1. Why shouldn’t I lay my book out in Word?

Microsoft Word is a word processing program not designed to format files for a printing press. There are lots of issues that can and do occur when you use Word to create a print project:

  • Sometimes, the black text is only at about 90% when printed, so you get a dark gray.
  • Word does not work in CMYK colours, which are necessary for printed books. It works in RGB colours, which are meant for digital viewing.
  • Word will display “faux” fonts that you don’t have. If you choose the italic or bold options in Word, the program will “fake” those effects, even if you don’t have the bold or italic version of the font. This means your PDF will not have the bold or italic effects you want.

Word can be a great tool—if used correctly, to lay out e-books where RGB colour is required and the fonts will change on various devices anyway.

2. Where do I get an ISBN for my book?

  • In the USA, you purchase ISBNs from Bowker.

3. Do I need a barcode on my e-book?

Barcodes are the scanning codes you see with a series of vertical black lines in white boxes on products. These allow electronic scanners to determine the product’s price and keep track of inventory. E-books are not physical products; they are never scanned. It would help if you had an ISBN assigned to your e-book because it makes tracking sales easier, and some selling platforms require it. Books use unique barcodes called Bookland EAN barcodes.

DO NOT purchase a barcode online. They are rarely formatted properly.

Your cover designer can create a barcode with your ISBN.

If you’re using Amazon KDP to publish, you can leave space on your back cover, and they will add a barcode created with your ISBN. If you’re using one of their free ISBNs or identifiers, you must allow them to add the barcode. Their templates show you exactly how much room you will need to leave. If you have Amazon create and add the barcode, there will be no option to embed the price.

IngramSpark / Lightning Source templates include a barcode made with your ISBN. You can embed a US, Canadian, or UK price into an IngramSpark or Lightning Source barcode.

If you’re getting an ISBN through a third-party seller or distributor and not a national service such as those listed above, there will be restrictions, and you might not be able to use the same ISBN with another company. Using a third-party ISBN will also show the registering company as the publisher.

4. Does it matter what font I use for my book?

Yes! Yes! Yes! Many reasons, starting with professionalism, moving through readability and ending with sales, make it essential to use fonts wisely. You don’t want to alienate even one paying customer.

Cole’s top 10 list of book cover fonts:

  • Minion
  • ITC New Baskerville
  • FF Scala & FF Scala Sans
  • Adobe Garamond (one of my all-time favourite fonts)
  • Trade Gothic
  • Electra
  • Fornier
  • Dante
  • Din

5. Do I really need a website?

Yes! For a previous article, I asked well-known agent Andrea Brown of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency if she thought it was important for authors to have an online presence, and she replied, “The short answer is yes—authors must have.”

Gwen Gades, the owner of Dragon Moon Press in Alberta, Canada, shares that opinion. “Social media is critical, as is author branding. More and more readers choose based not just on a book but because they have gotten to know an author “personally.”

Large publishing houses, including Random House, have an online biography for each of their authors, including book cover images, links to purchase their books, personal blogs and websites, and Facebook pages. Harlequin has a similar setup for its romance authors. The Penguin Group (USA) has also recognized the importance of authors having an online presence. They have a PDF called Penguin Authors Guide to Online Marketing, published in 2008 (Google the title if you want to see it).

If you’re a small press owner or self-publisher, you’ll want to spend your time and money wisely, and in today’s market, that should be in online promotions where you’ll be able to reach the highest number of people for the least amount of investment.