This guide is designed to help self-publishers with common questions about the logistics of book publishing and basic book design. The author’s professional experience includes seven years in the Publishing Services division of the American Library Association, and twenty years as a librarian at Michigan State University.
The author is not an attorney, and neither the author nor the MSU Libraries accept liability for the outcome of your publishing venture. You are solely responsible for the decisions about publishing logistics and book design for your publication. However, we wish you the best with your publishing venture and hope this guide will be useful.
A publisher is responsible for marketing a work: that is, bringing it to the attention of potential customers. And, a publisher is responsible for making the work available for sale. That could be via mail order, arranging for it to be sold through bookstores, etc.
Book printing is the physical manufacturing of the books. This is simply a service that is part of the cost of publishing. It’s rare to see printers even identified in books these days, except for fine press books printed on antique equipment or where the printer was an artistic partner in the design.
If you are an Espresso Book Machine customer, the MSU Libraries are not your publisher, but your printer. As the publisher, you are responsible for marketing and selling your work.
There are certainly no legal requirements for book design. Your book will be eligible for copyright protection even if you omit page numbering, or put the table of contents in the back, or print the title page upside-down.
However, there are some long-established conventions of book design which readers are conditioned to expect, simply from long exposure. If you ignore these conventions, a customer may not be able to articulate why your book has an amateurish look to it, but that may well be their impression.