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A Writer's Ultimate Checklist to Self Publishing

As an author, you’ve put countless hours into writing and perfecting your book. Now, you’re ready to take the next step and self-publish your work. But where do you begin? Self-publishing might seem daunting, but with distinct goals and a clear journey ahead, you, too, can be one of the many authors in the world making some money off their writing. In this blog post, we’ll provide you a clear checklist and essential tips for self-publishing your book successfully.

Set Clear Goals

Before you get into publishing, think about your own goals. Why do you want to be published? Why self-publishing specifically? If you want to rapid-release a series of cozy romance novels you wrote on your commute and try to become a big name author, then do it. If you just want your one book to exist so that you can say it does, then do it. But be extremely clear about what it is you’re hoping will come from the experience.

Edit, Edit, Edit

If you don’t already hate your story, you will by publication day. You will read your story countless times and watch it transform into a final draft. Read through the story on your own to make changes, then implement those changes.

Hiring an editor during this process is crucial, especially to make sure you have a perfectly polished manuscript. There are three kinds of editors: developmental, copyediting, and proofreaders. Each one does a specific task, and you will have to go back in each time and make changes.

Get Constructive Feedback

My favorite part of the publishing process is getting feedback from readers and writers and using it to shift my story as needed. You can’t let this feedback get to your head—the readers you choose should be people you trust to tell you what your story needs.

Be open to this feedback, even if it’s not what you pictured for your story.

Make Your Professional Cover

Your book cover is the first thing readers see when they see your book online, so it’s a very important step to give your story a cover that stands out. Look into your genre and see what is popular and then come up with your own ideas. I love making concept sheets to send to my cover designer, and she finds it extremely helpful.

If you have graphic design experience (and I mean, actual graphic design experience), you can give your book cover a shot. I know many indies who have gone this route, but know that it can go incredibly wrong if you don’t have experience in graphic design and especially book cover design.

You will want to find a cover designer that has experience in the genre you’re writing in. I work with the same cover designer each time, so consider this a long-term working relationship to grow, especially if you have plans to publish multiple times.

You can also grab a premade cover. Freelance cover designers typically design a few premades a month for practice or simple inspiration, and you might find one that fits your story perfectly. Websites like Book Cover Zone and The Book Cover Designer have thousands of covers for you to sift through.

Create a Marketing Plan

Some writers simply hit publish and do no official marketing, which is fine. If your goal is to publish, then you don't have to do this step. But if you want to push your story out to readers, it’s time to come up with a plan to do so.

At the very least, an author website is essential to giving readers a place to access you. You will hear a lot of advice from other indies stating you must have a social media presence to be successful, but this isn’t true. You can promote your works the old-fashioned way, which includes Facebook Ads and Amazon Ads, but know that social media accounts would probably be beneficial if you are comfortable.

Choosing the Right Platform to Publish

But where will my book go? It’s a good question, and one that many indies have asked before. It’s a straight-forward question with an incredibly nuanced answer, but Amazon is the top place to self-publish your work. A majority of ebook sales come from Amazon, and they allow writers to publish on their site for no upfront cost. You can choose ebook, paperback, and hardcover editions, as well as choose to enroll your story into Kindle Unlimited—Amazon’s reading subscription service.

Other popular platforms include Draft2Digital (they have ebook, paperback, and audio editions), Barnes & Noble Press (think Amazon but for Barnes & Noble), and Ingram Spark.

If you plan to publish many books and create a career, I would recommend both Amazon and Ingram Spark for your publishing needs. While Ingram has an upfront cost—it’s $49 to put your book in the system—it is the best way to ensure your book gets into many hands. Ingram offers worldwide distribution and access to libraries, while Amazon’s biggest marketing point is inclusion in the KDP program.

Pricing, ISBNs, Royalties?

If this is your first book, if you’re not sure what your career will look like yet, use Amazon’s free ISBN service (or D2D, or B&N). This will make Amazon your book’s official publisher, but it’s free. Writers typically purchase ISBNs from Bowker, which is pricey. Don’t think too hard about using the free ISBN or not for your first book. Just use it.

Pricing your book is one of those things even I struggle with. You want to price your story similar to other stories in its genre, but also want to keep it affordable for your readers. General rule of thumb is to never let an ebook be more expensive than $5, while paperbacks and hardcovers are more expensive.

You’ll get your first royalty check three months after publication and not a single day sooner. The good news is, if you continue to make at least a sale a month, then you will continue to receive royalty checks each month after—for the royalties accrued three months before. Don’t ask me why this happens, just blame traditional publishing.

Stay Positive

This entire process can gut you and throw you out into the cold, dark streets of the world. But don’t let it. Staying positive and keeping track of your goals is key to keeping your publication on track.

Self-publishing your book can be an incredibly fulfilling experience, with enough time, dedication, and hard work. You could be amongst the writers who have come before you and start your writing career today.

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