Ribbon Star Press

Self-Publishing Basics

Self-publishing can seem overwhelming at times. Use these tips to get started on the right foot!

*Affiliate Disclosure: Ribbon Star Press is an affiliate of Adobe. Should you choose to purchase an Adobe product by clicking the links on our website, we may earn a commission on the sale at no cost to you. 

1. Pre-marketing 

Create flyers, social media accounts, and  marketing materials BEFORE your project is published to build interest. Think about your target consumer and your ideal channels for marketing your books. It takes time to build brand recognition. The earlier potential customers become familiar with your brand, the easier it will be to attract sales when your item is on the market. Create a marketing campaign to get customers excited about your future launch.

2. Creating a Website

Everyone is online and authors are no exception! A compelling website makes you appear professional and accomplished to both your customer base and the press. Have your website reflect your personality and the story behind your books. Customers are interested in your work and also the creator behind the scenes. For more information on creating your first website, visit our small business and website consulting firm, Next Door Creations. We’ve provided a few introductory basics to help you get started.

3. Timelines

If you’re printing a physical copy of your book and not using a print-on-demand service like CreateSpace, keep in mind that different print shops have different turnaround times. Factor this in when choosing a printer for your publication.

4. High Quality Images

If you have hand-painted artwork, you may have trouble finding a cost-effective way to make this digital. You’ll find that traditional scanners don’t always pick up the color of your artwork the way you intended. Some businesses may quote you over $100 a page to get these scanned in properly! Instead, try to find a local photo shop who may be willing to take a high-quality photograph your artwork.

5. Layout & Graphic Design

If you’re doing your own graphic design work and have a graphic-heavy project, use professional software. You can’t go wrong with Adobe Creative Suite* and specifically, Adobe InDesign* for formatting your files. Be sure to use CMYK images whenever formatting a file for print on paper and a resolution of 300 DPI.

6. ISBN’s & UPC’s

You need an ISBN for your book, but you MAY also need a UPC code. Many larger, non-bookstore retailers prefer UPC’s and/or are unable to scan ISBN’s. ISBN’s can be ordered from Bowker and UPC registration takes place through GS1. There are many companies online who offer to resell UPC codes at lower prices, but your company name and ID will NOT be affiliated when a retailer scans the UPC. If a retailer finds that your UPC code is not properly authorized, your account may be subject to returns, chargebacks and even suspension. We advise properly registering through GS1 to avoid any future setbacks.

7. Shop Around

Again, if you’re looking to print your books outside of a print-on-demand service, investigate different print shops and their respective pricing. Request samples of their previous books well in advance. See how their books hold up over time.

We once requested samples of a hardcover book from a printer and within a month, the entire book had warped under completely normal circumstances sitting on a bookshelf!

8. Meet Your Team

While it’s not always possible to meet your printing or fulfillment company face-to-face, we’ve found personal relationships go a long way. Seeing the facility where your books will be produced and/or stored gives you a feel for the company’s values and the team who will help make your project a reality! You’ve worked hard on your book — you deserve a team who values your work as much as you do!

9. Proofs

Some print shops will offer the option of an electronic proof. We suggest getting a hard copy and requesting samples of the exact paper on which your project will be printed.

10. Paper Quality

Double check this! Paper “weights” can vary widely from manufacturer to manufacturer from our experience. Also, keep in mind that gloss finish on a paper of the same weight as a matte finish will likely have a lighter feel due to the finishing process.

11. Inspect Your Order

We’ve had a number of experiences along the way that have taught us that printing quality isn’t always as up to par as promised. While we hope your printing experience is as seamless as possible, take extra time to inspect your order. If you have a larger order, take time to inspect boxes further down on the pallet if it’s possible. At the end of the day, it’s your name on the book and your reputation at stake.

12. Press Releases & Reviews

Don’t be shy! Share your book launch with those around you! Submit a press release to local newspapers, magazines, and television stations about your book and your inspiration for writing it. Search for bloggers who would be willing to review your book in exchange for a complimentary copy. Having reviews helps your book appear validated for new customers not yet familiar with your work.

13. Retailers & Distribution

Think outside the box when deciding which retailers may be a good fit for your book. Are there local non-bookstore retailers who may have a customer base interested in your topic? Can you partner with local organizations to use your book as a fundraiser for a cause?

The success of our Oliver Poons children’s series began with the support of our local community, and was the inspiration behind our platform, LocalStrong.org. We welcome all authors to create an Author listing in our Local Pages and sell domestically-printed books in our marketplace to gain support of their local community.

14. Local Events & Book Signings

Farmers markets, craft shows, and book signings at local retailers are a fantastic way to gain exposure for your new book! Make your booth vibrant and exciting with colorful signage and a welcoming atmosphere. Take advantage of the time you have at these local events by introducing yourself and talking to everyone you meet! We see many new authors who set up their booth and passively wait for customers to appear. Come up with an interesting talking point about your work to engage conversation or simply introduce yourself and ask customers if they’ve seen your latest book while offering them a copy to browse. We suggest designating a few display copies so you can hand your book to be viewed by potential customers while keeping clean copies available for purchases. This will prevent your customers from receiving books that may have fingerprint smears or creased pages.

15. Fulfillment & Shipping

Many retailers have precise shipping requirements that must be met in order for your shipment to be properly received without returns or fees. One of the most confusing parts for new authors is often the carton label requirements many retailers and distributors require in order for your book to be properly processed by their receiving team. See our Carton Labels page if you need help creating your first carton labels.

If you’d like more in-depth guidance, contact us today to schedule a consultation. We love helping new authors transform their ideas into realities!