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Self-Publishing Dos and Don'ts

The typeface used on the cover and on the pages, the images included, the editing of the content. With self-publishing, you have the final say at each step of the production of your book—nothing happens without your vision and your approval.

But if you want to produce a professional piece of work, all that creative control does still come with its caveats. Here are a few things that you should and shouldn’t do when publishing your own book.


DON'T design your own cover.

Nothing screams “amateur” like a poorly designed book cover. Regardless of how well your book is written, a reader has to get through that cover to reach the actual text, and that’s unlikely if it doesn’t catch the reader's eye. If you don’t have experience with cover design, now is not the time to explore your skills.

DO have a cover designed by a professional, or at least someone with a background in cover design.

Professional designers do more than pick out an image and stick it on the front of your book. They also take the genre, subject matter, and dimensions into account, as well as book design trends and no-nos.


DON'T use novelty typefaces for your book.

Comic Sans and Chiller have their place—and that place is in emails to friends and invitations to Halloween parties. What seemed fun and whimsical on your Word document may look downright childish in a bookstore.

DO use traditional typefaces.

Garamond, Bembo, Janson, Electra, or Caslon will give your book a classy and professional look.


DON'T reuse an ISBN.

Your first book didn’t sell that many copies, and now you’re self-publishing your second. Why not just move that old International Standard Book Number (ISBN) over to the new book and save a few bucks? Sorry, but that’s impossible.

DO use a different ISBN for each book.

Not only does an ISBN identify a unique book, it also identifies the book’s edition and format. For example, your book’s hardcover, paperback, and (depending on who you ask) e-book versions each require their own ISBN, as do their different editions.


DON'T assume that an image will look good on the page because it looked good on your computer display.

On your computer screen, images are displayed at 72 dots per inch (dpi) in what’s called the Red-Green-Blue (RGB) color space.

DO make sure your image is prepared with the proper resolution and color space.

Pictures in printed books are usually 300 dpi and use the Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black (CMYK) color space. Make sure your graphics are prepared for the format in which they’ll be displayed.


DON'T handle editing yourself.

Of course, you should reread your book, make changes, look for mistakes, and fact-check. However, it’s likely that you won’t catch everything. You also already know what you meant when you wrote the draft, so your mind is prone to “fill in the blanks” without realizing it.

DO have someone else, preferably someone with an editing background, review your book.

If possible, enlist the services of a professional editor to review your work—not just for spelling, punctuation or grammar mistakes, but also for character development and story content. An educated second opinion can raise the quality of your work more than you might expect.

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