Your final draft is done. You’ve spent months, maybe even years, working on your vision. What you now hold in your hand is the culmination of all your hopes and dreams. The last thing you want is to be disappointed with the final product.
Self-publishing isn’t as easy as some may think. You can’t just crank out a book in a Word document, upload it and call it good, thinking you’ll magically get back a perfectly constructed proof.
I’ve seen a few crest-fallen Indie authors who woefully exclaimed “What happened? My book looks horrible!”
It’s heart-breaking. I really feel for them. So I asked them, “What happened?” They tell me, “It’s full of mistakes”, “It’s the wrong size.”, “The cover is all fuzzy.”, “The color’s all weird.” My first thoughts are their print on demand house of choice messed up. After a few questions, the truth comes out.
Why was it full of mistakes? The author didn’t have any editing done before the book was sent to print. Why is it the wrong size? The author submitted it as 8.5×11. Why was the cover fuzzy? The original image wasn’t a high enough resolution for the size of the cover. Why wasn’t the color right? Proper print colors weren’t used when processing the files for the printer.
Having your book formatted and printed for the first time is no small undertaking. Even with a design and publishing background, I still ran into glitches. It happens with anything new. There will always be little things you won’t know what to look for until you’ve experienced the process.
So, to help all of you up and coming DIY Indie Authors out there who want to tackle your own formatting and book design I thought I’d share with you my Pre and Post Print checklist.
- Editing: Proof your book. Have other people proof your book. Hire an actual editor to proof your book. Read your book on several different formats other than your computer screen. Have your book printed out at Office Max or FedEx for cheap, read it and mark it up.
- Formatting: Have you formatted your book according to your printer’s guidelines? Whether you use Lightning Source, Create Space or Lulu, each one provides specs (specifications) and templates for interiors and covers. Do you have the correct size? Trade paperbacks are usually in the 5×8 range, while hardcovers will be in the 6×9 range. Size doesn’t matter for digital editions.
- Cover: Is your artwork sized to the correct 300 dpi resolution? Do you have an excerpt or reviews for the back cover? Did you download the correct template from your printer? These templates will take into consideration your page count and the type of paper used in order to calculate the correct spine width.
- ISBN: Do you have one? You need a new ISBN for each book and format you publish. ISBNs are not reusable.
- Editing: That’s right, I said it twice. Don’t wait to proof your book for the first time after you get it back. You want to submit that first set of files with as few mistakes as possible. Proofs and revisions cost money each time you do them. Do your best to make that first submission as clean as possible.
- Cover: What’s your first impression out of the box? How do the colors look? Is the image clear? Does the title on the front and spine line up properly? Is all the text legible?
- Quick-Flip: Flip through your book. Are all the beginning chapter pages consistent in look? How about the content of the book; do the top and bottom lines of body text all end in the same place or does the text waver up and down as you rifle through the pages? Are all your odd pages on the right and evens on the left? Does the first page of the story start with page one? Do you have folios (the author’s name and name of the book above the body text) across the top of each page? Did you remember to take the folios off of the beginning chapter pages? Are there extra blank pages at the end of the book? If so, check your original file to make sure you didn’t have any there. From title page to last physical page, you should always have an even number of pages.
- Read: Read through your whole book. Look for any mistakes or things you may want to change.
- Put the Book Down And Walk Away: Yup, put it down and get some distance. Let it sit for a month or so. It’s difficult, I know. Especially when you’re so eager to see your name in lights. Haste makes waste. Let it simmer for a little bit.
- Return To The Book And Read Like A Reader: Now that you have a clear head, read your book with fresh eyes and from the perspective of one of your readers. This time, enjoy the story.
- Rinse and Repeat: If everything checks out and you’re truly pleased with the results, by all means, hit that “approve” button. If not? Make those changes and repeat the process until it’s right.
Whew! That just tuckered me out thinking about all that work! Hopefully these tips will help make your first time easier. And if you find it’s too much? You can always ask for a little help. Getting your book print-ready may not be your genius work. Luckily for you, it happens to be mine. I’ll be right here when you need me.