates and guides for those who want to save some money and do it themselves.
**The print-on-demand industry is evolving and changing rapidly, so be sure and check out their websites for current pricing, services and terms.**
Traditional Offset Printers
Another option would be to have a local offset printer print your book and often times they will provide the layout and cover design, but that would require more money upfront as you usually have to order a minimum of at least 500 to get a price break that will enable you to sell your book at a competitive price. Also, it is a difficult process to get books printed by traditional printers on to Amazon, although not impossible, whereas most of the POD printers listed above put your books on Amazon and some of the other online outlets as well like Barnes and Nobel. The advantage of this route though would be having someone local to help you and you could personally oversee the entire process.
What about ISBN numbers?
Another consideration when deciding how to get your book printed is that most of the POD printers include ISBN numbers and scannable barcodes in their services; however, ISBN numbers will not show you as the publisher and if you decide at some point to have your book printed elsewhere, you will need to get a different ISBN number. You can provide your own ISBN numbers though for use with the POD printers. Authentic ISBN numbers are only sold by Bowkers at www.myidentifiers.com There are some places online that sell them for a lot cheaper, but I would be leery as they may not be authentic numbers that will connect your book number to the appropriate agencies. As far as I know, Bowkers has exclusive distribution rights to ISBN numbers in the U.S.
What about an editor/proofreader?
Absolutely! We all like to think, “I read it like five times and didn’t see any errors, so I’m sure it’s fine.” But the truth is, if you made the mistake, it is doubtful that you will notice it or you wouldn’t have made it in the first place. (I’m sure there is an error or two in this post!) The more eyes on your book before publication, the better. If you are on a budget and don’t want to hire an editor or proofreader, at least pass it around to as many people as you can — relatives, family, friends (especially your friend the English teacher!), book clubs — basically anyone who will give you feedback on your writing/grammar/typos and the content of your story. Give them printed copies and tell them to mark anything they notice that concerns them or doesn’t look right.
Aside from typos and grammar blunders, ask people you trust to give you an unbiased opinion, does it make sense? Is it easy to follow? Are there any areas that need improvement? Get as much feedback as you can, but keep in mind that it is your book and you don’t have to change anything that doesn’t make sense to you to change. You may be shocked by all of the circles, comments and changes you see on your edited/proofed manuscripts, as our books are a part of us and akin to birthing offspring, but if you truly want others to read and enjoy what you have written, you may need to make some changes to your baby, so be open to constructive criticism.
Do I need a book proof?
Heck, yeah! It may cost a little more initially to get a proof printed and do any revisions, but it will save you so much anguish. Imagine having your book out there for the world to see or have 500 to 1,000 copies in your garage that have your name spelled wrong on the cover! It happens, so please get a proof and pass it around to have friends and family inspect it a final time for errors.
Do I need to have my book copyrighted?
Under U.S. law your work is automatically copyrighted as soon as you publish it; although you can get it copyrighted if you are really concerned, but you would likely have to go through an attorney or copyright agency. This website explains the copyright law regarding books pretty well: www.legalzoom.com
Basically all you need to do it make sure that your copyright page includes a copyright symbol like Cattle Drive ©The Country Side Press and something like this: “All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher at the address below.” Although you can feel free to tweak that however you want. Here is the copyright restrictions that I used in one of my books on humorous ranching stories just to show you how they can be customized:
All Rights Reserved. No part of the material protected by this copyright notice may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means without written permission from the author/publisher.
Some of the stories in this book contain fictitious names. Any resemblance of these characters to real people you know, is purely coincidental. Any resemblance of these characters to people you don’t know, doesn’t matter so don’t have a cow, man.
A few people were trampled, butted and kicked, but no cows were harmed in the making of this book.
How important is a Library of Congress number?
I highly recommend getting a Library of Congress number, especially if you want to sell your book to libraries. It doesn’t cost anything and you get it by creating an account at this website: www.loc.gov/publish/
I won’t go into book layout specifics here, but this link explains pretty well the other pages you will need to add to the front of your book: www.thebookdesigner.
If your book is fiction, you might want to consider indexing it, but that would take some professional software, so unless you want to learn a new skill and shell out some bucks for software, I would consider hiring it done. Here is some more information on that: www.asindexing.org
It may seem daunting at first, but whichever way you choose to have your book published/printed, consider your budget, your computer/layout skills (or lack thereof), and of course what it will feel like to finally hold your book in your hands or see it on the bookshelf at your local bookstore. You wrote a book, what a wonderful accomplishment! Don’t let it sit on your computer or in a notebook in your closet forever — share it with the world!