[Books AtoZ]

n deciding to self publish a book the most important thing to understand is the logical sequence of the production method. Books, like houses, are built of many little parts that best go together in a particular order. It is possible to do it in a hodge podge fashion, but the results will be inferior and the cost much higher. Fortunately, most of these steps do not begin until after the book is written, so one need not worry about not knowing exactly what to do when starting.

The first, and most important step, is writing the book and assembling any illustrative materials. If this is not done to the best of your skill, then you are not yet ready to proceed with layout and printing. Time and time again I have had authors come to me to design and lay a book out, and then had them find it was poorly edited. Editorial changes made in layout stage are much costlier than those made while writing the book. You do not need to be a great author, nor employ an expensive editor, to write an intelligible book with good grammar and spelling. A book does not have to be a thing of beauty in type, printing or binding to sell, but if it is poorly written it almost never will sell.

A book can be written in any way that you feel comfortable with, from quill pen to computer, but since all production work is done on computers today you will do best, and save the most money, by doing it on a computer from the start. Not only can you just hand your designer corrected text to quickly lay out, but the many tools of word processors will be available to you. Simple editing and changes, moving copy, saving different versions, spelling checkers and much else are available with most writing programs. If you write the book by hand or on a typewritter it will have to be typed again into a computer at your expense before it can be typeset.

It does not matter what variety of computer or program you use so long as it is a standard brand or version that is supported by your designer and typesetter. In our experience the Macintosh computer is by far the easiest to learn and use, and the most graphically compatible. If, however, you have a DOS/Windows computer and are comfortable with it then that can be as good for you. At this stage, though, do not concern yourself with type, or layout or any fancy designs. Your job now is to produce the words well and correctly.

Of course, you could have the book written for you if you do not feel yourself to be a sufficiently good writer to do it yourself. I know of excellent books where the would be publisher researched the material but had a professional do the writing. In addition to professional writers you can often find university or graduate students who do this for income. It is more expensive, but there is no shame in it. Personally I prefer the naturalness of writing your own book, but that is my opinion.

When you feel you have written the book as well as you can you should, if at all possible, have it at least looked over by an editor. Authors tend to be too close to their words to really see many mistakes, but someone else may find them at once. If you can not afford an editor, try to find someone who is literate enough to at least give you some feedback on the quality of the writing. Be open to suggestions and criticism now and the book will usually be the better for it. Once the writing is finished it is also very helpful to run off several copies and send them for review to people who know the subject or are interested in it. Their comments may help you correct problems or add important material you have left out.

When you are finally sure that you are finished writing the book it is time to begin thinking about producing copies. It is useful to perhaps think of how you will be selling or distributing the book as you write it, since this is probably the hardest part of publishing, but all the rest can wait. Designing, typesetting and printing a book takes only a few weeks, but the researching and writing usually takes years.


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