Today, independent publishing — the idea of an author producing and publishing his or her own book — is very much a reality. Good authors now have a way for their ideas to reach their readers directly, without the need to go through the discouraging process of acceptance or approval by publishers.
The downside is that independent authors may skip stages because they do not know the editorial production process very well, and thereby end up publishing much lower quality books than their content deserves.
I’ve tried to summarise the main book production stages below:
- Copy Editing
- Book Cover
- Layout and Formatting
1. Copy Editing
This is one of the most important and decisive steps towards a high quality book. It’s the step that will help your text to look “like a real book” and not something amateurish.
Most authors confuse copy editing with proofreading. Copy editing is more thorough than proofreading. It makes deeper changes to the original work and it is done on the author’s original file (usually a word “.docx” file). Proofreading is done when the book is already laid out and it is more a checking step. That is why we’re going to talk about proofreading later in this article (item 5).
The copy editor’s objective is to bring editorial quality to the original text, making it clearer and more fluid, without mischaracterising what the author intend to say.
Copy editing include:
- Adjusting the text for cohesion and coherence;
- Improving text fluidity and making it easier to read;
- Pointing out inconsistencies and logical errors;
- Correcting spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
- Performing style standardisation (quotes, itemisation, notes, tables, captions, italics, bolding, etc.);
2. Book Cover
The cover is the main element of your book promotion. It’s the book cover that will attract your reader’s attention on bookstores and Amazon online pages. The quality of the book cover will also anticipate the quality of its content and will visually represent your own professional image to your audience.
How will your book cover present you as an author?
In a professional, assertive, competent, and organized way? Or in a messy, amateurish, confused, immature, and unfocused way? Be careful! Don’t take any chances: seek professional help. The professional that is specialized on creating book covers is an editorial designer that is called book cover designer. For specific tips regarding book covers, see the following article:
3. Layout and Formatting
We will now focus on the look of the book’s interior, the internal layout. While the cover is a marketing element focused on attracting and winning over the reader, the inside is purely editorial.
The internal layout design is carried out by a editorial designer and has three main objectives:
- to give legibility to your work; in other words, to give the reader a pleasant, natural, and effortless reading.
- to give an identity to the internal layout that is compatible with the segment, theme, and subject of your book.
- to make the internal part visually coherent with the cover language, making the book a singular item.
At this stage, the following are defined:
- typology (font) for text and titles
- font sizes and weights (visual hierarchy)
- page margins and text area size
- the spacing between lines, paragraphs, indents and indentations
The formatting of your book is precisely the application of the layout design and its visual definitions throughout the text in all the book’s pages.
The ISBN number is your book’s identity. This identification number helps your book to be formally catalogued. This way, your publication can be found more easily in both online and offline bookshops and distributors.
Obtaining ISBN numbers on the internet has been possible for quite some time now. Each country has its own ISBN agency. For instance, the Nielsen agency is responsible to generate the ISBN in UK and Ireland. In the U.S., Bowker is the official source for ISBNs and they charge $125 (!). In Brazil, my homeland, it is CBL (Câmara Brasileira do Livro). Canadians can get ISBNs for free through the Government of Canada.
- ISBN Agency UK – Nielsen Book: https://nielsenbook.co.uk/isbn-agency/
- ISBN Agency USA – Bowker: http://www.isbn.org/
- ISBN Agency Australia – Thorpe-Bowker: https://www.myidentifiers.com.au/
- ISBN Agency Canada – https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/services/isbn-canada/Pages/isbn-canada.aspx
- ISBN Agency Brazil – CBL: https://servicos.cbl.org.br/isbn/
The ISBN Agencies recommends that the printed version and digital version of your book have different ISBNs for correct cataloguing (as they are versions of the same product with different methods of delivery, formatting, and pricing). The same applies to audiobooks: a third ISBN number would be required for an audiobook version.
Once the text is already formatted and laid out, proofreading is then carried out.
The proof-reader is the editorial professional responsible for proofreading. This professional may or may not be the same person who performed the copy editing step. But it is better if it is a professional that hasn’t layed eyes on your book.
The proof-reader checks content, headings, table of contents and page numbers, chapter opening pages, and other editorial elements. They will also scan the text again for any spelling and grammar mistakes. In addition, they will check the layout (indentations, widows and orphan lines, double spaces and so on).
A formatted and laid out book is normally proofread twice.
This is the last stage of the book production process. The book cover and internal pages are printed separately then bound at the spine. There are several methods for this binding: Perfect binding, PUR biding, Tape biding, Case biding, Saddle-stitched biding, Spiral biding.
Publishers normally work with print runs of more than 1,000 copies. In other words, it makes financial sense for them to use large offset printing presses: for large runs, the printing cost per unit drops significantly.
For independent authors, doing offset printing means investing in printing thousands of copies. In addition to a high initial investment, independent authors will also find it difficult to have space to store boxes and boxes full of books.
One option could be digital printing. The book cost per unit is higher, but the author can make smaller investments at a time. The books can be printed in short runs of 50, 100 or 300 units, according to need. Have you run out of your first issue? Simply print more copies in a short new run.
Another option would be print on demand (POD). There are companies on the market that will only print your book when it’s sold. They take care of the printing, mounting, handling and distribution of the book, then pay the author royalties of 20-30% on the value of each book sold. It is a method of getting your book to your readers without needing to invest in printing and distribution.
Amazon has its own print on demand service. That’s right: as well as publishing and distributing your e-books, Amazon can print your book on paper and deliver it to your customers. Ingram has the same service. And there are many others: BookBaby, Lulu, Blurb and so on.
I hope this article on how to professionally create a book has helped in planning the production of your next independent book! Good luck!