Frequently asked questions

What is an ISBN?

The International Standard Book Numbers system identifies any book published anywhere in the world. The unique 13-digit number (10-digit prior to January 2007) should be printed on the reverse of the title page of a book along with copyright and publisher information. The ISBN has a sequence that identifies both the publisher and the publication – the first number identifies the language of the book (0 or 1 for English), the next few digits identify the publisher, then the publication has a unique number and the last number is a check digit.
In Australia the ISBN agency is held exclusively by Thorpe Bowker. You can obtain your own ISBN or Palmer Higgs can provide this service for you.

What is Legal Deposit?

Legal Deposit is a requirement under the Copyright Act 1968 for publishers and self publishing authors to deposit a copy of any work published in Australia with the National Library and when applicable, the deposit libraries in your home state. Legal Deposit ensures that Australian publications are preserved for use now and in the future and that your book information is available in important national bibliographic databases. This ensures that your self-published book receives the same bibliographic exposure as any published book.

What is Cataloguing-in-Publishing?

Cataloguing in Publication (CiP) is a free service offered to publishers by the National Library of Australia to provide a bibliographic record for a book before it is published. The CiP record is derived from information supplied by the publisher and includes author/s, title, ISBN and price. Library of Congress Subject Headings and Dewey decimal classification numbers are assigned to facilitate subject access. The record is created and arranged according to internationally established standards. 
The CiP record is added to the Australian National Bibliographic Database (ANBD) which provides advance notice of new publications to libraries, booksellers and the general public. When the book is published the CiP data is printed on the reverse side of the title page. For electronic publications, the CiP data appears near the title and other publication details. The CiP data printed in the book is an abbreviated form of the online record.
For a CiP on-line application, visit the National Library web site or Palmer Higgs can provide this service for you.

What about Copyright?

Copyright protection is a complex area and you should seek advice on any areas you are not sure of. However, the most important thing to know is that in Australia, your work is automatically protected by law as long as it is in a substantive form (i.e. written down) but that you cannot claim copyright on ideas – so if you have an idea for a book, get it down in writing before you tell anyone about it! One exception to this is if your work is created during a part of your employment, then copyright will usually belong to the employer.It is important to note that if you commission an illustrator, photographer or designer the copyright is retained by the creator not by the person commissioning the work. When commissioning any creative work make sure that you negotiate rights to use the material for any purpose connected with your book.Copyright is indicated by a copyright notice which consists of the symbol © (or the word ‘copyright’), the name of the copyright owner, and the year of first publication.
For further information about copyright, contact the Australian Copyright Council

What about Permissions?

If you wish to use any third party material, e.g. illustrations, photographs or text extracts in your book, you will need to obtain written permission. Terms and conditions vary so be sure to negotiate full rights wherever possible, including international rights if you plan to sell your book on Amazon for example.For copyright clearance on any third party material you may wish to use, the following organisations can help:Australian Picture and Copyright Association (APACA) – pictorial clearances
Australian Performing Rights Association/AMCOS (clearance for music and song lyrics)
Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) – a starting point for text clearances
VISCOPY – clearances for works by visual artists

How should I prepare my manuscript?

Your manuscript is the foundation of your book and if formatted well and logically it can save considerable time and cost when handed over for production. It is important to realise that with the rise of digital formats, such as eBooks, that automation is the key to making your book available in multiple formats as quickly and as cost effectively as possible.

Here are some hints for providing your manuscript:

  • Make all the text black
  • If you require your book to be edited and professionally typeset remember to keep it simple, supply your manuscript double spaced to allow for manual mark up if required and don’t format it to look like a finished book, your editor and designer/typesetter will manage that process for you.
  • Mark any instructions to your designer or typesetter in red (such as, use of drop caps, or insert illustration number etc). Ideally, global instructions should appear at the beginning of the document, instructions that apply to one paragraph only should appear at the start of the paragraph and the insertion of an image or illustration should be placed as <insert illustration 0001 (file name)>.
  • Always include page numbering at the foot of each page. This assists when checking page proofs against the manuscript.
  • Limit font usage to two fonts, serif (i.e. Tmes Roman) for text and sans serif (i.e. Arial) for headings. If you have multiple headings use different point sizes and bolding to indicate the hierarchy, that can be applied as styles in Microsoft Word. (Use A Head for the top level chapter heading or section heading and working down the alphabet as required to the least important heading.) The most important thing to remember is to always be consistent.
  • Avoid multiple returns, use page breaks and/or paragraph spacing instead.
  • Avoid double spaces – This is a tradition carried over from the days of mono spaced typewriters. Modern word processing and page layout software recognises the difference between character, word and sentence spacing. Double spacing is no longer required and if included it will be removed by the typesetter or designer which adds time and cost to your project.
  • Avoid multiple tabs – Use one tab only between each item or column. Always use the tab function and never use the spacebar to create tabs.
  • Use italic for emphasis throughout the body text reserve bold for sub headings if necessary.

How should I supply my own artwork?

PDF is the most reliable way to supply artwork, although we are happy to accept files in the most popular applications including Microsoft Word and InDesign.

Some notes on file preparation (internal pages)

  • Always make sure that you include fonts and linked files such as images.
  • If on the internal pages there are graphics that run off the page always include a bleed of 5mm. It may also be worth checking your print quote as sometimes the addition of bleed may increase the printing price.
  • Always include trims.

Some notes on file preparation (cover)

  • Make sure all artwork on the cover is supplied as CMYK
  • Make sure all images have a minimum resolution of 300dpi at 100% (a 300dpi image that has been enlarged to 200% will have a resolution of 150dpi)
  • Include a 5mm bleed all round
  • Include front cover, spine and back cover as one file (see diagram below).


How do I calculate my spine width?

Divide the total number of pages (including prelims and end matter) and divide by 20 then add 2mm for cover thickness. For example, for a 260 page book divide by 20 + 2 = 15mm

How do I calculate how many pages my manuscript will make?

This will always depend on the book size and also the design of the pages (i.e. margins and point size, etc) as a rough rule of thumb for budgeting purposes only allow 350 words per page.What are the standard book sizes?There is no restriction as to the book size that you choose, however the following standard sizes used by the publishing industry are geared to the most cost effective use of a printing press

  • A 181mm x 111mm
  • B 198mm x 129mm
  • B + 210mm x 138mm
  • C 232mm x 152mm
Are there any restrictions as to how many pages I can have in my book?
This will depend on the binding process and the paper used. As a rough guide, for a perfect bound book, the minimum number of pages is 48 and the maximum is around 600 on standard paper. If you have a monster of a book of over 600 pages you should meet with your printer or publishing consultant to discuss alternatives.What are trims?Pages are usually printed on a larger sheet which are then folded and trimmed. Trim marks are applied to the outer edge of the page to indicate where the page is to be trimmed to the final size.What are bleeds?When using an image that runs to the edge of a page a bleed is created which extends the image outside the trim or page (see illustration above) The reason for doing this is that once the book is printed the three outside edges are guillotined on the trim marks. If the guillotine is a fraction out (less than half a millimetre a white line will appear along the edge of the page).Does it cost extra to print images or diagrams?If the images are supplied digitally and to the correct resolution (300dpi) then there should be no extra charge for printing. Care should be taken when selecting paper and printing processes as some provide better results than others. If in doubt you should consult your printer or publishing consultant for guidance.What are the best fonts to use?As a general rule it is best to restrict the number of typefaces to two, one serif font for the text and one sans serif font for headings. To create hierarchical headings use fonts within the same family i.e. bold, extra bold, italic etc. When considering the use of heading styles remember that clarity and speed of recognition are essential, don’t over design as this may lead to reader confusion which will break the natural flow that you want to achieve.What are the standard margins?The outside margin should be 3mm less than the margin in the gutter. There are no standard margins, as variation occurs from book to book, but as rough guide allow 20mm for the outside margin 23mm for the inside or gutter and 25mm for the top and bottom.

What paper options do I have?

The paper used in a publication will vary depending on the book type. For fiction and one colour trade books the three poplar stocks are:

  • 80gsm offset (similar to bond paper)
  • 70–80gsm cream a smooth paper with a cream colour
  • 79gsm bulky paperback is a textured paper which is a very popular paper for fiction and one-colour books. This stock has the advantage of bulking up the book or making it appear to have more pages.

What binding options do I have?

Saddle stitching
This is the simplest form of binding where the book is first folded and stapled usually with two wires through the saddle. Used for books that have too few pages to perfect bind and is ideal for books between 8 and 48 pages.

Perfect binding
This process involves gluing the book at the spine and then wrapping a cover around the internal pages. Similar to the binding used on paperbacks.

Case binding
Case binding can give the book prestige to which many embellishments can be added to the cover such as foil stamping. It is of a rigid construction that will withstand heavy and prolonged usage. The internal pages are folded in sections of 16 pages and then sewn with cotton and the case is then glued to the spine. Case binding can be produced in short runs, it doesn’t normally become economically viable until print runs of 1000 or more.What are the minimum print runs?The minimum print run is 1 book, however it is often not economical for books that contain internal colour pages. The unit price is higher for printing small quantities which has the advantage of low to no financial risk.How long will it take to print my book?For planning purposes you should always allow a minimum of two weeks for a book printed in Australia and eight weeks if printed offshore. Production times will vary from book to book, so it advisable to discuss schedules with you printer or publishing consultant.