Formatting a Self-Published Book

Formatting a self-published book is a broad subject with a lot of intricacies. In this post, I’ll be talking generally about what your formatting options are and what formats work best for what kinds of books. I’ll talk about where to find resources and expertise, the best programs for formatting a self-published book, and some general concerns and things to think about. However, I won’t be digging into the nitty-gritty of how to format a book for self-publishing. However, I do plan to do future posts on font size, margins, color schemes, and things like that. So if you have detailed formatting questions, please leave a comment! It really helps me figure out what people want to read about. And of course, feel free to share your own expertise in the comment section!

Paperbacks, ebooks, and PDFS! Oh My!

A book opened to the middle. The left side page is an ordinary printed page but the right side is an ebook reader!
The book of the future? Paperback, ebook hybrids?

The first question people usually ask about formatting is: what are the formatting options for a book? In general, the three most popular formats are:

  1. print books
  2. reflowable ebook
  3. PDF file

Print books

Print books, or “books” as we used to call them, are the most versatile formatting option. You’ve probably worked with print books in the classroom most of your life and have seen the variety. In particular, print books is the only format that the user can access without technology and of course the only format they can write in, so it’s particularly helpful for student books. Print books are also the format that preserves author intent, including color and layout and fonts the best (with PDF a close second). And yes, I said color. Printing color books does raise your costs, but not necessarily unsustainably, particularly when compared to books produced by major publishers. Continue reading “Formatting a Self-Published Book”

Free Sample Copyright Page for Educational Books

This post is basically my way of helping small publishers and self-publishers by sharing a free sample copyright page. After 6 years of publishing, I’ve developed a template for a book copyright page that covers the legal bases, helps deter intellectual property theft, gives readers the information they need if they want to reuse or adapt some part of your work, and also acknowledges other creators involved in your work.

You can copy my free sample copyright page and use it in its entirety, or take bits and pieces. You can also use it as a template to create a copyright page in your own words. Adapt it as you see fit. I would love it if you referred people to this post by linking or word-of-mouth. When people ask where you got the ideas for your brilliant copyright page for your textbook, feel free to send them to me! Just please do respect my intellectual property rights and copyright, and do not share or distribute the sample page on your site or pass it off as your own, please!

You can scroll down to the free sample copyright page text any time, but I do think it’s important to clear up some misconceptions. Copyright law is complicated and often open to interpretation. As with any point of law (in the US, at any rate), it’s impossible to say exactly what is a violation and what isn’t until a case goes to court. And hopefully, you’ll never have to go to court over copyright. When it comes to any question of using someone else’s intellectual property, I always recommend talking to a lawyer. When it comes to defending your own intellectual property (or that of your authors), I believe you should take as many steps as you reasonably can!

I sometimes get asked, “Is a copyright page legally required?” The simple answer is No (in the US). According to the US Copyright Office,  “Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.” As soon as you make something, it’s copyrighted. But, there’s a big but:

BUT …

Lawsuits generally require that you show that you tried to protect your copyright in some way. And having a copyright page is a simple and free way to do just that. Like I said, take as many steps as you reasonably can to defend your copyright!

I’d also consider registering your copyright with the copyright office. It’s not too hard, or time-consuming, and it only costs $35!

That being said, what’s the minimum requirement for a copyright page?

 © 2022 Walton Burns. All rights reserved.

That’s it. The copyright symbol (or the word Copyright), the year of creation, and the name of the holder. I’m not totally sure you need the All rights reserved statement, but why would you exclude it.

Basically, this says you have the copyright to this work, and you don’t cede any rights (publishing, adaptation, translation, storage, distribution, etc…) to any one else. Including this is a signal that you are interested in defending those rights.

I like to add the ISBN numbers here for three reasons:

  1. It specifies exactly what is being copyrights because ISBN numbers are unique to each format and edition of a book.
  2. It lets people know if the book exists in other formats.
  3. The ISBN number is used by universities, book stores, and other retailers to order your book. I want them to be able to do that, and they expect to find it on the copyright page.

So I add:

ISBN: 1234567891234 (print)
             4321987654321 (EPUB)
             1112223334440 (Kindle) 

You’ll also sometimes see an enumeration of those rights, something like this:

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods.

This boilerplate language specifies some of the rights you have as the copyright holder. In this case, it specifically says no one can copy or distribute your book or any part of it. Notice that it doesn’t mean you lose any rights not specifically enumerated here, another common misunderstanding! This kind of text is great thing to have on your copyright page if you ever want to sue someone for pirating your works. It shows that you are taking a number of steps to protect your rights as copyright holder.

The problem is that most people gloss over boilerplate text and they may not understand overly technical language any way. So I like to put it in my own words so that people can understand it. It also helps to include an appeal to well-meaning people who might think it’s ok to throw your PDF worksheets in a teacher resource folder or photocopy half your book and give it away to their colleagues.  I sympathize with those teachers, particularly if they teach in settings where the administrators don’t provide teaching tools or a budget for buying books. So sometimes you need to explain clearly that that kind of behavior can jeopardize future sales, meaning it effectively takes income away from you, the author, and the publisher who in turn pays editors, designers, and other professionals.

Here’s my version:

This is not a photocopiable book. Our authors, editors, and designers work hard to develop original, high-quality content. They deserve compensation. Please respect their efforts and their rights under copyright law.

Do not copy, photocopy, or reproduce this book or any part of this book (unless the page is marked PHOTOCOPIABLE) for use inside or outside the classroom, in commercial or non-commercial settings. It is also forbidden to copy, adapt, or reuse this book or any part of this book for use on websites, blogs, or third-party lesson-sharing websites.

Now, it’s never a bad idea to carve out some exceptions. Notice that I already did add an exception for pages marked photocopiable, which your book may or may not have, There are many good reasons why you may give permission to someone to use part of your book.

The first reason you may want people to reproduce your copyrighted book is to quote it in reviews, articles, blog posts, or social media. Now, I doubt any one is going around suing book bloggers for quoting from their book, but just in case, it’s not a bad idea to modify that rights statement:

Do not copy, photocopy, or reproduce this book or any part of this book (unless the page is marked PHOTOCOPIABLE) for use inside or outside the classroom, in commercial or non-commercial settings, except for the use of brief quotations used in reviews. It is also forbidden to copy, adapt, or reuse this book or any part of this book for use on websites, blogs, or third-party lesson-sharing websites.

The second reason is you may want to give people permission to license your content. I was contacted by a woman writing a book of activities and she wanted to use an activity from my book, verbatim. We negotiated a reasonable fee and I was happy to give her permission. And sometimes I’m happy to give permission for free. An NGO teaching refugees in a camp in Africa wanted to use some of my lessons and I had no problem agreeing to let them at no cost.

So I add something like:

For permission requests, write to the publisher at “ATTN: Permissions”, at the address below:

ADDRESS
EMAIL
WEBSITE

This serves the double purpose of getting your address and website and email into the book, in case anyone wants to bulk order 100 copies of your book or hire you for a project or something else.

Since books often are the gateway to other things, you could add a statement such as:

Discounts on class sets and bulk orders available upon inquiry.

Walton Burns is available for author visits at your school, library, conference, or other events. For more information or to schedule a visit, please write to EMAIL.

If you do consulting work, add that instead or in addition! Now if you are a fulltime consultant or do lots of appearances, presentations, and training events, you might skip this on the copyright page. Instead add a page to the end matter with more detailed information about your services and how to get in touch.

You could stop here and have a nice little copyright page for your textbook or teacher resource book. However, it’s always a good idea to acknowledge the people who worked on your book. It builds goodwill and it helps them get future work. Many editors and designers actually require you to give credit so check your contracts. You might need to add editors, the interior designer and the cover designer.

Edited by NAME
Interior Design by NAME
Cover by NAME

or

Cover and Interior Design by NAME

Now, if you’re being smart you’ve sourced images that you have the right to use (See Where to get great illustrations for self-published books for some help on getting art for your book). However, many images still require acknowledgement and even if it’s not required, it’s never a bad idea. Again, it helps build goodwill and it’s something you’d want others to do. It’s hard to convince others to respect your copyright if you are taking shortcuts with other people’s.

So consider adding who created the image, the source, and if it’s not an image you purchased or licensed, add the license type. If you get permission from the creator directly, note that.

Cover Image, ARTIST / STOCKPHOTOSITE.COM
Image page 29, ARTIST / XYZSTOCKSITE.COM
Image page 42, ARTIST / SOURCE (Public Domain)
Image page 154, PHOTOGRAPHER / SOURCE (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Image page 203, ARTIST, Used by permission

If your book has a lot of images, consider doing a separate acknowledgements page. These are often found in the end matter.

We only have two more things to add. Country of Manufacture and First Printing. If you’re printing books yourself, add the country of manufacture. This is mainly for customs purposes, so you may not need it, but it’s easy to add and if you do sell foreign rights, or partner with a distributor abroad, you’re already covered.

If you’re doing Print-on-Demand, the printer adds it on the last page, so you can write “Country of Manufacture Specified on Last Page” on your copyright page. And since your POD books are available internationally, it’s a good thing to have.

Lastly, it’s a good idea to add the year of printing, something like:

First Printing 2022.

This establishes when the first edition was printed. If you do another print run, this number will not change so people know when the first edition came out. If you are doing print runs instead of POD, you can go the traditional route. Estimate how many print runs you think you will do, then add a row of numbers underneath. Start with 2 and go to your maximum number of runs. Print it centered and evenly spaced:

2 3 4 5 6 7

Every time you print a new run of books, delete one number. That way, the reader knows which print run the book came from and how many runs there might be in the future.

3 4 5 6 7

Note that there’s no special order for these elements to go in. I order them in a way that makes sense to me, but you may do things differently. You may also add other elements like a logo, a mailing list link, even a dedication. Others put these elements on different pages!

So take a look at my free copyright page sample, but also look at books similar to yours. See what elements they have on their copyright page. Feel free to leave a comment with your questions, your adaptations or your own copyright pages. Suggestions on helping people think before pirating your work are always helpful!

Free Sample Copyright Page for Educational Books

ISBN: 1234567891234 (print)
             4321987654321 (EPUB)
             1112223334440 (Kindle) 

Copyright 2019 AUTHOR NAME. All rights reserved.

This is not a photocopiable book. Our authors, editors, and designers work hard to develop original, high-quality content. They deserve compensation. Please respect their efforts and their rights under copyright law.

Do not copy, photocopy, or reproduce this book or any part of this book (unless the page is marked PHOTOCOPIABLE) for use inside or outside the classroom, in commercial or non-commercial settings, except for the use of brief quotations used in reviews. It is also forbidden to copy, adapt, or reuse this book or any part of this book for use on websites, blogs, or third-party lesson-sharing websites.

For permission requests, write to the publisher at “ATTN: Permissions”, at the address below:

ADDRESS
EMAIL
WEBSITE

Discounts on class sets and bulk orders available upon inquiry. 

Edited by NAME
Design by NAME

Cover Image, ARTIST / STOCKPHOTOSITE.COM
Image page 29, ARTIST / XYZSTOCKSITE.COM
Image page 42, ARTIST / SOURCE (Public Domain)
Image page 154, PHOTOGRAPHER / SOURCE (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Image page 203, ARTIST, Used by permission

Country of Manufacture Specified on Last Page


This free sample copyright page was originally published on Medium as: Copyright page for textbooks.

Do Self-Publishers Really Need Editors

One of the biggest debates in the self-publishing world these days is: do self-publishers really need editors? The answer is yes, yes, and yes. You need an editor, or rather you need editing services. There are (basically) 3  kinds of editing and you need to go through all three steps. However, you may or may not need a professional editor for all three! So why do so many self-publishers think they don’t need an editor?

One of the main motivations for self-publishing is keeping creative control, as I mentioned in the first article in this series on how to self-publish teaching materials. So sometimes self-publishers avoid editors because they view the editing process as a loss of control. In this view, editors are imposing their will on the writer and may symbolize the conventional or mainstream thinking that the writer is self-publishing specifically to avoid.

I think it helps to remember that editors are there to make the work better. Editors do have a different point of view, but it never hurts to consider other ideas and perspectives. It is true that editors may well have a more conventional point of view, but then your readers and customers may also be more conventional. It’s not giving up creative control to get advice from professionals who have worked with a lot of teaching materials. Finally, one of the joys of being a self-publisher is that the editor works for you. So if you really don’t agree with their suggestions, you don’t have to take them.

Three young people looking at a book held by the middle student. All three have surprised or shocked looks on their faces, mouths open, eyes wide.
These are your readers when they see that typo that you missed because you didn’t edit!

Continue reading “Do Self-Publishers Really Need Editors”

Getting Great Illustrations for Self-Published Books

This is the third part of my series on Self-Publishing Teaching Materials. Feel free to click and browse to the article or articles that address your needs or concerns. Here I’ll be talking about getting illustrations for self-published books. Not enough authors or writers give much thought to art. Yet the process of getting art for your project needs to be taken seriously. I’m not getting into cover design just yet; that’s a whole topic itself, something I will cover in a later post. Right now, we’re talking about interior art.


It’s important to choose art that adds value and to think about the style and purpose of adding illustrations. There are also licensing and copyright issues to consider. In addition, you may wonder Should you hire an illustrator? How much will it cost? Can I use pictures from free sites? Should I? How much can I expect to pay for art for my book?

Let’s start with what kinds of illustrations you might need, and to figure that out, you need to think about the purpose of art in a book.

Some art

Why Do You Need Art?

This is a hard question to answer philosophically, but fortunately, I mean it practically. What actual art do you need for your book and why? The first step before figuring out where to get art is to think about what kinds of illustrations you need at all. Take some time to sit with your content, if you haven’t already, and note where you think illustrations would be needed, what kind, and what you think they should look like.

Continue reading “Getting Great Illustrations for Self-Published Books”

How to Find a Marketable Idea for Self-Publishing

This is the second part of my series on Self-Publishing Teaching Materials. In part one, I talked about how to come up with an idea for original content.

Here I’ll talk about finding a marketable idea for self-publishing. It’s nice to put your teaching materials out there, but how do you know what your potential customers want? What’s the difference between a teaching book that is marketable and one that isn’t, particularly in the education market? What types of self-published books sell the best?


Why are you self-publishing?

Many people self-publish because they want complete creative control over their project. They have a very specific vision for what their teaching materials should look like or how they want those materials delivered.

This is, of course, one of the most attractive benefits of self-publishing your teaching materials. You can write what you please, lay it out as you please, and distribute or market it as you please! If you aren’t concerned with making money, you may not care if your materials are marketable or not. Authors may want to self-publish for a variety of reasons where marketability of the idea doesn’t matter:

  • To use the materials in their own classroom or school
  • To give away to teachers, schools, students, or non-profits in need
  • To give away in order to get the idea out there
  • To add to their resume or gain prestige
  • Personal satisfaction and experience

If any of the reasons above are your main motivation for self-publishing your teaching idea, you may not think about marketability. You’re welcome to skip ahead to my next post about self-publishing resources you’ll need and where to find them.

However, regardless of your motivations, it’s good to take a minute to think about whether anyone will pick up your book free or not. Will it be useful? So it might be helpful to think less about finding a marketable idea for self-publishing, than finding a useful or beneficial idea for self-publishing, one teachers will actually use.

And there’s also no shame in wanting to make a profit, either. You have a right to try to make a living on your work! Continue reading “How to Find a Marketable Idea for Self-Publishing”

How to Self-Publish Teaching Materials: Original Content

As a publishing consultant and editor, I am constantly asked how to self-publish teaching materials. How do you self-publish? What content should I self-publish? Self-publishing in English Language Teaching has been around for a surprisingly long time and is still going strong. For that reason, I’m going to publish this series of articles on self-publishing materials for teachers and educators, starting with what kinds of teaching materials work well for self-publishing.

A moody but attractive looking young writer holding a pen and paper and looking soulful.
What I think I look like when I’m working

There are a lot of things to think about and it can be quite daunting. But it can also be a fun and exciting journey! I recommend every first-time authors get some help, whether it be paid professionals, joining an authors group, and/or reading as many books and blog posts as you can on how to self-publish teaching materials, starting with this one, perhaps!


This is the first part of a series on Self-Publishing Teaching Materials that I’ll be publishing weekly. Here, I talk about getting an idea for some original content. Next week, I’ll talk about making sure your idea is marketable.


What to Self-Publish?

So let’s talk about what kind of content works well for self-publishing. And it’s actually simple to articulate:

You need original content that teachers want to buy.

That is, you need something no one else is doing, something that has a unique appeal, and it has to be something that other people are going to use. Even if your main motivation isn’t money, there’s no point publishing something that is not useful or helpful to others.

In this article, we’re going to look at the first part of that statement.

Original Content

Hopefully, this is where you’ve started your journey toward self-publishing: You have an original idea. I get a lot of teachers approaching me saying, “I’ve always wanted a book that did this, and I got tired of looking so I just wrote my own.”

Find Your Niche

A confused-looking man staring at a computer screen with one eyebrow raised as if he cannot believe what he is seeing.
What I actually look like when I’m writing

Or perhaps your materials fit into a niche. As the large publishing companies, for a variety of reasons, try to create materials that appeal to a global audience, opportunities for specialized niche materials have arisen. There are a number of ways your materials might be specialized including: Continue reading “How to Self-Publish Teaching Materials: Original Content”