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Originally published April 28, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 30, 2007 at 7:17 PM

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Getting Started

Getting books published without a publisher

For as long as I can remember, I've loved to write. Way back in grade school, I wrote a (really dumb) play that friends performed before...

Special to The Seattle Times

For as long as I can remember, I've loved to write.

Way back in grade school, I wrote a (really dumb) play that friends performed before falling over, giggling. In high school, I wrote a letter to a ski-lodge owner that won me a weekend job working at the lodge in return for room, board and skiing. In graduate school, I wrote a few articles published in education journals. Since then, I've fantasized about walking into a bookstore and seeing a book that I wrote sitting on a bookshelf.

When I finally did become a "professional" writer for an educational-research project, I also wrote magazine articles and published my first book. And then my second. But both were written for the education market, so neither sat in any major bookstore.

Years later, when I wrote a novel about two adopted teenagers, I discovered that getting it published would require an entirely different, and more difficult, approach.

Publishing a book for the general public called for persuading a well-connected literary agent to promote my manuscript to publishers.

I managed to find one who liked my novel and agreed to look for a publisher. My job then was simply to wait.

After a year of receiving positive responses but no offers, my agent kindly explained that publishers didn't want to invest money in printing a few thousand copies of a book written for 16- to 25-year-olds who generally don't buy books and whose parents no longer buy books for them.

Since then, it has become easier and more respectable for authors to publish their own books. Plus, it's become possible to print one book at a time, so there's no longer the financial risk of printing piles of copies.

That brings us to current book-publishing possibilities for people who have written books and want them published and available to the public. There are a few companies that specialize in self-publishing. I'll take you through the process with one of them.


BookSurge, one of the more innovative book publishers, enables both new and experienced authors to publish their books at reasonable cost and to sell them through

Interested authors can go to and read about the various options available. These range from submitting a finished, correctly formatted and print-ready manuscript and cover to submitting a manuscript and getting help with design.


I asked BookSurge's sales director at the time, Mitchell Davis, whether BookSurge applies some sort of pre-publishing quality control over writers' work that involves reviewing and then accepting or rejecting their manuscripts.

"We support all types of authors and all the reasons they decide to publish," he said. "Whether for financial success, posterity or simply personal fulfillment, we think it is our job to enable, not disable, the process of seeing a work in print. It is then the job of customers and the general public to judge the merit of the work."

BookSurge also provides traditional publishers with a way to continue offering out-of-print titles by employing print-on-demand (POD) publishing technology and selling the books through Amazon.

University presses and academics are also likely to benefit from POD because it makes it easier for professors to include out-of-print books on course booklists. Academics can use it to acquire old, yet still important, books.

In fact, established publishers are now able to use POD, if they choose, to take more risks on publishing experimental, niche or any books they think may not sell in large enough numbers to publish in the traditional manner.

Given that BookSurge is an Amazon subsidiary, the partnership provides the means of sales and distribution that makes this approach appealing to many.

Alternatively, my sister-in-law worked with Gorham Printing ( to self-publish a nonfiction book ("Dangerous Peace-Making," by Helena Meyer-Knapp) in 2003. She says she received "100 percent design help with the layout and printing," and has sold quite a few books. Gorham offers various support options for authors and print runs from 25 to 3,000 copies.

My story

My own experience publishing through BookSurge begins with an e-mail from a PR contact who describes the service and piques my interest. Since I've had good and bad experiences with book publishing the traditional way, I'm interested to learn more and figure many readers would be, too.

I click on the Web site, read the options and decide that probably the best way to describe and evaluate this service is to experience it myself.

I decide to publish my novel, "Search," with BookSurge and sell it through Amazon. Of course, that means the little paperback won't sit on a shelf in my local bookstore (that dream unfulfilled), but at least it will be more available than my other two books, which back then were listed only on the publishers' booklists for educators.

To best relate a typical author's experience publishing through BookSurge, I choose the Total Design Freedom program for black-and-white-

interior books with no interior images. It costs $699 (it's since been changed to $699 to $2,749), which includes design help for the book and its cover, as well as ongoing personal support through the entire process.

My BookSurge account manager, Aaron Voelker, e-mails me the submission specifications, which explain how to prepare the manuscript for submission. He also sends a step-by-step guide that describes the submission process and explains the online Author Panel, where I'll manage the parts and progress of my publishing project.

I pick the book size (5.25 by 8 inches), the font (Centaur MT), enter text for the back cover and a short book description for posting on (one paragraph) and (one sentence).

Then I get an e-mail from design coordinator Julie Burnett, who sends a questionnaire requesting information about the book and my ideas for a cover design.

Within a couple of weeks, she e-mails three possible cover designs and several chapters of the formatted manuscript. I am impressed. The manuscript looks good in Centaur MT, and the cover designs are colorful and artistic. I pick one of the three covers and make several suggestions for revisions. I also read the formatted chapters and enter a half-dozen editorial changes in the attached form.

Meanwhile, I work on composing a dedication as well as a description to go with the author photo. I sign and submit the Author's Publishing Agreement and a royalty form. Looks like royalties for my 277-page novel, priced at $15.99, will be about $4 per copy.

I also complete and send the copyright-registration form to the U.S. Library of Congress Copyright Office. There are several little duties like these to attend to, but the team's clear instructions help keep me organized. Communication with my BookSurge team is consistently clear, prompt and helpful.

In a couple of weeks, I receive the whole manuscript with its pages formatted for the book and ready for my review. I also get the second draft of a cover design, which I like, and now have only a few further suggestions to make. I e-mail these back to my design coordinator, along with the manuscript corrections.

The formatted manuscript and cover design go through three rounds of corrections and suggestions. Then I sign off, and a couple of weeks later, a bound copy of the book arrives in the mail.

Wasting no time, I study the cover and thumb through the pages, excited to see my novel looking like the others that fill my bookshelves.

The next day, in a thank-you e-mail to my team, I mention that I'm happy and my only reservations are that the text is a little too close to the binding inside (making it a little hard to read) and the flowers on the cover look like they're growing out of the girl's head.

My design coordinator writes back that those problems can be fixed.

Lucky me! That's one of the major advantages of the POD method of production. Even after it's a bound book, I can make minor changes. The revised and reprinted book arrives a week or two later, and it looks great. I'm delighted.

So ... If you have written (or are writing) a book and want to get it published without the hassle of acquiring an agent and winning a contract from a major book publisher, consider self publishing.

More specifically, consider publishing with a company like BookSurge that provides personal support through the whole process.

Write Linda Knapp at; to read other Getting Started columns, go to: gettingstarted

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