A book production checklist

Are you ready to upload your book for sale to the online retailers? Got all your front and back matter, images, fonts, and ISBNs? Use this checklist to make sure you’ve done everything you can to create a quality book that competes with books produced in the traditional publishing houses. But first, here’s a quick overview of the entire book production process. It begins with an unedited manuscript and ends with a check of the final proof before distribution.

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    Receipt of manuscript.
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    Editing! Editing! Editing!
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    Gather all of the images, logos, and fonts used in your book in both 300 and 72 dpi.
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    Assign ISBNs plus an LCCN and a CIP block to include on your copyright page.
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     Format a beautifully designed interior to export to distributors and retailers in PDF for print, a doc/docx file for Smashwords and KDP, or an EPUB for IngramSpark distribution.
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    Create an impactful book cover and export it to PDF for print and TIFF or JPG for the ebook.
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    Create carefully thought-out metadata—book description, author bio, and keywords. (Download my metadata cheat sheet here and make it your own.)
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    Upload to the online retailers like IngramSpark, Smashwords, and Amazon  KDP.
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    Proofread! Examine the proof, whether electronically or in print. Make corrections. Repeat until perfect.
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    Hit the "Publish" button.

Book Interior

You can format your eBook and print book interiors yourself using a Book Design Template in Word and InDesign or hire it out to a pro. With templates the correct book size, margin width, header and footer placement, are all figured out for you. Change fonts and paragraph styles to make it all your own.

A book’s front matter can include any of the following material and should appear on odd or even (left-hand or right-hand, recto or verso) pages, as noted below. Use lower case Roman numerals for front matter.

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    First odd page—can optionally include advance praise for your book—quotes and testimonials. In some books, there are several pages of these but I find more than two excessive.
  • First even page—Copyright page—for the copyright, a list of ISBNs for the various formats (hardback, paperback, ebook), LCCN, CIP block, credits for design, production, and artwork. (Here's why you should always purchase your own ISBNs.)
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    Next odd page—half title—I like to give it the same type treatment as the book cover, even in the ebook version. Ask your book cover designer to provide this separately.
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    Next even page—Frontispiece—an illustration.
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    Next odd-page—Title page—includes the title and subtitle. Also include the author name, publisher name, and logo. As with the half title, it looks much more professional if page uses the same type treatment and artistic elements as the book cover.
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    Next odd page—Dedication
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    Next even page—Epigraph (quotation)
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    Next odd page—Table of Contents
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    If you have lists of tables and figures, these can go on the next even and odd pages. But consider moving these to the back pages of your ebook edition.
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    Next odd page—Acknowledgements, which can also be moved to the back pages of your ebook edition.
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    Next odd page—Acknowledgements, which can also be moved to the back pages of your ebook edition.

The next pages, optionally, are:

  • Introduction
  •  Prologue
  • A second half-title if there is so much information in your front matter that your book needs a “break” before diving into the first chapter.


Here begins pagination with the Arabic numeral 1.

  • Part—if your book is separated into parts that contain chapters.
  •  All the chapters of your book.  Parts and chapters may begin wherever they fall but you might decide to begin parts and chapters consistently on odd or even pages.
  • Epilogue
  • Afterword

Back Matter

Generally, back matter includes the following elements. (Also see my post on 20 Rookie Interior Design Mistakes to Avoid.)

  • Appendix, addendum, chronology, notes, glossary, bibliography, list of contributors, index, errata, colophon.
  • About the author—an image and bio.
  • End headers and footers, including pagination, here and add any of the following, if relevant.
  • Acknowledgements
  • Invitation to review the book—with a link to a page on your website (and not to Amazon, because they will not distribute books with competing services listed).
  • Invitation to join your email list or connect on social media.
  • Also by…
  • Sample of an upcoming title.
  • Book club discussion questions.

Differences between print and ebooks

Make two folders on your computer for your final book after it has been completely edited and proofread—one for your eBook and one for print. They may have different (or rearranged) front and back matter. And the image quality setting will definitely be different.

Front and Back Matter

In the eBook version, move important information like acknowledgments to the back. Ebooks automatically open at the body of the book (unless you’ve given your designer specific instructions to set the opening page in a certain place).

Image Quality

Images in print books must be 300 dpi in CMYK. Ebook images should be 72 dpi in RGB.

Images in print and ebooks

Headers and Footers

Print books have headers and footers and eBooks do not. Headers usually include the author name (most often on the left/even side of the page and book or chapter title on the right/odd side of the page.

If you’re using a 2WAY template from Book Design Templates in Word, and uploading doc and docx files to Amazon KDP and Smashwords, you can use the same file and the headers and footers will be stripped out automatically.

Find out more about book design templates in this post.

Book design templates

Book covers

Here’s what you need for your eBook, paperback, and hardback book covers.

eBook Covers

Amazon KDP wants a JPEG or a TIFF  in RGB less than 50MB at 72 d08 with a height/width ratio of at least 8:5 (1.6).

Smashwords’ advice is to create an image of 1,500 to 1,800 pixels to satisfy Kindle’s requirements and all other retailers. The 1600 x 2560 pixel size will give you a 1.6 ratio and future-proof your cover if pixel requirements increase even further.

Paperback Book Covers

All print book covers need a PDF with front, back, and spine. Create your cover in CMYK at 300 dpi. Use the IngramSpark or Amazon KDP template for paperbacks.

IngramSpark cover template generator

Bar Codes, ISBNs, and Paper Color

IngramSpark gives you a free bar code with the template and you can use the template for your Amazon KDP books, too. First, enter your 13-digit ISBN or 13 zeros, and choose your trim size and paper color. Generally, you want crème for immersive reading such as fiction and creative nonfiction because it’s easy on the eyes. White is generally used in nonfiction and color books. Insert the page count and choose your file type (InDesign or PDF). Include the price in the barcode. (You get a free barcode with the template, so don’t buy one elsewhere.) Don’t worry if you don’t know the exact page count or ISBN, yet. You can download another template or adjust the spine width later, using their weight and spine width calculator.

Book cover template

IngramSpark's Book Cover Template looks like this. You'll see it includes a free barcode. Embed your ISBN and the book price in the barcode, and use it anywhere else, including on your Amazon KDP cover. Because it just looks nicer when you include it in your cover file art. 

When you download your Amazon KDP Book Cover Template, it looks like this. You can use the barcode you got from IngramSpark on the cover art here, otherwise they'll stamp a barcode where it shows above in the yellow box. 

Create the paperback cover in CYMK with 300 dpi images and export to PDF.

√       Front—title, subtitle, author name, and cover image.

√       Back—a short book description, maybe one testimonial, and a short author bio and image. Also a bar code.

√       Spine—title, author name, publishing house name, and logo.

Hardcover Book Covers

Create the hardback cover in CYMK with 300 dpi images and export to PDF. Use the IngramSpark template because Amazon does not do hardcover books.

√       Front—title, subtitle, author name, and cover image.

√       Back—testimonials.

√       Spine—title, author name, publishing house name, and logo.

√       Front flap—book description.

√       Back flap—author bio.

Hardback book cover template

Sweat the Details: Book Production Resources

It’s a big list, a little tedious and seems like a lot, but go look at some traditionally published books that are like yours—new ones, not pre-internet titles—and follow their example. Here is a list of sites, posts, free downloads, and books that will help you sweat the book production details.

Carla King

Carla King is a travel and technology writer turned author and self-publishing expert. She started self-publishing in 1995 and founded the Self-Pub Boot Camp series of educational books, workshops, and online courses in 2010. She runs the self-publishing and technology track at the San Francisco Writers Conference and a series of online courses at www.selfpubbootcampcourses.com.