Typically, book manufacturers receive digital acim files created by authors and produce finished books based on page size, type of paper, binding style and other book options their authors may want. Unlike book publishers, they do not offer editorial, proofreading, design, layout, marketing and promotion, or other support services commonly offered by book publishers. As a self-publishing author, you should consider a book manufacturer as an outsourced service, in much the same manner you would a graphic designer or an editor you might hire.

To help you in your search, here are six questions to consider when evaluating a company to print and bind your book.

If you have a problem, such as while uploading a file or understanding a set of instructions, will you be able to obtain assistance in a timely manner? One of the most frustrating things for anyone who is trying to self-publish, is to encounter a problem and not be able to talk to a real person. Technology is great when it works. But when it doesn’t, it’s important to have someone you can contact to help you fix the problem or answer your questions. Look for a company that has reliable “hands-on” service. Ask them what the procedure is to get assistance if and when you may need it.

Ask the book manufacturer you are considering how their process works. Look to see if there are any testimonials on their website regarding how easy their processes are.

Find out how long it will take to produce your books once they have received your digital files. If you are producing your books in a soft cover, coil bound or saddle stitch binding, they should be ready within a business week or sooner. Hard cover books may take slightly longer. If you anticipate having a tight deadline to meet, ask if you can place a rush on your project. You may have to pay an extra charge, but in certain situations, a company that offers a rush option could be a plus.

Every company will say they are high quality, but some are higher than others. And some may be better at producing the kind of book you want than others – particularly if you are interested in hard cover books that require special equipment, materials and expertise (i.e. faux leather covers, foil stamping, or sewn binding).

Some of the quality indicators to look for are how long the company has been in business (although don’t always equate greater length of service with higher quality), how many authors they have worked with over the past year, the type of printing equipment they use (is it the latest technology?), and the materials and expertise that go into their binding operations. If necessary, ask for a sample of a book they have recently produced that is similar to the one you want to produce. Look for customer testimonials regarding the quality of their work, and find out what kind of guarantees they offer regarding their workmanship.

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