Q: What is involved in publishing a sefer?
A: Although on the surface publishing might appear to be a simple matter – write a sefer, lay it out, and print it – there is quite a bit more involved than meets the eye. The basic steps in the publishing process are: editing, proofreading, typography, layout, cover design, stamp-making, plate-making, printing, packing, delivery, and distribution. Each of these stages involves many decisions, and often one decision will affect another.
Q: How long does the entire publishing process take?
A: This is a hard question to answer definitively. The part that takes the most time is the editing stage, and the amount of editing varies greatly from one sefer to the next. Also, some materials (e.g., dedications and haskamos) are usually dealt with at later stages, and these can sometimes cause delays. However, assuming that all the material is ready from the beginning, the entire process should take around two to three months. In case of necessity, it can be expedited.
Q: How much does it cost to publish a sefer?
A: This basic question is probably the most common one asked … and yet the hardest to answer. This is because the two main factors in determining cost – the number of copies being ordered and the total page count – are variables that, in my experience, neither the author nor I really know until the process is underway.
Nevertheless, an author does need to have an idea of how much money to have ready before engaging in the publishing process. So, my answer is to have $5,000–7,000 on hand for 500 copies. We can tailor the expenses to the budget as we go through the process. If the author supplies me with details of what he would like to order, I can prepare a cost estimate for the job.
Q: What is included in your service?
A: Full advice and management of the project, from the time I receive the manuscript until the sefer is delivered to the author.
Q: If I want to hire my own friends or family members to do the editing, layout, or graphics, is that okay with you?
A: Working with your choice of editor is fine with me. Regarding layout and graphic designers, this should be discussed at the outset.
Q: Can I have just a simple, old-fashioned cover, or do I need to make a fancy, modern one?
A: I personally wish we could save time and money and stick to the old-fashioned covers, but the world has become accustomed to more impressive ones. Sometimes the distributor or bookstore won’t even accept it if it doesn’t have a nice enough appearance. The answer is to find a creative solution to make the cover as attractive as your budget allows, and I have several suggestions on the matter for those interested. Others, who have the funds and want to invest in a particularly striking design, will also receive many useful suggestions.
Q: Is the title important?
A: Not only is the title important – choosing the right subtitle is also vital for a sefer’s success. The goal of the cover design is twofold: to attract the potential buyer’s attention and to portray the essence of its contents so that he will open the sefer and look inside (this holds true for all packaging). So, if the title is vague and the subtitle is general, very few people will give it a second look. For example: if the sefer is called Pri Yankel, and it’s labeled as ”Hilchos Shmittah,” then even if the content is superlative and the author is well-known, it will likely sit unnoticed. I therefore recommend giving as much thought to naming your sefer as you would to naming your newborn child.
Q: What information should appear on the title page? Should it contain the same text as the cover?
A: The text on the cover should be kept to a minimum so as to be bold and clear. The title page should have a little more detail – but not too much. The exact content is one of the many details that I review together with the author.
Q: Are dedications easy to make?
A: Definitely not. There are numerous grammatical and punctuation issues to be aware of, as well as graphic considerations. Even though most readers won’t care about these, the ones paying for the dedications will, and that’s important. Nowadays, these pages are usually designed by the same graphic designer who designs the cover, utilizing the same style.
Q: Do I need to prepare a table of contents?
A: Not really. One of the items I discuss with the author are which details to include in the table of contents and how to present them so that they’ll be easy to follow. This can be implemented automatically by the layout designer, including matching the appropriate page numbers. After the layout is complete, I double-check that all the details are accurate.
Q: Do I need to hire an editor?
A: The truth is that every book in the world – even those written by the most qualified authors – is edited by a professional editor. Indeed, it is because these books are professionally edited that they are so highly regarded and successful. However, professional editing can be expensive and time-consuming, so I try to advise the author where to focus his limited energy and capital in order to accomplish his publishing goals with the best results.
Q: Can I lay out the sefer myself in Word or Davka?
A: I don’t have much experience with Davka, so I can’t answer that question. But I am quite familiar with Word and can say that it is a very user-friendly word processing program … but lacks thorough layout capability. In addition, it will take a long time to lay out the sefer in Word, and time is precious. Most sefarim are laid out in a program called Tag; some layout designers use InDesign.
Printing and Delivery
Q: When the layout and cover are ready, what is involved in the actual printing process?
A: The printer checks that the files are in order and prepares a proof copy. I check the proof copy personally, to make sure all the pages appear normal and are in the right sequence. If the author would like to check the text again himself for errors, I will gladly give him the opportunity. Once we’ve authorized the proof copy, the printer goes ahead with plate-making, printing, covers, and binding. I work with a few different printers and binders, and choose the team best suited for each job.
Q: Where do the books go when they’re done?
A: Before ordering the printing, the author determines a delivery destination, usually the distributor’s warehouse or the author’s home, and I arrange for the sefarim to be delivered there.
Q: Do I need a distributor for my sefer?
A: There are pros and cons to distribution arrangements; some people need it and others are better off handling it themselves.
Q: Do you distribute sefarim?
A: Distribution is really a business unto itself. Sometimes I will add a service of arranging distribution for the author by dealing with a distributor on behalf of the author, just as I managed the rest of the project. However, even when I don’t, for a small fee I can advise the author about which path will suit him best and how to proceed with it.