Self-publishing is a valid option for many reasons. Not only do self-published authors control the creative process (think: title, cover, timing, etc.), but they also retain higher (if not all) royalties. When you decide to self-publish, the process may seem overwhelming, but the good news is there are expert services available to help. Working with a self-publishing service allows independent authors to have input while trusting technical details to a professional.
Let’s walk through the process of how to self-publish a book. This step-by-step guide for self-publishing will explain each stage, from writing to editing to printing and even post-publication essentials like marketing. Ready to dive in? Here we go!
Step 1: Write The Book (duh!)
Obvious, right? You can’t self-publish something that’s not written. However, before you publish, you should ensure your book is ready, meaning you’ve done several read-throughs and incorporated beta reader feedback. Once you feel your book is the best it can be, it’s time to move to the next step.
Step 2: Hire an Editor
There are many types of book editing, which focus on different aspects of the book:
- Developmental Editing looks at your book from a big-picture perspective, focusing on organization and structure. Sometimes this is referred to as a structural edit. During this phase, an editor will assess what’s working and what’s not and provide suggestions for revisions.
- Line Editing is the next stage of editing, where an editor looks at the book line by line, focusing on flow, prose, word choice, and style. Line editors will tighten wordiness, improve clarity, and ensure each sentence reads well.
- Copy Editing catches typos, grammatical, and punctuation mistakes and ensures the book follows the proper style guide (most often the Chicago Manual of Style). Copyeditors are experts in the written and spoken language and are trained to spot issues at the micro level.
- Proofreading is the final stage of editing, where the editor reads through a proof copy of the book, looking for anything the copyeditor may have missed. In addition, proofreaders check for layout issues, like page numbers, headers, page breaks, etc.
Hiring an editor for your book is essential in producing a high-quality, professional book. Nothing will turn a reader off more than poor grammar or numerous spelling errors. And as an author, you can only read and review your work so many times. That’s where a set of outside eyes comes into play.
Step 3: Design an Eye-Catching Cover
Book covers are the first thing readers see, whether online or in a bookstore. You can quickly lose readers if a cover doesn’t catch their eye and properly capture the genre. Despite the age-old saying, people do judge books by their covers. That’s why having a professional design your cover is critical—nothing screams “self-published book” more than an amateur cover. If you want your book to compete with traditionally-published titles (and sell copies!), your cover needs to make an impact.
Consider competitor titles in your genre when coming up with cover design ideas. Readers come to expect a particular “look” to book covers in various categories, and you want to make sure yours fits. Also important to consider is how the book cover will look when scaled down to thumbnail size in places like Amazon, social media, etc. Finally, make sure your title and author name are visible, you use a visually-pleasing color scheme, and any images accurately reflect the book’s content.
Step 4: Format for Print and eBook
Formatting refers to your book’s appearance, including spacing, margins, pagination, and chapters. It can significantly impact readability, both in terms of print and digital books. Depending on which publishing platform you plan to use, you may find formatting instructions to set up your book’s interior layout. However, if you find this process too challenging or aren’t interested in doing it yourself, you can hire a formatter with expertise in book formatting. These professionals will make your book look professional, enhance the reading experience, and convert files into the appropriate type (for instance, MOBI or EPUB).
Step 5: Choose a Distribution Method
Most self-publishers will opt for print-on-demand (POD) rather than ordering a conventional print run (which can leave you with excess copies you cannot sell). Amazon KDP is by far the most popular POD service for authors. You can set up your book through other services and link to Amazon for printing. If you’re working with a publishing service, you may be able to secure author copies at a low cost for purposes such as book signings and events.
When it comes to eBook distribution, Amazon is a popular choice, and it offers authors a higher royalty if they choose to sell exclusively on the Amazon platform. However, if you want to “go wide” and not be exclusive to Amazon, you can upload eBook files directly to places like Apple Books, Barnes & Noble Nook, Google Play, Kobo, and more. Or you can use an aggregator like Draft2Digital, which will do this for you for a small percentage of sales. So, it’s really an individual decision based on your goals and skill set.
Step 6: Market, Market, Market!
Marketing is one of the best ways to ensure your book’s success; much of it comes before the book is even launched! There are many pre-publication marketing strategies you can take, including:
- Enticing readers with a cover reveal
- Setting your book up for pre-order
- Reaching out to book influencers and book bloggers
- Writing guest posts related to your topic
- Appearing as a guest on podcasts
- Sending a press release to local media
- Contacting booksellers to schedule signings/events
- Posting on social media asking for advance reviews
- Sending an email to your newsletter subscribers
Book launches are super exciting, but it’s essential to keep the momentum going once your book is out. Plan your marketing efforts to cover the weeks/months before and after launch. It can be overwhelming to take on everything yourself, which is why some authors hire a book publicist or work with a marketing service with experience and connections. A good marketer will have successful campaigns and client testimonials to share with you—don’t be afraid to talk to their other clients to get a feel if this business relationship is the right fit.
Self-publishing has come a long way over the last decade, and authors have more tools at their fingertips than ever—which is wonderful! However, if the process feels too overwhelming, consider getting help for your self-publishing journey. At the end of the day, the goal is a top-notch book your readers will love.