If you do choose to go the self-publishing route, Maria Murnane had a few tips from her own experience.
How to tell if you’re dealing with a dodgy publishing company:
- they guarantee or tell you you’ll be successful
- they are in a publishing partnership or co-publishing
- they make you buy your own book in order to publish with them (vs. choosing the amount you buy if any)
- they tell you that you’ll be on a list for Barnes & Noble (if you have an ISBN, you’ll be on that list anyway)
Read the contract carefully. Some companies will have you sign your rights away for $1. Make sure that you retain your rights in case later an agent or bigger publishing house likes what you’ve done and wants to sign you. She also advises typing in a Google search and seeing what predictive text comes up. If “scam” is first on the list you’re best to steer clear. Some websites you can use to help you identify who is a scammer and who is not:
When deciding on which place to self-publish with, ask for samples of what they’ve printed. If they’re legit, they’ll happily do this. (In my day job as a graphic designer, we always get samples from companies we work with. It would be strange if they didn’t have samples they could send you.) Make sure the manuscript has been scoured thoroughly for errors. Fixes can be quite costly. Always confirm the trim size. This is what the printer will cut the book down to. Go to a bookstore and pick up several different sizes of books. Decide which size is best with it physically in your hand, then decide that’s the size for you (not just measuring a paper or guessing from a ruler). Also, if you don’t do this and have to change the size, the typesetter will likely have to go in and change each page. Don’t cost yourself extra money (or time if you’re doing it yourself) for no reason. Plan everything out to the tiniest detail.
Don’t have spelling or grammar errors (she couldn’t emphasize this enough). Don’t have a weird layout. I’m guessing she meant something like triple spacing, strange, hard to read font, etc. Times New Roman is a standard font for a reason. Also, don’t start numbering pages on the very first page. It looks unprofessional, and it may be that by the time you get to the story page you could be on page 5. (Most books in my own personal library either start on 1 or 3.)
She recommended hiring a professional.
Much like I’ve said before, just because you can use a program, like InDesign, doesn’t mean you’re qualified to do it for your book. If you’re tight on cash, look around at your circle of friends. Is there a graphic designer among them? Maybe one of their cousins, husbands, etc? If any of them are in college, offer to edit papers for them. Do you have any other skills you can barter to lower the price? Even babysitting their kids counts as a skill. But remember, this is your baby, this novel of yours. You want to present it in the best light possible. Spending that little extra to make it more appealing may be the difference between success and failure. Yes, we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but we do.
The companies she’s had the best experiences with are: