When you first start self-publishing print books, there will be some choices to make, some of which you may not have thought of, much less have answers at the ready. Here are a few tips to help you make those decisions in self-publishing that will create a more polished and professional book.
Interior Type: Choose black and white or color. If you choose color, your book just got wicked expensive. What if only one picture is color? Then the whole book is color. See how it prints in black and white. For the difference in price, you might love it.
Paper Color: Cream or White? Traditionally, cream is used for novels, white for nonfiction and, if you’re using color photos (did I mention very expensive), use white paper. There’s a slight difference in thickness between the cream and white which adds up over 50+ pages, so the paper color actually affects the spine thickness. (This is why your cover designer needs to know your formatted page count.)
Trim Sizes: The choice of trim sizes is fairly uniform across the POD platforms, but if you want a slightly different trim size, you might have to check several platforms to find it.
US Trade paperback is 6” x 9”. Some people like to make planners at a full 8-1/2 x 11. Another popular option is 5.5 x 8.25. It depends on what you want. The first time I had to pick a trim size, I went to my bookshelf, pulled out some business books and measured them with a ruler. It worked.
Matte or Glossy Cover: Matte covers don’t show all the scuffs and little marks as much as a glossy finish. I like matte cuz I like the feel of it. One of my clients was having trouble getting the color saturation of his cover to print uniformly so he switched to glossy and had better results. (And color saturation is one of those things that is going to vary according to where your book is in the printing job run.) In nonfiction, this is probably more of a personal choice. If you are writing fiction to market, you want to see what all the bestsellers in your niche are doing. For those of you who want fancy embossed foil detail on your covers… you’re going to need a real printer, not POD.
Binding: Most POD platforms have a minimum number of pages for print books. For stapled or loop-stitched books, you need a minimum of eight pages. Perfect bound requires a minimum of 52 pages, “wire-o” or spiral bound requires ten. And, just to make it more fun, not all platforms offer a range of binding types and they all have their own page minimums. If one platform doesn’t do spiral bound (I’m looking at you KDP and IngramSpark), check the others. Lulu, for example, offers hardcover, paperback, coil bound, and saddle stitch.
Your Own or a Free ISBN: You will also need to choose to use an ISBN supplied by the platform (which makes that platform the publisher of record but does not affect your copyright) or you need to have your own ISBN. (Purchase at Bowker for the US and Australia.) If you are using your own ISBN, make sure the publisher name you type in matches the publisher name that Bowker/MyIdentifiers has EXACTLY. One of my companies went into Bowker as Whatever Incorporated and I had typed in Whatever Inc. Amazon kept kicking it back until light dawned on Marblehead.
Just a Side Note: When books are printed, the total number of pages needs to be divisible by four (page are printed four-up). So, if your formatted book has 103 pages, don’t be surprised to see a blank page at the end of your book. That’s okay. If you’re doing a coil or looseleaf binding, the page count needs to be divisible by two.
The first time you see these questions, you might be thrown a little. I still go back and double check the prevailing wisdom on whether I should use cream or white paper. You might want to heft a few books that match your genre in your hands to see how they feel. Check out what they used for interior paper. Measure the size of the ones that feel “right.” Do you need the book to lay flat (like a journal or workbook) or not? Take a look at what others in your genre/niche have done. There are decisions in self-publishing but there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel.
Thinking about self-publishing your book but don’t know where to start? I can help. I wrote a fabulous(!) mini-course that walks you through the self-publishing process step-by-step, with lots of insider tips that will help your book look and be it’s best! Find out more here: Self-Publishing Mini-Course