How to Publish a Small Book or Booklet
So you want to put together a booklet. This may be for your own use or for a social club of which you're a member—or you may wish to present information at a specific audience or to promote a particular issue for professional purposes.
This article will help guide you through process of producing and publishing a booklet, for whatever purpose, from start to finish. Some money-saving tips are also included.
Plan a Budget for Publishing Your Booklet!
How much money have you allocated for producing a booklet?
Fees vary considerably from one printer to another, so even before you begin compiling the booklet's contents it is sensible to get quotes from several different companies. Tell them you have a fixed budget and would like to know how far your money will stretch, and exactly which options are available for X amount of money. Professional companies are used to requests like this.
What to Consider in Your Budget
Prices depend on—among other things—the number of pages, the weight of paper, the kind of cover, the number of colour pages and range of colours required, the layout, your choice of binding, trimming and the amount of work the printing company has to do to get your booklet ready to print.
Be sure to check that the price quoted includes VAT. If it doesn't, remember to add this to the fee total. Get all quotes in writing, with a 'before by' date included.
Quantity: Price per copy decreases with quantity. Therefore it's cheaper in the long term to have one big print run than several smaller runs. With newer print on demand (POD) technology this may not apply to the quite same degree but you will still be charged for staff time, handling, admin, ink and paper etc.
ISBN Number: If you want an ISBN number this will add to the price. An ISBN number will make it easier to sell your booklet online through your own website or via Amazon or Barnes & Noble and similar outlets. If your booklet is intended to be handed out free at a reception desk or sold direct at a conference, for example, then perhaps you will not need this form of product identity.
Handling and Distribution: If you can collect the finished booklets from the printers yourself, this will save you being charged a handling and distribution fee (which can prove quite hefty).
Judging a Book by Its Cover
How would you like your booklet to look? The cover will be the first thing any person sees when they look at your booklet.
One way of saving money while still having colourful cover is to use coloured card. Black ink on coloured card can look effective while keeping costs down. Coloured ink will push the cost of your booklet higher quickly. There have been numerous studies into the effects of different colours on shoppers. Yellow and orange have been found to attract attention more readily than other colours, which is why supermarket economy brands tend to be packaged in these shades. Planning the visual impact of your front cover shouldn't be skipped over.
Carefully design the wording on the cover. Simplicity wins hand down over fuss. Let the wording explain plainly what the product is. This is not a time for ambiguity, otherwise anyone browsing around your booklet will probably ignore it as they won't instantly understand what it's about.
Get the Look!
Think about the look of the font, so that the style of the cover makes sense to the intended audience. Fancy fonts can be tricky to read and people are a lazy lot by nature. The front cover gives you a fraction of a second to sell your product before the prospective buyer's gaze has roamed on to something else. Make sure the font suits any illustration which you've added to the front cover.
Do you wish to add an illustration to the front cover? Make sure you own the Copyright to any illustration or photograph used in the booklet or you could find yourself facing legal proceedings. If you're handy with a camera, or can draw cartoons or illustrations, then you could provide your own artwork.
Alternatively, run an online search for Copyright free images. Some companies specialise in offering stock photos or illustrations for use by others, but usually require a subscription fee. If an image is offered under the Creative Commons License then you can usually re-use that image after you have secured—in writing!—the owner's permission.
If your finished booklet looks too cheaply made, it will probably sell poorly. Poor presentation gives the impression that the booklet is of no importance or that its contents are uninteresting. On the other hand, if the presentation far outshines the contents then you risk looking pretentious or selling at a loss. You must decide how you wish to strike a balance.
Planning the Book's Back
The front and back covers form two halves of the same side of paper or card.
Back covers tend to offer a little more information about the contents than do front covers. Keep wording simple and to the point. A short paragraph or two should be all that's needed, as people tend not to read much more than that anyway. Again, keep things simple.
You may wish to add an illustration such as a small photograph of the author or professional faculty building, for example. Remember that photographs increase costs.
The back cover is also the place for the ISBN number and recommended price.
Contact details can be placed here too, if desired.
Layout and Interior Content
How do you want the contents of your booklet to look?
The number of pages will be dictated by your budget. Your choice of font and the size of font, and number of photos or illustrations will also limit how much space there is to fill. You will need to talk to your printer about this.
Experiment with different layouts on your computer to find which suits the intended purpose best. Think about margins, page numbering, footnotes, chapter headings, citations and other useful information which you might wish to include.
Think about where to insert appropriate photos, graphs, cartoons or other images. Clutter a page, and it will look amateur. Leave too much space and it will seem that you've nothing to say.
You might wish to include an introduction, chapter listing, contact details, a small biography or history, email contact address or online forum URL. Keep information relevant to the project
What is your booklet about?
If you intend to write the booklet's contents yourself, now is the time to do this. Keep in mind how much space is available.
If you plan to compile the contents from several contributors, then it might be diplomatic to establish editorial guidelines from the outset. Be clear on how much text you need, and on which subject(s). Do the same with any illustrations or photos. Clarity now can save squabbles later. If submitted work is below standard, can the author re-write it or are you willing to edit it yourself? This issue, too, is best explained in advance.
If content is to be a group decision, then forming a steering committee may help everyone to feel they are able to contribute their opinions. The steering committee can also be a useful group of proof readers.
Spot Those Errors!
A good editor will ensure that format, spelling, punctuation and grammar are uniform throughout a publication. If every contributor does their own thing, the end result will look amateur and messy. If there's a mixture of UK English and American English, for example, choose one of them and stick with it - switching between them will give the impression that authors can't spell.
The brain plays tricks when proof reading. Familiarity with a piece of writing tends to fool the mind into seeing what it thinks should be on the page, rather than what actually is on the page.
This is where a group of volunteer proof readers are invaluable. No matter how carefully you've already combed over a manuscript, other people with fresh minds will spot errors which have escaped your attention.
Preparing the Text for the Printer
The more work the printer has to do in order to get your project finished, the more it will cost you.
Therefore, if you can hand the printer a CD disk which is printer-ready you will save quite a bit of money. The more money you have to play with, the more copies you can have printed.
Talk to your printer about how they prefer work to be presented to them. Many will tell you that if you can format your booklet into a PDF file with all content exactly where it ought to be, and with all content set out already exactly as it should appear when printed, then this will save the printer work (time) tweaking things, and so it will cost you less.
You should have already settled on which kind of binding your printer will use. Again, this choice will alter the price. An economic option is to have an A5 booklet stapled twice along the spine then trimmed so the edges are smooth and uniform. This method was used in the anthology pictured above, and proved perfectly satisfactory.
Selling Your Booklet!
Plan in advance how you intend to sell your booklet, and for how much money.
Will local book shops, cafes or libraries take copies to sell? These will probably ask for a percentage profit to make it worth their while.
If you have an ISBN number or a website, you could sell online.
Organise events on a related subject to your booklet, and sell copies to attendees.
Are there magazines whose readership might be interested in your product? Are you part of an organisation whose members might be interested?
Or you could opt to offer your publication as an eBook - but that's a whole other topic!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2011 Adele Cosgrove-Bray