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Home PUBLISHING Self-publishing Steps in the publishing process
Steps in the publishing process

You've done your research and you've decided that self-publishing is the route for you. It can be very daunting trying to figure out exactly where to start and who to approach. Furthermore, making the wrong decisions can result in a needless waste of money - something that, as a self-publishing author, you may not have very much of to begin with.

One of the first questions you need to ask yourself is: What is my vision for the book?

The answer to this question will determine a lot of things, one of which is whether you should approach a company for professional book production, or just your local printer to print and bind your books from a Word file supplied by you. If you have big visions for your book and would like to distribute it through bookstores, then using an author services or book production company is a must! Bookstores and book marketers are reluctant to take on books that look self-published - and while you may not easily be able to tell the difference, they certainly can. Choosing to go the bookstore route will also mean that large run litho printing will be necessary as the unit costs of short run digital printing are just too high for bookstore distribution, especially if you intend using a book marketer. There are definite advantages to using a book marketer, all of which are discussed in the article Marketing your book on this website.

So great visions with bookstore distribution usually require a larger capital outlay - anything from, say, R45 000 to R100 000 or more for production and printing, depending on whether you are producing a single colour text-based book or a full colour coffee table book.

On the other hand, a more modest vision for your book may not require the high level of production expertise required for bookstore distribution - you would certainly not want to be spending R45 000 for production and printing on a book about your family history, intended only for distribution to family members and your closest friends! In this instance, it would probably suffice to have your book proof-read by an adept friend and to let the printer's graphic designer create an attractive cover for you. Furthermore, with digital printing, you will be able to cost-effectively print just a few copies of your book at a time (check out our print-on-demand service). Your cover design and printing may cost no more than a couple of thousands of rands. If you require simple cover design before uploading your file, refer to our list of publishing service providers in the Resources section of this website.

And what about books requiring professional production but with small scale distribution to a niche market? Again an author services or book production company is recommended, but instead of using litho printing, you can use short-run digital printing. For this type of book production, you could expect to pay anything between R10 000 and R20 000.

It's very much a case of courses for horses, so it's important to figure out which horse it is that you're going to be riding.

Since this website is geared towards professional book production and distribution, let's look at the steps involved in publishing, from this perspective.


Step 1: Assessing your market and the viability of self-publishing

Before embarking on any kind of publishing project, it is important to do research and assess the viability of publishing your book. This includes checking whether there are other books out there on your topic, and if there are, how your book is different. Why would readers buy your book and not another similar book?

You also need to look at your marketing options - who is your book aimed at and what kind of demand is there for it? Also, how will you market and distribute it?

Lastly, what will it cost to produce and print your book, what can you sell it for, and what kind of profit can you expect to make assuming the book sells? This will involve approaching various service providers and getting an estimate of costs.

These are all important questions that need to be considered. Publishing a book is like producing any other product - it needs to be researched and the viability needs to be assessed.


Step 2: Completing and preparing your manuscript

It will be impossible to get an accurate production and printing price on an incomplete manuscript, so the first step, before you approach an author services or book production company for a quote, is to get your manuscript as near to completion as possible. This is because production prices are usually based on a page rate and in order to determine the approximate number of pages in the book, a fairly accurate word count is needed. Text-based books that are A5 in size can usually accommodate 300-350 words per page.

The book production company will quote on the following:

• manuscript evaluation (optional)

• editing (complex edit or standard edit - depending on the quality of the writing)

• artwork commissioning (if applicable)

• book design and typesetting

• cover design and makeup

• ISBN application and barcode generation

• insertion of copyright

• proof-reading

• litho or digital printing and/or ebook creation


Step 3: Choosing the right service provider

Your choice of service provider (usually an author services company) will depend very much on your vision for the book and the level of production expertise you require. Good author services companies do not come cheap, but you can usually be assured of an end product that will be accepted by book marketers and bookstores for resale. Book marketers and bookstores do not take on products that look self-published, so if the bookstore route is the one you wish to take, an experienced author services company is well worth the money.


Step 4: Editing and book production

This step involves taking a manuscript from its raw state through to the point where it is ready for printing or ebook creation. It usually takes anything from a month to three months to complete, depending on what's required. For more information on this step, refer to our article Steps in the production process.


Step 5: Printing and ebook creation

As the name implies, this involves creating a tangible product whether it be a printed product or an ebook. Read Introduction to ebooks and Litho versus digital printing on this site for more information about these processes.


Step 6: Marketing and distribution



This is the process of making customers aware of your book. It involves sending your book off to newspapers and magazines for review, and approaching retailers and bookstores to show them your book and to get them to commit to stocking it. It also involves getting your book listed in various national and global book catalogues. Bookstores refer to these catalogues when ordering books. It also helps them to source books that are specifically requested by their customers.

There are book marketers who specialise in bookstore distribution (refer to our Resources section for a list of them) - in other words, they not only market your book to the bookstores, but they handle the entire distribution and administrative function for you as well. The distribution of these books are outsourced to partner distribution companies.



This is the physical act of making the book available to the customer - and is usually done through a distributor. Distributors supply all bookstores (online and bricks-and-mortar) as well as the customer, and usually hold copies of your book in stock at their warehouses. When orders are received, they pick, pack and ship the book.

Distributors usually charge a monthly fee for warehousing and insurance, as well as a pick-and-pack cost on each order. If you go through a book marketer, however, this cost is usually included in the book marketer's fee.

Since distribution costs are quite high, many self-publishing authors choose to hold stock of the book themselves and to approach the major online and physical bookstores directly.

For more information on marketing and distribution, refer to our section Marketing and distribution.


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