Many first-time writers find that self-publishing is a viable option for getting their manuscript published. They hire a 'subsidy publisher' or 'book-packager' and pay for the design, the pre-press production, and the printing. Then, with their completed book in hand, they can either market it themselves, use it to obtain a literary agent, or approach one of the bigger publishing houses. If you are thinking about working with a subsidy press there are several steps which you must take in order to prepare your manuscript for publication and to successfully market the finished book. Read carefully, because some of these steps are also useful when submitting a book proposal to a non-subsidy publisher.

Your text must be in a computer file, IBM or Mac format, using current word processing software (less than 5 years old). Have your manuscript proofed at least twice, by friends, and by a professional editor. Be sure that the manuscript is meticulously spell-checked. Using other books in your category for page ideas, enter in the text for the title page, verso-title page (where the copyright is), and any other pages you like such as dedication, acknowledgments, foreword/preface, prologue, bibliography, etc. Insert page breaks between each such page or section of pages. Decide on the 2 to 3 typefaces (fonts) that you want for the title and the text.

Visit bookstores and look at the section where your book will appear. See what types of covers are most noticeable. Sketch out your ideas for what you would like for your cover. Collect samples of the colors you'd like to use (junk mail is a good source for printed glossy colors and fonts). If you like, you can hire your own artist or photographer to design and execute the cover.

Check out library books or buy books on self-publishing and read the marketing sections very carefully. Pay close attention to: 1) who to contact for book reviews, 2) what stores to approach to sell your book, and 3) how to handle the marketing and fulfillment. Try to get at least 3 influential people in your field to review your book now so that those reviews can be printed on your book cover.

Decide how many books you want and how much you want or are able to spend. Log on to, and fill in some blanks to get a free quote on the printing. Then, ask your subsidy publisher to give you an estimate for their services (preparing the digital files for the printer).

Article in National Writers' Union, Summer 2001. Patricia Hamilton helps writers find creative ways to self-publish their books. She is the owner of Park Place Publications, Pacific Grove. (831) 917-3010