Details of Self-Publishing

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book doctor 2015by Bobbie Christmas

Q: My writing organization is preparing an anthology. Would standard manuscript format apply? We are unsure of individual submission formats at this point. Please advise.

A: Standard manuscript format applies when submitting a manuscript to an agent or a publisher. Because you are going to self-publish the anthology, you may set the format any way you would like, but if an editor is going to edit the submissions, which I strongly advise, you would do well to ask for submissions in standard manuscript format, which does several things. It gets writers in the habit of using standard manuscript format; it is easy to read; and it gives editors room to work, if they edit the printed copy. Folks who are unfamiliar with standard manuscript format can go to www.zebraeditor.com and click on Tools for Writers. There they will find many free reports, including one that explains standard manuscript format.

Q: It’s time for me to order my ISBN number and barcode for my self-published book. What do I do now?

A: Go to http://www.isbn-us.com/home1 and click on the tab for self-publishers. The price includes a barcode as well as information on how to register your copyright. It’s one of the simpler steps a self-publisher must take.

Q: Can you recommend two or three high-quality self-publishers? I have had my book professionally edited and am ready to publish, but I’m on the fence as to who I should hire.

A: Who you choose to publish your book depends on your needs and desires. Some vanity presses have gotten bad press, yet many clients have used the same companies and have not complained. Instead of listing specific publishers, let me make some suggestions.

Evaluate your needs before you begin the decision process. Which is more important to you, a low per-book price or the ability to order only a few books at a time, so you don’t have to warehouse them? Do you need someone to fulfill orders for you? Do you want a company with distribution abilities? Do you need help with internal and external design, getting an ISBN number, or preparing a barcode? Would you prefer to work with a local publisher? Go to each printer’s or publisher’s website to read all about the capabilities of each one and decide which capabilities are the most important to you and your goals.

Think in terms of finding a printer, not a publisher, if you do not need any help with the technical aspects. Printers charge less than vanity presses, who charge for extra services plus a little extra for their wisdom and guidance—hand-holding, if you will.

If you need help with the technical aspects, investigate the publisher you choose. Check with the Better Business Bureau. Ask for references from clients and call or e-mail the clients and ask probing questions. Be sure the company you choose is reputable.

Ask for samples of the company’s products. See if you like the look and feel of the books. If the company will not send samples, go to the next company. Pay attention to how quickly the company responds to your questions and requests. Be sure a human being is a major part of the equation, so you won’t have to deal with the company strictly by automatically generated e-mails or through an automated website.

Don’t make your decision based on price alone. You usually get what you pay for. For example, some paperback covers curl over time or in heat. Pay a little extra to get a cover that will lie flat for the life of the book.

If you want to use a company that has a higher price and you have been dealing with a human being, you may be able to negotiate a slightly better price. Don’t be afraid to ask. Explain that you are considering such-and-such a publisher that charges only (give the price) for the same service, and ask if the company will match that price. Be honest and realistic. Companies deserve to make a profit, but you also deserve to have a good-looking, marketable book.


Send your questions to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Bobbie Christmas, book editor, owner of Zebra Communications, and five-time-award-winning author of Write In Style: How to Use Your Computer to Improve Your Writing, will answer your questions quickly. Read more Ask the Book Doctor questions and answers at www.zebraeditor.com.

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