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Self-Publishing Tips (Part 2) – Preparing to Hire an Editor and Designer

This is the second blog post in a series of self-publishing tips.  The tips are based on my experience writing Memories of Union High: An Oasis in Caroline County, Virginia 1903-1969.  The first post gave tips for preparing your manuscript to be worked on by an editor and designer.

This post focuses on gathering the information you will need when you seek out the services of an editor and designer.  Communicating your vision with the editor and designer upfront will minimize the number of revisions that occur during the design process which will help keep the cost of your project down.

Having answers to the following questions will help simplify the design process and give the editor and designer the information they need to transform your manuscript into the book you envision.

  1. What is your anticipated budget and timeline?  This is a very important question. The design process is not cheap nor is it fast.  There is no sense wasting your time or other people’s time if the cost of their services is not within your budget or they can not complete the project in the necessary timeframe. Some free-lance professionals are willing to give you a discount if you explain the project is self-financed.  You can do some fundraising to help raise money for your project.  I created a commemorative calendar for Union High School to use as a fundraiser for my project.  Think of similar fundraising ideas to help finance your project.
  2. What is the subject matter?   You should summarize the subject of the book in a few sentences. Links to a website, news articles or other information that can explain your project are also helpful. My book preserved the history of the only high school for Negroes in Caroline County during the era of segregation.  I created a page on my website about the Union High History Project.  I had several newspaper articles written about the project as well. When I contacted editors and designers I included a brief summary of the project along with links to my website and news articles in the email.  Keep in mind that some people my not be inclined to visit a website or read news articles, so your summary should contain the information necessary to explain your project.
  3. Who is the target audience? What are the characteristics of the people you want to read your book: age, sex, ethnicity, special interest or geographic location?  You can have a primary and secondary target audience.  The primary audience for my book was people who were associated with Union High School. I wanted them to be able to read the book and go down memory lane.  The secondary target audience for my book was people who were interested in local history.  I wanted them to be able to read the book and become familiar with an aspect of Caroline County history they may not have known.
  4.  How would you like to present the information? What look and feel do you want for the book:  formal, coffee-table photo book, or scrapbook?  I wanted my book to tell the history of the school and preserve the memories of those associated with it.   I wanted it to have the look and feel of a memory book with a lot of pictures and quotes containing people’s memories.
  5. What elements will your book contain and how do you want it organized? Will it contain photographs, charts, tables, graphs, sidebars, lists, quotes etc?  Do you want the photographs, charts etc located in one location or interspersed throughout the text?  Will the inside pages be in color or in black and white? Do you want the book to be black and white with one section for color photographs?
  6. What are your ideas for the cover? The cover is the selling point for your book and must appeal directly to your audience. It is helpful to have examples of covers you like. Go to amazon.com and create a list book with covers you like.
  7. What is the cover type and binding style?  A book can be hard cover or paperback.  There are many different binding types. For paperback there are:  perfect bound, saddle stitched, wire bound, plastic comb.  For hardback there are case warp and dust jacket.  Hardcover books are expensive to print and many of the other binding types for paperbacks are not sturdy or practical.  Therefore, I recommend a paperback with perfect binding.
  8. What is the word count?   This will help the editor or designer determine the rough page count of your book.   If you are using Microsoft word, you can determine the word count by selecting Tools from the menu bar and Word Count from the pull-down menu. Keep in mind the higher the page count the higher the cost to print the book.
  9. What is the trim size? Trim size is the final size of your book in width by height.  Books are printed on larger sheets of paper and then cut (trimmed) to the correct size after they are printed and bound. A book with a small trim size will have a higher page count than the same book with a larger trim size.  There are also industry standard and non-industry standard trim sizes. I recommend that your book be an industry standard size because there are additional cost associated with using a non-standard size. Createspace has an excellent table that lists their trim sizes, the page count ranges and identifies which trim sizes are standard.  They also have a table that shows the book trim sizes and maximum page counts.
  10. How are you going to print your book?  There are several options for printing your book: traditional offset printing, digital printing and print on demand (POD).  Traditional printing is usually used for quantities over 1,000 which is not practical for most people self-publishing a book. If you select digital printing you will be responsible for distribution etc.  Print on demand is the best option because the printer also acts as the distributor.  You don’t need to keep an inventory because you can order the quantity of books you need.  Lulu.com or createpace.com are two popular print on demand companies; however, there are many more.  Do your research and wait until you have selected your editor and designer before you make your final selection.

If you have any questions about the information in this post feel free to submit a comment and I will reply.

Next Post:  Self-Publishing Tips (Part 3) – Selecting an Editor and Graphic Designer

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