Book Publishing Specialists
Don’t Make Assumptions—Ask QuestionsFebruary 29, 2008 by Wheatmark, Admin
For many novice authors, self-publishing can seem a daunting venture. It involves plunging yourself into an industry that you probably know very little about, and can result in expensive and time-consuming mistakes. The good new is that most of these mistakes can be easily avoided if you educate yourself before and during the process.
As a book editor and designer, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard authors shamefully admit: “I'm new at this...I’ve never done this before.” Of course you haven’t. Believe it or not, this doesn’t come as a surprise to me. Almost all the authors we publish are in the same boat—most are rookies. The good news is the learning curve can only go up.
One piece of advice I’d like to give new authors is this: Watch your assumptions. As a matter of fact, don’t assume anything. Ask questions. Remember, this is all new to you, and your publisher understands this. They don’t mind answering your questions and would prefer this to having misunderstandings later on down the line. There are many things that new authors assume, and in almost all cases, their assumptions are wrong. Here are just a few:
1. Don’t assume that you know how to prepare your manuscript so that it is in a format that can be easily understood by your book designer. Instead, ask your designer what they need. For example, I often get books that have block text on nearly every page. Block text is an excerpt of text that is set apart from the regular body text by larger margins and often smaller type. If an author wants these types of excerpts in their book, they need to format their book so that it is evident to the designer. If you are unsure about how to do this, ask your designer how they would like you to communicate this in your manuscript. Whatever you do, do not try to make text look like block text by pushing the tab button on the left side of the margin and the return button on the right side. This will only create a headache for your designer and will likely cause additional labor charges to you when all of these tabs and returns have to be taken out.
2. Don’t assume that you know how to send images to your publisher. Images can be tricky and often need to be a certain resolution in order to be book quality. Find out what these specifications are and how you need to send the images. Make sure that you indicate inside the manuscript where the images need to be placed and include captions for the images. Also understand that space constraints in book layout change after taking your manuscript from a 8.5x11-inch Word page format into a 6x9 InDesign format. That picture of Uncle Henry may no longer fit between paragraph five and six because paragraph five is now near the bottom of a page. Be flexible.
And while we’re on the subject, remember that published books are commercial items. You can’t “borrow” images you find off the Internet and use them without permission. In most cases, these images are at a low resolution anyway. If you didn’t purchase the image with permission to use it for commercial use, or you didn’t create the image yourself, then don’t use it. It’s against copyright law.
3. Don’t assume that all books are the same. What I mean by this is, don’t compare the price of your self-published, print-on-demand book with the mass-market paperbacks you see at the grocery store or in Barnes and Noble. They are two different animals. Mass-market paperbacks are printed on offset printers churning out thousands at a time. Print-on-demand (POD) books are printed on digital printers as they are ordered. The paperbacks at the grocery store will naturally cost less because of the volume involved in the printing process. But let's face it, not everyone can afford to print thousands and thousands of books at a time and then have the market appeal to sell them at the grocery store. POD technology is far superior for self-published authors, but does have some trade-offs. Because POD books are printed in small volume, some of the printing costs will go into the retail price of the book. Because of this, they will be more expensive at the retail end. However, the good news is many of the books sold online will also be POD and therefore comparable in price to your book.
That’s probably enough assumption "no-nos" for one blog post. If any of you bloggers would like to add to them, please feel free to comment. I’ll keep a running list on my end and will try to update it every now and then.
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