What’s the difference between printing and publishing? (video)

Viewing time: 3 mins 50 secs 

The Write Question is a weekly video podcast all about writing. Today’s question? What’s the difference between printing and publishing? If you have a question you’d like me to answer you can email me, tweet me @pubcoach, or leave a message for me at the Skype account, The Write Question.


What’s the difference between printing and publishing? That’s the topic I’m addressing today in The Write Question. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach. 

I have a question from Betty Moore, a writer based in Columbia, South Carolina. Here’s what she’s asked by email…

“I’ve written two or three books for Christian audiences that I want to publish in the US. Perhaps they may need a professional editor, but maybe not. While we were living in India, I wrote and had printed a paperback lesson series for ladies. But, the printer did not give me a Library of Congress number or a price barcode. Now what?”

Thanks for the questions, Betty. I think, perhaps, you’re confusing the rather different jobs of printing and publishing. Let me explain. 

Printing is a job you need done if you intend to self-publish a book. True, it’s an important job. But it’s not the only one. Let’s imagine you were building a house. Having the foundation poured would be one job you’d need done.

But you wouldn’t expect the foundation pourer to do the framing or to paint the walls! All the foundation pourer does is pour foundations.

Similarly, printers don’t do jobs like arrange for Library of Congress numbers or bar codes. That’s YOUR job as a self-published author!

Now, I’m based in Canada, where the logistics are somewhat different. But I’ve done a bit of research for you and I provide several links in the show-notes.

The first link explains how to get your Library of Congress number, which is free.

But understand that you will ALSO need an ISBN, which stands for International Standard Book Number. Libraries, online retailers, distributors, and others all depend on this number. So, the second link I give you explains how to get an ISBN.

In Canada, and in some other countries, you can get ISBNs for free but in the US, they cost. And the cost appears to vary depending on the specifics of what you want.

As for barcodes, you will also have to pay for that. I don’t have barcodes on my books because I sell exclusively through my own website, so they’re not necessary for me. (I do have an ISBN, though.) There are a variety of companies that create barcodes. I’m including a link to one below, but note that I’m not endorsing it and you should do some more research yourself.

Finally, with respect to your comment about perhaps not needing a professional editor, I think you’re wrong. I’m a professional editor myself, and I still hired a different professional editor for both of my books.

When you write, you’re too close to the material to be an effective self-editor. All professional writers recognize the value of an independent edit.

Finally, let me wrap up with the words of writer D.C. WilliamsSelf-publishing is kind of like a bake sale. The end product does not need to resemble the one that comes from a commercial bakery, but it must taste good. No-one wants the lumpy under-baked oatmeal cookies with spinach and alfalfa flavored chips.”

Betty, there is a big difference between printing and publishing. Publishing reflects a whole series of jobs, encompassing everything from writing to marketing. In an earlier video, I offered a primer on self-publishing, and I include that link below. Good luck with your current project.


If you’d like to learn more about how to make writing a happier and more rewarding process, check out my latest book Your Happy First Draft. I don’t sell it in bookstores or via Amazon. The only place to buy it is on my website, link on the screen below and in the show notes. 


How to get your Library of Congress number

How to get an ISBN

One option for bar codes

What are the steps to self-publishing (video)

Your Happy First Draft 

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