"The Final Page" column provides a weekly tip for avoiding common self-publishing mistakes. A professional final product makes the difference between being reviewed on The New Podler, or being one of the millions of books that sink through Amazon's sales rankings to languish below the 4-million mark.
Give yourself three months, and then add two more.
Have you ever tried to thaw a frozen chicken breast 30 minutes before dinner? Or fix the plumbing in the guest bathroom the Friday before your in-laws arrive? Then you know that rushing is a bad idea. If you are going to publish your own manuscript in a professional way, you need t-i-m-e, and lots of it.
Here's a 20-week schedule that will guarantee your book launches successfully. I will assume you have an edited manuscript in hand when you begin.
Weeks 1 and 2
Contact your short-list of freelance cover designers, typesetters, indexers, proofreaders, and printers. Get price and time estimates. Anyone who can't get back to you within two weeks with a proposal should be struck from the list, as they're likely to delay production later on.
Weeks 3 to 5
Your freelance cover designer and/or typesetter should be able to deliver draft cover designs and interior layouts to you in fewer than three weeks. Solicit opinions from a few trusted colleagues. Then give your prompt response to the designer and/or typesetter with a clear list of revisions.
You should receive your next-to-final draft of your cover design and interior layout. Send both files to your proofreader for a final typo search, and then submit the list of changes to the typesetter and/or cover designer.
Weeks 7 and 8
Submit the final interior layout file to the indexer (if your book is nonfiction). When the indexer delivers the index, send that file to the typesetter for inclusion in the final layout. Most typesetters will deliver all press-ready files to your printer, unless you prefer to do so yourself.
Receive galley copies from the printer. Check for errors in trim size, bleeds, color, page orientation, and the like. Work with the printer and designer to make any final changes. Now is also the time to submit some uncorrected proofs to newspapers and magazine book review departments that have long lead times. (Don't worry, "uncorrected proofs" are the norm.)
Check the final galley for errors, and order your first 100 books. Even if you use a print-on-demand publisher, you will want many copies on hand to sell directly to your network, send as gifts, and send to review outlets with shorter lead times.
Weeks 11 to 20
Congratulations! The hard work is done. Craft a press release for your book, search for other review sites, plan a book launch event, and communicate with your network. Submit two copies to the U.S. Copyright Office.
When the official publication date arrives, you can be confident that your book is as error-free as possible, and prepared for a well-orchestrated launch.
Sarah Cypher is the author of "The Editor's Lexicon: Essential Writing Terms for Novelists" (Glyd-Evans Press, 2010) and runs a two-woman editing and book design shop, The Threepenny Editor.