Nov 21 Written by 

Self-Publishing: Six Things You Really Need

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Self-publishing? That is great news. Of course you want a professional-looking book you are proud to give or sell, and that others will take seriously. Below are the absolute must-haves that you will have to pay for if you want your book to be successful and stocked in libraries, bookstores, gift shops, and other places. These are investments in your book--and I guarantee you will not be sorry. If your self publisher offers these things ala carte, BUY the following:

1.An ISBN number. Without this unique number on your book, bookstores can't order your book and Amazon can't sell it. Cost about $100. If you choose a self-publishing company this cost is often included in the price. ISBN stands for "International Standard Book Number." You can see ISBNs on other books; they're beneath the bar code on the back cover. The bar code comes with the ISBN.


2. A professional-looking cover. I can't emphasize this enough: The title and cover are 70 percent of your book's appeal. What's inside won't matter if it doesn't look like a professionally-made book. Hire a graphic artist; many printing companies and self-publishing firms have graphic artists on staff. They know what a professional cover looks like and will work with you and save your book from looking like a self-published book -- which nobody will buy! Do not design the cover yourself, or let your son do it, or use a photo you took, or use a generic cover. Please do not put a picture of yourself on the cover. A book cover is not a CD or DVD cover. A friend put a photo of her mother on the cover of her poetry book. It's meaningful to her, but potential buyers just see a photo of some old lady. Choose paperback if you are given options.

3. Library of Congress registration. This allows you to sue if your book is plagiarized. About $75 if you do it by postal mail; $35 if you do it online. If you choose a self-publishing company this cost is often included in the price. If this is an option in your self-publishing package, accept it and pay to have it done. The forms are confusing, rather like IRS forms, and can take months to straighten out if you mess them up.

4. Register your legal name as a URL/domain name. You do not need to set up a fancy website, maybe just use the one-page mini-site that often comes with the purchase of the URL, which is fairly cheap, a few dollars a month. On the mini-site, post contact information. Readers look for authors online to maybe send you fan letters or ask you to speak to their group or class. Don't know how to register a domain name? Go to and they will walk you through it. You do not need "hosting services" unless you plan to build a website. But you do not need a website. Few books are sold through author websites. All you want right now is the domain name.

5. Have the publisher put your book on If it's not on, it doesn't exist.

6. Before you send or upload your manuscript to press, have someone else proofread the final manuscript of your book. You personally have NOT caught all the typos in a 200-page book. No author can. You need someone with expertise in English. "A book is judged by how well it is edited -- and nothing else."

WASTES of time and money: Hardbacks. Leather bindings. "Total control" options. Publicity and publicity materials like bookmarks or postcards. Publisher storefronts. Publisher giving you an author webpage. Color photos in the book's interior.

I've self-published two books, and on both of them I made back my investment and had a lot of fun selling them. Don't be penny-wise and pound-foolish! Be smart, and good luck!

Catherine Rankovic

Writer, with 30+ years' writing and publishing experience, 20+ years' teaching experience. Last book read: Mrs. Lincoln by Catherine Clinton.