Author - Publisher Tip Center

Since most of our customers are self authors and small publishers, this section is devoted to providing information on the book publishing process. This information in this section is organized as follows:

  • Finalizing Your Manuscript for Printing
    • Sections of a Book
    • Cover and Spine
    • Front Section
    • Body Section
    • Back Section
  • Book Layout, Cover Design, Type Fonts and Images
    • Page Layout and Margins
    • Cover Design
    • Type Fonts and Size
    • Images
  • ISBN, Bar Code and Copyright

There are three really good organizations that can provide additional information and support to authors and small publishers. One is the Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network or SPAWN , the second is the Publishers Marketing Association or PMA and the third is the Small Publishers Association of North America or SPAN. Also see our Links pages for other helpful websites.

Finalizing your Manuscript for Printing
The following paragraphs will help you create a professional looking book. We also highly recommend visiting your favorite book store and going to the section that features books of the type you plan to publish. Find one or two that you feel are similar to what you’d like yours to look and feel like and buy them. Take them home and carefully go through the books and see how they have handled the issues we’ll cover below. There’s nothing like a real life example to help you finalize that print ready file.

Sections of a Book
The organization of a book can be a little complicated but in traditional publishing, the sections of a book usually conform to strict guide lines. We’ll cover these sections for books done by major publishers in terms of content, pagination, etc. in the following paragraphs. Just remember that you don’t have to have every section or page discussed below. But before we get to that we need to talk about pages. Every sheet of paper or leave in a book has two pages, a front and a back which also is a right hand (front) or left hand page (back). This is important to understand since certain content is traditionally placed on right hand pages which are odd numbered and other content on left hand or even numbered pages.

Front Section
The first page of a typical book, a right hand page, contains only the title of the book in the top half of the page (sometimes called the half title page). The back of the half title page is usually blank but could contain a dedication or previous titles published by the author.

The title page is next and is always a right hand page. It contains the following:

  • The book title and any subtitle.
  • The author and any collaborators and contributors
  • The publisher

On the back of the title page (sometimes called the imprint page) are the following:

  • Copyright notice
  •  Publisher contact information
  • Library of Congress Catalog number
  • ISBN

The next pages in the front section always begin on right hand pages as follows:

  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgements
  • Table of contents
  • Other optional pages that continue as right and left pages until the first chapter page may include:
    • Foreword
    • Preface
    • Introduction
    • List of Abbreviations
    • List of Illustrations
    • Disclaimers

The pages in the front section are either not numbered or if numbered, they are done with small Roman numerals – i, ii, iii, iv, etc.

Body Section
Begins on a right hand page and typically contains the name of the chapter and its number. Your body or text section may also be divided into subheads. Each succeeding page continues with content until a chapter is complete. If a chapter ends on a right hand page, convention dictates that the next left hand page is left blank so that each chapter starts on a right hand page.

Back Section
The first thing to say about the back section is that it is optional. Back sections are most frequently seen in scholarly works and technical manuals. Typical content includes:

  • End
  • Notes
  • Appendix
  • Glossary
  • Bibliography
  • Works Cited
  • Index
  • Author Bio
  • Order Blank

Book Layout, Cover Design, Type Fonts and Images
In the preceding paragraphs, we covered many of the considerations on book layout. Different sections of a book can use different fonts and layouts but it’s important to have an overall look or unifying theme.  Margins should ideally be ½”. Larger margins are just fine. Be sure to use at least ½” margins if your book is to be perfect bound. This will leave sufficient room on the gutter or binding edge so that all type or other content is easy to read.

Cover Design
Many years ago, the head of a major publishing house said that every book needs to have a unique look and feel considering its target audience. He further stated that in retail book marketing, the cover was absolutely critical. A prospective buyer will first be attracted and get to know a book by its cover. Color, images, fonts, paper and the words on your cover evoke powerful and compelling thoughts and emotions in a potential reader’s mind. What is evoked and the intensity frequently make the difference between the book being picked up or passed by. So work hard on that cover and give serious consideration to hiring a professional designer for this critical part of your book.

Font Size and Type Faces
Now that desktop publishing software is so affordable and widely used, typography is sometimes considered a lost art. At one time it was a major subset of the graphics arts industry with thousands of firms employing of tens of thousands of professionals. However by utilizing the following basics, you can have a professional looking typography for your book even without significant training and experience.

While there are many different typefaces we will limit our discussion to two major classifications – serif and sans serif. These are the most commonly used typefaces used in print and electronic publications. Examples are


Serif typefaces, or Roman typefaces, are named for the embellishment features at the ends of their strokes. Times Roman and Garamond are two of the most common examples of serif typefaces. Serif fonts are most frequently used in printed publications, including most books, newspapers and magazines.

Sans-serif (sans is the French word for without) typefaces are simply those without the added features at the end of a stroke. The most common sans-serif fonts include Ariel, Optima, Tahoma, Helvetica and Verdana.

Serif fonts provide for a more traditional look and feel. In print publications, sans-serif fonts are more commonly used for headlines than for body text. The thought has been that serifs assist the eye in following the lines in large blocks of text.  Sans-serif fonts have become the standard for body text on-screen, especially online. Electronic screens yield a sharper and more readable result with sans-serif fonts than with serif fonts.

One of the best ways to get some insight for selecting typefaces, font sizes, etc. is to use the real life book examples we suggested you buy in Finalizing Your Manuscript for Printing paragraph above. And remember that combining the use of serif and sans-serif is fine but using more than two or three different typefaces in a publication is not a good idea.

All of us have heard the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words and it’s literally true.  Since you have just seconds to grab a reader’s attention, we recommend that you use pictures and/or other graphic images in full color on your cover. Be sure that that those images are 300 DPI in CMYK to achieve the vivid, sharp color and impact you need with your printed book. If you have half tone photographs or other images in your body, we recommend that you use 60# or 70# offset text paper stock. This will reduce the possibility of see through from one side of a page to another.


ISBN, Bar Code and Copyright
The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a 10-digit number (but moving to 13 digits in 2007) that uniquely identifies books and book-like products published internationally. If you want to sell your book through retail outlets, an ISBN is a virtual necessity. It is typically placed on the Imprint page in the Front Section of your book and in a bar format on the back cover or dust jacket if a hard bound book. This allows the book to be scanned at checkout in a retail environment. The four parts of an ISBN are as follows:

  • Group or country identifier which identifies a national or geographic grouping of publishers.
  •  Publisher identifier which identifies a particular publisher within a group.
  • Title identifier which identifies a particular title or edition of a title.
  • Check digit is the single digit at the end of the ISBN which validates the ISBN.

R. R. Bowker is the exclusive US source and issuer of publisher prefixes and accompanying ranges of ISBN numbers for eligible publishers and can be contacted through its website Bowker provides help on the uses of the ISBN System to publishers (including authors who want self publish their book) and promotes the use of the Bookland EAN bar code format. In addition to their ISBN prefixes, publishers also register their titles for inclusion in the Bowker Books In Print.

EAN and Bar Codes
In order for retailers to automatically capture an ISBN, it must be converted into a bar code for scanning. The Bookland EAN symbol is the bar code of choice in the book industry, because it allows for encoding of ISBN’s.

Most book retailers, as well as many book wholesalers require that the books they handle be marked with the Bookland EAN bar code. With this machine-readable code on the book, the retailer can scan the symbol and easily electronically identify the book by its ISBN. When a retail clerk scans the Bookland EAN bar code at the point of sale, the bar code identifies the book so that the price and other information about the book can be retrieved from the bookseller’s database. The computer then automatically reports the price to the cash register and the book buyer pays the correct price for the book.

In the United States, most creative works produced privately and originally after April 1, 1989 are copyrighted and protected whether they have a notice or not Publication or registration with the U.S. Copyright office is not required for a copyright to exist. The copyright and your ownership of this right occur as you create it.  Your creative work must exist in a tangible form - - such as on paper or a computer disk. Major advantages to regis­tration including the following:

  • A copyright registration is necessary for works of U.S. origin before the owner can file an infringement suit in court. Filing before an infringement takes place allows the copyright owner to seek statutory damages and attorney’s fees and not just damages and lost profits.
  • It serves as prima facie evidence in an infringement suit of the existence of a valid copyright.

The copyright notice in your book appears in the Front Section of your book on the Imprint page. It needs to contain the name of the copyright owner, the year first published and the word “copyright” or the symbol ©. Additional information and registration (fee was $45 as of July 1, 2006) is available at the U.S. Copyright Office