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Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Self-Publishing Paperback Creation Checklist I Wished I Had For My First Book - a guest post by Thea van Diepen

Last year saw me giving myself headaches over trying to figure out how to do paperbacks. It took a long time, a lot of work, and getting through a steep learning curve. If I could get into a time machine and hand myself an outline of the process, this is what it would be*:

Phase 1: Creating
Before you can publish, you need to have these things together:

~ the story's title page, text and illustrations (if you have illustrations)
~ the cover, including title, art, story teaser, and bar code
~ the author bio, photo (optional), and a way for people to connect with you
~ acknowledgements and dedication
~ an ISBN (I recommend to get your own, as it looks better to bookstores. They cost money in the US, but not in Canada. Not sure about other countries, but I think they’re also free in either Australia or New Zealand or both)
~ the copyright page, which will need your ISBN on it, among other things (not at all optional)
~ when you have more than one book out, a page to let people know about your other books as well as upcoming publications. With your first book, you could find a way to work info about your next into your author page

 Make sure you have someone other than yourself beta read and/or proofread your work. Typos have a tendency to be more easily noticed in print.

 You'll also need to decide on a trim size, aka, how big your book will be. This will allow you to make the illustrations and page layouts right off the bat. If you don’t have illustrations, you still need to figure out page layouts. Chapter headings and margins don’t create themselves!

 I'm not sure how to make bar codes. The guy who made my cover for my last book did that for me. I think the company I used to print and distribute it will put it in for you if you don't have one, but I'm not sure. Do check that out when deciding on companies (more on that in Phase 2).

 In terms of a method for people to connect with you, I recommend getting an email list set up. Good places to look at include MailChimp and Aweber, as well as a newer one I heard of recently called Mad Mimi. Since print books are your primary focus, making it easy for people to get onto your email list might require some creative thinking, but I’m sure there’s a solution. One that comes to mind is, if you have a website, putting a signup form on it so that you can give your website URL and tell people they can sign up to your email list there to find out about new releases.

 The reason I recommend an email list is because it's the most effective marketing tool out there, right along with word of mouth, and also because it's a good way to tell if there's a market for your books. If you have them up on Amazon, there's a chance that people will randomly find them and, if they like them, then they'll want a way to find more of your books and when you publish new ones. Also, it’s a great way to let everyone who’s interested in your books know when new books are happening.

 For the copyright page, there’s a lot of easy to find information on the internet for what kinds of things to include. Or you can look at the copyright pages of a number of your favourite books to get an idea of what to include. I’ve included a link at the bottom of this post to some help with putting these pages together.

 Phase 2: Publishing
Once you have the book together, it's time to publish. This is what needs to happen for that:

~ choose a printer/distributer (Createspace, Lulu, and Lightning Source are all good companies)
~ put the book into the format they require for printing
~ get a proof copy to make sure your book looks the way you want it to (do not skip this!)
~ give them the information they will post on their site - this includes price and ISBN
~ order copies for your friends and family to buy and have a publication day party!

 Createspace is who I use for this, so I know a lot more about them, but it's easy to find information about the other two online. I would recommend deciding which company to go with while you're still in Phase 1, so that you can create the book with their specifications in mind, like what trim sizes they offer.

 In terms of formatting, I cheat and use a pdf creator. Createspace offers a handy template for MS Word, though, and there are a lot of articles on how to make sure your formatting looks good. Just Google something like “how to format for self-published paperback” or “formatting pod books.”

 When you get a proof copy, check everything. Check for typos, check for design errors, check to make sure that the colours look the way you intend. If something is amiss, fix it in your files or, if the error isn't in your files (this happened with me to the cover of my last book), then call the company's customer service about it. Then order another proof copy. Lather, rinse, repeat until the errors are all dealt with.

 If you go with Createspace and you live in Canada, choose priority shipping for both your proof copy and when you order copies from them. They ship from the States, and whoever they use for regular shipping can take a really long time to get things here. Ask me how I know. :P

 Before you can order copies for friends and family, you'll have to publish your book, so your distributor can make it available for people to purchase. You don't have to have the party right then. In fact, I wouldn't recommend it. When you've published your book, order, say, 20 copies of your book (depending on how many people you already know are interested in it). Plan your party for a little after those copies get to you, and then people can get their copy right then and there while you celebrate.

 And you do want to celebrate. You've worked hard on your story. Its publication is worth celebrating. :)

 Links to Get You Started

 The Createspace forums, where people who have done this help out people who are still working out the details:

 If you’re in Canada, where to get your book’s ISBN:

 Text you can use on your copyright page (and a whole site full of help on book design):

 A website I go back to for reference if I get into a tight spot (includes help with formatting!):

 There’s a ton of info online on this and every aspect of self-publishing so, if you ever need help or a question answered, try a Google search and see what you find. No matter how vague your search terms are, you’d be surprised at how much useful information you find.

*This post, minus some situation-specific details and with some modifications comes from an email I sent to someone who has never done this before and who asked me for help. If a writer says on their contact page that they don’t have the time to help new authors, respect their time and don’t email them. But, if they don’t have a note like that and they’ve done something that you’re trying to figure out how to do, send them an email and see what happens. Chances are good that they’re more than willing to help you out. They remember what it was like when they were in your position.

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