Self-publishing can be a practical and satisfying alternative to the competitive market of submissions, agents, editors, and publishers. But quality self-publishing requires quality writing, editing, design, proofreading, and printing.  

If you are going to self-publish, take the time first to educate yourself about book publishing. The information below can help you locate the resources you will need.  

Professionally Prepare Your Manuscript


Start by bringing your manuscript to a critique group or a professional editor. Before any work is ready for publication, it needs to go through many drafts and revisions. You can check out a list of local writing groups at this link: Ongoing Writers Groups and Readings  

You can check out a list of local writers who offer writing workshops, editing, and consulting services at this link: Sonoma County Writers Offering Workshops and Consultations.  

Know the Publishing Market you are Entering


Most writers publish individual poems, stories, articles, reviews, or chapters of longer works before they attempt to get their own book published. These individual works usually appear in literary journals and magazines.    

Writers Relief has a website with information that can be very helpful to writers who haven’t yet explored publishing in literary journals. You can find them at this website:  

You can find information about publishing your work in the current editions of Writer’s Market and Poet’s Market.  

Poets & Writers, Inc. also has an excellent resource called “Tools for Writers,” with a page specifically devoted to guidelines for submitting your work to literary magazines.  

P & W Tools for Writers:  

P & W Literary Magazines:  

Read Recommended Books on Self Publishing


· Complete Guide to Self Publishing: Everything You Need to Know to Write, Publish, Promote, and Sell Your Own Book (Self-Publishing 4th Edition) by Tom Ross, Marilyn Ross  

· How To Start And Run A Small Book Publishing Company: A Small Business Guide To Self-Publishing And Independent Publishing by Peter I. Hupalo  

· 1001 Ways to Market Your Books by John Kremer  

· The Self-publishing Manual by Dan Poynter (Rate it)  

· How to Publish, Promote, & Sell Your Own Book by Robert L. Holt  

Know the Basic Costs of Publishing


If you are going to self-publish, you will need to handle all aspects of you book design, editing, production, and distribution. If you can do any of this yourself, it will save you money. However, it’s a good idea to consult with or hire professionals to make sure you have quality control over your work. Here are the basic costs of such services.  

Self-Publishing a Full-Length, Perfect-Bound Book  

For an 80-100 page book, perfect bound, four-color cover, 1,000 copies, you can expect to spend $5,000-$6,000.  

$100-250 Developmental editing and consultation (assistance with content and arrangement)  

$100 Proofreading  

$150-250 Copy-editing  

$500 to 2,000 Book/Cover Design  

$1,800-2,200 Printing  

$100-300 shipping  

$100 Author Photo  

$100-$300 Permissions (to use lines from other authors as epigraphs or for cover art)  

$300 ISBN Number (sold in groups of 10)  

$35 Library of Congress Number  

$30 Bar Code  

$200 Advertising/PR  

Chapbook Self-Publishing


You can produce a saddle-stapled chapbook, 20-25 pages, black and white cover and text for much less. If you do the proofreading, copy-editing, and book design yourself, the printing costs at a photocopy shop like Kinko’s will run about $5.00 per book.  

However, be aware that authors should not do their own proofreading and copy-editing for the same reason one shouldn’t represent oneself in a court of law. It takes an experienced and professional eye to catch all the errors, and they will be invisible to the author. The more professional the presentation, the more the reader will appriciate the quality of your work.  

You should talk with a printer about the best way to deliver your text. Some printers work from pdf files only; some will convert any electronic file; some will work with camera-ready printed page proofs.  

Online Publishing and Print-on-Demand


Currently several companies offer online publishing and print-on-demand publishing for reasonable fees. Some even include editing and proofreading services. The advantage to this approach is the company handles book design, printing, and distribution. There are no shipping or storage costs, since the books are printed as customers order them. Most have arrangements with online distributors such as The companies that I recommend are listed below.  

You should ask to see samples of each company’s product before signing on.  

Online publishers generally do limited PR. Promoting and marketing books are tasks that generally fall to the author, regardless of who your publisher is. Keep that in mind as you consider your overall costs.  




For more information about various online publishers, check out Online Book Publishering Review  



This is the greatest drawback to self-publishing. You want to place your books in bookstores, but without a publisher and distributor handling your book, that can be hard. You can’t really afford to publish in the kind on quantity to use a standard distributor, so you will have to be your own book representative. You can distribute your books in several ways:  

Mail Order: Send out order forms through the mail. Include a shipping and handling cost, and then mail the books back to those who send in their orders.  

Direct Sales: Sell your books directly to friends, family, fans. The best way to do this is to have a book publishing party and schedule readings in as many locations as possible.  

Consignment:  Bookstores will often agree to sell your books for you on consignment. The usual arrangement is 60/40 (author gets 40%). Ask for an invoice when you bring the books to the bookstore. Check back quarterly to see if the books have sold and need to be replaced. Bookstores generally pay quarterly.  

Small Press Distribution: If you produce more than just one book, you can check out this local distributor which specializes in small, independent presses. They are located in Berkeley, California. Their website is:  



Current copyright law gives an author copyright to any written work from the moment the work is penned or typed. There is no need to register your copyright, though many authors do. If you are interested, you can check this website:  

If you have previously published your work in a literary magazine or journal, check to make sure that copyright returns to the author upon publication. This is standard practice, but some journals retain copyright. In these cases, you’ll need to write to the editor or publisher to request the right to publish your work in your book or chapbook.  

Previous publications should be listed as acknowledgments on the copyright page of your book.  

Library of Congress Number

(Now called a Preassigned Control Number)


A Library of Congress control number is a unique identification number that the Library of Congress assigns to the catalog record created for each book in its cataloged collections. Librarians use it to access the associated bibliographic record in the Library of Congress’s database or other databases. The Library of Congress assigns this number while the book is being cataloged. Under certain circumstances, however, a control number can be assigned before the book is published through the Preassigned Control Number Program.  

You can find information and the forms you need at www.  

ISBN (International Standard Book Numbers)


The U.S. ISBN Agency is responsible for the assignment of the ISBN Publisher Prefix to those publishers with a residence or office in the U.S. and are publishing their titles within the U.S. The U.S. agency address is:  

U.S. ISBN Agency  

630 Central Avenue  

New Providence, NJ 07974  

Tel: 877-310-7333  

Fax: 908-219-0188  

Bar Code


The ISBN can be translated into a worldwide compatible bar code format. Bar code scanning is used in the U.S. by major bookstore chains for book publications and book-related items.  

You can find a list of bar code suppliers on line at The one I use is Fotel.  

You can order them in digital form to download directly into your cover design before printing. Or you can order them as stickers to place on the books after printing. 

Soliciting Printer Bids 

Authors usually work with their book designers to prepare the specs and solicit bids from printers. This should be done two months prior to the date when the materials will be sent to the printer. 

Soliciting Printer Bids 

Authors usually work with their book designers to prepare the specs and solicit bids from printers. This should be done two months prior to the date when the materials will be sent to the printer. 
Here are some I’ve worked with in the past and can recommend. 

488 Burnell Street 

Winnipeg, Manitoba 

Canada R3G 2B4 

Phone 800-304-5553 

Fax 204-774-4053 


Malloy Incorporated
PO Box 1124
Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1124 

Phone: 800-722-3231 or 734-665-6113  

Fax: 734-665-2326 

Customer Service Manager
Jim Mitchell
800-722-3231 extension 553 
McNaughton & Gunn
Headquarters and Production Facilities
960 Woodland Drive
Saline, MI 48176 

Regional Account Representative 

Sue Leonard

Phone Number 734.429.8726 


Sheridan Printing Co., Inc. 

1425 Third Avenue
Alpha, NJ 08865-4695
(908) 454-0700
Fax (908) 454-2554

Customer contact: 

Bob Coyle
Phone # (908) 507-2670
Fax # (908) 454-2554








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