Frequently Asked Questions

Following are answers to common questions asked by people who are curious about self-publishing.

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How do I copyright my book?

Copyright protection lasts your life plus 50 years. This is done by using the copyright symbol with the year and your name (Copyright © 2000 Your Name) and including it on the copyright page of your manuscript. Also, when your manuscript is complete, send yourself a notarized copy by registered mail and place unopened in storage. This is evidence of a specific date within the copyright year. Order the circulars on Copyright and form TX which is package #109. They are free of charge by calling (202) 707-9100.


How much does it cost to self-publish a book?

Are you publishing for just friends and family or for a larger audience? In general,there are three areas of expense:

Preparing the manuscript involves editing, permissions (if any) the layout and cover design. An editor may charge $1.00 to $3.00 per page. Professional layout service of the book can be $3.00 to $6.00 per page. If you own a computer and desktop publishing software , such as PageMaker or Quark X Press, that expense can be saved by doing it on your own. It is well worth the investment to hire a graphic artist with book design experience. Books are often sold on the merits of the cover alone. Expect to spend $500 for a simple one or two color cover design to $2500 for a full color design. Printing costs are based on: page count, book size, type of binding, quantity printed, number of pictures and quantity printed. Call a book manufacturer to get price a price quote or see our Valuable Links page. Marketing cost are usually budgeted at $1.00 per book printed.


Where is the best place to print a book?

Get bids from a book manufacturer instead of a local printer. Book manufacturers have the equipment to print and bind books themselves, saving on sending out the work and marking up the price. If your book is more than 50 pages and you are printing more than 200 copies, chances are the prices will be lower through a book manufacturer. See A Simple Guide to Self-Publishing for a list of book manufacturers. Printing fewer than 200 copies can be done by a local lithographer (printer). Get several bids and references to insure a fair price.


How many books should I initially print?

The more you print, the less each costs. Strike a balance between printing enough copies to keep your unit cost down and too many copies where you're stuck with a garage full of unsold books. If profit is a motive, a self-publisher will order between 500 and 3000 books in the first printing. The only time to order more is if most are presold. Remember, reprints generally cost less, assuming there are not many changes. Changes require the cost of making new printing plates. Plan on 3 to 5 weeks for delivery.


What is an ISBN number and why do I need one?

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is the ten digit number on the back cover of books. the numbers identify the publisher and the book title. The book trade uses this number to order, price and keep track of inventory. Wholesalers and bookstores are reluctant to stock a book that does not have this number clearly printed on the back cover. The numbers are available through R.R. Bowker (908) 665-6770. There is a handling fee of about $280. Your book will be listed in Books in Print at no charge.


If I choose not to self-publish, how do I find a royalty publisher or agent?

Not everyone is interested in self-publishing their book. To find a royalty publisher or agent, research ones familiar with the market you are trying to reach. In other words, seek an agent or publisher who specializes in the subject matter of your book. There are several resources in the library, (see our Best Books section) such as: Literary Market Place (the industry's bible), Books-in-Print and The Guide to Literary Agents. Once you have identified a match, call to request submission procedures. Typically (for non-fiction books) they will request a query outlining: Books description, your qualifications for writing it, your books market or audience, how your book is unique from others on the same subject, how you will contribute to the marketing of the book and perhaps the table of contents. If the publisher or agents is interested, they will contact you for the complete manuscript. For fiction, include: A one sentence description of your book, intended audeince/subject catagory and a three page double spaced plot summary. Fiction is much harder to place and relies on the quality of writing and the depth of the story.



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