Really Helpful Guidance

The information on this page is essential reading, whether before you begin work on your manuscript or before you hand over all the materials and we embark on the production of your book. By all means contact us for further clarification, but hopefully what we have included will live up to the title of this section!

We ask that authors supply the text as a Word (or similar) file by email or on a USB drive/CD, together with a complete print out which is exactly the same as the material on the disk (so we can check we have everything that we should have).

It is helpful if you do as little to the text as possible in terms of formatting. This means that you would, for example, italicise words that need to be in italics, but don’t worry about making the layout pretty because it is best for us to work with plain text and layout, and we will remove most of this type of formatting anyway. Use one hard return (enter) to start a new paragraph, after a chapter title or a sub-heading, or before inserting a caption.

Tables can be supplied laid out using Word’s table function, using tabs, or by hand (if the writing/drawing is very clear). We will need a correct print out of all tables to ensure that we set them accurately. Diagrams, maps, family trees etc can be supplied in a number of forms and it would be best to discuss this with one of us at Scotforth before sending anything to us.

If you have at this stage assembled and numbered all the pictures to be included (see the section on pictures), you will need to show us where you would like them to be placed. You can either mark on your print out where they are to be placed, or type the picture number/digital picture filename and caption in your typed text at the place where the picture needs to be. As long as each caption is a new paragraph we can easily pick them out.

Once we have your text we convert it so that it can be imported into our page layout programme ready for design and typesetting. As part of this process we will ‘tidy up’ the file, getting rid of double spaces, and standardising as much as we can (such as the way dates are written etc). The content is not altered by doing this; it’s just a bit of polishing really.

We don’t edit or proofread your text unless you have specifically asked us to do so. If you require a full manual edit you will need to discuss this with us and an appropriate editor will be allocated. We can do a computer-based proofread and edit, however, which will often be sufficient, and this is a relatively low cost option because it doesn’t involve a complete read-through of the text. You can decide what you would prefer after initial discussions with us.

We can deal with pictures supplied in almost any form, but if you want to achieve the best possible standard in the finished printed book there is one basic rule: wherever you can, give us the original photograph (whether printed or digital), slide, picture or drawing.

Duplicates can be very poor and photocopies in particular are often very difficult for us to scan in well. Where you cannot supply the original you should try to give us the best copy you can. You may achieve a reasonable result scanning on your equipment at home (it has improved enormously in recent years) and supplying us with digital files which we will assess to ensure that they are of good enough quality. If you cannot do this we have state of the art professional scanning equipment here and can maximise the quality of any original. We can also improve pictures enormously if needed.

For originals, printed or other ‘hard copy’ (ie not digital) images, the best way to organise them is to number them with post-it notes or similar, then to refer to that number in the text/print out where you want the picture to appear.

You can send pictures to us by post, although we would strongly advise you to use recorded delivery or another relatively secure method. We can arrange for our courier to collect from you and deliver to us if that helps, and we can let you know how much this would cost. Alternatively, you may wish to bring precious originals to us in person, the safest method usually.

Once your pictures are with us they are treated very carefully and stored in a Chubb fire proof cabinet. We are proud to say that we have never damaged or lost pictures supplied to us.

In most cases authors have their own pictures, but if you need a particular image (eg of a person or place) we can give you advice on how to go about finding it, and about reproduction fees etc.

An increasing number of pictures are supplied to us as digital files, from digital cameras, digitised photo collections, scans etc. As already mentioned, the best result will usually be achieved if we scan in the original picture but this is often not possible. If you are supplying digital files to us it is best to let us see a sample of what you intend to give us and then we can advise you as to what we need. Images pulled off websites are nearly always very low resolution and not usable in a book. Where you have amended images in Photoshop or similar we usually ask that you also give us the original unaltered files. This whole area is a bit of a technical minefield, so in most cases it is best to contact us for advice before you obtain or send any digital images to us. For pictures that are supplied digitally, you should use the exact filename of an image when you indicate (in your Word file or on your manuscript print out) where it should be placed in the text.

We have access to a number of talented illustrators at Scotforth who can produce any kind of artwork, colour or black and white, whether for the cover or the insides of the book. The costs of this sort of work vary hugely, as you can imagine, although we are almost always much less expensive than a design agency or dedicated artist/designer. Where it will be helpful, you will be able to talk directly to one of our illustrators so that you can convey your requirements fully. In addition, our typesetters are very skilled at producing computer-generated maps, diagrams, tables, family trees etc, even if you only supply the most basic of sketches. Do contact us to find out what is possible.

Many authors ask us to produce just enough books to allow them to give copies to friends and relatives, in which case they need nothing further from us upon publication. Some books, however, will be of interest to a slightly bigger (often local or specialised) market and it may be worth investing your time in the promotion and sales of such titles. We do give verbal advice free of charge to all those who publish via us, but there may be additional sales and marketing services that we can help you with. Again, we will advise you on the best way to proceed in your particular case, and where there are to be any costs associated with such services (eg. press releases, posters, leaflets etc) we will make sure that you are fully aware of them. Also available is some free written information to help you to market and sell your book, which we can send to you once work on your book is underway. In terms of the distribution of books which have a wider market, we can offer advice in finding the best and most cost-effective way of getting your books to shops etc and individuals – including storage, packaging and despatch. You may decide to use the distribution company that handles all the books we publish commercially to store and mail out your books (we can advise you about the charges for this once we know what you require), or you can make your own arrangements. The best way to maximise your income from any sales, however, is to handle the storage and distribution yourself. This does involve a little time and effort but is manageable for books where sales are modest and orders come in slowly.

If you decide to have a paperback book you will need a cover, and a jacket will be needed for a hardback. In either case, we can create an original design for you, from the very simple and economical, to the most complex and lavish. Again, we will advise you as to the best options for you and what the costs will be so that you can make an informed choice. We don’t use templates so each cover/jacket is individually created to look very attractive, have impact, and convey the subject matter of the book. Visit our examples page to look at some of the covers we have designed.

Both covers and jackets need a ‘blurb’, or short summary of the book, written in a way that is intended to spark interest in it. We usually ask the author to provide the summary and then if required we can ‘jazz it up’ – although of course, you will always have the final say on exactly how the blurb is worded.

You don’t have to have an ISBN by law, but you will need one if the books are to be sold through shops, online via Amazon etc, because all retail outlets will need an ISBN and barcode. An ISBN, International Standard Book Number, is a unique number that allows potential buyers (especially the book trade) to find details of your book and order it. A barcode for the book is generated from the ISBN. If you don’t have these, retailers cannot accept the books for sale.

ISBNs are available only from Nielsen Book Data, the UK ISBN Agency, and cost £75 for a single one and £149 for a sequence of 10 if you think you might publish further books. The Nielsen website www.nielsenbookdate.co.uk is easy to use, and they are really helpful if you ring or email them with queries. Bascially, you are setting yourself up as a mini publisher and they will ask you for information so you can do this. You will need to have a name for you as a publisher (this can be your name or you can make up a company name that means something to you) and contact details for you so Nielsen can get in touch. Once they have all they need, including payment, they will supply the number of ISBNs you wish to buy, usually electronically by email. You can then allocate an ISBN to your book and you will need to give details of the book to Nielsen, usually via their online form, but you can ask for other methods if online is difficult for you. Details that are required include title, author, price, publisher, binding, number of pages, publication date, blurb and how it can be obtained (ie the distributor, which will may be you or a company you choose to do this for you). If you get stuck we might be able to help you with this, but it is best to ask Nielsen for guidance in the first instance. You can later add to the record for your book, for example putting the cover on (again, Nielsen can guide you on this) and we can supply you with the cover in the correct format.

Booksellers of all kinds, including Amazon etc, draw all their data from this source and this happens automatically – ie the publisher doesn’t need to do anything further to make the book available via any bookseller.

These are created using an ISBN and like barcodes on any product they are used to identify the item (in this case your book), sell it through tills, monitor stock levels and re-order. Because all retailers have computerised systems which depend on barcodes, any product which is to be sold via them, including books, must have one. We can generate barcodes and place them in the appropriate place on covers and jackets.

Authors always ask us about Amazon, often because the way books appear on the site seems to be mystifying! It really isn’t at all, and alarm bells should ring if any company tells you, or implies, that it involves effort to get your book to appear. See ISBNs to understand how Amazon obtains information about any new book. There are things you can do to try to help sales via Amazon, which we can discuss with you when you publish with us.