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DO IT YOURSELF WEEK: Day Two – Editing and Production; ISBNs; eBooks or Paper?


Welcome to the second annual DIY week at QSF. We’ve got a great line-up of topics for the week, some of which are moderated – but in general, we’ll just share information about how to start and manage a small press:

Wednesday: Nicola Markus – Editing and Production; ISBNs; eBooks or Paper?

Thursday: Alicia Nordwell – Getting Your Books Out There; Amazon; Other Venues

Friday: Loren Rhoads – Promoting Your Work

Saturday: Hannah Walker – Mistakes to Avoid, Mistakes to Make, Keeping Up Your Morale;

Sunday: Dawn Chapman – Starting Your Own Press/Crowdfunding

You’ve completed your grand opus. You’ve decided to self publish. What next?

My name is Nicki Markus, I am an author of both traditionally published and self-published works and a qualified freelance editor, and I am here to lead today’s topic, which will focus on the nitty gritty of publishing—editing and preparing your book for the market.


Let’s kick off with editing since that would be the logical first step in the process. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have your book professionally edited. Yes it involves cost, but it really is essential if you wish to present readers with a polished product. Even if you believe your grammar to be good, you’ll be surprised what you miss simply because you are so familiar with the work you end up reading what you intended to write or expect to see, rather than what’s actually on the page. You should be able to find an editor through your national or regional editing society or by word of mouth via other authors. Good editors will offer to do a sample and send you a no-obligation quote before commencing work and taking your money. Beware of prices that seem too good to be true—they probably are. Get a few quotes and recommendations before you make your choice. If you simply cannot afford a full copy edit, at the very least have the work professionally proofread.

Additional Matter & Formatting

The next stage is to consider any additional matter. You’ll need an imprint page of course, but what else? Does your work require an index or a glossary? Do you wish to include a dedication or an afterword? Now is the time to finalise these and incorporate them into the manuscript so it begins to look like a real book. Once that’s done, you need to prepare the work for publication.

How much of the formatting you do yourself will depend on a) your computer skills; b) what software you own; and c) how you intend to self publish (e.g. via a service like Ingram Spark or completely independently). For the non–tech savvy, you’ll need to pay an individual or a company to format your manuscript for print and eBook. Those more confident can do this themselves. I used InDesign to prepare print PDFs for all three of my self-published titles. I used the same programme to complete the EPUB formatting for two of them. The third was a huge (670-page) work, so that one went out to a company since I didn’t trust my coding skills to manage such a complex project myself.

Your planned method of publication, and whether you wish to produce print copies as well as an eBook, will influence some of your choices in this regard. I used Ingram Spark for all three of my titles. I paid a set-up fee and sent through print PDF and EPUB files for each, and they did the rest, including converting to MOBI and arranging distribution on all vendor sites. They manage sales and report back to me, sending me payments when I accrue enough earnings. I won’t get too into that today since distribution is our topic for tomorrow, but knowing which way you wish to go with distribution will determine how many different file formats you need to create.

Other things you need to consider at production stage include ISBNs, copyright, catalogue in publication, and legal deposit, so let’s go through those one by one.


Depending on how you’re publishing, a company may assign these for you as part of their service/package. If not, you need to buy your own from your local supplier. A quick Google search should send you in the right direction. Here in Australia the vendor is Thorpe Bowker. If you intend to publish a few titles, it’s worth buying ISBNs in bulk as that usually works out cheaper.


Again, this will vary according to location. In the US I believe authors must register copyright at a cost. (Please correct me if I’m wrong, US peeps.) In Australia it is automatic and free. A Google search of copyright in your country should bring up all the information you need, usually in the form of advice from some kind of copyright council.

Catalogue in Publication

Your national library may offer a CiP service. You provide information about your book and they register the work in their database and supply a catalogue entry which you then include on the imprint page. Again, a quick Google search for your national library will lead you in the right direction. This is not generally required, but it adds a professional look to your imprint page and libraries will love you for it since it tells them where to place your book on their shelves.

Legal Deposit

Check legal requirements for publication in your country. Here in Australia authors must send a copy of every work published to the National Library and relevant State Library. For SA, where I am, one must also go to the Parliamentary Library. It is always the best available copy. If you only produce an eBook, that’s what you email, but if you have a print version, that’s the copy you must provide (with sending the eBook an optional extra).

Cover Design

One final aspect of production we’ve not yet discussed is cover design. If you’re artistic you may be able to create your own using images purchased from a stock photo website (always check the conditions of use). Otherwise you’ll need another professional. Look around, get some recommendations and prices, and check out different artists’ work until you find a good match for your story. The saying goes that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but we all do, so make sure yours doesn’t let you down.

Well, I think that’s enough from me. If anyone has any questions about anything I’ve mentioned, or anything I’ve missed, then fire away; and do comment with your own experiences and recommendations. What services have you found useful? What are your editing and formatting tips for authors new to self-publishing?

So if you publish your own books, please jump in and share your experiences – how you got started and how you financed it. We’re especially interested in hearing about crowdfunding, but would love to hear from everyone.

If you are considering going out on your own, bring us your questions!

These weeks work because of participation, so please jump in!

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1 thought on “DO IT YOURSELF WEEK: Day Two – Editing and Production; ISBNs; eBooks or Paper?”

  1. What about taxes? Are there any special taxes we need to be aware of, when writing a book?

    There’s one concern Californians have to deal with…a seller’s permit. We need one to sell anything in this state, including books.


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