So, you’ve written your book. You’ve got it proof read – and now you’re ready to get it published. Easy, just send it to the printers. Job done!
But wait… you’ve missed three things that you need to think carefully first before you send your word doc.
Here are the top 3 common mistakes I see first time authors make (or overlook) when getting their book published.
- Not thinking through who is publishing your book – this can have an effect on where you sell.
- Not understanding the importance of layout – it’s just another added expense, right?
- Letting printers do your cover and or layout, without doing your research – they said they can do it, so they must be good.
Let me explain…
Mistake #1 – Not thinking through who is publishing your book.
If you want to sell your book on Amazon, or in book shops then you will need an ISBN number. If you’re not sure what that is, then click here for more info. Basically, it’s the black and white barcode that’s on your back cover (and on your title verso page) and this allows your book to be sold on-line, (through your website, or some other platform like Amazon) and in book stores. Depending on who is publishing your book, you might be limited to where you sell. For instance, if you use an ‘on-demand’ printer like Create Space – then book shops will not stock or sell your book.
Being judged on who is publishing your book:
Create Space offers ISBN numbers, and if you buy one of theirs, then they become your publisher – and anyone who reads that on your title verso page, will know you’ve self-published. This might not be a problem, but the quality of some of these books is so dire, think carefully if you want to be lumped into that category – and you want to be easily identified as ‘self-published’. (Sounds harsh I know, but there is no quality control, and you might find that important.)
Solution: Go directly to the ISBN agency, and buy from them. This allows YOU to be the publisher. Or, if you don’t like the price (currently £99 in the UK for one ISBN number) then use a publisher who sells ISBN numbers specifically for self-published authors – Compass Publishing is one, and we can help you with an ISBN number. Click here for more info.
Mistake #2 – Not understanding the importance of layout
If I had a £1 for every time I hear a ‘soon to be author’ dismiss the layout stage – and say something along the lines of “The printer can print my Word doc as is” I would be very wealthy. New authors, who aspire to have their book on a shelf, seem to overlook one of the most important parts of getting their book published. How it’s going to look in print. If you go and take a book that’s been traditionally published and open it up, you will see there is layout and style. You probably haven’t noticed it before, but there should be headers, page numbers, correct inside margins and justified text. These don’t happen by magic. This is created by people who know how to layout a book.
Take a look at a before and after below, to see the difference between bad layout and good:
As you can see, the ‘Before’ book has lots of errors (more common that you think) whereas the ‘After’ layout has all the elements you expect in a properly laid out book. (Just as an aside, the Before book didn’t even have a contents page, an Author page, or an introduction – plus all the hand drawn pictures that were drawn specifically for the book were not imported properly, and so came out really dark and you couldn’t see them – I fixed all of these mistakes, and Keith is now delighted with his publication – check out this link for his testimonial).
So, before you hand over your precious writing – make sure the printer knows what they are doing (some printers DO offer typesetting services that are good, but it’s amazing how many say they do, and just mock up what they think is ‘good enough’.) You’ve spent time and effort to get your book to this stage, please don’t let it get spoiled by people who don’t know what they are doing. Need some help? Then just follow the link at the bottom of the article.
Mistake #3 – Assuming the printers are professional typesetters.
When you get to the printing side of your book, most don’t give much thought to layout (see mistake #2) and they just assume that the printer can take care of it – it’s surprising how many printers agree to this, as a lot of them have no specialist knowledge on how to layout a book, and just cobble together the very basics, so that it’s printable. This results in the author being overwhelmingly disappointed in the end result. I’ve had to rescue several unsuspecting authors who have fallen into this trap – and it’s a costly mistake.
So, if your printer says they can layout the book, ask to see examples, and also whether they just convert your word doc to a PDF (a mistake) or if they actually design it in a specific program so that headers are added (see above) and inside margins and justified text is applied. The sample I’ve shared above (Before) is what this particular printer produced… basically the minimum was done (inside margins were given and enough white space on the header and footer) but little else. They literally took the word document supplied by the author and printed it.
When I was approached by Keith to ‘fix it’, I was able to identify that the start of the book was not correct, the author had written a Foreword, instead of an introduction – see this blog for the difference – there was no contents page, and no title verso page either – that’s the bit where all the copyright stuff goes, so really important – and the printer just printed his book as it was. Big mistake. I then corrected all of this, added what was needed, and re did the whole book – which the author is now super happy with. I also re-did the cover, as there was no back design, just a copy of the front cover – which in my book, is a terrible oversight.
So, the moral of the story is – *don’t just take the printers word that they know what they are doing! *A caveat on this statement: There are printers out there that are really good at typesetting – but there is an extra charge for this service and I suggest you ask some questions (see below) on what they offer.
Ask these questions, to gauge their competence:
- How do you justify the text? If they say, “as the document has it, when it comes in” then you know they are not going to fix the common ‘left aligned’ mistake most writers make.
- Do you print the Document as is, or will you look and see if it needs fixing? The Before book is a prime example of common errors. The printer just printed Keith’s document – with no feedback on missing headers, missing page numbers, mislabelled Foreword – which should have been called introduction, missing contents, no title verso page and pictures that were imported incorrectly, resulting in very dark pictures that you couldn’t see.
- Do you provide a proof copy before you do the print run? This is a chance to see how your book will look before you hit the print button. I always get a proof copy, as it flags up any issues before the main print run. Sometime there is an additional charge for this – but if they don’t offer one, then don’t use them. Simple as.
- How much do you charge? Now, you need to be careful on this, as some printers can charge a huge amount, with no ‘back out’ for you if you don’t like the end result. Ask for test pages of the design if they are going to re-lay it out for you. If they don’t offer test pages, or it’s an additional charge, then I would recommend you look for someone else.
If you are at all unsure with information you’ve been given, I’m here to help. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can give your book a quick look over and give you honest feedback. It could save you thousands of pounds!