Self-Publishing Sunday: Getting Started Self-Publishing

A writer's setup for NaNoWriMo (photo courtesy Wiki Commons by mpclemens from Pleasant Hill, United States.

Source: WikiCommons

One of my cousins emailed me the other day.  We’d talked briefly about publishing at the family reunion this past summer, but he wanted more information. While I’ve written a handy dandy book on the subject, I haven’t written a ton of shorter form work on self-publishing. So I thought I’d take the next couple of weeks and write about the self-publishing process.

So, if you want to publish a book, what’s the process like? It’s very simple and requires only four steps: (1) write a book, (2) get the book edited, (3) get a cover and (4) publish the book

That’s pretty much it. Now, if you want a writing career where you earn money, there’s generally more than that. You have to think long term strategies, marketing, pricing, social media, series or no series, book titles.  Going in depth in the planning/strategizing process will greatly improve the chance of launching a monetarily successful book.

But, for the moment, let’s forget about the extra things we need to do to market and make money. Let’s just assume you have a story to tell, and you want it published in book form. If it earns cash, great. If not, that’s fine, too. So, let’s go over the actual steps you need to take to get your book published.

  1. Write the book. This is the essential part of the process. Write your book and make it the best you can. Revise it several times, send it to others who you trust to get their feedback on it (these people are often called beta readers). These people will offer you honest advice on the book — on parts they think are boring, confusing or don’t make sense. With this feedback, revise the book until you’ve made it the best you think you can.
  2. Edit the book.  Once you’ve got your book as good as you can make it, it’s time to get it polished. You’ll need an editor. There are several types of editors, but I’ll mention two here: a structural editor and a copy editor. Structural editors, as the name suggests, look at the overall structure of your book and whether it works. They may suggest revising whole sections. Some people prefer to hire these editors before they write (in which case they’re called developmental editors). They’re looking at the macro level, the big picture. The copy editor looks at the final product, making sure your manuscript is grammatically correct. They’ll also look for thorny sentences and odd constructions and suggest revision.  Generally editors are hired, and can cost a pretty penny (but we’ll talk about costs next week. In the mean time, let me just say, besides editing and cover work, you don’t need to pay anything to publish your book. And in some cases, you can get away with paying nothing to publish your book). If you can’t afford to hire an editor, people will  often ask a good grammar-centric friend to edit their book. Then they’ll proofread it themselves again (reading it backwards can help you catch errors, presuming you’re pretty good at grammar yourself). Though, generally, a professional editor will get you a professional product.
  3. Covers. Covers are important in that they’re the first glimpse at a book. The cover should be similar to those in the genre. What’s a genre? It’s just the term for the category of the book. Genres start off broad and then get more specific. So, romance, thriller and science fiction are all genres. Within those genres, you might have a psychological thriller, or erotic romance or dystopia (among sci fi).  When you search the best seller lists at Amazon, you’ll see the genre on the side. Looking at those covers can help you see what covers in your genre look like. If you’re great with graphics, feel free to create your own cover. If you’re not great with graphics, feel free to create a cover concept. The concept is what you’d like it to look like (even if you don’t have the skills to do it). Your concept cover can be helpful if you hire a cover artists.  Now, your cover should look professional and convey the spirit of your book.  You can hire a cover artist, or you can get a pre-made cover. There are lots out there, including sites like this one.
  4. Publish the book. Yep, step four is pretty simple, and all it requires is you follow the formatting and publishing directions of the website where you want to publish your book. For ebooks, you can publish directly to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Apple (if you have an Apple computer). There are companies referred to as either “distributors” or “aggregators” who can upload your book to multiple retailers (including Apple, if you don’t own an Apple machine). Ebook distributors include Smashwords and Draft2Digital (D2D, as it’s known, will also format your paperbook file). For a paperback book, you can use the company CreateSpace to publish your book. Simply follow their instructions for formatting your book, and then upload to their site. It costs nothing to do this yourself. Any of the sites where you plan to sell your book will want your banking and tax information before they let you publish. They want this so they can pay you if your books sales.

And that’s it. That’s the short, easy version of self-publishing. Now, when you get into the nitty gritty of it, there are some specific steps you have to take. In step 4, I mentioned that you’d need to format your book. People who would describe themselves as technologically challenged, often have trouble with this step. But, this is something you can hire someone to do. And that brings us to the topic of next week’s blog post: How Much Does it Cost to Self Publish? The short answer is nothing.  However, there are some things that people do and, generally, should pay for. But we’ll talk about that next week. I the meantime, if someone tells you they can publish your book for just $1,200, run the other way.

Until next week…

-RJ Crayton

P.S. Don’t forget to vote for my novel Concealed in the Kindle Scout program. Books with enough votes and a favorable review from editors in the Scout program will be published by Kindle Press. If the book is selected for publication and you voted for it, Kindle Press will give you a FREE ebook copy of the book.

About RJ Crayton

RJ Crayton is a former journalist who now writes fiction. She's reported for the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle, as well as the smaller publications Education Technology News and Campus Crime. She has two published novels, Life First and Second Life and blogs for Indies Unlimited and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. For exclusive content and first looks at her new work, sign up for the newsletter at
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