Introduction to Print Book Self-Publishing

You wrote a book and now you are thinking about self-publishing, but don’t know what steps to take. First, it’s important to understand what self-publishing means and what options are available to you.

When self-publishing a book, you can publish it to eBook, to print-on-demand, or both. Last week we talked about eBooks. Today we’ll focus on self-publishing in Print.

Benefits of Self-Publishing a Print Book

Tablet computer and pile books on the background of the fireplacWhile eBooks make up the majority of self-published authors’ sales, the industry continues to beat us over the head with one simple fact: print publishing is not dead. A good portion of readers still prefer print. So, from a logical standpoint, having a print option available will help you reach more readers.

In addition, print books are useful marketing tools. Giving away signed print copies of your books is a common options for all authors. Having print copies for contests, for reviewers who only read print, or for conventions and book signing opportunities is also handy.

Plus, there’s the simple satisfaction of holding a copy of YOUR BOOK in your hand.

Print Book Options

You have two options when it comes to getting your book in print:

1. Traditional Press

Traditional presses still exist to help you print and distribute your books. In fact, most small presses out there use traditional presses rather than option 2 below. Traditional presses hold inventory, and work through bookstores. They can be cheaper per copy than print-on-demand. However, you have to commit to a minimum print run (1000 copies or more). This means a hefty up-front cost which you may never recoup if those print copies don’t sell.

2. Print-On-Demand

Print-on-Demand is just that. They hold no inventory. They only print a copy when one is ordered. This means zero up-front cost and no inventory to sell in order to recoup your investment. However, most bookstores don’t bother stocking print-on-demand books.

When deciding between these two options, you should consider the reasons you want/need a print book, the monetary investment you are willing to make, the pros and cons with both options.

Print-On-Demand Options

The majority of self-published authors go with the  Print-On-Demand option for various reasons. So, when going with POD, who do you publish with?

There are several companies out there you can use. We recommend CreateSpace which is a division of Amazon. Your print book will sell on Amazon and Barnes & Noble (website only). Just remember, as POD, your book will not be in bookstores.

Another option we’ve seen recommended is also publishing through Ingram Spark, a major wholesaler in the U.S. Ingram does not sell through Amazon, however, independent bookstores might be more inclined to work with Ingram to stock your book in their stores, potentially allowing you to reach more readers.

Formatting for Publication

Once you are ready to publish your written (and hopefully well edited) book, it’s time to format the content to get it ready to publish via the press or POD solution(s) you’ve selected.

The traditional press will format for you. But the POD companies will require you format your own book before uploading to them. (Note: Many do offer the service for a charge.) Each company has their own “rules” about how to format (tabs, spacing, font size, etc.) and even about what types of files to upload (.doc, .docx, .pdf, etc.).

The good news is, each POD company provides detailed formatting instructions. Many provide online tutorials. And most also provide an online tool so you can view your book page-by-page to check and make sure it’s perfect before you ever print a letter.

Print book formatting is much more complicated than eBook, because the eBook devices (like Kindles and Nooks) do a lot of the work for you. But with print books, you have to ensure every single detail on each page looks good. In addition, you have to set up details like page numbering (but not on things like title pages), mirrored margins, justification, the headers at the tops of the pages, and so on. Formatting for print requires some advanced working knowledge of Word.

If your book is straight text with no images, the formatting piece is fairly straight forward. However, if you have images (like a children’s book or a non-fiction book), the formatting gets even more complicated, and you may want to consider getting help.


The below topics were also discussed in the eBook Publishing post as they apply to both and we’ve adjusted the information slightly to be specific to Print books…



We are not lawyers, so this is NOT legal advice. Make sure you research all legal advice about your books thoroughly.

Your Rights

When you self-publish a book–eBook or print–regardless of retailer or distributor or print company you use, you retain ALL rights to that book. That means, if a traditional publisher comes knocking, you still have the right to “unpublish” your self-published work, and sign a contract to publish with that publisher. At that point, read your contract, because your rights change.

HOWEVER–because print copies of your original work now exist in the world, online distributors like Amazon will continue to offer the print version on their websites for those instances of used book sales. They will “unpublish” the book so that no new copies will be printed, but old copies they still must account for. Many traditional publishers won’t like this. Just be aware of the potential impact!

Copyrighting / Licensing

Your book is considered copyrighted as soon as you write it. You don’t have to put the copyright symbol on it. However, you definitely want to register your copyright as this makes it public record.

You can register your copyright through

While we’re on the topic, beware of any copyright infringement issues you may have with your own work–both text and images. Make sure you have the right to publish everything in that book. This is an entire topic by itself.

More Info on Copyrighting


An ISBN is required for print books. However, most POD companies give you the option of using an ISBN they have already purchased.

If you’re US-based, you can buy  ISBNs through Unfortunately, this is an expensive process for a block of ISBNs.



Once your book is edited and the content is formatted for whichever option you will publish through, there is still some additional info you want to have at the ready for when you go to publish that book. Make sure you have the following:

  • Book Title
  • Book Subtitle (if any)
  • Series Title (if any), & Volume #
  • Edition # (if any – this is if you have multiple versions out there)
  • Publisher (if any, for self leave it blank unless directed otherwise)
  • Description (this is your book blurb)
  • Contributors (typically just the author, although you can put the editor, cover designer, graphic artist in if you wish)
  • Language
  • ISBN # (see above info)
  • Public Domain OR you hold the publishing rights (original work created by you)
  • Categories (differs by retailer and distributor – usually there’s a selection)
  • Age and/or Grade (optional, and not on all retailer or distributor sites)
  • Keywords (common search terms you think people would use to find your book)
  • Book File (formatted to the POD specifications, and checked a thousand times)
  • Book Cover File (also formatted to the retailer or distributor specifications – cover image sizes/types are fairly standard)
  • Pricing (your royalty % may differ depending on the price you choose)
  • Distribution (options will depend on the POD company you choose)


Finally, if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed with information, let’s talk about how to get all this done–whether you do it yourself (DIY), contract a couple of freelancers (like Authors On A Dime) to help you, or go with a full-service option.

Publishing an eBook is a multi-staged process:

  • Write the book
  • Edit the content of the book (plot, conflict, character development, etc.)
  • Edit the grammar (make it as clean as possible)
  • Design a book cover
  • Take Care of Legalities (copyright, ISBN, licensing, etc.)
  • Format the book for publication
  • Convert the book to Print-On-Demand format
  • Publish the book with POD companies

Depending on your experience and skill sets, you may do all these steps yourself or you may get help.

100% Free – Do It Yourself (DIY): In today’s world of self-publishing, the process to actually publish a Print book is “FREE” and relatively easy. The POD company(s) you publish with get a percentage of each Print book sold as their “fee” for allowing you to publish through them and for printing each copy. But beyond that, you don’t pay to publish.

Free/Paid Combo – Freelance Services:  You may want help with various other aspects, like the editing or book cover, or, especially for print, the formatting. There are tons of freelancers (like Authors On A Dime) out there who can help you with different aspects of self-publishing as needed. From editing, to formatting, to publishing, to marketing, there’s help available for everything.

100% Paid – Full Service: There are several full-service vendors out there who not only publish your book, but have people to help with editing, creating the cover etc. They do this for an up-front fee. Just a heads up, the fee can be very pricey. In addition, some POD companies also offer editing, formatting, and publishing services for a fee.

Pro und Contra, gut und schlecht, ja und nein

Which to choose? 

At the very least, almost every self-publishing book and article out there will recommend you get help with editing and with the book cover. But the actual publishing–formatting, uploading (converting) can be done by you, the author, for free. And we highly recommend taking advantage of that option.

That, however, is easier done with eBook than with print because of the additional formatting needs. If you are not an advanced Word user, we recommend you add formatting to your “get outside help with this” list.

Do you need help with editing or book cover, and for print, the formatting? For the average author, the answer is absolutely. As Authors On A Dime offers those services, obviously we recommend using freelancers to help  you with those steps. Going with freelancers:

  • Allows you to pick and choose which services you truly need.
  • Allows you to select a freelancer who YOU think will do the best work for your vision.
  • Will most likely save you quite a bit of money (vs. full-service) as well as time (vs. 100% DIY).

Our advice is to look at your skills and ALL the options before you decide on where you need help and who the best provider might be for that help.


Feel free to ask in the comments or contact Authors On A Dime directly. We’re happy to talk to you about any of this!🙂 Don’t forget to check out our full range of helpful self-publishing services!

We also regularly run a workshop on this topic: Get Started Self-Publishing! Check our workshops for the next opportunity!


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