So you want to publish a book

Years ago, publishing your own book was so difficult that most people thought they could never do it. Publishing was such a 'black art' that many people still think that it is simply a matter of sending a typescript to a printer.

Nowadays, thanks to computers and the Internet, it is possible for someone to write, design, publish, sell and promote their words of wisdom entirely without help, and without leaving their lounge.

So why don't more people do this? Well, as you will have guessed, it isn't as simple as that. There are many stages a manuscript must go through to become a book, and many more before it can make money. Each stage is normally carried out by someone who has the skill and experience to make sure the book has a professional feel.

In brief, these are:


Ensuring the book has a proper structure. Is it easy to read? Does it need illustrations?

Is it good english? Is the punctuation correct? Is the style consistent throughout? Is it factually accurate?

Deciding what typeface to use and at what size. How will the headings and captions look?

Combining words and pictures attractively. Ensuring that the words sit neatly on the page, without awkward single lines at the bottom or top of a page. Ensuring the book ends up with the expected number of pages.

The cover design is one of the most important parts of the job as it 'sells' the book. Adding a 'blurb' and a bar code.


The final check for those typographical errors that will haunt you for the book's life, probably years!

Turning the final document into a form that a printer will accept, eg a PDF file with crop marks and embedded fonts. Getting an ISBN number.

Print buying
It is rare for the publisher to be the printer as well - it's a different skill. However, a publisher can often get a better deal from a printer than an individual can.

The most exciting part of the process. This is where the electronic file and a stack of paper and ink become a 'real' book.

Selling the book to shops, ensuring it is stocked by, advertising and promotion including web sites.

So how much of this does a publisher do?

The simple answer is: "anything from all of it to none of it": Accurate, but not very helpful. In practice, a publisher will offer to do (or at least to sub-contract) any of the above jobs that you want done. Much can be carried out yourself on your home computer; this is cheap but may well not be cost-effective as the resultant book might not look professional or may lack key ingredients (eg bar code) that will help to sell it.

What won't a publisher do?
The thing a publisher does not want to do is lose money. Many people, proud of their life's work, assume that a publisher will turn their manuscript into a book, ensure that it is stocked by every branch of Smiths, and then send them a royalty check every quarter. The bad news is that out of the several thousand books published every month, only a handful will reach the shelves of the highstreet booksellers. The bottom line of this is that most publishers will refuse even to talk to someone they don't already have on their client list. Even if you find someone prepared to discuss the book, you will have to work hard to persuade them that it will make them money - this is not an easy task, especially as most books will have a limited market.

So what's the best way forward?

An author has two choices:
(1) Buy the excellent "Writers and Artists Yearbook" (available from Smiths, Amazon etc) and ring up every listed publisher who specialises in the book's subject area, or
(2) Pay a publisher to do as much or as little of the specialist work as is necessary to make sure the book will sell.

The first approach is very time consuming and frustrating, and can ultimately be very dispiriting. It has the big advantage that if you do find a publisher who will take on your book, it should not cost you anything, ie the publisher takes the financial risk. Beware, though, that he will want a big slice of the cake, and you are likely to net only a few percent of the selling price.

In the second case, the author takes the financial risk, but has total control of the project. Because you are paying for each of the provided services, the book is likely to be accepted straight away. The printed books are your property, so all of the sales income is yours.

How can Emdee Publishing help you?

We can provide any of the publishing services listed above, but being a small company we cannot take a financial risk on a book. Therefore, we deal only with customers who are in category (2) above. Of course, you may choose to try option (1). If that succeeds, all well and good. If it fails, come and talk to us to see how we can get your work into print and into the hands of customers.

Whether you want the full range of services, or simply the back end (eg print buying, marketing through and servicing requests from bookshops), we can help.

What will this cost me?

Well, of course it depends on what you want done, and how many copies of your book you want. Costs start at around £100 for proofreading a small book. They can go up to several thousand pounds for doing everything from editing, through printing (say, 1000 copies), to selling on the Internet. Let us know what you think you want done and we will quote for each item, allowing you to choose what you might want to do yourself.

Plainly, the fewer copies you have printed, the less it will cost, but this relationship is not direct. If you print only a few tens of copies, the cost of each book will be several pounds, and this may make it impossible to sell. Conversely, printing 2000 will result in very cheap copies, but the total outlay will be large and it may be a very long time before you make an overall profit. Give us a range of copies required (eg 250 - 1000) and we will quote on several options.

Another factor is timescale; the longer we have to do the job, the less it will cost. Of course, we may well deliver early.

About Emdee Publishing

Emdee is run by Mike Dennison who has spent the past 15 years in magazine editing and book publishing. Although any type of work is undertaken, we have specialist knowledge in the fields of epilepsy, and radio and electronics. Emdee Publishing is a small company, so we are able to tailor the work to exactly what you want done, and hence keep prices low.

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