White Mountain Publications
Book Publishing Overview: Some Serious Points to Consider

With the growth of desktop publishing it has become much more common for writers to self-publish. The costs of production are now within the range of most people. Be warned that there are great firms now doing contract publishing that are far too expensive for the services they offer, in my opinion.

It is also a favourable time for doing small press runs which are not be done by large publishers. Although all the costs are absorbed by the self-publisher, all the profits are his/hers as well. In the event that a large publisher produces your material the most you can expect is up to a 15% royalty payment. That is, 15% of the retail price. (Hardcover royalties are usually 10% - 15%; softcover royalties are usually between 6% - 8%.)

There will always be a place for the large publisher. If your book is of national or international interest or you are a recognized expert in your field, you would be well advised to circulate your manuscript to large publishers first.

Self-publishing answers the needs of small specialty markets. That could include a collection of your work, poetry books, how-to books or manuals for specialized industries,or personal and/or family histories. Deciding on the goals for your book is important. If you are looking for large circulation, and large income, that's one thing. If you simply want your work in print and available for a specialized market, that's another path. There's no 'wrong' answer, just a matter of really deciding what it is you want to be doing with your book.

One thing not discussed in this guide is the quality of your writing. It is assumed you write well. Whether you have been published or not, it is wise to get yourself a freelance editor for your book. Unless they are well published, this should not be a friend. Before your work is received by the public, it should be edited (brutally) by someone who has experience with other books. We do provide editing services as well as typesetting.

The Following Points To Consider Directly Affect The Cost Of Producing Your Book. These Are PRE-PUBLICATION COSTS.

Are you registered as a small business? Perhaps this is best if you think you will be doing more than one book. Registering is a bit more paperwork and government forms, but a small press imprint on your book can help to have it taken more seriously. Is this the only book you can foresee producing? How much of your time are you willing to invest in the project? How long are you going to deal with this project. Books are like children--sometimes it is years to achieve the goal.

Manuscript Preparation and Editing are critical. Develop your book and have it polished BEFORE you start the typesetting process. Changes at the typesetting stage are more difficult and certainly more costly. Changes once even a few books have been printed are even more costly. Have your book ready in as professional a manner as possible.

Typesetting is the most costly pre-publication expense. At $5-$30.00 per page (depending on size of the page and complexity), a good typesetter will polish your presentation of your ideas and add immeasurably to the quality of your book. And there is a huge difference between typing and typesetting.

Typing vs. typesetting is one of the most common places the self-publisher runs into trouble, and it can be costly! With the increased ownership of home computers more and more people are professing to be desktop publishers and typesetters, when in fact, they are typists. The first signal of a potential risk to you should be if they can't or won't produce samples of books they have done. If they don't have any, it's likely they have not done books. Don't be mislead to believe that the skills producing newsletters, flyers or business cards means having the skills necessary to producing your book.

Your manuscript must be typed. You can do this yourself or approach someone with a computer to do it for you. It is advisable to get your manuscript to this point as soon as possible. When the editing process begins it is cheaper and faster to keep revising a computer file than it is to retype a fresh copy each time. Standard word processing software (WordPerfect, Microsoft Word, Open Office, Libre Office, etc.) can be read by most IBM compatible computers. To make sure we can use your storage medium you should call first. This is not the problem it once was.

Someone who professes to be a typesetter should be able:

-to do the internal page setting, suggest different typestyles you might choose for the book cover and inside pages, including kerning (spacing) of difficult letter pairs ("r" and "n"; "c" and "I"; "o" and "o", etc.)

-take any cover design and turn it into camera-ready pages, including colour separations if your cover is being printed with more than one colour of ink.

-handle any graphics required for your project including ones in colour.

-offer galleys of your book for editing. Mistakes at this stage usually jump off the page.


White Mountain Publications prepares your manuscript through to the finished book. White Mountain Publications has provided services since 1982. We are well experienced in the process of producing books, having done over 350 of them to date in varying sizes, bindings and subjects.

This means when you give us your manuscript, we do the following:

Get it typed so it is on computer disk, unless you have submitted it to us on disk at the beginning. (There is an additional $10.50 per page charge for having to place the manuscript into a computer format, so it is best if you can submit it on disk or by email.)

Do multiple edits and revisions of your manuscript, make editorial suggestions or refer you to an editor who can do this. Once the manuscript is "perfect' we do page layouts (including graphics) of the final product and provide a copy for your review. Once you have made corrections (and there are always corrections at this stage), the corrections are entered and another dummy copy is produced. There may even be minor corrections at this stage, but better it is better to find them at this stage rather than finding them in the finished book. Remember: only God gets it right the first time; the rest of us edit.

Design covers for whichever type of binding is necessary for your book.

To avoid misunderstandings, ask us to be clear about what is considered a revision and what is a change. Once you decide upon the number of pages, page size, a typestyle, cover colour, ink colour, graphics or layout of your book AND THEN YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND, expect to pay extra. In some cases it means starting the book over from scratch. In book production a change of mind at certain stages can cause a major disruption. Checking this out in advance will ensure you don't incur extra charges because you didn't know.

The least expensive format for printing your book will be either 8½" x 5½" or 8½" x 7" finished page size. 8½" x 5½" is commonly used for poetry books, fiction and nonfiction. 8 x 8" makes an ideal colour photograph book, children's book or how-to book that uses diagrams. Whatever size you choose, the number of pages in your book must be a multiple of two (2) or four (4) depending on the press being used.

Points to consider:

To receive money from the Public Lending Rights fund your book must be 49 pages or more. This means copies of your book sold to public libraries are tracked and you are paid an amount each time your book is borrowed, as long as you are registered with PLR.

To ensure your book can be saddle-stitched (stapled) it should contain no more than 64 pages. Over this number of pages means using different binding methods and involves different costs, sometimes more.

What type of cover will your book have? The cover stock you use can double the cost of your book, but the cover is the most important part of your book. Spending money on the cover can increase the sales of your book. Ask to see samples of cover stock.

What type of paper? (There are hundreds) Recycled or not? Gloss coated or not? etc.

What colour is best? There are hundreds of colours to choose from. Combinations of, for example, pale green paper with hunter green ink, or light blue paper with reflex blue ink, make attractive covers. Are you putting photos on your cover? Using photos limits the paper colours, unless you like blue or green people or scenery. Will you laminate your cover? (Recommended when you use photos, or produce a children's book.) This increases costs. Will your book design require covers printed on one side or two? If you can avoid it, don't design a cover that will require two-sided printing. It will double your printing costs, usually for not much reward.

Who will design your book cover? Unless you are artistic consider having someone do or help you do this part. You will have to pay for this service, but it can mean the difference between creating a saleable product, or one that will collect dust in your closet. Cover design is directly related to sales of your book. This is not the best place to reduce costs. Small publishers will include cover design in quotes if you remember to tell them you need this service. NEVER assume it is included in the quoted price.

How many copies of your book do you want? Very important to specify this when getting printing quotes. Printing companies may require that you do 500, 1,000 or 5,000 copies of a book. Remember, in Canada, selling 500 -1,000 copies of a book means you have done very well for certain genres.

White Mountain Publications has offered Indefinite Print Runs on chapbooks, and now on perfect bound books since 1998. This means you can have one copy or one hundred or a few hundred copies of your book printed. Perfect-bound (paperback, or square-back) books no longer have a minimum of 500 in quantity. Generally for perfect-bound books it may almost take 500 copies sold to break-even on your costs. But not all books lend themselves to these numbers.

If, for example, your first print run is 50 books you have paid the pre-publication costs plus the printing of the 50 books. This allows you to sell your 50 copies BEFORE you order more. Your attic or closet will never be filled with unsold boxes of your books. Your print run can be determined by estimating sales or by taking pre-publication orders. Gradually the pre-publication costs will be covered by book sales if you sell enough books.

DON'T OVERLOOK PROMOTIONAL COPIES AND SAMPLE COPIES YOU'LL REQUIRE. You will not be paid for these, but should allow for up to 40 copies for promotional purposes.

Do you want to apply for a grant to help defray expenses? Grants for writers are available through The Canada Council and The Ontario Arts Council. You'll find their help may require the recommendation of a publisher. The waiting period to complete this process will be lengthy. You'll need to contact them directly to see if your project is considered eligible. You can call them at: Ontario Arts Council 1-800-387-0058 The Canada Council 1-800-263-5588 Web links are available at our CWJ Writer's Links Page: www.cwj.ca

Books require an ISBN. To sell your book in libraries or bookstores it must carry an ISBN. The number is used to order or get information about your book. White Mountain Publications can provide these numbers, or you may want to register with the National Library as a small press if you're going to be doing more than one book.

Does your book lend itself to the large print category? Large print books are becoming more popular as our population ages. Large publishers are turning old titles into large print books every day. If your target market is readers 45 and older you may care to go straight to large print. Yes, it adds pages to your book; it could also increase sales. Libraries have a special department for large print books and they are in demand. If you're not sure ask people who you think would buy your book. If enough people say this is the type of book they'd buy, then consider it seriously. If you choose to do large print, there should be a small banner on your front cover saying "Large Type Edition". All your advertising should highlight this point about your book.

What will you charge for your book? The rule of thumb is four times your cost = retail price. The four times figure is used because there are many hidden costs in producing a book, not the least of which is your time. As a self-publisher doing a small press run, the rule of thumb doesn't really help you much. It does apply if you did the 1,000 to 5,000 copy run that a printing company may try to talk you into. I mention it here only to make you aware of it. There are times it may help you.

Your cost per copy can be easily calculated by taking the typesetters & printing bill and adding them together. Say $1,000 is the total. For that money your book was typeset and you have in hand 50 copies. Those 50 copies actually cost $20.00 each. Obviously you can not sell your book for $80.00 per copy.

Say you decide your book should sell for $7.50 per copy after you have done your market research. After your first 50 copies are sold @ $7.50 each you have raised $375.00. You have just reduced (offset) your cost by $375. That means the break-even point on your book would be between 150-200 books. (We can go into more detail on this should you decide to do your book with us.)

The hidden costs of your book include things like paying the author (you) for writing the book; the time and expense of getting the manuscript to the camera-ready stage; research time; advertising after printing is done; promotional copies given out; time taken to market your book, etc.

The best way to be sure your price is fair is to compare your book to other similar books being sold. If poetry books sell for between $5.00 - $7.00 you might start your pricing at $6.50. Wait awhile before you start changing your price. It is unprofessional and unwise to keep changing the price of your book. You could end up with two people you know having paid different prices; think of how you're going to explain that.

Who gets complimentary copies? Each of the following should get a copy: cover designer, editors, contributors to the project (fiction and nonfiction), proofreaders, National Library of Canada (2 copies for National Archives), and anyone else whose guidance was critical to your success.

After that the subject matter of your book should determine who gets a copy. If, for example, someone made graphics, diagrams or maps available to you, possibly you called on an expert for help, or you mention a local landmark or group these people should get a complimentary copy of your book. Free copies should be used to say 'thanks for your help', or 'After reading my book would you recommend it to others?'

As a self-publisher you'll probably get more recognition from small weekly newspapers than from large dailies. If your subject is doll collecting, for example, the president of a local collectors group might help you make sales after you send them a free copy.

Target your free copies. Keep a notebook detailing who got one and why with an address and phone number. Remember, every time you give a copy for free, you're losing money. But if that free copy sells even three copies of your book it has paid for itself.

Advertising and Marketing your product. There are hundreds of books in the library on these subjects. Read a few of them while your book is being designed and printed. You will find yourself becoming a promoter, and sales person for your book. It is a specialized field with many pitfalls. Be prepared.

Recommended reading:

The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing by Tom & Marilyn Ross 3rd edition ISBN: 0-89879-354-8

1001 Ways To Market Your Book by John Kremer 4th edition ISBN: 0-912411-42-2

We have just touched on a few of the considerations you need to make. If you want more information, there are other books at your library, or you can contact us to discuss your project. We are here to help, whether you ultimately use our services or not.