Publishing Your Own Book – A Timeline


By Patricia L. Fry

Self-publishing can be a daunting undertaking. It’s easy to be overwhelmed in the process of setting up a business, writing a book, producing the book and then there’s promotion.

Here’s a calendar to guide you in the steps necessary to publishing your book.

    1. Write a book proposal. While a book proposal is generally thought of as your foot-in-the-door to a publisher, there’s even a greater purpose. A book proposal will tell you if you even have a book. So before sinking your life savings and a year or more of your life into this project, make sure you actually have something worth publishing.
    2. Determine if publishing is for you. Talk to others who have self-published to find out what it entails. Read about self-publishing. I recommend The Self-Publishing Manual by Dan Poynter. Study how a book is marketed. Preparing the book for market is a huge job, but marketing your book is ongoing. The amount of time you put into marketing will relate directly to how successful your book will become.


    1. Name your publishing company. Be careful about using a name that reflects the nature of your book. You may decide to publish books in different genres in the years ahead.
    2. Apply for a Fictitious Business Name. This is available through your County Clerk.
    3. Establish a business address. Sign up for a post office box or a box at a mailbox store to use for business correspondence.
    4. Order business stationary.
    5. Open a business checking account.
    6. Request a block of International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN). You will assign one number to each book you publish. This number identifies your publishing company and the book and is necessary for books sold in the retail market. R.R. Bowker is the U.S. agency for distributing ISBN. You will probably want to start with a block of ten numbers, however you can also order blocks of one hundred or one thousand. The cost is $115 for ten. For more information and to purchase your ISBN printout, visit Contact the Agency by phone: 877-310-7333 or email: .
    7. Request an Advanced Book Information (ABI) form. About six months before your book is finished, fill out the form and send it to R.R. Bowker (POB 2068, Oldsmar, FL 34677-0037). This insures that your book will be listed in Books in Print, one of the industry’s most important directories. There is no charge for the form or for the listing.
    8. Request Copyright forms. Contact the U.S. Copyright Office at 202-707-3000 or Wait to file this form until after you’ve completed your work on the book.
    9. Contact your State Board of Equalization and request a resale permit.

WHEN YOU’RE ALMOST FINISHED WRITING THE BOOK (About six months before completion)

    1. Assign an ISBN to your book.
    2. Fill out an ABI form and send it in.
    3. Order your Publisher’s Cataloguing in Publication information (P-CIP). This information, which is printed on your Copyright Page, is important for library use. Contact Quality Books at 800-323-4241 or visit their Web site at The cost depends on how quickly you need the P-CIP information. Expect to pay $40 for a 60-day turnaround.

WHILE EDITING YOUR BOOK (About three months before the book is completed)

    1. Search for a printer. If you’re going the traditional printing route, send a “Request for Price Quote” to eight or ten printers and ask to see samples of their work. The printer will want to know quantity of books, number of pages, type of binding, paper stock, size, number and type of illustrations, text color and cover ink (4-color, 2-color?). Find printers listed in your local Yellow Pages, in Literary Market Place (in the reference section at your library) and ask for recommendations from other small publishers. If you want to work with a POD company or produce an ebook, research these avenues.
    2. Send pre-publication review copies. While some experts are now suggesting that the small publisher doesn’t have a chance for a review by one of the important pre-publication reviewers, others recommend submitting your manuscript. If you get a review, this could jumpstart your book sales in a big way. Pre-publication reviews appear in magazines that are read by the book industry: bookstore and library buyers, for example. And these reviewers want to see the book before it’s published, so don’t wait to send a finished book. While you can send your manuscript, you’ll make a better presentation if you have it bound even with a plain cover. Give your publication date as anywhere from three to six months in advance. Enclose a cover letter with your galley that includes the title, author’s name, publication date, ISBN, name of publishing company, price and contact information. If you have a distributor or wholesaler lined up, list their contact information as well. Generally, however, you don’t approach distributors and wholesalers until you have a book to show them. (See a partial list of pre-publication reviewers at the end of this article).
    3. Commission someone to design your cover. Contact authors and small publishers to find out who designed their covers. Locate graphic artists and illustrators through the Yellow Pages or a local arts directory.
    4. Set your price. There are a couple of ways to figure your price. Some experts say to price your book at an amount eight times the cost per book. This means, if the total cost of producing your book is $5.00 each, you should charge $40 for the book. If you produce an 80-page book for around $1.50, you must charge $12. I recommend comparing the price of books similar to yours to help determine your price.
    5. Order a bar code. Contact Bar Code Graphics, Inc. at You will need an ISBN and the price of the book in order for the company to create your bar code.


    1. Choose a printing method and a printer. Find out how they want you to deliver the book and cover design.
    2. Give the book to the printer

WHILE THE BOOK IS AT THE PRINTER (approximately two to six weeks prior to publication)

    1. Solicit pre-publication orders. Send announcements to your mailing list which should include everyone who has expressed any interest in your book, friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances. State to those whom you plan to give complimentary copies that they have one coming and if they’d like to order additional copies they may do so. Also mail notices to local libraries, bookstores and anyone interested in the topic. Make it easy for people to order books. When you start receiving orders, don’t cash checks until the books have been put in the mail to the customer. Sometimes I offer a discount for those folks who order by a certain date.
    2. Fill out and send the copyright form. There’s a $30 filing fee.
    3. Create a list of post-publication reviewers. This might include book reviewers for magazines, newsletters and Web sites on the topic of your book and general book reviewers.
    4. List those to whom you wish to send complimentary copies. This might include those involved in helping to create the book: people you interviewed for the book, your cover designer, your typesetter and so forth. Prepare promotional packets for key book reviewers and address mailers in preparation for your first shipment.
    5. Start planning your promotion program.


  1. Ship and deliver review copies, complimentary copies and pre-publication orders.
  2. Send two copies of the book to the Copyright Office (address on Copyright form)
  3. Send three copies of the book to the Library of Congress (address on Copyright form)
  4. Send one copy of the book to Quality Books. Ask them to consider your book as a distributor to the library market. (1003 W. Pines Road, Oregon, IL 61061-9680)
  5. Fill out paperwork for the State Board of Equalization.
  6. Apply for a business license. Check into your city/county requirements for a business license. I’m required to have a county business license and one for the city since I sell books in bookstores in the city.
  7. Contact distributors and wholesalers. Find a listing in Literary Market Place.
  8. Put your promotional plan into action

Pre-publication Reviewers

Kirkus Reviews

Publisher’s Weekly

Library Journal

American Library Association Booklist

This is an excerpt from Patricia Fry’s ebook, “The Successful Writer’s Handbook.”


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