How to Self-Publish a Book: A Step-by-Step Guide
Writing a book is one of the most fascinating things a person can have on their bio. But becoming an author was not an easy feat to achieve, until recently. Ever since the advent of digital media, consumers have increasingly resorted to devices to quench their thirst for reading pleasure. The market has evolved accordingly as well. And today, becoming the author has been made ridiculously simple and easy by self-publishing platforms. A large chunk of the credit goes to Amazon in this regard, but we will get into the details later.
Self-publishing is a postmodern method of publishing a book by the author themselves. It is a step forward to make the best use of interconnectivity the internet has blessed this world with.
A Blessing for an Indie Author
In self-publishing, the author does not rely on a publishing house. With the help of some clicks, they make their book available to millions of readers online—no barriers or hindrances in the way by the strict rules of the traditional publishing ethos.
Authors upload their books on a self-publishing platform where readers can buy the titles and access them for reading on electronic devices or get a print copy if they desire (and if the option is available).
How is Self-Publishing Different From Traditional Publishing?
A new writer can easily be confused when they are figuring out how to self-publish a book because they expect the experience to be what they understand from the term "publishing". So before we begin to discuss how to go about self-publishing your book, let's get clear on how it is different from traditional publishing.
• In self-publishing, there is no book proposal and no vetting from the publisher except whether the book follows the platform's guidelines or not. This means that anyone can self-publish a book.
• Since there is no appraisal phase, the quality of words, errors, mistakes, typos, anything and everything is the author's responsibility. They have to proofread their work and hold responsibility for what they're publishing.
• There are no advances in self-publishing like there are in traditional publishing. The author receives royalties as they sell their book. The percentage of the royalty they receive, however, is higher.
• You have complete ownership rights to your content. Your book is your intellectual property. The publisher does not own the rights to your book like it does in traditional publishing.
• No one is responsible for marketing and promoting your book. Although each self-publishing platform has its own options to aid in the marketing process, the author has to do everything themselves.
Generally, the author has more control over their book, but that also means that they have more responsibilities. It can be challenging if you don't know what to do. That is why we've written this self-publishing guide to help authors uncover all the important details on how to self-publish a book.
Let's get started!
Step Zero: Writing the Manuscript
Before anything, you need to have a book ready to be published. If you already have the manuscript written, you can skip to the next step. That is why we've called it the zeroth step in the process.
Outline and Concept
Before beginning to write the book, defining an outline for it is important. It helps you plan the project and get a clearer perspective on whether the book appears as good on paper as it appears in the thought form. Divide the concept into chapters and define the scope of each chapter in bullet points.
If you want to make any changes in the core concept of the book, this is the time. You can experiment with ideas, ask yourself questions, change your decisions and see if they make sense while it's still in the form of a concept.
Whether you choose to write the book yourself or hire a ghostwriter, you do need at least a rough concept as its foundation.
Option 1: Write It Yourself
After the outline is defined, the writing process begins. This process, as much as it is a test of your writing skills, it is also a test of patience and perseverance. It's not a one-time job; writing a book is a process. Only writers who are consistent in their work get to publish books because no matter how simplified the publishing process becomes, you still need a book to publish it.
If you can handle the pressure and successfully deliver, you should most definitely write the book yourself.
Option 2: Hire a Professional Writer
Having a concept and vision is not the only thing you need to write a book. You also need time to spend regularly churning out text, and the expertise to string it together into the beautiful form of a book that people would spend their money to read. If you don't have either of those two things, then the second option is to hire a ghostwriter to do the writing for you.
Remember, even though you've outsourced the writing, it is still going to be your book. It is your concept, and you hold the burden of responsibility for what goes on in your book. You have to actively engage with the ghostwriter and give feedback during the writing process to ensure that the end product is how you intended it to be. That is why defining the concept in the written form of an outline is important, as mentioned above.
Step One: Book Editing and Book Proofreading
When you have the draft of a book ready, the first step is making it publish-worthy. The first draft is never what makes it to the shelves. Read the manuscript again from the very beginning and change things as you go along. Then read it once again. Look at it closely. Dig into the details, research on facts, add details where necessary, remove fluff that hurts flow and engagement.
Go through the draft again and again and polish it continuously until you've memorized the whole book and you're confident it is in its best possible form.
A good sign that you've edited the book thoroughly is when you're bored of reading the same thing over and over again. But at the same time, you would feel proud of it and are confident of sharing it with your family, friends, colleagues, and the rest of the world.
It is advisable to hire an editor for editing, especially if you have little to no writing experience. You can find a number of editors and proofreaders on freelancer websites. These editors charge a small fee to fix your writing, grammar, and flow.
If you're looking for a more professional level of editing, look up some professional editing services online like Ghostbookwriters. Remember, these services are offered by experts and not freelancers. They charge according to their level of expertise. But the results can be well worth it.
A professional editor can carve out the David out of the marble you've compiled in the book. Plus, their feedback is beneficial because they are professional literary proofreaders and editors who do this for a living. They can make sure no flaws are left in the final version of your manuscript on a level that you may not be able to achieve on your own.
Step Two: Choosing a Self-Publishing Method
Now that the manuscript is finalized from your end and ready, you need to start making it look less like a journal and more like a book. That means adding the front and back matter, giving it a final title, formatting, designing a cover, and converting it from DOC or DOCX format to an ebook file format.
How you need to carry out all those tasks will primarily be defined by one major aspect, i.e., the self-publishing method you choose to self-publish your book in.
There are two ways you can go about the self-publishing process.
• Self-publish your book by submitting it to retailers yourself
• Submit it to a book aggregator company that will handle the technicalities for you
Understanding both these options is vital for you to make an informed decision that aligns best with your budget and goals. Read on to find out which one would work best for you.
Self-publishing directly through a retailer means you are directly linked to the retailer as an author. You hold the responsibility to manage all the tasks by yourself. You format the book and make sure that you've followed the guidelines, convert the file into the desired format, upload the book, and take care of all the little details by yourself. The reward for handling all the work on your own is that you don't have a middleman to share your royalties with. So why doesn't everyone just do it themselves?
If you want your book to sell on multiple self-publishing platforms, then you will have to carry out all those tasks for every single retailer over and over again. Each retailer has its own guidelines for and self-publishing process. This is where aggregators come in. They streamline the process, which is an attractive option for a self-publishing author.
Let's take a look at the major publishers of the self-publishing industry before we talk about aggregators and the perks they offer.
Kindle Direct Publishing is Amazon's self-publishing platform that rules the ebook market, especially in the US, with about three-quarters of the ebook sales going to KDP. With KDP, you are selling your ebook on the largest online bookstore that is available.
Remember, KDP is not the same as Amazon Publishing. KDP is a self-publishing platform and Amazon Publishing is Amazon's traditional publishing counterpart.
KDP offers authors additional benefits if they choose to be exclusive with KDP for their ebook. The program is called KDP Select, which makes ebooks available on Kindle Unlimited. Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read as many ebooks as they like for a small monthly subscription fee. It is slightly different than its former fellow, the Kindle Owners Lending Library, which has now closed down. Kindle Unlimited is still live, however, and most of the authors that stay exclusive to KDP for ebooks utilize the added advantage of KDP Select.
KDP Select gives authors the opportunity for more book sales and more royalties. The downside is that the writer can not publish their ebook using any of the other digital publishers. However, they can still sell paperbacks of their self-published book through other retailers.
Other than Kindle Select, KDP offers other publicity options like the Kindle Countdown Deals and the option to make their book available for free for limited periods of time.
If you're a beginning writer, Amazon is your best friend. Amazon KDP is the perfect place for you to publish a book and test the waters. Most beginner authors don't consider other publishing companies before they're sure.
Another massive advantage that Amazon KDP has over other services is that it offers authors to make their books available as print books.
The majority of the readers would still prefer to read a print book over its digital counterpart despite the obvious convenience and additional benefit of an ebook. If you want to tap into the market of such readers, you can choose to offer a print copy of your book through the print-on-demand feature of KDP.
Allowing a self-published book to exist in the hard copy without having to pay thousands for the printing and other retail expenses is one of the biggest reasons why readers and a large number of authors on Amazon love KDP so much.
IngramSpark is the second biggest self-publishing service for the print-on-demand option. Here's a list of all the significant features of IngramSpark and how it is different from Amazon:
• It charges a small fee upfront to publish your book as opposed to Amazon, which is free.
• IngramSpark does not offer a free ISBN as KDP Amazon does, but this shouldn't matter much. We'll discuss it in detail later in this article.
• IngramSpark does not sell books directly to readers. It sells to retailers and stores, from where the readers buy the books. That means the royalties are divided between more stakeholders than it does with KDP.
• It does not offer a formatting tool of its own as KDP does (Kindle Create).
• It offers hardcover and saddle-stitched versions, which KDP does not.
• Another advantage IngramSpark has is that it makes your ebook available on other platforms like Kobo, Nook, etc. KDP only keeps your books on Kindle. With IngramSpark, your readers will find your ebook as well as its print copy on various platforms, including Amazon.
In a nutshell, IngramSpark offers added advantages for a small price and extra work.
Apple Books is a secondary option to consider to self-publish your book. Although Apple Books has its own reader-base, Amazon still takes the lead in the volume of books sold worldwide. Their uploading process is fairly simple, but the pricing can be a little tricky to understand. In the bigger picture, Apple Books offers more or less the same amount of royalties to their authors as Amazon does, except in some cases.
If you want to capture that chunk of the market that reads on Apple devices, then you shouldn't skip Apple Books. Branching out in your publishing channels is always a good thing for ultimate publishing success.
Barnes & Noble Press
B&N Press is the big 5 publisher's self-publishing wing. It has an easy-to-use interface and does not require exclusivity, just like Amazon and the other major ebook publishers.
Do not be confused with the name of Barnes & Noble Press. The print books in their stores carry that prestige that is attached to their name, but in the ebook market, B&N is a small fish as compared to Amazon. Like we said, even though it is always good to branch out to capture customers in all the different zones of the ebook market and maximize sales, it should not be your only option.
Picking an ebook publishing service shouldn't be a problem. Of course, if you want to target audiences from all areas of the market, you can choose multiple publishers. You can also make your book available as a print book on the shelves of each bookstore of your choice. But all of that requires a lot of work.
Unless you have a team of people working to make your book a reality, if you want to go big and wide in your self-publishing endeavors, then the best way to do that is through an aggregator.
Book aggregators offer the assistance a self-publishing author needs if they want to sell their book through multiple publishers. An aggregator will distribute your book to multiple publishers at the same time using their distribution network without you having to go through the tedious process over and over again for each publisher.
You receive monthly royalties in lump-sum rather than receiving a payment from each publishing company separately. However, the aggregator will keep their cut which is separate from the publisher's cut. The percentage of share is based on the retail price of the book.
Even after sharing your royalty with an aggregator, you still get a bigger piece of the pie as compared to the traditional publishing industry.
Smashwords was the key player in the book aggregator market and is still popular due to its large distribution network. You just upload your manuscript as a Microsoft Word .DOC or .DOCX file, and it converts it into .EPUB itself. You can also directly upload an .EPUB file that is professionally formatted and designed.
It has the biggest distribution network, which is why it is still the first choice for many self-published authors. The first disadvantage with Smashwords is that you have to format the book yourself. The second disadvantage is that Smashwords does not distribute to Amazon unless you have made more than $2,000 with the book via Smashwords.
That is how Smashwords lost its position as the only key player in the self-publishing world. That does not in any way mean that Smashwords is any less than its competitor. A lot of self-published authors utilize the combination of Amazon and Smashwords very efficiently. They submit the manuscript on KDP themselves and use Smashwords to expand their reach, attract different audiences outside the reign of KDP, and hopefully make more money in those sales for the amount of work that is close to none as compared to doing it manually.
Making the most advantage of the lack of service of Smashwords, Draft2Digital entered the self-publishing market and quickly became very popular. Today, it is a major competitor of Smashwords.
D2D's list of distributors is not as long, and its reach not as wide as Smashwords. But it can still make your book available to a fairly large network. For self-publishing authors, D2D's list of distributors is big enough to make money through sales from multiple channels.
And the biggest channel of them all, as we discussed, is KDP. The one major reason where D2D takes the crown is that they distribute to Amazon as well. The second biggest advantage they have in their services is that they take care of the formatting of the ebooks. So you get room to relax in that aspect.
Plus, their interface is very easy to use and user-friendly. So when you're considering sharing your money with an aggregator service, you would naturally expect some peace of mind. Most authors are tempted to opt for an aggregator to get that convenience of not having to manually publish their book on each self-publishing platform separately.
Make the Call
We've listed here every major way you can take to publish your book. Understand what you aim to achieve from this book. Evaluate the options and weigh their pros and cons against your goal.
After you settle on a channel (or channels), you need to study the guidelines of those platforms to start preparing your manuscript for uploading. Every platform provides these guidelines to help authors follow the steps correctly and to make the process as smooth for them as possible.
Step Three: Front and Back Matter
A book can be divided into three major parts: front matter, body, and back matter. With the main draft complete, edited, proofread, and finalized, you need to start shaping it into a book before uploading it on the platform.
Here's a checklist of elements of the front and back matter of the book:
• Title Page
• Copyright Page
• Dedication Page
• Table of Contents
• Preface (optional)
• About the Author
• Copyright Permissions
There are some additional parts that come in the front and back matter of nonfiction books, but the list mentioned here is universal for almost all types of books.
If the book will have a print version, you need to prepare an additional piece of information about the book that will go on the back cover. It is the blurb of your book. A blurb used to be a book description usually. But there is a new trend of mentioning noteworthy reviews of the book on its back cover to convince readers to make the purchase.
For ebooks, the book description still continues to be what it is intended to be, i.e. a description of what's inside the covers and what the book is about. It is designed to entice the readers to read the book.
Step Four: Book Formatting
Here comes a tiring job that authors usually do not enjoy. That is why they go for ways where they don't have to worry about this kind of grunt work. Although it is an integral part of publishing your book. You want to present your content to the readers in its best possible state. It is like dressing up for an interview.
If the platform you're publishing on does not offer much in the way of assistance in formatting, you can find a lot of people on freelancer websites who will do the formatting for you. Outsourcing is a great option for inexperienced authors who do not want to risk messing up their books.
The cost of formatting services depends on the page count. Look up the options before you sit down to stress yourself. Maybe outsourcing formatting is a more viable option for you. But in the long run, you will have to learn how to format the book. As a self-published author, being efficient at word processors is always a handy skill to have. It feels like a lot of work in the beginning but once you get the hang of it, formatting is not difficult. Candidly speaking, authors outsource formatting because it's boring and easy to procrastinate on.
There is a reason why choosing a platform came before formatting. You need to format your book according to the style guide provided by the platform you're looking to publish your book on. Remember, the ebook and the print version both need to be formatted separately if the platform requires formatting.
Step Five: Book Cover Design
The final step before uploading is designing the front and back covers of the book. For ebooks, you only need the front cover design. For print books, both the front and back covers need to be designed. In any case, it is a required step to self-publish a book, and the publisher won't do it for you.
There are several applications and designing tools out there to help authors with the book cover design step. If you are the visually creative type and a tech-savvy person, we recommend trying out some designing tools and design your cover by yourself.
Nobody knows your book better than yourself. Creating a graphical concept to portray the idea behind your book in an image is crucial. Graphics are visually stimulating, and they are the first thing people notice when they see your book either on the bookshelves or in the digital list.
But if you don't have hours to spend on the cover design or you do not have the skill, hiring a book cover designer is the suggested alternative. Again, just like you can find a book editor to edit your book, you can also find a book cover designer for the book. The freelancer world is vast, and there are some really crafty professionals who will also cover the interior design of your book and make it look outstandingly attractive.
Just make sure that you pick the right person for the task because these platforms are flooded with "professionals" who can not deliver the level of services they claim.
Under One Roof
Ghostwriters is another excellent alternative. Ghost Book Writers are involved in every little task related to publishing a book, from writing to editing, cover, and interior designing as well. As opposed to freelancers, Ghost Book Writers can offer more peace of mind and more value for your money.
Moreover, if you get your book edited, proofread, and designed under a single roof, your cover design is bound to go better with the title of your book and the content. The platform that is handling the cover already knows what your book is about very thoroughly because they edited and proofread it.
If you plan to hire professionals for all the different steps from the beginning, considering Ghost Book Writers services is recommended. You get more control over the process, and they can help you with questions along the process of publishing a book.
Step Six: Uploading
Now that you have everything ready, compile it together and convert the file type into an acceptable format. You can not self-publish a book that is in the form of a Microsoft Word document. You have to convert it into the format your platform of choice accepts. Feel lucky if your platform of choice accepts a PDF format (like IngramSpark).
Put in all the required details of your book, including the book description and tags according to your book genre that will help the platform categorize your book with others. Pick your tags and keywords for the description carefully, because they can be the key element in the marketing of your book.
After filling all the fields in the form, all there is left to do to upload the file. For guidance in this part of self-publishing, each platform has its own guidance material that you can read. The knowledge is essential to self-publish a book successfully on the platform.
There is usually a waiting period before the platform can publish a book and make it available to the whole world. This is when the publishers automatically review your work to check if everything is done according to the guidelines or not. Once the review process is complete, and if you have done everything right, your book is published.
Depending upon the release date you've set, your book will become available to everyone and you would have successfully become a proud self-published author.
Step Seven: Book Marketing
When you self-publish, you only put your book out there for people to find, buy and read it. But that is not enough. Self-published authors have to take care of their self-published book's marketing and promotion by themselves.
Publishers offer services to aid in the process like paid advertisements but you have to do it by yourself. It is part of the self-publishing experience. Thousands of books are published each year, but not all of them become successful.
If you intend to publish more books and make a name for yourself as an author, then you should have an author page on all major social media platforms. You also need an author website where you can post updates about your work, announce discounts, market the landing page via pay-per-click ads, and growing your following organically.
Ask other bloggers to read your book, review it in a guest post and send them to your website. Make a trailer video for your book for video-oriented platforms like YouTube.
And most importantly, engage with your audience and offer them something more valuable for coming to your website, like a well-maintained blog that contains quality content. And continue to write and release more books. No writer has ever hit thousands in sales with just one book.
You need to continue to write and self-publish great books to keep people coming back. That is the most stable way to grow your following and make a name for yourself.
To self-publish a book is an adventurous journey. There is a cost to having the kind of freedom and control you have over your book in self-publishing. Since you are the master of your own piece, you hold the responsibility of taking care of everything that is required to publish a book.
Luckily enough, the digital world has enabled people to collaborate more. So people who are good writers and wish to self-publish a book of their own do not have to be limited by barriers placed in their way from all the complications of the publishing world.
The self-publishing process has been made increasingly simple and convenient. There are multiple options, each with its own pros and cons, and writers can work with the one they find the best. Each of the platforms provides comprehensive guidelines that anyone can pick and understand.
And even then, if you do not have the time or do not feel confident enough to do it all on your own, you can still self-publish your book. Hire a freelancer and pay them for their services—no need to share your royalties with anyone.
Ghost Book Writers is one such platform, except we are not freelancers. We have a team of professionals for every step of the book writing, publishing, and marketing process. With us, you just have to provide the crude manuscript you've spent days trying to prepare, then just sit back and relax.
We will handle the whole publishing process for you like a dedicated team of managers of your own, except that each person on your team is an experienced professional for the task they're doing.
And that, dear reader, is the easiest possible way to self-publish a book.
Best of luck on your self-publishing journey!