How to Make a Book Step 6: Do the Details

In this eight-part series, I’ll walk you through the creation of a book using the next release from Practical Fox as an example. As I do the steps to make Life Among the Paiutes, I’ll write about it! You can start with Step 1.

Your book is now a little like Pinocchio, who waited to become a real boy. You’ve got edited text, a nicely designed interior, and an eye-catching cover. Now it’s time for your project to become a real book. And that means doing all the little details that make it happen.

Get an ISBN

The ISBN is the number that identifies each format of every book. Open the copyright page of any book printed in the last several years, and you might see the ISBNs listed for every available format, usually hardcover, paperback, and ebook. This is how booksellers order the correct format and keep track of your book in their inventory.

That means you’ll need a few ISBNs for each title. For Life Among the Paiutes, I had three formats, so I used three ISBNs. I get my ISBNs through Bowker, which is pretty common. You can buy a single number or a block of 10 numbers. I buy them 10 at a time because I know I’ll use two or three for every title I publish. At the rate that I put out books, that means I buy another set of 10 every couple of years.

Many books have the ISBN and a bar code on the back cover, which makes it easier for stores to scan into their system and again at the register. The ISBN and price are usually printed in text humans can read on the back cover too. Make it as easy as possible for bookstores to work with your book and for buyers to buy it.

Get a Printer

You are the publisher, but unless you have a printing press in your basement, you are probably not going to be the printer. You’ve got two basic options: print on demand and offset printing.

Print on demand, or POD, means that your book files aren’t loaded into the printer until someone orders it. If you order 50 copies to sell at events, they will be printed when you order them. If someone orders one copy through an online bookstore, one copy will be printed and shipped to them. You don’t have to keep inventory on hand unless you want to.

Offset printing means many copies of your book are printed at once and shipped en masse to you or your distributor’s warehouse. There is usually a minimum order for this, say 500 or 1,000 books. But per book, offset is less expensive than POD books, and the quality can be higher.

As a tiny publisher, I have only done print on demand for my own books via Ingram, which also functions as my distributor. There’s a newer service called Ingram Spark that was developed for tiny publishers, and people seem to like it. I started publishing before Spark was a thing, and I never migrated over.

Set Your Prices

Your printer will be able to estimate your production costs depending on format, book size, number of pages, and other details. Once you know what it will cost to create a book, you’ll be able to set prices. One thing to remember is that if you want to get your book into bookstores, they get a steep discount. Like, 50% steep. So you’ll need to set a price that covers the cost of production and the 50% discount bookstores expect to see. If you plan to only sell via your website, in person, or on Amazon, then the wholesale discount doesn’t come into play.

Set Your Pub Date

You probably did this in step 2, but now it becomes officially official. Set that date as your North Star and sail toward it. And tell everyone! It should be far enough in the distance at this point that you can get copies out to book review blogs and maybe place your book in industry catalogs or other publications.

If you’re not looking for bookstore sales, you still need a publication date. You might want to make the book available for preorder, and buyers will want to know what day to expect the book to ship. You can use that date in all of your marketing, including any press releases and social media posts, and build up to the big day.

Speaking of the big day, in the last installment we’ll talk about celebrating!