Self-publishing: after the book is printed, then what?

If you go for traditional printing instead of print-on-demand, the day will come when you bring home boxes, boxes and more boxes of your new book. You tear a box open, pull out a copy, and oh, there’s your book, your dream come true. There’s the cover you labored over, the words you poured out of your soul and spent hours/days/weeks formatting. It looks small, huh? After all that work. But it’s yours, and it’s a book.

If you pick them up from the print shop (as opposed to having them shipped from somewhere), give them a close look before you leave. In fact, go through a whole box and check them carefully. Are they bound properly, the spine and covers smooth, the colors what you expected? Right now is your best chance to get them redone for free if they’re not right, so check. I have had to send books back. I hated handing them back, hated the delay, especially when I had customers waiting, but you pay a lot of money to have books printed and they need to be right.

Assuming they’re fine, now you have to find a place to put them. It needs to be clean and dry, accessible but not in the way. Where I live on the Oregon coast, the dampness in the garage is murder on books, so I stash them in a bedroom. At this point, with several titles to sell, I wish I had a warehouse.  Books take space, and the boxes are heavy. But having them there is incentive to get busy selling them.

Stash some books in the car and never go anywhere without them. If someone says, “I’d like to buy a copy of your book,” you can put one in their hands before they change their mind.

Most of your sales will not be in person.  Stock up on padded envelopes and boxes to mail your books. You can get them much cheaper online than at your local office supply store. You’ll need packing tape. Custom mailing labels, available through Vistaprint, add a nice touch.

Get ready for your first order. You’re in the book-selling business now.


We have been talking about self-publishing for the last couple months. I’m not sure how interested you are in reading about this. The next topics would be setting up channels for selling your books and the complicated worlds of publicity and marketing, but I’m thinking we should get back to writing. If I don’t hear otherwise from anyone, I will stop this self-publishing series here for now, but if you send questions in the comments section, I’ll be delighted to answer them.

All the best,





Traditional Self-Publishing, Part 4: Getting your book printed

Our previous posts have covered editing your books, designing a cover, and formatting your books. It is possible, although not always wise, to do all of these things ourselves, but we’re probably not equipped to print our own books. Unless we’re doing print on demand, which we discussed in July, our next step is to get the book printed. This is the biggest cost of producing your own book, so it pays to choose wisely.

Where do I find a printer?

There’s always the phone book. If you look under “printing,” you may find several listings, a lot if you live in a big city But not all printers are equipped to print books. If they say they do books, ask to see some samples. Are they well printed and bound? Does the ink come off on your hands? Is the print consistently clear and dark? Can they do full-color covers or are they limited to one or two “spot” colors?” Will they help you prepare the book for printing? Ask to see samples of paper and cover stock. Don’t settle for junky-looking books.

You don’t have to settle for a local shop. Lots of publishers, including big-name traditional publishers, get their books printed out of state or even out of the country because  it’s less expensive. These days, book files are sent online, so it doesn’t really matter where they are.  Ask other authors where they get their books done. Look on the copyright and acknowledgment pages of published books for mentions of what company printed them. Visit their web pages or call them to see if they might be the right printers for you.

How much is this going to cost me?

Approach several printers to get estimates for the cost of printing your book. You will need to know how many pages the finished book will be, how many copies you want, and how much you can afford to spend. It helps to figure out how much you will charge for the book so you can see how much you will make on each copy once you subtract the printing costs. The more copies you print, the lower the per-copy price will be, but be realistic about how many boxes of books you want piled up in your house. Remember, you can always go back and print more.

By now, you’re grinding your teeth, wanting specific numbers. Okay, I’ll lay it out here. My newest book, Childless by Marriage, cost me $8.19 per book for 300 copies, totaling $2,458. In addition to this, I paid $103 for them to design the cover, another $100 for promotional postcards and $60 for three stand-up foam-backed posters. I’m charging $15.95 a book. Most retail stores will ask for a 40 percent discount. Amazon demands 55 percent. You do the math.

To be honest, prices at the small-town shop I use are a little high, but they’re local, they help me a lot with the formatting and other details, they design fabulous covers, and I have a long history with them. When I want more copies or more promotional materials, all it takes is an email and they start printing.  But I won’t lie. As we say here in Oregon, it’s “spendy.”

A Google search will yield lots of companies offering to publish your book for as low as $2.94 a copy. They may be great. Check them out. All of them will give you a free estimate. But watch out for hidden costs–shipping?–and ask for a sample of their work before you trust them with your book.

How long will it take?

One of the big advantages to self-publishing vs. having a traditional publisher do it is that you can have your printed book in a few weeks vs. a year or longer. One of the disadvantages is that most of us don’t have warehouses or a shipping crew. You will receive all of the books at once and will need to find a clean, dry place to store them. Having all of these books underfoot should inspire you to get busy marketing your new book.

Opening that first box full of the book your wrote and published is going to feel fantastic.