Archive for the ‘Self-Publishing’ Category

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 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. or 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

Self-Publishing Tips (Part 1) – Preparing the Manuscript

In an early post, I provided several tips for taking an active role in preserving local history.  One way to preserve local history is to write a book. In 2009, I initiated the Union High History Project to preserve the history of Union High School in Caroline County, Virginia.  The end product of the project was a book that preserved the history of the school and the memories of the people who were associated with the school.

I decided to self-publish the book because I wanted creative control.  I researched numerous self-publishing companies and narrowed the list down to CreateSpace and  I selected CreateSpace because it was associated with Amazon.Memories of Union High Cover

This was the first time I had every written a book and I had no idea what I was doing.   I did a lot of research, made it up as I went along, made some mistakes and learned some valuable lessons.

I am happy to say I am pleased with the book.  It is  titled Memories of Union High: An Oasis in Caroline County, Virginia 1903-1969 and I have received a lot of positive feedback.  The book uses remembrances from alumni, faculty, family and friends; excerpts from school newspapers and yearbooks; and over 100 photographs and other memorabilia to preserve the history of the school.

When people learn that I have self-published a book they often ask me for a few tips.  Therefore, I decided to create a blog post to share what I learned from my experience with the Union High History Project.  I have a lot of information to share, so I decided to divide it among several posts.

Originally, I decided to do all the work for the book myself.   As I researched the book design process and began reading about editing, formatting, pagination, fonts etc.  I quickly realized I did not have  the skills to produce a professional quality document.  Therefore, I decided to outsource the editing and design work.  The end result of the book design process was two PDF files (one for the cover and another for the manuscript) which I uploaded to Createspace and printed.  This process was much simpler and I recommend that you hire an editor and graphic designer. The final result is well worth the cost.

Here are some tips for preparing your manuscript for editing and layout before you hand over your manuscript to a professional to create the final product:

  1. Using a word processing software.  Your manuscript should be created using either Microsoft Office or WordPerfect.  Since Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software  I would suggest you use that.
  2. Decide on document layout (but don’t layout the book).  When I was writing my book I inserted images, captions, text boxes, headers, and footers in the document.  After I hired the editor I learned that I should not have done that, so I had to undo all that work. The positive aspect of me laying out the book was I had a clear vision of what I wanted the document to look like and could communicate my vision to the professionals. Even though you should not layout your book, you should have a general idea of what you want the book to look like.
  3. Format the document.   The document should be double spaced with a clean, readable font such 12-point Times Roman. Use the same font throughout the document and do not format the text (e.g.  no bold, italics, underline etc.).   Use a left justified margin and indent the first line of each paragraph with a single tab. Use only one hard return between paragraphs.  Do not use hard returns at the end of a sentence; let the text wrap naturally to the next line.  Begin each chapter on a new page and give each chapter a title.   Number every page.
  4. Decide on image placement.  Images can be grouped together in one section (usually the center) or dispersed throughout the document.  Grouping the photos in one location will help keep the cost down because it makes the graphic designer’s work easier.  It also can save on printing cost if the images are color because that one section can be printed in color (which is more expensive than black and white) and the remaining sections of the book can be printed in black and white.  In some instances it is more appropriate to spread the images throughout the document. In the case of Memories of Union High, photos and text boxes were positioned next to a person’s memory; therefore, the images were spread throughout the document.
  5. Ensure document has the proper sections.  A book has three main parts: Front, Body and End.  Each of these parts is comprised of various sections (some required and some optional).
    • The front portion of the book consists of the following sections. Half-title page contains only the title of the book. Title page contains: book title; subtitle; author; collaborators and contributors; and publisher. Imprint Page contains the copyright notice, publisher contact information, Library of Congress Catalog Number (LCCN) and ISBN. (You will learn more about these items in a future post.)  These sections are followed by the Dedication (optional), Table of Contents, Acknowledgements (optional), Author’s Notes (optional).  The Foreword is optional and is usually written by someone other than the author.  It explains why the reader should read the book.  The Preface is optional and explains how the book came about.
    • The body of the book is the main part and usually consists of the chapters including the introduction and conclusion.
    • The back portion of the book consists of End notes, Appendix, Bibliography and Index. These sections are optional; however, if you are writing a local history book, I encourage you to at a minimum have end notes and a bibliography to document the sources for your information. The Appendix can be used to include supplemental information which may be of interest or use to the reader.

Memories of Union High contains three Appendices.  The first appendix contains Principal Messages from the yearbooks.  These messages added value to the book by providing insight into the principal’s thought process, but there was no place to include them in the main portion of the book.  Therefore, I thought it was best to put the information in an Appendix.

The second Appendix contains a summary of historical events that took place during the time period covered by the book. Originally, I included explanations for these events in the main portion of the book.  This made the flow of the book awkward and difficult to read.  Additionally, the information was not necessary for people who were familiar with these historical events.   Summarizing the information in the Appendix was the best place for the information because it allowed readers who needed the summary to review the information before reading the book.

The last appendix contained a list of all the Union High History Project Participants.  Originally, I included this information in the acknowledgements section; however with over 100 participants the list was entirely to long.  Therefore, I moved the information to an appendix.

6. Ensure images are of good quality.
 It is important to have good quality photos to eliminate the need for the graphic designer to do extra work to correct problem areas which can greatly increase the cost of the graphic design work. Images should be of high quality (300 dpi or higher) and should be free of major flaws or blemishes.  Poor quality or damaged images may require some restoration.  If you are handy with graphic editing software such as Adobe Photoshop, you can repair the photographs yourself.  Otherwise, it may be necessary to use the services of a person who specializes in photo restoration.  I used Drew Klausner from and was very please with his prices and his work.  He often gives discounts to repeat customers.

1948 Union High Baseball Team - Before Restoration

1948 Union High Baseball Team - Before Restoration

1948 Union High Baseball Team -  After Restoration

1948 Union High Baseball Team - After Restoration

7.  Create an image folder. Each image should be labeled sequentially (ex. image1, image2 etc.) and all the images should be placed in one folder.

Image Folder Example

Image Folder Example

8. Insert image and text box place holders.  A place holder such as [Image1], should be used to indicate where the image should be placed in the manuscript. The place holder should correspond to the filename for the image in the image folder. The text for the text box should be included in the manuscript.  A place holder (ex. [textbox 3] )should be used to indicate the text to be included in a  text box

Image Place holder example

Image Place holder example

9. Create caption file.  The caption file should be a sequentially numbered list  and contain the text for the caption for each image or text box.    (ex. Homecoming 1968 attendants, Miss Union High and Miss Football Sweetheart.  Source: 1969 Union High Yearbook.) The number on the list should correspond to the number of the image or text box. Example, Item 1 on the list in the caption file is the caption for Image1 in the image folder.

Caption File Example

Caption File Example

10. Proofread the manuscript.  You should meticulously proofread the manuscript before submitting it to the editor and graphic designer.   This will greatly cut down on the number of revisions that are needed which will help keep the cost down.  I suggest enlisting the help of a friend or family member with the task. (Just one person will do. Feedback from too many people will cause confusion.)

If  you follow the above tips, your manuscript will be ready for editing and design by the appropriate professionals.  The next blog posts will discuss selecting an editor and graphic designer, the editing and design process and how to obtain identifying information for your book.

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 2) – Preparing to Hire an Editor and Designer


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