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Lesson from Self-publishing, Part III

Stack of books If you were being published by someone else, they would determine the physical elements of your book. But as a self-publisher, all of the choices are now yours.

Print-on-demand, commonly referred to as POD, utilizes standard formats for finished book dimensions, paper quality, and interior formatting. So if you decide to work with a POD provider, and your book is all text and a novel, for example, you will only need to provide cover art. However, if you are thinking about going with a POD provider and your vision for the book involves illustration, graphs, or other unique features, be sure to discuss these details with your POD contact before committing to their services.

My book is a cookbook, a book that needs to lay open easily on a kitchen counter without pages flopping over. One POD printer tried to talk me into their “lay-flat binding”, but I wasn’t convinced that it was user-friendly enough for my book’s intended purpose. In the end, I sought out print quotes from three printers. The range of prices can be amazing! The printer that I finally chose went the extra mile, as the saying goes, to help me create a book that matched my vision. Eating Clean—100 Appetizing Solutions uses an enclosed wire-o binding. This means that the wire-o is hidden behind the readable spine. Because a readable spine is one of the criteria required by many bookstores for display, this was an important element in my planning.

If I were to do this over again, however, I would not go with the first print-run quantity that got me the best unit cost! Herein lies the mistake made by many first-timers. By printing 3500 books, my unit cost was appealingly low. The special binding of the book made it expensive to produce, so when I saw the difference per unit between printing 3500 or 1000, I went with 3500. Wrong!!! (Dan Poynter says the same thing, by the way.)

So here are the lessons for this segment:

Lesson #4: Know what you want your book to look like, inside and out. Be open to suggestions for modifications from your printer. But if your book has a special purpose, keep this in mind. (Examples: a book for small toddlers; a how-to manual; a study guide)

Lesson #5: Don’t let unit cost lure you into a larger print run! Next, I’ll tell you about an opportunity (a great one!) I missed because I’d printed 3500 rather than 500 or 1000. There’s no crying over spilt milk, but if I can spare you the same frustration, that would be wonderful.