Publishing Your First Book: Printing and Distribution

Your manuscript is complete. You’ve worked a designer and copyeditor to create a word-perfect and beautifully designed product. You have ISBNs and all the other details finalized. How do you take the next step and see your hard work realized in physical form?

There are numerous options to have your book custom printed in bulk. If you choose to do so you have control over the paper, the binding and numerous other aspects. You will also have to taken on inventory and selling your book directly.

For my book “canvas”, while I originally considered a custom printing service and setting up my own sales site, I ultimately decided to reduce the startup complexity and need to manage inventory by using print on demand services. The two main options are Kindle Direct Publishing (part of Amazon) and IngramSpark (part of the Ingram Content Group). I ended up using both services in combination for several reasons:

  • Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) supports both eBook and print (paperback only) publishing. Amazon is the largest distributor of eBooks and pre-sale for eBooks is supported. Presale for print editions is not currently supported – this is a gotcha and one of the reasons I also listed my book on IngramSpark. Listing is free (if you’ve purchased ISBNs directly which is recommended). KDP allows you to order proofs (galley copies) up to five at a time, for the manufactured cost. After uploading my fully designed cover and manuscript (separate files with very specific design specifications), it was only a few days later when the proofs arrived (photo below). The proofs are clearly marked “not for resale” and the barcode on the back is obscured.
  • IngramSpark supports eBooks, paperbacks and hardcover. The benefit of also list your paperback on IngramSpark is pre-orders are permitted, and the listing will appear on Amazon merged with your eBook listing. I also decided to have my designer create a hardcover design variant. Assuming you have purchased ISBNs directly there is a setup fee of approximately $50 per format. Future modifications incur an additional fee. IngramSpark permits ordering proofs but they are real copies – not galleys – and you can order in bulk if you choose at the manufactured cost.

When setting up your book in both KDP and IngramSpark you will be asked to provide the design files for the book and metadata for the book listing; some of the items you’ll be asked to provide:

  • Cover and interior design files. Your designer will ask for cover templates – both KDP and IngramSpark provide cover templates that depend on the type of paper you prefer and the number of pages of the designed interior. The number of pages and type of paper matters because that is what defines the width of the spine. Your designer will likely use Adobe InDesign to create the “mechanical” files needed to print the book. I (briefly) considered designing the interior of the book myself but decided to have the designer handle the entire book. This was a good decision since the design language of the cover came first and drove the design of the book’s interior. For the hardcover there was the cover and the book sleeve with flaps – two separate designs.
  • eBook conversion
  • Metadata for the book listing: the name and subtitle, description, review excerpts, author name and key contributors (list only people who should receive billing on par with the author – not a comprehensive list), and other items. Many of the fields are optional and can be updated later.
  • Pricing for different markets; when you purchase ISBNs you’ll also create a barcode with the price embedded. I looked at similar books in my category to decide on a retail price. You will also need to decide on a wholesale discount (I chose the default), and whether or not you accept returns (to be accepted at most bookstores you will need to accept returns).
  • Amazon also provides the Amazon Author Portal once your book is listed to add additional detail for promoting your book.

You can see my “canvas” listing on:

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