Six Key Steps to Produce a Book

Writing Tip #12:
Six key steps to jump-start the production of your self-published book


Don’t wait until the 11th hour to take care of book production details!

So, you wrote your book, a professional edited it, and you’re ready to start the self-publishing process. But where do you start? What should you include? How do you cover yourself legally?

I self-published my first book Rhythms & Muse through CreateSpace (an Amazon company), but it took me years of research—online searches; conference attendance; and asking questions of other writers, editors and book consultants—to narrow down everything needed to actually get the book into printed form. I’m sharing my research here to make it easier for you, so you don’t have to spend all that time. I wish someone had done it for me, so I’m paying it forward.

To jump-start you, follow these six critical steps in the publishing process, and use the resources I provide as a starting point:

  1. Choose a virtual author’s assistant, if you want help
  2. Obtain an ISBN number
  3. Obtain a bar code
  4. Obtain a Library of Congress card number
  5. Find out if your content is legal
  6. Decide if you want to copyright your work

1. Decide if you want support from a virtual author’s assistant so you don’t have to do everything yourself.

This is someone who will do the legwork for the following few steps, and more. From my experience, you should expect to pay at least $65/hour for the services of a VAA. Because my novel included so much research on song permissions and royalties for lyrics, my quote from a VAA amounted to about $3,500. Standard novels without much legal research would probably cost much less.

A great resource to learn more about this: Jan B. King’s VAA Web site.

2. Obtain an International Standard Book Number (ISBN).*

The Bowker company sells ISBNs. A unique ISBN is required for each book format you use (hardcover, softcover, e-book, audio book, etc.)  One costs about $125. You may also buy blocks of 10 numbers for $250, a great value if you’re planning to produce your book in more than one format.*

3. Obtain a bar code.*

Bar codes are required, and are produced along with the ISBN number you purchase from Bowker. This small image encrypts the cost (which you’ll need to provide), ISBN, and other information about each individual book. Bowker will provide both an ISBN-10 and an ISBN-13 number. (An ISBN-13 is based on the ISBN-10, but with the prefix 978.)

* Note: Steps 2 and 3 are available for free when publishing through CreateSpace, and some other print on demand publishers. I know many authors who happily use CreateSpace, which enables do-it-yourself or with-help production and print-on-demand for books, CDs, DVDs, MP3 files, video, and more). Plus, they offer a very affordable broad distribution system.]

4. Obtain a Preassigned Control Number (PCN).

This is a unique number assigned to each Library of Congress catalog record (book). You need only acquire a PCN if you want your book available in libraries. PCNs are free, but you must apply for one, which takes about two weeks. For more details on applying, visit the Library of Congress PCN FAQ.

5. Obtain legal permissions, and licenses (for which you’ll pay royalties).

If you plan to use others’ works in your book—like quotes, lyrics, excerpts, and such—you must do three things to avoid legal issues:

  1. Identify if something is currently in the public domain
  2. Ask permission
  3. Pay the creator

I highly recommend talking with a copyright lawyer like Kevin Keener at Keener McPhail, LLC to make sure you’re in the clear using someone else’s words, images or other creative works.

6. Decide if you want to officially copyright your work.

This is optional, as anything you create is technically your copyrighted material already. But, if you’re paranoid about ownership, you can officially copyright the work through the U.S. Copyright Office. Just note that this can cost you a pretty penny.

These six steps serve as a good starting points. For my next blog entry, I plan to blog talk about design options for book production.

In the meantime, any other tips you’d care to share with other authors about the production of their books?


Write on!
Ann Narcisian Videan
Write • Edit • Self-publish • Word-of-mouth

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