Creating a printed book is a bit more complicated than creating a PDF eBook. More steps are involved, just by right of producing a tangible finished product that needs to be handled in the physical world (versus an electronic document that can be distributed by e-mail or online). The basic print publishing process for a print-on-demand publishing cycle for a book that will be sold online through the print-on-demand vendor’s website (and/or other online booksellers like Amazon) breaks down as follows:
- Complete your manuscript
- Develop your cover concept (and do a trial run of a cover)
- Format your manuscript for printing (the final product is called a “galley”)
- Complete your cover artwork (and proof it with trial runs of a cover)
- Put your galley and artwork together
- Create marketing collateral, press releases, etc.
- Receive hard copies of your book and send out review copies to press
- Send out press releases and place advertising and line up interviews
- Continue the marketing cycle to keep your book in the press
- Track your sales and order more books for more publicity
I recommend printing out this list and using it as a project plan for your print publishing. And fill in the blanks in the process, where you know there are more steps involved in your own personal experience. Or follow the sample project plan immediately following this section. Having a checklist to follow can simplify what can be a complicated and sometimes confusing process.
Now, one thing you may notice, is that I have listed marketing after the actual publication of your book. I strongly recommend waiting till you have a finished, published book in hand before you start sending out press releases and generating interest. I’ve had international press people contact me within 24 hours of sending out my press materials, but I had no hard copies in hand to send to them, so that pretty much derailed the opportunity I’d created for myself.
In the traditional publishing world, it’s customary to publicize a printed book at least three months in advance of publication. This gives the press time to review bound galleys and work your publicity into their own production schedules. Now, for traditional publishers who have a full staff and plenty of money and connections and the machinery for publishing, that’s fine. They can pretty much guarantee that a book will come out exactly the way they say it will, exactly when the way it will. But when you’re on your own, it’s a different story. Anything could happen along the way. You could experience delays with the printer. You could experience personal complications. You could find yourself stalled by artwork that didn’t come out the way you wanted… any number of things can go wrong when you’re on your own.
So, it’s prudent to be a bit more conservative about marketing a book you’re working on. Even if you’re 100% absolutely positively unwaveringly convinced that your book will come out in three weeks, anything can happen in that time, that can hold you up or wreck your carefully laid plans. So, don’t make any promises you can’t keep to the press. It will only work against you.
All this might sound a little daunting, but if you’re reading this, you’re probably an independent type of person, so the inherent risks and dangers will trouble you a lot less than someone who’s never published before and is nervous entering uncharted waters. Certainly, going it alone as an independent print publisher can take a lot more preparation and organization, than operating solely in digital formats. But it’s also very satisfying, to have a book in hand that you can give to friends, families, reviewers, and others who say, “So, you’re a writer?”
And if you format your book well, your work can be indistinguishable from the work of other writers published by mainstream publishing houses. You can get your own ISBN, your own professional-looking cover, a great-looking interior, and all the marketing collateral you could ask for… without spending a small fortune. All it takes is determination, the right information, some creative inventiveness, a keen eye for detail, and a willingness to keep going, no matter what.
With a little extra care, some advanced planning, and an eye for detail, you can turn your eBooks or white papers or other digital information products into printed books — and not drive yourself crazy in the process.