Publishing Tools for the Enterprising Student or Teacher

[Note: If you’re a student or classroom teacher, you might want to go check this other site out first–it’s a website for kids and teens who want to get published in an easier way than what I’m about to show you. It seems to be at a very reasonable price too. Go to and check out what they offer. They publish compilations for classes, too, which can be used as fund raisers.]

Here’s what I used:

I had read that self-publishing is an especially effective option if you are aiming at a niche market, and I was. I wanted to target the homeschooling population because I homeschooled my own kids and had written my book with homeschooled kids in mind.

After months and months of research interspersed with learning to build this website, and along with finishing the book, I had come across some choice options which I highly recommend. They worked for me at least, and hopefully some of these will work for you, too.


Book Design Wizard

This program is for easy text formatting (toggles the table of contents to the chapters and automatically updates page numbers for the table of contents; sets up the proper mirror margins; and the alternating even/odd headers, plus a lot more).

About $40

As I have used this program, I have worked to learn also how to do most of the set up myself in Word. But I couldn’t have done it with out this program. I still use it for the initial set-up of a book, and then usually tweak things directly in Word. I write the book first in a normal Word program without special formatting, then copy and paste it into the book design wizard when I’m close to being finished, but you can start in the Book Design set-up, too.

Book Cover Pro

A cover design program — formats the cover (front, back, spine) properly for any size book. Easy to learn and fun too. About $80.

Publishing Sources

Create Space

Create Space is a subsidiary of Amazon for self-publishing books, cd’s, and dvd’s. There are NO set up fees at all. Very cheap printing costs.  Book goes instantly to Amazon (unless you opt out). You can submit changes to your files (to the book) at any time without extra cost too, while with some companies changing even a small detail costs. Create Space tech support has also been great and they are easy to contact by phone or email.

Lightning Source

After making sure a book is exactly as I want it, I spend around $100 total to put it through the hoops with Lightning Source. You have to sign up as a publishing company (but that can consist of just you),  and they accept the same files that I send to Create Space. It costs here to make changes, though, so that’s why I wait until everything is just right. LS puts your book out through Ingram — a wholesale distribution company that is nationally respected and well-known. At that point your book goes everywhere (Barnes and Noble, Borders, etc.) and is available to any bookstore or library at the wholesale price (which does not happen through Create Space (though Create Space has recently introduced their program for expanded distribution which you may want to research and compare).

About $100

Putting your files into a PDF

All files have to be submitted in pdf form. I use the free pdf creator  Primo Pdf Creator.  And, for some reason, I had trouble with the free Adobe reader opening my pdf’s. I tried switching pdf creators first, but that didn’t help. So then I switched to another free reader–Foxit Reader–and had no problems after that.


Create Space (and other publishers) will give you a free ISBN, but then YOU do not own it. If you switch to another publisher, you have to get a new ISBN which leads to confusion, a “second edition” and most self publishers giving advice online say buy your own. It’s a scam if anyone other than the US ISBN agency, Bowker, tries to sell you one, too. People buy blocks of a hundred or more and then sell them off piece-meal for more, but they still own the isbn and it is in their name, not yours or your company’s. There’s only one place to buy, and that’s Bowker.

The other thing you need–this one is free–is a Library of Congress Number. The Library of Congress number must be requested prior to the publication of the book so that the number can be printed on the copyright page. What you need is more specifically called the Preassigned Control Number (PCN) available to US book publishers. Use the link above to go get one.

Join a writer’s group. Here are two that I belong to:

Christian Small Publishers Association

I also joined a yahoo writer’s group which has been a constant source of helpful information. It is by invitation only (you have to know someone and get invited), so I really can’t put the link online and have random people giving my name as the person who invited them! But do a search and you can probably find many such groups to whom you can send your basic information and get in. Better yet, google up a local group. You’d be surprised how are out there. There’s probably one near you!

In Closing

I’m doing really well with my books today, though marketing is a rather constant challenge. You just have to keep a sense of humor. So I’ll close with this funny quote from Garrison Keillor:

“And if you want to write, you just write and publish yourself. No need to ask permission, just open a Web site. And if you want to write a book, you just write it, send it to or BookSurge at Amazon or PubIt or ExLibris and you’ve got yourself an e-book. No problem. And that is the future of publishing: 18 million authors in America, each with an average of 14 readers, eight of whom are blood relatives. Average annual earnings: $1.75.”