Self-Publishing: What to Do, When to Do It

One of the biggest pitfalls in small publishing is the lack of sufficient planning, especially the first time around. You don’t want to tie up funds by purchasing materials too soon and you don’t want to miss some important publicity because you missed a filing date.

Things to do right now:

  • Send for five copyright forms.
  • Order some office supplies, such as business cards and envelopes. Subscribe to Writer’s Digest and Publishers Weekly (or read them at your library).
  • Contact R.R. Bowker for advance book information (ABI) forms.
  • Join the Publishers Marketing Association. One co-op marketing program will pay for your membership.
  • Apply for a post office box.
  • Read the latest edition of The Self-Publishing Manual completely and highlight important areas.
  • Visit the library and study Literary Market Place. Order a copy now or wait until you are finished with your manuscript.
  • Contact the Small Business Administration for its services. Call your local office.
  • Choose a company name. File a fictitious name statement, if required.
  • Apply for any local business licenses. Check your chamber of commerce for advice. Do not call the city licensing offices.
  • Draft your book cover copy. Decide on your audience and what you promise to give them.

    While writing your book:

  • Write the Cataloging in Publication Office of the Library of Congress for Information for Participating Publishers and some Publisher Response forms.
  • Send to R.R. Bowker for ISBN/SAN information.

    When your manuscript is nearly complete:

  • Send requests for price quotes to printers.
  • Purchase a set of ISBNs from R.R. Bowker.
  • Design the book covers. Hire a cover designer.
  • Fill out the ABI form.
  • Write the Library of Congress for your Library of Congress Card Catalog Number (LCCN).
  • Send a photocopy of your ABI form to Baker &. Taylor Co., Academic Library Services Selection Dept., P.O. Box 6885, Bridgewater NJ 08807.
  • Send to R.R. Bowker for your own copy of Literary Market Place.
  • Research your title to make sure it is not being used. See Books in Print and Forthcoming Books at the reference desk of your public library, or check an online bookstore.
  • Get any needed permissions from people pictured or quoted in the book.
  • Send your manuscript out for peer review and copy-edit.
  • Select a distributor.
  • Solicit testimonials.

    When the manuscript is ready to be typeset:

  • Set the publication date. It will be at least four months in the future.
  • Assign the ISBN(s).
  • Prepare a news release.
  • Contact book clubs.
  • Apply for a state resale permit.
  • Prepare a CIP data block.
  • Contact Quality Books at

    While the book is being typeset:

  • Set up storage and shipping areas.
  • If you are subcontracting the typesetting, maintain a good proofreading schedule. Don’t hold up your typesetter.
  • Prepare mailing lists.
  • Order shipping supplies and the rest of your office supplies.
  • Send galleys to pre-publication review magazines.
  • Prepare ads for specialty magazines.
  • Prepare a brochure about the book.
  • Write to the International Directory of Little Magazines and Small Presses for an application form.
  • Prepare your pre-publication offer.
  • Print book review slips and order rubber stamps.
  • Pursue subsidiary rights.
  • Order reply postcards.
  • Write to Publishers Directory for an application form.
  • Develop your marketing plan.
  • Order bar code.
  • Select a book printer.

    While the book is being printed:

  • Proof the bluelines carefully.
  • Prepare review copy materials. Stuff and label the shipping bags, then put them aside until books arrive.
  • Mail your pre-publication offer to individuals.

    When the books arrive (four months before the official publication date):

  • Check the quality of the books.
  • Make a count for your inventory.
  • Fill orders.
  • Make promotional mailings.
  • Photograph book and order prints.
  • Print brochure.
  • Pursue dealer sales. You want the books to be in the stores when all the promotion hits on the publication date.
  • Draft magazine articles.
  • File copyright form.
  • Pursue book reviews.
  • Pursue promotional opportunities.
  • Send copy of book to the CIP Office.
  • Visit bookstores in your area.

    Publication date:

  • Ninety percent of your initial promotional effort will be done before your official publication date. Your consumer advertising/promotion should be concentrated in the first few weeks after the publication date.
  • Pursue consumer-oriented pro-motions such as autograph parties, talk shows, author tours, etc.
  • Outline your continuing promotional program.

    Ongoing promotion:

  • Work on nontraditional or special sales.
  • Implement your continuing review program.
  • Consider more direct e-mail solicitations.
  • Look for spinoff ideas. Repackage your information: audiotapes, electronic books, etc. Consider consulting in your area of expertise.
  • Make up a review/testimonial sheet. Paste up good reviews and reproduce them.
  • Never give up. You have given birth to your book; now you have an obligation to raise it. Review what has worked and do more of it. Review what has not worked and cut your losses.

    This article is excerpted from The Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book, 12th edition, copyright 2000 by Dan Poynter and is reprinted here with his permission. For a more detailed calendar and other information, order the book at or call (800)727-2782.

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  • 2 thoughts on “Self-Publishing: What to Do, When to Do It

    1. Whimars

      Oh please, please let them pick me for a pat down! Please! What could possibly make for a more memorable childhood than busy afternoons spent scanning for weapons and terrorist threats? Not much, and this reviewer agrees with me.


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