by Phillip Crum
When self-publishing, be sure to work with someone with experience in preparing manuscripts for print. There are a number of critical steps in preparing your book for publication.
If your book is to have illustrations, tables or charts, it’s important that you decide page size early on. For example, if you want the final dimensions of your book to be 5.5” by 8.5” (which is one of the standard sizes), you’ll have to make sure any charts or illustrations you include will be clear and easy to read. Keep in mind too that some photos become a bit washed out or fuzzy when reduced to this size. And don’t forget that a book of these dimensions has an even smaller area for text. When footers, headers, margins and gutters are accounted for, your text area can be as small as 4” by 6.5.”
Fonts and PDF Settings
It’s important to have a good understanding of fonts and special characters so there will be no surprises when your book goes to print. Even though most printers now accept PDF files, all fonts have to be embedded. It’s best to limit your text to two or three fonts. If you include scientific characters or equations in your book, check with your printer to make sure they will reproduce properly. Match your PDF settings to your printer’s requirements for the best result. When self-publishing, it’s a good idea to become familiar with PDF files and how there are used.
Margins and Gutters
If you don’t set your margins and gutters properly, the finished product will look unprofessional and be difficult to read. One of the biggest mistakes first time authors make is not using generous gutter settings. The gutter is the space between the text and the edge of the page as it becomes part of the binding. If the gutter setting are too small, the reader has to press down (flatten) the middle of facing pages in order to read all the text. Not only is this frustrating for the reader but it can damage your book. Improperly set gutters can end up costing you’re an entire reprint. It’s very important for you to get a proof copy of your book before printing and check the gutters carefully.
Don’t Rely On Your Printer To Correct Things
Self-publishing means that you have to keep a close eye on every step of the printing process. More and more printers are using systems that are automated to some degree. In the first stages of printing, your manuscript may be checked for compatibility by a machine (computer) rather than a human being so it’s important to prepare your files per the printer’s instructions. It’s also important to know that printers assume your book is prepared exactly they way you want it to appear. Typically, they won’t make any changes not matter how blatant the mistake may be. Once again, requesting a proof copy is critical and can save time and money.
Don’t forget the cover (and spine)
The inner content (text) of most books is printed in black and white. Most covers, however, are printed in color and are more of a challenge for the designer and printer. Printers vary widely when it comes to the proper specifications for printing color covers.
The first consideration is the size of the cover and the necessary “bleeds.” Bleeds is a turn that means the amount of color that extends outside (bleeds over) the trim of the cover. In other words, if your cover was in red, you would need an additional ¼” of that color outside the trim dimensions. This ensures that the color will still continue all the way to the edge of the cover should the book not be cut to the exact size.
The second consideration is the type of colors used on the cover. Most printers require that a designer use only CMYK colors. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black which make up a four-color process. Each color that appears is a percentage of these four colors. Some printers do not allow “spot” colors which fall outside the four-color process.
Creating the book’s spine is another area where self-published authors and their designers make costly mistakes. The general rule is your book has to have at least 120 pages to create a spine wide enough to include the book’s title and other information (even at 120 pages, you’ll have to use a very small font to fit the width of the spine). As examples, a 100-page book has a spine of .25,” a 250-page book has a spine of .583” and 300 pages equals .688.” Make sure your spine can easily read when your book is sitting on a shelf.
When self-publishing, you’ll have to attend to many details when it comes to preparing your manuscript. Learn as much as you can about the process.
Phillip Crum is the Chief Idea Officer of MarketingMeasure located at 2414 Arbuckle Court Dallas, TX 75229, and is committed to the idea of helping small business owners do a better job of finding their next customer or client. He and his two sons,Tyler and Preston, also own a Sir Speedy Printing franchise and employ those additional capabilities in the overall marketing services menu of offerings. Phillip can be reached at 214-213-7445, or pcrum@MarketingMeasure.com.