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Parts of a Self-Published Book

It's all up to you

When you're writing for a trade publisher, your only concern really is the manuscript. You may be consulted on cover and or book design, but the final decision rests with the publisher. When you're the publisher it all falls in your lap.

Some Assumptions About Your Book

Although there are lots of exceptions, the typical self-published book is a perfect bound (not stapled, but glued) with a spine, like this:

Drawing of perfect binding

The cover is 'quality paperback,' which means it's stiff and has some sort of plastic coating. The pages inside are a standard 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 and the actual size of the cover is big enough to wrap around the pages, giving the book a finished size of 5-1/2 x 8-1/2

The book, including cover, will be produced from a disk. The insides will probably be camera ready .pdf file(s) and an artist will provide the cover to the printers specifications.

Your Book's Cover is Critical

The cover is critical to the success of your book. It should be 4 color and designed by a professional. It's the billboard, if you will. 

The front will display your title in a way that can't be missed, and your name as author, probably in much smaller type unless you're name is also a selling point.

The back cover should contain some selling material, an ISBN number (purchased from Bowker), and associated barcode for scanning (College Park Press will create one free and online), and standard subject category (hard to find, but it's the category printed on the back cover - self-help, geography, etc).

The spine will carry your title, at least your last name and some sort of indicator of the publisher - you. The title and your name should be easily readable when the book is shelved with only the spine visible.

Your Book's Manuscript

As a publisher you now have responsibility for everything from copyright notices to typesetting. The goal is to create a camera ready version of your book. Usually this is done by converting your word processing files into .pdf file(s). This can be done by you, your printer or a desk top publisher who knows books.

Generally, the process works something like this:

  • You write the book using Word - and you start using the headings so word can build an accurate table of contents.
  • You go through the book adding index entries.
  • You edit, polish, revise until it's as good as you can make it
  • You get someone else to edit and proofread - either a professional or someone who can really nit-pick.
  • You add the front information, create the index and an order blank in back.
  • The book gets edited again, this time with attention paid to correct pagination, as well as everything else.
  • The book gets converted to .pdf and another proof reading is done.
  • When those edits are complete, you take a deep breath and go for it.

(see also Handling Long Manuscripts)

Ideally, your cover, marketing materials, and manuscript will all be finished at roughly the same time... more often these pieces come together in an irregular fashion. There are a thousand details and everything always takes more time than you suspect it will, so don't trap yourself with tight deadlines. Just work through the process, knowing it will get done.



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Email Anne: Anne@AboutFreelanceWriting.com

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