Once you've finished writing your book – then what?

If you want to see your completed manuscript converted into a book, there is a lot of work to be done to get it ready for publication. Whether you are planning it as a hard-copy or an e-book, many writers lack the necessary editing and technical skills so if you are self-publishing you may need to call on professional help.

There are plenty of websites that promise you can do it all yourself but if you have no previous experience, then formatting your text into pages, inserting photographs, copy editing and proof reading can be challenging. Any mistakes can make your book look unprofessional so you might consider engaging a specialist publishing service. You can find various publishing organisations through adverts in writing magazines and the internet. However, some charge high fees and exploit ambitious amateurs so beware.

Russell Holden of Pixel Tweaks in Ulverston helped Jenny Baker publish her first ever book when she was in her 70s and she recommends his service.

Russell emphasises that before delivering the manuscript to him, authors should ensure the copy is 99% correct and complete because subsequent alterations and additions will cost money. He recommends paying for professional editing for content and structure. You may also decide to have an additional copy editing service if you have any doubts about your spelling and grammar. These will involve an additional cost.

Once editing is complete, graphic designer Russell lays out the pages, balances text with photographs, selects appropriate fonts and ensures the words fit neatly onto the page with uniform paragraph spacing. He can also design the cover.

Illustrating your book

It’s always worth including photographs and illustrations, but it is the author’s responsibility to ensure they are free of copyright restrictions. Photographs taken by the author are no problem as they are automatically your copyright. But beware lifting images from the internet as you could be liable for hefty fees for illegal pirating.

A sensible alternative is to use photographs from free-use stock libraries, and Russell can help by finding suitable free or low cost images to illustrate your story.

Once layout and design are complete, the first proof copy of the book is printed so it can be checked and amended by the author. It’s at this stage that Russell guides the writer through the process of applying for an ISBN number, currently £89. This is the unique identification number which will enable more efficient storage and marketing of the book by booksellers, libraries and distributors

Once you have set up an account on the Ingram Spark Website with Russell’s help, you can order as many or as few books whenever you like. A bonus is that the Ingram Spark trade connections will automatically make your book available through Amazon and Waterstones, and you can log in to your account to check sales and any royalties due.

Printing a single copy will cost about £10, depending on number of pages, illustrations and colours. Printing five copies of the same book could work out at £3 a copy. Anything over about 1,000 copies and it would probably mean you would get a cheaper price per unit from a conventional local printer.

A similar publishing platform is Create Space.com, owned by Amazon and, like Lulu.com and Blurb.com, all are designed for ordinary people to use. If you are technically confident, then give it a go. Lots of people do and they succeed. But if you would rather leave the technical stuff to a specialist, ask around for recommendations of a good, affordable publishing expert who can take the pain out the process, leaving you to do the creative bit that you love.

Some publishing platforms also have facilities for e-books and Kindle publishing so before you choose your expert, decide if you want to go digital or into print or both.

What it costs to get published

Fees for a publishing service vary but expect to pay around £500 according to word count and content. In addition, you may need to allow extra for editing (structure, content and flow), copy editing, (grammar, punctuation and typos), proof reading and images. Your publishing expert should be able to make recommendations. Also add £89 for an ISBN and a one- off fee to register with a publishing platform, £46 with Ingram Spark.

All prices correct at time of writing.

Pixel Tweaks
12 Pine Tree Road, Ulverston, Cumbria, LA12 9HD
Contact Russell Holden 01229 343658

Other contacts that can help you design and publish your book, also recommended by Judi's students, are:

CC Publishing
Martin's Lane, Hargrave, Chester CH3 7RX
Contact Mark Bevan 01829 741651

Help to Publish
Lavender, Milton Keynes, MK46 4HB
Contact Deb Griffiths 07717 313591

Jelly Bean Self Publishing
136 Newport Road, Cardiff, CF24 1DJ
Contact Shaun Russell 07766 227171

Nick Seymour
Proof reader and copy-editor
29 Longmeade Gardens, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 1DA
Contact Nick Seymour 01625 525308