Part 4 of a series first written in 2003 and updated for 2011. Although I make my living by copyediting (and designing books and websites), often a writer will approach me for services they just don’t need yet. The manuscript has to be ready for copyediting before I can take it on.
The “self” in self-publishing means it’s all — production, distribution, marketing — on the self-publisher’s shoulders.
In traditional publishing, the publisher who purchases your manuscript arranges for copyediting, cover design, and typesetting. When you self-publish — and using a print-on-demand (POD) service essentially is self-publishing, even though your book will come out with the service’s ISBN — these tasks are among the many functions that become your responsibility.
If you choose to self-publish and want to produce a professional product, your manuscript must be edited for grammar, punctuation, and style. Every manuscript needs a fresh pair of eyes before printing, when corrections are still comparatively inexpensive. (A long-standing print industry maxim is “Fast, Cheap, Good: pick any two.”)
Readers do judge books by their covers. While readers commonly say they choose a book because they like that author or after reading the summary and skimming the book’s pages, what causes them to pick up a book they’ve never heard of in the first place?
Before you decide to self-publish, I strongly suggest you read at least one book on the subject. The most recommended book, Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual, covers the basics, from writing to book production to promotion. (While I disagree with some of his suggestions about layout and writing, his explanations of ISBNs, CIP data, and the publishing calendar are a terrific primer for new publishers.) Other helpful titles are The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing by Marilyn Ross and 1001 Ways to Market Your Books by John Kremer.
Considering publishing through one of the online POD services? Talk to others who have self-published that way. And read up on self-publishing so you’ll understand what the POD service tells you. Before making a decision, find out just how much help the POD service will give you in producing and selling your book, and whether you will be locked into a long-term agreement.
Please note that POD is the acronym for print on demand, not publish on demand. But you don’t have to take my word for it: What is Print on Demand?