From A-Z, follow this guide to learn everything you need to know about self publishing your book. We cover building your platform, getting funds, finding editors, designers, compare ebook distributors and paperback printers, and marketing it all before, during and afterword. Welcome to How to Self Publish a Book: A Newbie’s A-Z Guide!
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Navigate the Guide
- Overview - These posts tend to be long and cover the entire publishing process. While they offer great overviews, they tend not to go in depth on any particular point which is why we have the rest of the guide.
- Mindset - Get you’re mind right before you begin. As an author/publisher your goal should be to create the highest quality final product and it all begins with your mind.
- Building a foundation / platform - If you’re traveling down the path of a self published author you’re going to need fans. It’s best to build your fan-base, also called your platform, before you publish the big book.
- Funding - No writer should go in debt, and I aim to make sure you don’t. With the tools at your disposal today you have access to crowdfunding tools like Kickstarter that will enable you to afford all the bells and whistles without breaking the bank.
- Preparing your manuscript (Beta Reading and Editing) – Before you publish you’ll want to make sure your manuscript is up to snuff. To this end we’ll talk about how to utilize beta readers and editors.
- Design - Part of what sets a best selling indie book apart from one that hasn’t sold a single copy is design. You’ll want to make sure you utilize a quality designer to craft you an excellent cover.
- eBook Publishing - There are many ebook publishing services and platforms out there. We’ll break down how they work so you can find the perfect one for you.
- Print Publishing - Many author/publishers don’t focus on print, but having print books available can serve many purposes. We’ll break down the benefits and show you how to get it done with services like Lightning Source and CreateSpace.
- Marketing - Part of being a successful author/publisher is building a simple yet effective marketing strategy. I’ll break down proven strategies and show you how to implement them so you can further expand on your platform.
- Other Resources - While I aim to make this guide comprehensive over time, there are other people who have also written excellent books and blogs on the subject of self publishing. I’ll point you to these great sources of information to ensure you have a full spectrum of knowledge.
No! I say to him. How dare you? I have not even seen the first draft! And you are ready to PUBLISH?
I calm down and continue: How about this time we do it right? How About we self-publish it professionally?
We live in an age where free access to information, resources and tools enables practically anyone to do practically anything they put their minds to. The problem comes in organizing all of this stuff in a way to make it useful to you.
Most blogs provide a random assortment of articles and how-to’s but consuming all that information in an effective way is nearly impossible. Instead, most writers get confused. They hop around from one tip to the next without taking a step back to look at the big picture.
This guide to self publishing is designed to be a blue print to lead you down the path of creating the highest quality final product without confusion and without breaking the bank. Our aim is for professional quality publishing, not settling for the low quality work.
This is about how you take what’s in your mind and create a printed work of art. Often, only YOU can do that, provided that you assemble the right team. Professional self-publishing is a team effort, not a lonely enterprise.
If you’re new to self publishing: I recommend starting at the beginning and working your way through the articles listed. These articles have been optimally ordered to walk you through the process in as smooth a way as possible.
The following articles give you a brief overview of the entire process. They are a great way to get your head around what you’ll be spending the next few months doing, but they don’t usually go very in-depth on any one point. Still, they are a great place to start.
- The Ultimate 28 Step Cheat Sheet To Self-Publish Your Best Seller – This great article breaks the whole process into 28. A great overview.
- How to Self-Publish a Bestseller: Publishing 3.0 - An companion piece to the link above writyen by the other guy (you know, the author).
- SHAKESPEARE system for helping authors figure out self-publishing - Author Matthew Mather shares his SHAKESPEARE system that helped rocket his novels Atopia Chronicals and Cyber Storm to the top of the best sellers list.
For me, one of the most important aspects of self publishing is making sure your mind is right. This is an area many writers will glaze over as they delve into the nitty gritty details, but if you turn to some of the pros like Joe Konrath and Hugh Howey, they often emphasize the importance of a proper mindset.
To kick off this section of the Newbie’s Guide to Self Publishing, let’s begin with a quote by Joe Konrath talking about 10 things you should keep in mind as you pursue your self publishing career. (this quote was found here)
1. Love what you’re doing. This is a brutally tough business, and if you aren’t in love with writing save yourself a lot of heartache and go do something else.
2. Write when you can, finish what you write, edit what you finish, self-publish what you edit, and repeat. And make sure everything you release is as good as you can make it,
3. Experiment. You need to constantly try new things in order to find something that works. Don’t be afraid to change covers, titles, prices, names, platforms, and even genres.
4. You should seek out as much information as you can, but don’t believe everything you hear or read. Some people lie. Some exaggerate. Everyone has an agenda, and you should take it all with a healthy dose of skepticism.
5. Ebooks are forever. That means you have a very long time to find your audience. If you aren’t seeing success now, that doesn’t mean it will never come.
6. Work your ass off. It will always come down to luck. But the harder you work, the luckier you’ll get.
7. Seek criticism, not praise. Get this from the key people in you life that you trust.
8. Ignore haters. They aren’t worth your time.
9. With only a few exceptions, I haven’t found that advertising, publicity, or promotion helps much. The problem is that sometimes they do help, and it is very hard to predict when that will happen. I tweet, email, and blog new releases, I use BookBub, Bookblast, and EbookBooster every so often, and I do a rare interview or appearance once in a blue moon. But most of all, I focus on my writing.
10. My motto is: Learn all you can, pass along what you’ve learned, leave the world a better place because you lived, and have as much fun as possible.
- The Acquisitions Editor - A fictional interview between a writer and his acquisitions editor as they discuss editing, royalties, pricing, design and more. This farce brilliantly illustrates why keeping ebook publishing in the hands of the writer is by far the most logical choice.
- How to hold your self published novel to traditionally published standards* - A post on maintaining a mindset of releasing a high quality novel. This post is an overview of everything that follows it and was the inspiration for this guide.
- How Much Does It Cost to Self-Publish a Book? - The quick answer: between $500 and $20,000. The average answer: $2,300. The “smart” answer: $4,000. But you’ll probably want to read the article for more info.
- Making Time to Follow Your Dreams* – Almost everyone confesses to wantint to write a book before they die (over 80% of people if I can remember correctly). So what stops people? A lack of time. In my mind that’s not reason enough. If you want to be an author, especially an author/publisher, you’ll need to make your own time.
- Guy Kawasaki’s Best Tips for Publishing Your Own Book - In this post Guy Kawasaki, author of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, lists 6 tips for self publishing success.
- A Board Post by Hugh Howey – Hugh Howey talks about the difficulty of plotting the path from unknown author to mid-level seller and shares some valuable advice on the factors of luck and time. Here’s a quote from this article:
I think Joe comes as close as anyone to sorting it all out. Like me, he includes luck in his secret recipe, and he qualifies that with the hard work that magnifies luck. Let’s say luck, as an ingredient, accounts for 30% of the Breakout-Sauce. That’s enough to explain how some authors go nuts with a single book, or expensive books, or books with crappy cover art (like mine), or books with technical faults. It would also explain how someone with a dozen excellent titles isn’t taking off. How someone who does everything “right” doesn’t have success.
- The Four Books You Need to Read to Become a Self Publishing Success Story* - While I’ve attempted to orginize everything here in the best way I can, books are by far the most effective source of information. Bloggers usually aren’t willing to give their best 10% of info when they have a book they are selling. The four books featured in this post are also featured throughout this guide in the propper order you should read them.
Talk about building your platform is everywhere in the author community these days. If you’ve hung around other writers either virtually or at writing workshops, you’ve probably heard talk about writer platforms. The problem is, while everyone knows that they need it, only a few know how to do it right.
For more in depth articles on marketing, scroll down to the marketing section.
- 7 Essential Takeaways on Building Your Writing Platform / Foundation* – Before you begin building your platform, here are some things to keep in mind while you move forward.
Introduction to Ebook Publishing – video by Mark Coker of Smashwords
The Secrets to eBook Publishing Success – Video by Mark Coker of Smashwords
- Get Known Before The Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths To Grow An Author Platform - A fantastic book for anyone who knows they will one day publish a book and want to have their marketing platform ready for when they do. Highly recommended.
Many new writers begin with a very modest budget. When I started the whole indie publishing game, I began with a budget of just about $0. While publishing you book doesn’t need to be expensive, it does cost money. While you can search for cheap options in terms of design, and haggle down your editing costs, you’ll be lucky to get through the publishing process spending less than $500. Oh, and you get what you pay for.
I had the mind set that I wanted to become a professional who works with professionals. I loved my novel enough to pay for the best I could afford, but with no money I only had one option: raise the funds myself. And I did just that with Kickstarter.
Kickstarter is the most popular crowdfunding option out there which allows your fans to invest in your book. The best part, you don’t need to pay the money back. Instead you offer rewards for backing your project (like pre-orders, posters, etc).
Kickstarter is my recommended crowdfunding platform. If this the route you’d like to take to growing your funds from $0 to $1000 or more ($3,700 in my case), then I highly recommend the following articles.
*Hat tip to Gareth-Michael Skarka for sharing some of these links on his own guide to kickstarter success called Never Pay for Kickstarter Consulting.
- What is Kickstarter* – First, a short post introducing Kickstarter.
- Kickstarter Tips from Kickstarter - Kickstarter shares a wealth of tips on subjects like when to consider stretch goals, creating a great video, and more. Updated monthly.
- How to Make an Awesome Video - Kickstarter shares some advice when it comes to filming your kickstarter video. You need a great video to succeed, and this how to video will get you on your way.
- 15 Steps for a Successful Kickstarter Project – An in depth article outlining 15 steps to Kickstarter success.
- Tim Schafer’s Top 5 Pitch Tips for Kickstarter Success - Tim Schafer famously opened the eyes of the gaming industry to the world of Kickstarter (About a year later he ran out of funds anyway and announced he would release a half published game, but that’s a tale for another time). In this article he shares 5 tips for “the pitch”.
- The Untold Story Behind Kickstarter Stats – This post goes beyond what the title might initially makes it seem to be. It delves into the stats behind kickstarter and pulls out useful information for you to create a better campaign. My favorite takeaway, 30 day campaigns are more successful than 60 day campaigns.
- Trends in Pricing and Duration – At what price point should you set your reward teirs? Which teirs perform best? Read this article from Kickstarter to find out.
- How to Increase Your Video Viewership [INFOGRAPHIC]
There are two major stages to preparing your manuscript for publication: editing and formatting. If you want and extremely thorough walk-through of this whole process (plus info on distributors, printers and more) then I highly recommend buying a copy of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book (more on that below)
Otherwise, read this collection of articles to make sure you know what you need to do to get your manuscript ready for the next step.
A Quick Definition of Different Kinds of Editors Editors
Before we begin, you may find these short definitions from the NW Independent Editors Guild useful:
Developmental editors help you develop your project from an initial concept or draft, and can consult with you before the writing even begins. Developmental editors can help plan the organization and features of your project. They may make suggestions about content and presentation, write or rewrite text, do research, and suggest additional topics for you to consider.
Substantive editors work with you once you have a full text. They will help you get it into its final form, which may involve reordering or rewriting segments of it to improve readability, clarity, or accuracy. If you’re a fiction writer, a substantive editor can alert you to inconsistent character behavior or speech, help you adjust your language to your desired audience, and make sure your story has believable dialogue and a plausible plotline.
Copyeditors work with your text when it is in final or nearly final form. They read each sentence carefully, seeking to fix all errors of spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and word usage while preserving your meaning and voice. With your permission, they may rewrite tangled sentences or suggest alternative wordings. They can ensure that your text conforms to a certain style; if your project includes elements such as captions, tables, or footnotes, they can check those against the text.
Proofreading is the final stage in the editorial process. Proofreaders usually see a project after design is complete and any photos or other visual elements have been added – a typeset book or brochure, a demonstration website. They correct errors overlooked during copyediting or introduced during the design process. If you wish, they can also cross-check the text to ensure that earlier changes were made correctly, and they can check design elements such as heading and typeface styles, page numbers, and the like.
- Common Editing Rates
- Behind the Scenes, The Many Stages of Editing Your Novel* – This is a behind the scenes look at the stages my novel, Discovering Aberration, went through while explaining what each stage is and why your novel needs it.
- How to Find the Right Editor, Part 1: The Writer’s Wish List - Make sure you know what you want out of an editor with the first part in this series.
- How to Find the Right Editor, Part 2: Types of Editing - Learn more about the different kinds of editing and how they can work for you.
- How to Find the Right Editor, Part 3: Testing an Editor - Before you dish out any money, make sure you’re making a wise investment.
- How to Find the Right Editor, Part 4: Finding Your Editor - So you know what kind of editors you need, here’s how to find them.
- APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book - A detailed book by Guy Kowasaki on the entire publishing process. Great book to read if you’re looking for an easy to understand technical guide to publishing. What it lacks is any sort of advice on marketing.
The first impression anyone has of your book will always be the cover. Shoppers are bombarded by hundreds of covers at a time, so it’s important to stand out both in terms of quality of design, and it’s ability to catch the eye.
- The Book Designers – I have personally worked with The Book Designers and the process and end result could not have been better. They are a professional design firm and charge professional prices, but their work is well worth the investment. The image above is the cover they designed for me.
- A Massive Amount of Notes on Ebook Marketing Websites - This post by writer Katie Cross covers the features of a huge range of eBook publishing, distribution and marketing websites like Smashwords, KDP, Kobo, Nook Press, ACX, iTunes Bookstore, and many more. Great read for an overview of the options availble to you.
Smashwords Survey Helps Authors Sell More eBooks – Video by Mark Coker
10 Trends Driving the Future of Authorship – Video by Mark Coker
How to Reach Readers at Apple iBooks – Video by Mark Coker
Popular Distribution Services
- 7 Reasons Why Indie Authors Should Invest in a Print Version of Their Book
- Paperback Distribution: Createspace vs. Lightning Source – A great comparative article putting the printing services of Lightning Source against Amazon’s Createspace. Features a great infographic.
Popular POD Printers
How are you going to get readers to read your book? Either you can throw it out there and hope they come or you can be proactive with marketing. But marketing doesn’t need to be difficult, in fact the best marketing is surprisingly straight forward. If your marketing is too complicated, you’re doing it wrong.
This section is devoted to the best ways authors have marketing their books using freely available tools like building email lists, social networking, blogging and more. Some of this stuff has already been covered through the videos and the platform section of this guide, so be sure to go through those resources as well.
- The Author With The Biggest Mailing List Wins - David Gaughran talks about the email list being the most important tool in an authors arsenal and how to build one.
- How to Sell More Books By Optimizing Your Metadata – Many readers find new books by doing simple keyword searches. Make sure these readers don’t miss your book by optimizing your meta data.
- The Official Self-Published Book Marketing Plan - Don’t just release your book without a plan. Create a strategy using this guide.
- Book Description / Marketing 101 – One of the most important pieces of marketing you will do is writing the blurb, aka the back of the book copy. Here’s how you do it as taught by a professional blurb writer.
Articles About Amazon and KDP Select
- How to get Great Amazon Reviews for Your Brand New Novel – Pretty much what it says. This post explains the difference between good reviews (from legit readers) and bad reviews (paid for, from family members, etc.) then dishes out a sweet strategy for securing some great reviews for your new book.
- Why I’m All in with KDP Select – One writers reasoning behind why he’s choosing to distribute his ebooks exclusively through Amazon in order to take advantage of their KDP Select program which makes certain marketing tools (like free book giveaway days) available for authors.
- KDP Select Still Works in 2013 (or How My Novel was Downloaded 17,000 Times in 3 Days) – A follow up to “Why I’m All in with KDP Select”, this post documents the authors experiment using Amazon’s KDP Select.
Publicize Your Book
- Is Your Book Going Free? Save Time & Submit It To The Top Free Sites - Are you running a KDP Select free promotion? Scroll down to the bottom of the page to a sone stop shop of 24 free day promotional sites.
- Story Cartel – Give your book away for free in exchange for book reviews.
- Readers Favorite – Get a free book review which is distributed through all the major ebook retailers.
- Sell Your Book Like Wildfire: The Writer’s Guide to Marketing and Publicity - An excellent book that focuses on building publicity for your published novel. Shares tons of useful info and actionable steps you can follow to get you novel in front of thousands of new readers.
- Scribando - Scribando informs you about the latest author success opportunities 24/7.
- Scribophile - A respectful online writing group made up of writers who improve each other’s work with thoughtful critiques and by sharing their writing experience.
- A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing - Joe Konrath has helped a lot of writers navigate the muggy waters of self publishing.
- Writer.ly – A great place to find freelancers to hire including editors, designers and writers.