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Self-publishing: 6 Questions to consider when selecting a company to produce your book

ReadytoGetPublishedIf you are planning to self-publish a book, whether it is a textbook you have written or a book for a wider audience, one of the important decisions you will need to make is, “What book manufacturing company should I select to produce my book?”

Book manufacturers and book publishers are often thought of as being the same, but there are significant differences between the two. In the simplest terms, book manufacturers are strictly book printers and binders – a resource used by those who want to self-publish. Typically, they receive digital book files created by authors and produce finished books based on page size, type of paper, binding style and other book options their authors may want. Unlike book publishers, book manufacturers do not offer editorial, proofreading, design, layout, marketing and promotion, or other support services commonly offered by book publishers. As a self-publishing author, you should consider a book manufacturer as an outsourced service, in much the same manner you would a graphic designer or an editor you might hire.

To help you in your search, here are six questions to consider when evaluating a company to print and bind your book.

  1. Does the company offer accessible, hands-on service if and when you may need it? If you have a problem, such as while uploading a file or understanding a set of instructions, will you be able to obtain assistance in a timely manner? One of the most frustrating things for anyone who is trying to self-publish, is to encounter a problem and not be able to talk to a real person. Technology is great when it works. But when it doesn’t, it’s important to have someone you can contact to help you fix the problem or answer your questions. Look for a company that has reliable “hands-on” service. Ask them what the procedure is to get assistance if and when you may need it.
  2. Is the book production process easy to understand and easy to work with? Ask the book manufacturer you are considering how their process works. Look to see if there are any testimonials on their website regarding how easy their processes are.Find out how long it will take to produce your books once they have received your digital files. If you are producing your books in a soft cover, coil bound and saddle stitch binding, they should be ready within a business week. Hard cover books may take slightly longer. If you anticipate having a tight deadline to meet, ask if you can place a rush on your project. You may have to pay an extra charge, but in certain situations, a company that offers a rush option could be a plus.
  3. What is the quality of their work? Every company will say they are high quality, but some are higher than others. And some may be better at producing the kind of book you want than others – particularly if you are interested in hard cover books that require special equipment, materials and expertise (i.e. faux leather covers and foil stamping).Some of the quality indicators to look for are how long the company has been in business (although don’t always equate greater length of service with higher quality), how many authors they have worked with over the past year, the type of printing equipment they use (is it the latest technology?), and the materials and expertise that go into their binding operations. If necessary, ask for a sample of a book they have recently produced that is similar to the one you want to produce. Look for customer testimonials regarding the quality of their work, and find out what kind of guarantees they offer regarding their workmanship.One of the advantages of working with a short-run book manufacturer is that you can produce small quantities and, if you wish to, make changes to your book files before the next production run.
  4. How much will it cost to produce your book? Ask if there are any set up fees or additional charges anywhere in the process. There shouldn’t be, unless you are making a special request of some kind. Look to companies where your only expense is the cost to print, bind and ship your books – and then find out exactly what this expense will be. You should also be able to determine your cost before you submit any book files or place an order. Find out how easy it is to get a price quote.
  5. What is the minimum quantity requirement? We’ve all heard the horror story about the author that produced 3000 copies of his new book, only to have them wind up in his garage? With today’s digital technology and short run capabilities, there is no reason to produce more copies than you need – and to produce them at a reasonable cost. Some book manufacturers have no minimum quantity requirements – even for hard cover books. But some do, so be sure to ask.If you are creating your book for a small targeted audience (such as for a specific course or class), or if you are not sure how many books you will initially sell, a short-run book manufacturer could be your best choice. You can always increase the number of copies in future production runs as the demand for your book increases – and eliminate the fear of filling up your garage.
  6. Can they offer you choices? Most book manufacturers should be able to affordably produce your book in a number of sizes (height and width of pages), so you shouldn’t have to produce an 8 ½ by 11 or 6 by 9 inch book if you don’t want to. Keep in mind, however, that part of your production costs is based on how many pages can be printed from a sheet of paper. Ask if there are “optimum” page sizes you should consider that could reduce your cost.Another choice involves the binding of your book. Highly skilled book manufacturers can give you a variety of choices. Typical choices should include a soft cover option (called perfect binding or paperback), hard cover (with either a cover wrap or dust jacket), plastic coil binding (ideal for technical books, cookbooks or other books that would benefit from lying flat for note taking) and saddle stitch binding.One of the benefits of working with a company that offers a variety of binding choices is that it gives you the opportunity to produce your book in more than one binding style. For example, you may want to print most of your copies with a soft cover, but also produce a small quantity in a hard cover binding to send to book reviewers, special recipients or to sell through a specialty, non-traditional book outlet.

Today, an increasing number of authors are choosing to self-publish and using book manufacturers to produce their books. If you are one of them, asking the right questions will enable you to find the book manufacturer that best fits your needs.

George Kittredge authored his own book in 2005, and has worked with self-publishing authors since 1997. He can be contacted by email at