[Self Publishing Guide] Self Publishing Your Book – Step 4: Distribution

This post is an excerpt from our Self Publishing Guide for Indian Market. If you have not, you may want to read the following post in this series before starting on this one

Distribution should not be confused with marketing. Marketing creates awareness and entices the reader to read the book. However, the book has to move from the printing press to the book store for the reader to buy it. Distribution is the process by which the book is made available to the reader.

In a typical chain, the book travels from the publisher to the distributors. These are comparatively bigger stockists who usually look after a region or state. From the distributor, the book goes to the retailer (your nearby book shop is a retailer) where it is purchased by the individual reader.

Typical margins* (known as ‘discounts’ in the industry) are 40-60% of MRP to retailer and 10-20% of MRP to the distributor/wholesaler. This implies that for a book with a printed price of  Rs 100, Rs 40–60 is pocketed by the retailer as profit and Rs 10-20 is pocketed by the distributor. The books are also generally distributed on a “fully returnable if not sold within a specific period (e.g. three months)” basis. This means upfront payment from the distributor is rare and they take no financial risk whatsoever. These numbers often surprise first timers, but these are the realities of the publishing industry. Online as well as offline retailers work with similar margins.

Without contacts, getting a distributor is difficult for a self publisher. Distributors are picky about the books since they have to store the copies and sell it to the retailers. Even when you find a distributor, often they don’t really do a good job of getting your book to the retailer, i.e. the bookstore.

The above information is not meant to discourage, but to give a realistic picture to the independent author/publisher.

Options for Self Publishers

  • Offline Distribution:
    • The best bet is to start with your local bookshops. Give away the book even for free at this stage. If it picks up, try and get to a distributor through the bookshop.
    • Sell it yourself, through your family and friends. Don’t give in to relatives asking for free copies!
    • Ask people around to explore the possibility of institutional selling (for example, company/school libraries). Works better for non-fiction books on specialised topics.
  • Online Distribution:
    • Make your own website and sell the book through it. You can accept payment through PayPal (in dollars) or through cheque, demand drafts and electronic transfers.
    • There are self publishing companies (like Pothi.com) which operate online book stores specifically for self publishing authors.
    • Get a distributor in a similar way for offline distribution. Check with them if they can get you listed on online book shops.

As mentioned earlier, the distribution option you go for would also decide which printing technology is better for you. If you can get into traditional distribution, to get the prices right (refer to the margins above), you are better off going with bulk printing through offset technology. If you are selling yourself or through self-publishing company’s website, Print on Demand is a better option to avoid inventory and logistic hassles.

* For English Language publishing

[Self Publishing Guide] Self Publishing your Book – Step 3: Printing

This post is an excerpt from our Self Publishing Guide for Indian Market. If you have not, you may want to read the following post in this series before starting on this one

In an earlier post on this series we had discussed the printing process and the two options available – bulk printing with offset or one-off/short run printing with Print on Demand.

Your decision needs to be based on three main factors –

  • Estimate of the market size. If you are confident that the demand for your book is more than 500 copies, go for offset printing. In the event of a smaller demand, POD is a better option. To put things in perspective, a book selling more than 5000 copies in India is considered a success by traditional publishing houses. Remember to factor in your actual marketing abilities when you are estimating the demand. Most well-known authors have a large specialised promotion and marketing team working behind the scenes. As a self publisher, you will mostly be your own promoter and marketer. Self promotion is something which many of us Indians are not very good at given our upbringing where humility is highly valued. Marketing your book successfully will require a lot of aggressive self promotion,without which book will be read only by your close friends and family. So shake off the humility and get going.
  • Genre of the book. In case the book is essentially a photo book or what is called a ‘coffee-table book’, you should go in for offset printing to ensure print clarity of the photographs. For a normal book, POD may be a better option.
  • Distribution options. If you see a possibility of getting a distributor, then, to get the prices right bulk printing is more suitable. If you are selling directly, through your own website or through the website of self publishing companies (like Pothi.com) then you are better off with Print on Demand and short run printing. Read more about distribution options in the next post of this series.

One good thing to try could be to print a short run by POD, test market it, probably scout for publishers/distributors by showing it to them and depending on the response, go for bulk printing.

Designing Cover and Understanding Images

The most frequent reason why book submissions do not go through in one go at Pothi.com is because cover is not submitted in a print ready format. The bad news is that it needs some technical understanding to get your cover right. The good news is that it is not too difficult to understand. You only need to spend a few minutes of your time. Let’s do it right now.

Parts of the Cover

First, let’s understand the different parts of the cover.

  1. Front Cover: Should be self explanatory.
  2. Back Cover: Should be self explanatory.
  3. Spine: This is the part that covers the thickness of the book.
  4. Bleed: Bleed is not a part of the final cover, but needs to be present in the print ready cover file. This is extension of the background of the cover a bit beyond the actual size. The book is printed and bound, usually on the paper of size bigger than the final intended size. After the binding is done, the book is trimmed to the final size. This ensures that all the pages are trimmed evenly and the book looks good. Now, even the best trimming processes will not be completely accurate. There will always be a margin of error in the size to which the book is trimmed. If the cover is printed in exactly the final size, then a slight error in trimming could result in a white line on the sides. To avoid this the background is extended a bit. The part you see in the image below outside of dotted lines on all four sides is the bleed.


Next thing to understand is the position of the different parts of the cover on the print ready file.

  • Cover is printed on a single page. So, a print ready cover will have front and back covers as well as spine on a single page in a single file. You may initially design front and back covers separately, but finally they have to be put together on a single page.
  • To understand the correct position of the various parts on that single page, open any book you have and then look at the cover. For most of the Indian languages and English, which are written left to right, the binding is done on the left side of the book. So, if you are looking at the cover of an open book, back cover will be on the left side, spine in the middle and front cover on the right side. This is exactly how the print ready cover should have these parts positioned. For Urdu and other Right to Left languages, the position of front and back cover would be switched. In either case, bleed goes around the entire cover. Never design separate front cover, back cover and spine with bleed on all sides. Bleed goes only around the entire cover, not around the individual parts! I know I am being repetitive here, but that’s intentional.

Size of the Cover

Now, let’s come to the size of the cover. Dimensions will be a bit different for a hard cover book. To keep things simple, let’s talk about perfect bound (normal soft cover books) and saddle stitched (center stapled) books.

  • Front Cover and Back Cover should be a no brainer. You want the front and back cover in the same size as the trim size you have decided for the book. So, for a book of 5″x8″ size, the front and back cover should be of 5″x8″ size
  • Spine is the tricky part because its width will obviously vary with the number of pages. It is important to work with your printer to ensure that your spine thickness is right. Else, everything on front and back cover will be placed wrongly and all your design will go down the drain. Offset printers may sometimes ask you for front, back and spine in separate files in an editable format (photoshop, illustrator, indesign or coreldraw typically) so that they can adjust the spine width if needed. This model is not feasible for most Print on Demand (POD) vendors. They would, generally, provide clear formula on spine width as a function of number of pages. Use the formula and stick to it strictly. Because of the spine width part, the cover design can be finalized only after the interior is formatted and we know the final number of pages. Unless you are comfortable with graphic design or have a designer at your disposal to keep making adjustments, you may not want to start cover design before interior formatting in final.
  • Saddle stitched books will not need a spine, although the number of pages for which you can do saddle stitching is usually limited.
  • Bleed should be added to the entire cover. Typically POD printers will specify the bleed you should put in your design. If your printer has asked for the front, back and spine as separate files (mostly in case of offset printer), add the bleed only on the relevant side of each part. Assuming Left to Right language for the book
    • Front Cover: Top, right and bottom should have the bleed, left should NOT
    • Back Cover: Top, left and bottom should have the bleed, right should NOT
    • Spine: Top and bottom should have the bleed, left and right should NOT
  • Typically the cover design specifications would tell you the total size of the cover and also the sizes of individual parts in it (WIDTH: bleed+trim width (back cover) + spine width + trim width (front cover) + bleed; HEIGHT: bleed + trim height + bleed) . It is extremely IMPORTANT to stick to both parts of the specification. Common mistakes people make are
    • Having correct overall size for the cover, but random sizes for individual parts (front cover, spine and/or back cover)
    • Having correct size for front and back cover, but putting in spine of a random width
  • Be careful of such mistakes, as you may hate the book that comes in your hand even if the design and production quality was the best otherwise.

Reoslution of the Cover

Finally a very important part about a concept called resolution. In the world of computers, the measure of length is in pixels. Pixels have no equivalent in physical world. So, you can not say something like 1 inch = N pixels. It is always decided by the device displaying the image as to how many pixels are displayed in inch. This measure is called pixels per inch or PPI. DPI is a term more commonly used for PPI, even though its not the correct usage. Without getting into details, let’s say that DPI and PPI are interchangeable terms for our discussion. Since DPI is the word more commonly used, we will also use DPI here. So, when you are trying to create an image of certain width and height in inches on the computer, you also need to know at what DPI you have to create it at. Typically for on-screen display (on monitor) 72 or 96 DPI is good. But for print the image must be at 300 DPI. Anything lower than that would result in bad print even if it appears good on screen.

To make this concept clear, let’s take a simple example. Suppose you have to design a cover for a book of 5″x7″ size. The spine width, given the number of pages, is 0.35 inch and you are required to put in 0.2 inches of bleed on all sides. Then

  • Total size of the cover in inches is
    • Width: 0.2 (bleed) + 5 (back cover) + 0.35 (spine) + 5 (front cover) + 0.2 (bleed) = 10.75
    • Height: 0.2 (bleed) + 7 (cover) + 0.2 = 7.4
  • This cover has to be designed at 300 DPI
  • So, the size in pixels would be
    • Width: 10.75 x 300 = 3225
    • Height: 7.4 x 300 = 2220

In most modern image editors, you should be able to specify the width and height in inches/mm and the DPI. So, you do not need to worry about the pixels. But it is important that you specify the DPI correctly.

In Photoshop, when you create a new image, you will see a dialog like this. You can specify PPI/DPI in Resolution field.

In Gimp (a free and open source alternative to Photoshop) the default dialog will be the following and you would have to click on the “Advanced Options” to get the DPI setting

Clicking on “Advanced Options” will show the place to specify DPI (X resolution and Y resolution).

So, now you know all about the image sizes and how to get the right size of your cover.

If you need to prepare a cover for publishing on Pothi.com, you may check out the following options

Tips for formatting the interior of your book

If you are taking help of a professional designer for your book, he should take care of most of the things we will talk about in this post and more. If you are doing it yourself, or working with a local DTP shop where people may not have much experience in doing print book formatting, these tips will come in handy.

  1. Ensure that you have the following pages in place
    • Title Page – Would typically have book title, subtitle, author’s name and any other information that is expected to be there on the cover page. If it is a self published book, you can skip the publisher’s name here. If you are putting this book under some imprint name, that can come on this page. This should normally be the first page of the book. If you want you can keep one blank sheet (two blank pages) before this. Such pages are useful if you are expecting to distribute signed books.
    • General Information Page: This page would have copyright notice, information about publisher/printer etc. A sample for a book being published through Pothi.com is here. You should use it after putting your name at suitable place. The best place for this page is right after the title page. It should be printed on the back of the titel page.
    • Dedication: You may want to dedicate your book to someone. In that case have a page for that after the title and general information pages
    • Preface and Foreword: Preface is generally written by the author to introduce the book to the readers. This can be a place for a heart to hear talk with the readers. Having or not having a preface depends on the individual style of the authors.

      Foreword is usually a introduction written by someone else. If you know someone who can write a good foreword for your book, it is a good idea to include that.

    • Table of Contents: Most types of books are better off with a Table of Contents. The exact page numbers can be put in only after the rest of the book is formatted. But in the final file, remember to check that table of contents is there.
  2. Ensure that important parts of the book starts on an odd-numbered page. An odd numbered page falls on the right side of an open book. As a good design practice, any new section should start on the right side of the open book; hence on an odd page. If needed, insert blank pages to achieve this. Title page, Dedication, Preface, Foreword, a new part of the book or first chapter of the book should all start on an odd numbered page. Typically the page after the title page would be the “General Information page” as mentioned in the earlier point. So, if dedication comes after that, it would go on an odd numbered page as desired. But a page should be left blank before starting Table of Content. Similarly, if table of content spreads across odd number of pages, then a page should be left blank before starting the preface or the first chapter.
  3. Pages should be numbered suitably. As a general rule, all the pages should be numbered. Although as a design practice on some pages, page number may not be printed. Some pages, which will do without page numbers being printed are

    • Title Page
    • Dedication Page
    • Blank Pages
    • First page of a new part of the book or first page of the first chapter

    There is enough scope of creativity in how to number your pages, but there are two common styles of numbering the pages, between which you may need to make a choice.

    • Number the pages before the actual content (title page, dedication, table of contents, sometimes preface etc.) with Roman Numerals and restart the numbering at “1” with Arabic Numerals from the first page of actual content
    • Number all the pages starting from the “Title Page” with Arabic Numerals. There is no restarting of page numbers when the actual content comes in the book.

    If the book has multiple parts, sometimes you may design it so that the different parts of the books have page numbers restarting. It is not a common practice though and not recommended in general.

  4. Use suitable fonts for body text. While it is not a hard and fast rule (and you will find enough people arguing for just the opposite), the general wisdom says that for body text of printed books, a serif font should be used rather than a sans-serif. For titles, headings etc. sans-serif is fine and you can get creative. But for the body text of most books, readability is the most important criteria and serif fonts work better there. Some commonly used good fonts for body text are Garamond, Palatino Linotype, Century Schoolbook, Georgia, Bookman, Rockwell etc. To know more about the serif and sans-serif fonts and what differentiates them, read this article on wikipedia.
  5. Font size, spacings, margins should not be too high or too low. Too big a font size, too much of margin on all sides or too much of spacing can make a book look childish (unless the book is meant for children, where less text, more spaces, attractive illustrations are the way to go). At the same time, too less of these can make the book look cramped and unreadable. Fonts sizes of 9 to 11 (maximum 12) works fine for body text with most common fonts. Line space of 1.2 to 1.5 works well. Side margins can fall in the range of 10-15 mm. For bigger page sizes, margins can be increased a bit. These may need to be adjusted if your target audience belongs to group with special needs. Books targeted at elderly people can have bigger font size and more blank space as the eye-sight problem will be more prevalent in that group.
  6. Content pasted from web must be revisited for formatting. If you have pasted content from your website into a word processor, it may carry unnecessary styles, hyperlinks, colors etc. which are not suitable for the print book and would make things look out of place. Remember to reformat the web content to match the style chosen for the rest of your print book.

Book Design for different distribution mediums

Gone are the days when there was one and only one tried and tested way of distributing your book. Life has more choices and complications now. You can choose between the form in which to distribute the book. e.g. e-book or print book. You can choose the distribution medium for the book, which could be online or offline. Certain book design decisions will depend on which of these choices have you made.

We will specifically talk about distribution of print books through online mediums vs. offline mediums. Let us first look at some characteristics of online and offline mediums.

  • Search vs. Browse: This refers to whether a potential reader has reached your book by searching (for specific content) or by browsing (through all kinds of content). In general browsing will be more common way a reader will find your book in the offline store (especially the modern format retails where they encourage browsing), whereas search will be the dominant one in online mediums.
  • Distraction opportunities and options to engage the reader: Online stores will typically have a book page, which will, at the minimum, give information about the book. Information about the author, publisher, other contributors can also be typically made available. Then editorial and user generated reviews might be there. Overall, once a reader has reached the book page, there are ample opportunities to increase the engagement for that particular book without the actual book coming into picture. In the offline world, this opportunity will be missing. The books will mostly be kept next to each other and quickly passing on to the next book is easy.Online world has its own challenges for you as an author trying to sell the book. In an offline store, the physical book is immediately there in the hands of the reader. Quickly flipping through the book and reading a few paragraphs is easier for the reader and creates good engagement with the book. Even with features like preview or search inside, the effect of actually holding the book is not quite replicated in the online world.

What does all this mean in terms of design decisions?

  • Cover Design is extremely important in the offline world. It does not mean that you should have a bad cover if you are selling purely online, but in offline stores, the difference between a catchy and a non-catchy cover can be a lot. Word to note here is ‘catchy‘. Yes – the cover has to be beautiful and suitable for the book, but it also has to stand out and get the attention. A beautiful cover, if not catchy enough, would fail to ensure that the book gets picked up. Hence while designing the cover, a fine line between being catchy and being suitable has to be treaded. In trying to make the cover catchy, you can not make it too loud for its subject or target audience.In search oriented discovery, the cover design may not be that crucial. You still need to have a good and suitable cover. But you can relax a bit on the catchiness aspect.
  • Sub-title and back cover text must be used cleverly in offline world. In the offline stores, there is no equivalent of a “book page” from the online world. So, there is no separate place for you to put in engaging information about the book. All you have is the physical book, title, sub-title and back cover text.
    • You need a short, catchy and suitable title. Short because people may not read a long title in the short attention span they have. Catchy because once people read the title, they should be tempted to pick up the book. Suitable because if kids are getting attracted by the title of the book which was meant for techies, it would not result in the final sale.
    • If the title is catchy, but too symbolic, sub-title is the place to explain what the book is about. If the reader can’t quickly make up her mind about whether or not the book is interesting to her, she may be distracted easily.
    • After the book is picked up and title+sub-title encouraged the reader enough, in most of the cases she would either flip through the pages, look at the back cover or do both in no particular order. Here, the back cover text becomes very important and the space must be used properly. Typical text that can go on the back cover includes
      • About the author
      • A synopsis of the book
      • Excerpts from the Reviews of the book

      What works best depends on the genre of the book, popularity of the author etc. If it is a fiction by a new author, then a gripping synopsis or reviews will work better than the detailed author’s bio. If the fiction is by a well known author, then reference to author’s earlier work will definitely work to an advantage. If the book is a non-fiction and author’s professional life can show her to be an expert in the area, then author’s bio with details of her professional achievements will work well. There is no universally correct practice about what should go in the back cover text. Depending on the genre and the author, suitable text to attract the readers should be placed. Feel free to get creative, but remember that creativity should entice the reader, not confuse them!

    • Last, but not the least, the interior design comes in to picture. As mentioned, reader will tend to flip through the pages of the book before deciding to buy. Two things about interior design that are important would be
      • Looks of the interior: The interior should not be ugly. It should follow the good practices for headers, body text, separators, fonts, text-justification etc. The book should not be over-designed either. Unless it is a colorful children’s book or a coffee table book, where the design is the main part, the interior design should be such that it is not noticed! It should facilitate reading content, not hamper it. So, to repeat – not ugly, not over designed.
      • Readability of text: As the reader is flipping through the book, she wants to be able to read some parts from the book. If a readable font is not used or if the text is too dense, this gets hampered. Hence, the fonts and line spacing should be chosen carefully.

    In the online world, the information provided on the book page assumes similar importance. The content on the book page should be guided by the same overarching question of ‘What will make the reader want to pick the book up’.

Overall, the conclusion is that the design of the book, especially the cover, matters a lot in the offline world. It does not mean that if you are selling your book online, you should throw a bad design at your readers. What it means is that you have to be extra careful on the design aspects if you are planning to sell through offline store. Because small and subtle things may decide the fate of your book irrespective of its content. The design of the book has to ensure that it gets picked up by the target audience in an environment full of distraction.

Intentions don’t make a doctor, or an editor!

Let’s say someone comes to you and says, “I love serving human beings and I am hard working. I think I will make a great family doctor for you.” Would you hire him as your family doctor? In a sane state of mind, you would not unless he is a qualified doctor and has gone through the years of training and practice needed.

Point is that certain aptitudes and a certain kind of attitude may be necessary for you to enjoy your job, but they can not be a replacement for the skill that can only be acquired by training or practice. We often have people telling us that they have studied in English medium schools, are good with English, are avid readers and hence would make good editors. It may sound right to many of us, but trust me it does not make a good editor.

Good editing is an acquired skill and you need to work on learning and enhancing it. You may be good at English in general but when you start editing, you might suddenly find yourself wondering if there should be a ‘the’ here or not. It is not good enough for you to ‘think’ that a ‘the’ should be there because it sounds right that way. You have to know exactly whether it should be there or not.

That was an example of grammar part of the things. There is more. As writers or speakers of a language we all have our own style. But as an editor you have to have the ability to identify author’s style and make sure your editing does not destroy the style. We have seen people who replaced all the casual Hindi phrases from an Indian English novel while editing. Right thing to do as far as language in concerned, but just not the right thing to do as the editor of a fiction book. The Hindi phrases were a part of the style, the narration. Sometimes the style involves elements more subtle than this. If you have not understood the techniques involved in editing, you may end up returning a manuscript worse off than what it was when it came to you!

There is also a difference in editing content in different forms. A website article is not edited in the same way as a full length fiction novel, which in turn needs a different kind of editing than a STM (Scientific, Technical and Medical) book.

Just like a person who has not studied medicine and does not know what treatment is right for a particular condition would do no good to the humanity with his intention to serve as a doctor, an editor who does not have the right skills would do no good to a manuscript. In fact, in both cases they may end up doing more harm than good.

However, one difference exists between editing and medicine. Getting trained in medicine without formal education in that area is close to impossible. With editing, however, you do not need corpses to experiment upon. You can go for self-training with the help of appropriate books, Internet resources and the Wren & Martin and equivalents from your school days. Then of course, practice makes a man (and woman) perfect. So, if this is the kind of job that interests you, start your self-training and practice right away.

So what does this mean for an aspiring author looking to self publish or may be just looking for feedback? Firstly it is important for any self publishing author to be aware of all the skills that are important for creating a good book. Editing is one of the most important ones without which your content may just not be up to the mark. If you are planning on self-editing your manuscript, you may need to go for some self-training here. Secondly, even if you are hiring someone to do the job for you, it is important for you to know what is expected of the editor, be able to choose the right editor and communicate effectively with him.

Let the best writer-editor pairs bloom!

Pothi.com provides book editing and proofreading services in India.

Related Posts written earlier:

[Self Publishing Guide] Self Publishing your Book – Step 2: Design the Book

This post is an excerpt from our Self Publishing Guide for Indian Market. If you have not, you may want to read the following post in this series before starting on this one

The book design is in two parts – the interior of the book and the cover.

Book interior. The layout, fonts, size, etc of the book needs to be designed according to the target audience. For instance, a children’s book will have more illustrations with larger, well spaced out fonts and an overall endearing look. On the other hand, a thriller will have a denser text with an easy-to-read font. Technical books are likely to have more diagrams and tables.

Book cover. Unfortunately, most people do judge a book by its cover. So, design an eye-popping cover for your prized work.

Suggestions for an attractive, effective book cover:

  • Do include the author’s photograph somewhere. This gives the author behind the book a personality and helps readers connect better.
  • Use the back cover to show positive reviews of the book and a gripping synopsis of its content.
  • The design of the front cover, title and subtitle should arouse the reader’s curiosity.
  • The book title and the author’s name should be printed on the spine for better visibility on a bookshelf. (This may not be possible for thinner books.)

[Self Publishing Guide] Self Publishing your Book – Step 1: Finalize the Content

This post is an excerpt from our Self Publishing Guide for Indian Market. If you have not, you may want to read the following post in this series before starting on this one

You have finally finished your book and are dying to see it in print. Since you have decided to self publish, nobody prevents you from going ahead and printing copies of your book. But hang on, there are a few more tasks to be done, decisions to be taken before you can see the birth of your creation. As they say, haste makes waste.

Step 1-Finalise the content. You should not write a book and forget about revisiting it. You need to go through the manuscript in minute details and revise it if required. In the initial excitement of having completed the book, authors tend to overlook checking for mistakes in writing style.

Remember, no matter how talented a writer you are, it always helps to have another person look over the entire book. The greatest writers in the world have had their work ruthlessly edited. Editing does not mean your book has to lose its style/flavour. As a self publisher, you retain the right of final judgement on anything.

The editing options available to an independent author are

  • Professional editor.This is the costliest option. However, it will ensure that you get an unbiased professional look at your work from a third person’s perspective.
  • Editing by friend/acquaintance. You could approach a friend with good language skills to go over the manuscript and do a frank, ruthless critique.
  • Self editing. The third, option is to go over the manuscript yourself for spotting problems. This is the least you must do. Remember, errors can be spotted more easily if you review your manuscript after a gap – say, a couple of weeks.

General editing checklist. There are certain common mistakes we tend to commit in our writing.

  • Getting repetitive. Repetition – of a sentence or words or ideas – can be used as a tool to emphasise a point or an idea, but beyond a limit, it becomes counter productive.
  • Narration, flow and writing style. The book should be consistent. The storytelling should not be disjointed or abrupt. The tense and narrator’s person should be consistent. The best writers break many rules, but they know the rules like the back of their hand before that.
  • Contradictions. Care must be taken to ensure that the characters/information/incidents mentioned do not contradict each other in different parts of the manuscript.
  • Readability. You need to ensure that the sentences are lucid and readable – not too long or complex.
  • Clarity of narration. While editing, emphasis needs to be laid on checking that the narration is clear and conveys the ideas or description clearly. Check if certain portions need to be rewritten to improve clarity and narration.
  • Flow of the book. The overall flow of the book needs to be logical. Check if the organisation of the chapters is fine or if it needs to be rearranged.
  • Grammatical errors. Last, but not the least, the language needs to be grammatically correct. Sentence construction, prepositions and articles, punctuation, verbs, tenses, spellings – everything. Nothing will be a bigger turn-off for a potential reader than spotting a grammatical mistake in a book.

Related Article

[Self Publishing Guide] Self Publishing and Print on Demand (are not the same)

A meaningless word that is used very often, not just by newbies, but also by several industry insiders is on-demand publishing. On-demand publishing really does not mean anything. It is the printing that is done on demand. Self publishing is not the same thing as print on demand. This excerpt from our self publishing guide explains the same. It also talks about the two printing options available to publishers in the form of Print on Demand (POD) and Offset Printing.

If you have not already done so, you may want to read the following articles from this series before reading this one.

Self Publishing and Print on Demand (POD)

There is a difference between self publishing and Print on Demand. The two terms are often used interchangeably by most of us since POD is the most prevalent technology used by self publishers. But the two are not the same.

Publishing is the entire process of preparing the manuscript, editing, designing the cover, printing, distribution and marketing. Printing is only one step in the process of publishing. At the printing stage, the publisher has to choose between two technologies – offset printing and POD. If the publisher is confident of selling a large number of copies (500+), then he may opt for offset printing. If the sale is not expected to be in large numbers, then even a normal publisher may prefer POD. In short, publishing is the entire process whereas POD is a technology which can be used by a full-fledged publisher as well as a self publisher.

POD versus Offset Printing

POD is a relatively new printing technology where the cost of printing does not depend on the number of copies being printed. This is essentially digital printing, where each copy is printed independent of the other.

POD has its advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of POD

  • Flexibility to print even a single copy at a time. The unit cost of printing one copy and 1,000 copies does not vary much.
  • Each copy can be personalised. You can even dedicate different copies to your different bosses or friends and earn brownie points, for instance.
  • The content can be updated over time at no cost since the printing is done directly from a soft copy.
  • Since one can print exactly the number of copies ordered for, with no significant addition to costs, there is no need to maintain dead inventory (unsold copies).
  • The entire process is faster.

Disadvantages of POD

  • The cost per copy is slightly higher as compared to bulk printing done by offset.
  • Although black and white/grayscale printing quality is now at par with offset, accurate colour reproduction may be an issue in some cases.

Offset printing is a more prevalent and older technology. This involves setting the book in certain specialised software and cutting a plate of the image. The inked image is transferred (or ‘offset’) from a plate to a rubber blanket, then to the printing surface. The plate making process is costly and once made, the plates cannot be corrected or changed. Revision in the book requires cutting new plates. But once you create a plate, you can use it to generate a large number of copies. Therefore, one needs to print a large number of copies (typically 1,000+, minimum 500+) to distribute the cost of plates over all those copies. As a result, printing just a few copies is not cost-effective with offset printing; the cost per copy decreases with increase in the number of copies printed.

Offset printing too has its advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of Offset Printing

  • Per copy cost is low if number of copies is high. Works well with the current distribution setup in the industry.
  • Quality may be better, especially for coloured printing/photo books.
  • Wider choice of printing paper and other production options are available.

Disadvantages of Offset Printing

  • Large upfront investment in bulk printing. Because of high setup costs, short print runs are not feasible
  • Need to maintain the inventory and logistics

Publishers are not evil!

Pitching with wrong logic can be fatal to a new idea. More dangerous than the possibility of it being ignored. An ignored idea can be rekindled, but an idea that dies due to wrong positioning might be gone for good (or for quite a long time).

Self Publishing faces the same fatal danger when it is pitched as a way of getting back at the “evil” publishers who won’t publish newcomers.

Let’s get this straight. There is nothing inherently evil with traditional publishers. Thinking about the business they are in with some common sense at hand should make it obvious. But, intentionally or unintentionally, many people skip this step before pronouncing their ultimate judgment on the publishers.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons that make the publishers evil

  • Because they ignore new writers
  • Because they don’t even bother to tell you whether they are looking at your manuscript or not
  • Because they make writers change their manuscripts heavily before publishing
  • Because they are morons to have rejected the manuscript of XYZ book several times, which later went on to become a best-seller. They just don’t know their job.

And now let’s look at the ground reality under which publishers operate

  • Supply of authors has increased and is constantly accelerating. As the literacy, dissemination of knowledge and the general awareness increases, the number of people who have a book in them is shooting up like crazy. Number of buyers is also increasing, but definitely not in the same proportion. More and more people are educated now. More aware too. Ability to write a book is not limited to a very few. It means that publishers are dealing with an increasingly higher number of manuscripts every day. While a lot of them would be promising, a much greater number of those would be crap. There just does not exist a practical way for them to do justice to all the manuscripts received. If they ignore you or if they don’t respond to you, its not because of some great conspiracy against you. Even with best of the intentions, they just don’t have a way to do it right for all!
  • Unless you are talking about a non-profit running on donations, publishers have to run a business that pays for itself and more. Even if a publisher stands for a certain ideology and promotes certain kinds of content, they have to make money out of it to sustain. What this means is that they have to take steps to ensure that a particular book will sell enough because they are investing a lot in preparing, printing and marketing the book. They can not run with author’s whims and fancies. They may not always be correct, but nobody ever is. All they can do is to do their best, like anyone in business will do. No computer program can reliably predict whether a book will be a success or not. Publishers can only go by their understanding which comes from the experience they have accumulated over time. If this means editorial interference in your work, then it has to be done. There is no point being egoistic about it. If someone is investing money in your work, he gets that much of right on it. And an editor may have to reject your manuscript even if as a serious reader she likes it, if she feels that it won’t be a good investment. This has to be understood. Running a business is not evil, nor is taking the business decisions.
  • Nobody can make perfect decisions. Publishers also fail. Yes – they have rejected manuscripts which have gone on to become the best-sellers of all times. Yes – many legendary writers have suffered in their initial days or even their entire life times due lack of recognition. But you know what! The same thing happens in any other business too. All the established Internet players refused to buy the technology that created the company called Google! Whatever is the industry you are familiar with, it won’t be too hard to find similar examples. Point is that any business tries to take best decisions. But there is no fool-proof way of doing that. They go by their business data, intuition and experience. These things may mislead, but that’s how it is. It does not make them evil. Its not that if a different set of people were running the publishing industry, they would not have had the misses. It may have been a different set of hits and misses with a different set of people. But there would always be both! Nothing evil behind it.

Why, you may wonder, would the blog of a company providing self publishing platform be talking so sympathetically about the traditional publishers? There are no hidden evil motives behind it 🙂 There is a very good reason why we want our users to be aware of the reality of the industry.

Self publishing, in an open way at least, is a new concept. And as mentioned earlier, if pitched wrongly it would die a premature death and be gone for good. Self publishing is not here because traditional publishing is evil. No absolutely not. That’s why we have taken the pains to clarify that there is nothing evil about traditional publishing.

Self Publishing is here because there are publishing needs beyond what traditional publishing in meant to fulfill. In our post ‘What is self publishing‘ we have mentioned some of the circumstances where self publishing works very well and the heavy-weight, investment-intensive traditional publishing won’t work. We will talk more about it in this blog in coming days. With this post, all we wanted to convey was that self-publishing as opposed to “evil” traditional publishers is not the right way to look at things.