Frequently Asked Questions

What is self-publishing?

Self-publishing is when an author finances the publication of their own manuscript and once published also markets and sells the book. The book may be published in any quantity, as a traditional book, or in digital format for smaller quantities. At one time self-publishing was considered “vanity publishing.” However, that is no longer the case. There are now approximately four times as many self-published books published each year than traditionally published books. Although traditional publishers continue to have huge advantages in marketing books, the self-publisher has many avenues available to market their books, including web sales and web retailer such as Amazon.com. Tradition marketing includes personal presentation, books signings, advertising and direct marketing.

What is the difference between self-publishing and subsidy publishing?

The term self-publishing is often mistakenly used by subsidy providers. Both involve paying to have your book produced; however there are some significant differences in the rights, control, and profit structure. “Subsidy publishing” is a form of publication in which the author pays another publisher to produce a book, including manufacture and marketing costs. “Self-publishing” is a form of publication in which the author becomes the publisher of the book, and maintains control of production and marketing, including how long to keep the book in print. A subsidy publisher can take your title out of print if it is not profitable for them. As a self-publisher, you own the rights to your book, have control of design and production, and retain all revenues earned from the sale of your book.

What books are most successful for self-publishing?

Self-publishers can publish the entire topical range of books that includes: Novels, biographies, autobiographies, history, genealogies, inspirational books, cookbooks, how-to books, etc. There is no limit on what a self-publisher can publish and have some success. Each author needs to define what they consider success. For some it may be to just recover their expenses. For some it may be to give the books away to a specific group of people. For others it may be to sell thousands of books and make some money. The most successful self-publishers will take the following steps: First, an author should publish in an area where they have some recognized expertise. Second, write and publish on a subject area where there is some demand. Third, determine a way to market to the people interested in the subject matter of the book. Fourth, implement the marketing plan.

Why would I choose to Self-Publish my Book?

The biggest single advantage of self-publishing is control. You decide to publish your manuscript and forego the rejection slips coming from cautious publishers. Keeping 100% of your rights–the intellectual property and copyright of your book—may be very valuable. Keeping 100% of your royalties–you can make more money by setting your own retail and wholesale contracts. The personal satisfaction of marketing and meeting your audience to fulfill the purpose of sharing your knowledge and experience of your subject can be significant.

What do I need to know to be successful?

Self-publishing is both exciting and challenging. It is important to realize that the left side of your brain has done the creative work and that the right side is needed to launch your publication as a business venture. Many authors love this aspect of achieving their goals, and some will want to work with a partner or staff to take care of the details. Mennonite Press has helped many first time authors over the years, and can offer resources and consultation to help you make the right decisions along the way.

What are the costs to print and bind my book?

It is important to have an expense and income plan prior to ordering your book. We advise that you get a quotation in a range of quantities, and consider what the retail price might be. Our book-publishing consultants are happy to help you with these proposals. Mennonite Press offers an offset line of printing for book publications of 500 or more, and a digital line for authors that are considering a limited number of printed books. There are numerous variables that impact the cost of publication—read Self-Publishing: Planning for a Better Book, by Roger Lloyd Williams for more details.

What is an ISBN and do I need one?

An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a controlled, 10- or 13-digit unique identification number allowing publishers, librarians, and book dealers to locate specific titles and maintain their inventories. It is necessary to have an ISBN to offer your book on sites such as Amazon.com and Barnes & Nobles.com and many others, as well as many retail outlets. Each version of a book—paperback, hardcover, second edition, etc., must have a unique ISBN.

How do I get an ISBN for my book?

The international supplier for ISBN registration is R. R. Bowker, 630 Central Avenue, New Providence, NJ 07974. When you apply for your ISBN, you are actually registering yourself as a publisher of printed material. The subsequent numbers are then submitted to “Books in Print” at the time they are released. Both acquiring the number(s) and submitting your new title(s) can be done at www.ISBN.org. We recommend purchasing a bank of 10 numbers if you plan to do even 1 more title. This way, all your publications have a unique 5-digit code identifying you as the publisher.

What is the Library of Congress Control Number?

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world. Having your book in the Library of Congress makes it available to anyone for research or whatever motive they might have. Having your book in the Library of Congress is optional. Mennonite Press can obtain the LOC number as your agent at no additional cost to you. Registration with the LOC is necessary before printing in order to have the number printed in your book. If your book is already formatted, please leave a line on the copyright page “Library of Congress Control Number:”

Will I need to have my book copyrighted?

Copyright protection is for “original works of authorship.” Your manuscript is already copyrighted with or without registration in that it is your unique creative piece and your claim is printed in your book. However, copyright registration with the US Copyright Office provides additional legal protection in that registration confirms that you are the legal owner of the published work and allows you additional legal clout if there is ever the need to go to court over the ownership of the work. The current length of a registered copyright is 70 years past the death of the author. Hence, one’s family or estate can continue to reap the benefits of the creativity of an author well into the future and before it goes into public domain. Mennonite Press provides assistance in getting manuscripts copyrighted, although the author may do this by themselves by contacting the US Copyright Office. There is a fee for copyright registration. Copyrights can be complicated legal issues and an author should check with the U.S. Copyright Office with more than rudimentary questions.

How do I submit my book for printing?

You may choose to design & format your book yourself, or contract with someone who has the experience and software to do that work for you. Mennonite Press offers design and formatting services. In the first instance, your digital file will be processed as ready to image and you will want to read the sections in Self-Publishing: Planning for a Better Book on “How to lay out my book, page size, margins, fonts, images”, or contact our printing consultants. If you would like for our artists to submit a proposal and complete your design, you may submit your files in manuscript form. In that case, the page size, margins, type selections, decorative displays, and professional type-fitting etc., will be determined by a professional designer and submitted to you for final approval.

How do I layout my book?

If you plan to do the design & layout yourself, it is important that your document is properly formatted. Current professional layout programs include PageMaker, QuarkXPress, and InDesign. This software is comparatively expensive and requires a longer learning curve, but do have advantages in efficiency and selection. Modern word-processing programs, such as Microsoft Office and Open Office also have useful tools for formatting your book. It may be to your advantage to correspond with your printer before starting to design and layout your book in order to reduce the likelihood of making expensive mistakes that need to be corrected later.

What fonts do I use in my book?

Serif fonts are recommended for the best readability for book text. Some of our favorite fonts are Book Antiqua, Bookman Old Style, Palatino, Garamond, and Century Schoolbook. You may use any font that you like for your book, however it is recommended to be consistent in type treatment and size. Sans Serif and decorative fonts may be reserved for headlines and special displays or insets. Be sure to embed your fonts in your PDF so that there are no substitutions. When saving to PDF, there will be a selection entitled “Embed all Fonts.”

What page size should I choose?

The choice of page size has no magic formula. It is a decision based on how your material will fit best into the “package” and what your audience is accustomed to. For instance, most historical and educational books are 6 x 9; many youth topics as well as many inspirational and how-to books are sized 5 ½ x 8 ½; workbooks and coffee table books are often 8 ½ x 11 or 9 x 12. If you have a large manuscript, you may opt to choose a larger format so that it will not be too bulky. The sizes listed above are standard sizes that make the most economical use of standard printing paper sizes for portrait orientation. Landscape-formatted books may need to be undersized depending on the binding style. You may choose a non-standard proportion or a square format, but the cost will be higher than a standard-sized book because of the inefficiencies in buying paper and printing.

What margins should I use?

The margin is a matter of design preference; however there are some minimums for various styles of binding. We recommend .625 inch minimum on perfect bound books, coil-bound books, and smythsewn hardbound books. You may choose to add .125 inch additional for gutter. Some software programs have an automated setting to add gutter–some do not. You may choose to have a .75 inch margin, which will provide ample room for the gutter. Side-sewn hardbound books require an additional .625 inch ink-free space at the spine.

How do I save photos and graphics so that they will print clearly?

Mennonite Press requests that all placed images be a minimum 300 dots per inch and that all black-and-white images be set to grayscale and all color images be CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black). After saving to PDF and before uploading, preview or print your document and check that you have achieved the correct results.

How do I present the cover for my book?

The visual appeal of your book cover cannot be underestimated in marketing your book. If you have cover art ready to image (a complete electronic file), we will want it to be sent separately from the text of the book as a PDF with bleeds allowed. We can advise you of the spine allowance or provide a template for a hardbound cover, or you may choose to send a live file and we will complete it for you. If you contract us to design your cover/dust jacket, once you have placed your order, we will plan a consultation with one of our designers to discuss preferences and what image you wish to accomplish. We can then make a design proposal for your approval.

How do I start to market my book?

Marketing is like hunting. First, you identify the type of animal you are hunting (those who might be interested in your book). Second, you identify the habits of your game (what those interested in your subject do—read, purchase, etc.) Third, you identify where they are most likely to be found. Then you target your promotions to your identified potential customers according to their habits and habitat. For example, if you are writing a genealogy then you first identify all the family members and others who might be interested. Second, you determine what they do that might lend itself to easy contact, such as doing genealogical research themselves. And third, you determine where they might be found, such as attending an annual family reunion. By following this process you target your market and keep advertising costs to a minimum.

Is there help available to warehouse and distribute my book?

Yes, many authors choose to complete their books after a sales initiative, or have orders in place at the time of delivery. Pre-publishing sales are very helpful. Mennonite Press can drop-ship to a number of locations, or arrange for storage and order fulfillment for you. We also provide ongoing warehousing and order-fulfillment services.