There are a number of ways to self-publish a print book but this post is about publishing using a Print On Demand (POD) publisher. There are other options, for instance, using a vanity press or a local printer, but most of the business owners I work with like the freedom of being able to order one book or 100 books, without the upfront set up costs and fees.
Publishing a print book has a few more steps than an eBook, but they aren’t difficult and, yes, you can hire these steps out. In fact, if you’re not graphically gifted, I highly recommend that you do outsource some of the work.
Once your manuscript is ready (yes, that includes editing), you need to decide on the size of your finished book or trim size. Most business paperbacks are 6” x 9” trim size. When I printed my first book (almost a decade ago), I took out some of my business books and a ruler and measured them, then decided which I liked best. I use 6 x 9 for a “standard” business book but I also use 8.5 x 11 for manuals and planners.
You need to lay out the interior of your book. You can do it yourself by downloading a template from a POD publisher, you can buy custom interior templates that give your book an upgraded look, or you can hire it out to a professional. POD sites such as CreateSpace, Lulu, IngramSpark, etc. have layout services available for fairly reasonable fees or you can hire a freelancer, either through referrals or sites like Upwork or, for super low-costs, Fiverr. Just remember you generally get what you pay for.
Interior templates are set up with page numbers, headers, footers, and chapter formatting, as well as copyright, dedication, table of contents, and acknowledgement pages. If my Word doc is in one font and size and the book template is in another, I’ll change my Word doc font and size to match the template before laying everything in. If you are using a template, it is best to lay the interior out chapter by chapter. You can’t just copy the whole darn book and pop it into the template. If you have charts, graphs, and images, the layout can become complex quickly. Some “massaging” may be involved to make it look good.
You upload your completed template to the POD site just as you would any other file and the publisher processes the file and lays it out in a book format. At this point you have the option to look through the book online and see how it looks.
Quick Tip: Images in your book and your cover image(s) need to be a minimum of 300 dpi in order to look good in print. You can get away with a lesser dpi in the interior as long as you don’t care that the image is not as sharp as it should be. But your cover image should be higher resolution, 600 dpi or better.
Once you have the book laid out, you’ll know how many pages it is. Your cover designer needs to know this as well as the trim size. Again, you have many options when it comes to covers. You can use the POD platform’s cover creator, you can use the POD platform’s cover designers for an upcharge, buy templates, or you can hire a cover designer.
Covers are responsible for 90% of book sales. If you’re going to put your money anywhere, put it into the cover. You can get well-designed covers for $300 to $500. A professional cover designer knows how to layout a cover that will have a legible title, author, and eye-catching image, in Amazon’s (and other online bookstores) thumbnail size.
If you’re working with no money, you can use the cover creator on the POD platforms. They’re not incredibly flexible and the covers are not going to win any awards, but they are serviceable. If you’re not graphically gifted, you can still create a cover, but it probably will not come out the way you saw it in your mind’s eye. If you are graphically gifted, this may be all you need to make a rockin’ cover.
You can also use sites that have pre-made covers. For around $70 (sometimes less, sometimes more), you can pick out a cover. The artist will add your title, author name, and back cover copy for you and then that cover design is “retired”—no one else can buy that cover. Make sure you are purchasing a print cover, not just an eBook cover. Sometimes you can get both for a small surcharge.
Using a Pro Cover Designer
You need to give your cover designer some direction. Again, they’ll need to know the trim size you want and the number of pages in the book (it affects the width of the spine). Go through books in your niche on Amazon and see which covers catch your eye. Get the URLs for the books you like so you can give them to your designer as examples. If you have branded colors for your business, you will want to give the hex codes for those colors to your designer, as well as the fonts you use for your logo.
You can find cover designers on Fiverr or Upwork. You can also hold a contest on 99Designs for about $300 or $500. You put the job up describing what you need and graphic artists start submitting cover designs. You can give feedback as to what you like and don’t like (“I like that graphic, but not the font”) and you’ll get revisions. You choose the one cover you like and that artist gets paid. It’s a fantastic way to get a very high quality cover designed quickly and affordably.
Putting it All Together
Once you have a cover design, upload it to the POD platform and it will work its magic, putting the cover with your interior layout, and adding the ISBN (yours or theirs) along with the bar code. At this point, the platform performs a check on the file to see if there are any technical issues, such as poor quality graphics or formatting left over from your Word doc.
Some platforms let you order copies of your book right away; others go through some sort of internal check that can hold you up for a day or so.
ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS order an author’s proof of your book to check it physically. If you use KDP/Amazon’s new print book function, you cannot get the reduced price for an author’s copy at this time (January 2018). I advise my clients to use CreateSpace. Eventually, the KDP/Amazon print platform will be fully functional and CreateSpace will be absorbed into KDP/Amazon.
Once you have checked the book physically, you can go back into your POD platform and either make changes or click the magic PUBLISH button. Your book will be up on Amazon and various other bookselling sites (depending on what you choose) within 24 to 72 hours.
This is, obviously, an overview. The POD platforms have menu driven instructions to help you out. There’s a bit of learning curve to using them, even when you have self-publishing experience. And, the various POD platforms have their own strengths and weaknesses. For a much more in-depth guide to self publishing, please order my Self-Publishing Made Easy course. It gives you an overview of self-publishing, how to publish eBooks and print books, step-by-step instructions, and two real-time videos showing you how to publish your book. Find it here: Self-Publishing Made Easy.
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