If you are considering doing a book yourself, Washington self-publishers offer these suggestions:
* Be sure you start with a good product.
* Ask for samples of printers' work.
* Get three to seven bids before you sign a contract with a printer. Make sure the job will not be subcontracted. The farther away from Washington, generally, the cheaper the cost.
* Don't pay for a four-color press if you are printing black on white only.
* Make sure all agreements are in writing to avoid confusion.
* Get page negatives from the printer in case you want to print additional copies later.
* Print more copies than you think you will sell, but don't have them bound until they are needed. Always print a few hardback (cloth) copies for libraries and reviewers.
* Don't forget you may have to store hundreds or thousands of copies in your home the day they come off the presses. Consider having them wrapped in protective plastic for a few cents more per copy.
* Keep in mind the importance to sales of the title and cover.
* Try for a cover "celebrity blurb" from an expert in the field you are writing on.
* Obtain a copyright from the Copyright Office, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20559 or 287-9100; get an International Standard Book Number from ISBN Agency, R.R. Bowker, 1180 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10036. (Bowker is publisher of Literary Market Place, which is full of information for self-publishers.)
* To set a price, estimate your costs and then check in bookstores to see what an equivalent book is selling for. If yours is a one-of-a-kind that professionals or hobbyists need to keep abreast of the topic, you can probably charge more.
* Pursue the media without making a nuisance of yourself. Try to get on radio and TV talk shows, but expect to pay expenses for out-of-town trips. Ask that your address be given so people know where to send for a copy.
* Don't be too obvious about the fact that you are your own publisher. If you give your firm a familiar-sounding name, book reviewers and sellers may take you for an established publishing house.
* Spend some pre-publication time considering how you will sell your book. If by direct mail, you will need mailing lists, particularly of people who have an interest in your topic. If it's a local book, you may have to visit each book store personally. Talk to book dealers in advance to get a feeling about their interest. If you want national distribution, you will have to convince a distributor or large chain that it's worth their while to handle your book.
* Look for alternative sales outlets, such as sporting-goods shops. Get a bank or real-estate firm to give a copy to new customers. (One woman sold recipe collections at county and state fairs.)
* If you don't have much money, start small and test the sales potential before investing larger sums. Duplicate and staple 10 copies of your recipe collection. If your neighbors aren't interested, will anyone else be?
* Keep good records of all expenses for tax purposes.
* Expect to work very hard, but don't anticipate making a lot of money. It can happen, but it's a big gamble.
Washington Independent Writers has scheduled an afternoon panel discussion on the how-tos of self-publishing during their Spring Writers Conference, Saturday, May 15 at St. Albans School, Wisconsin and Massachusetts Avenues NW. Non-member fee for the full, 8-workshop day is $100; half-day is $40. For more information: 347-4973.