Wednesday, March 17, 2010


This article deals in concise form with the next steps an author needs to take to make his book a reality. Dealing with the many phases of pre-print preparations and the many pitfalls waiting along the way, an author needs careful guidance before he can proudly hold his published book in his hands.

When you have your manuscript returned from your editor, in digital or physical form, it will be marked throughout with red corrections and sometimes delivered with an overall report. Now, your real work begins! By sitting down and carefully correcting your manuscript as indicated, you will gain a lot of knowledge about your style of writing and of your weak points. This process enables an author to become a better writer.


Now is the time to take action! If you wish to proceed the ‘conventional’ way and send a copy of the manuscript to a publisher, together with the accompanying papers, e.g. Synopsis, Chapter outline, Character outline, Marketing proposal and your Cover letter. The best method of posting it would be ‘overnight-express’ and we must not forget to include a self-stamped, self-addressed, envelope.

Carefully record in your diary the date of posting to have a check on the waiting time. Most publishers will send you their confirmation of receipt of your manuscript with an approx. turnaround time, normally between three and six months. However, we need to be honest here and recognise the fact that only two or three percent of all submissions are being accepted and work out from this our own chance!


This is the reason why more and more authors self-publish and should this be your taken direction, it is time now to get quotations from printers. These may include the designing of cover, inserting pictures or illustrations, obtaining an ISBN number etc., or merely for the typesetting, print and binding of everything you supply him with. There can be a lot of flexibility, depending on your precise negotiations with your printer.


A commercial artist may assist you with the book cover and the best way would be to provide him with a sketch of what you envisage. However, here again, I have to repeat myself: checking references, previous work, reliability, price etc. is a must!

It is also possible – and perhaps the best way - to design the book cover yourself by using a specific software, designed for this purpose. There is also a need for blurbs, short articles for the inside of the front cover and for the back, messages that are selling the book for you. By browsing in a book store, you will find out what exactly is needed. The pages with the various blurbs will have to be given to the printer, together with the manuscript


And now, the time has come to approach printing companies for a quotation. Yes, again, it is important to check out customer satisfaction by asking for references. price, reliability and communication with previous customers are very important. You need to stipulate exactly what you want to have done and what you are providing them with. For example, they may have their own, in-house, artist who can work from your sketch for a cover. The more books you have printed, the higher the printing costs will be, however, the unit price per book will get lower. This is important when you sell the books through a distributor later on, as the cover price or rrp. will determine your author’s income.

When negotiating quality of paper, cover, binding etc. the printer will lapse into printer’s terminology we authors may not understand. I suggest that a lay person should purchase a paperback book of the appearance and quality you envisage and lend it to him as demo. Good printers will then, before they go into production, supply you with a prototype of your book and, if it is up to your expectations, you give them the authority to commence printing. But before you do so, check the delivery time the printer has quoted you.

By the way, you never give out to anybody your original manuscript but a copy! Whilst a commercial photo-copying shop may charge a sizeable amount of money for printing out an extra set, there may be a friend with a laser printer doing this for next to nothing. (Inkjet and bubblejet printers would not be economical to use for this purpose!

The printer or the artist may ask you for the ISBN number of your future book which either you can provide or the printer does this for you. Carefully check what is included in the total price to avoid surprises.

If the printer does the typesetting for you, he will give you at the conclusion of his contract, a cd, containing the book’s artwork and typesetting. You need to keep this at a safe place for eventual future re-prints, excerpts etc.

It may be practical to let a fully-fledged printer handle everything provided he passed your scrutiny with flying colours!


Now a few words about the coveted ISBN number. The book printer may obtain this for you but carefully check on your itemised invoice that you have been invoiced at the correct price for this, alternatively, you may purchase it directly from the company Thorpe and Bowker which controls the sales of these bar codes worldwide. Their internet website makes it possible for anybody to purchase it online and obtain a so-called ‘original’. When completing the necessary forms online, you need to nominate yourself as publisher because that’s what you really are! You are only outsourcing the various production steps, all in your name.

With a printer who is prepared to hand you a prototype of your book for your final inspection, you cannot really go wrong. Just make sure you cooperate with him or his representative as closely as possible to avoid misunderstandings as they are costly.

Modern printing places do not take long to print and soon you will be the proud author with a stock of books – your own creation!

We have dealt with the various production steps that have to be taken on the long path to the finished book and learnt to look out for pitfalls and other traps. Beside gaining knowledge of the industry it is mainly the careful checking out of the many business entities we are engaging verifying their soundness that will make us in the end a successful author and book publisher!

Peter Frederick

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