Lots of people in the past have downplayed self publishing, and even to this day, most writers still have this idea that self publishing can never be successful. You need some unknown *dust* from publishers, the approval of a publishing house, or SOMETHING to make your story worth publishing.
But that’s simply not true.
So many people have proven that a self published book can land in the New York’s Bestseller list. Is it harder? Of course! But it still can happen. And while I can’t guarantee anything happening, here’s a detailed guide to get your book from a draft on your computer to a published copy in more than one person’s hands.
1. Prepare your manuscript
What exactly is involved in preparing your manuscript for publication? I’m glad you asked! This obviously differs per genre, but here are the three major things you need to do, and why you need to do them in order to prepare your manuscript.
- Hire a Content Editor
Why is this important? Even if you read your book a million times, you’ll still miss plot holes, inconsistencies, etc. We are too close to our books to be able to see the large picture, but if you find a good content editor, you’ll be able to shine out next to other self published books and even traditionally published books.
- Find a group to read through your book.
It could be three, it could be ten, but find people as readers to look over your manuscript. Even after hiring an editor, there still will be things missing. So get people to peek over your shoulder and make sure it makes sense. I love to find these people in reading or writing communities. Try to make sure they’re people who are in your planned audience, because then you’ll be able to gauge how well you meet your audience’s needs through this book.
- Hire a Line Editor
But I already hired an editor! I know, I know, but a line editor takes the whole manuscript line by line and fixes grammar, cuts repetitive words, and makes sure the whole entire book is in the right tense and person. Again, this will set your book apart, and will make your readers much more impressed.
If you’re trying to publish on a budget, I’d suggest finding an editor that is just starting out. There’s quite a few on Instagram, and if you ever need suggestions, drop a comment on my blog or DM me over Instagram.
2. Find your Cover Designer
We’re all told not to judge a book by it’s cover, but it’s a lie. We all judge books by its cover, and a lot of times, we should. How do you know if the writer understands the industry, the reader, or the story if they don’t find a good cover designer? Besides, who wants to market an ugly cover? When I was pitching Fifteen for cover reveal help, most of the people who helped responded with, “I’ll help because it’s such a pretty cover!” Or something along those lines.
Cover. Design. Matters.
I could yell that from the roof top. And I’ll continue to yell it. A beautiful cover with good information about your story sells the book.
But once again, this is a place where you could quickly rack up a huge bill. In fact, the cheaper side of professional covers is $1,000. I know, your jaw just dropped. But again, here’s my suggestion. Find a cover designer just starting out, someone who needs more books in their portfolio, and work with them. There’s a lot starting out on IG, or in different writing communities. Again, if you need some suggestions, feel free to send me a DM over Instagram, or drop a comment. I know quite a few people who fall in both the pricey and the cheaper sides.
3. Pick Your Self Publishing Platform
What is a self publishing platform? How does this work? Which one is the best?
A self publishing platform is a platform like KDP, Lulu, B&N Press, or Ingram Spark that allow you to self publish your book and put it on Amazon or other networks to increase sales.
They’re all work in a similar basic manner. You fill out the information, upload your manuscript, set the publication date, and that’s the end of it. You’ll be receiving the royalties from them, and while most of them allow you to sell on Amazon, they offer different amounts of exposure.
An imprint of Amazon, it’s probably the most common. It’s “free” to publish through KDP, but if you don’t purchase your ISBN, then Amazon will own your book, and you can never have the opportunity to “publish” it elsewhere. Also, a lot of small bookstores refuse to have KDP published books in their store, just because they don’t support Amazon’s practices.
I’ve also struggled with getting royalties through KDP. (Fifteen is published through KDP.) Besides that, I would say it’s a great self-publishing platform.
It’s easy to have sales, and it fits under Prime’s free shipping. The actual printing quality is a 3.5 out of 5.
My least favorite platform on here. Not only are their books flimsy, the binding easily coming undone, but it’s also extremely hard to market. Amazon doesn’t pick up books from Lulu, and while they say you can get it into Barnes and Nobles, I’ve never seen that happen.
Lulu is the easiest, and I would say that if you want to “practice,” use Lulu. But never actually publish through Lulu publishing.
I love B&N press for pre-orders or author copies. The quality of the books are through the roof, and they’re printed fairly quickly. Plus B&N is the only indie publishing platform that prints hardcover books. You don’t receive quite as many royalties, and B&N doesn’t work with Amazon, which is the only reasons I haven’t officially published through B&N. But I definitely get some of my Author copies from here, and my limited edition books through B&N press.
If you aren’t publishing to make sales, but only to have done it, go with B&N. People will be impressed by the quality, and you’ll be supporting an actual book store.
Ingram Spark has all of the good qualities of B&N Press and KDP combined, lacking the negative sides. It gets your book on Amazon, it’s a high quality printer. But it’s hard to use, and it costs $45 to publish your book through them. I published Sixteen through Ingram Spark, and it’s on Barnes and Nobles, Amazon, and a few other common book sellers. And I have the opportunity to put it into the small book stores that don’t support Amazon.
Basically, you just have to decide for yourself what’s important for you, but that’s a brief overview of the self publishing platforms.
4. Create a Marketing Plan
When you self publishing, everything is on your shoulders. Everything. Which is great if you’re a control freak like me, but it can also be hard, because you also have marketing on your shoulder as well. I’ve put together a list of what your marketing might look like, and what is entailed in each of those steps. Remember, you can leave or take whatever you want, because there’s no “right” way to publish a book. And you can’t do everything, so choose what is important to you, and fly with it.
- Contact book reviewers
Book reviewers are often looking for new books, and this is an awesome way to get the news out about your book and get an amazon/goodreads review at the same time. People are more willing to buy your book if you have people review it and putting out a good word for it. So find bloggers who review your genre of book, and shoot them an email.
- Start advertising on social media
Social media is a huge tool in your hands. Whether it’s TikTok and the booktok community, or Instagram with the bookstagram community, or even Pinterest and Goodreads. Find where your readers are hanging out, and start interacting. Announce your upcoming book on your social media, and start giving teasers. It’s a great way to build the tension, and get them ready for the cover reveal.
- Put together a cover reveal team
Once again, you need help to get the word out. If you have an awesome cover already, find Instagrammers who love your book genre. Ask them to help you out with this cover reveal, and reach out. (When you reach out, make sure you go ahead and send them the cover, along with a short blurb so they can know what they’re getting into when they agree.)
- Host a cover reveal
You have your team helping you, now you just have to blow up the internet on a given day. Honestly, this is my favorite day out of the whole publishing process. Seeing my baby’s face all over my chosen social media just makes me melt from inside out.
- Put together a street team
What is a street team? Glad you asked! Mostly made from readers and your loyal supporters, a street team is a group of people who have agreed to help you get the word out. Think of them of a cover reveal group, just without sharing the cover reveal. They’re sharing all of your announcements, hyping up your books, and helping you reach more people when they can.
- Contact bloggers/other authors that might help
You’re now getting ready for launch day, and that can be a bit harder to get people willing to help you. But ask bloggers and authors if they’d be interested in partnering with you. It might be for a giveaway, an IG Live, a Q&A, or maybe just more book reviews. It’s honestly open to whatever. But before you contact them, make sure you know exactly what you’re asking them for. It makes it easier for everyone involved, and it makes it more likely that they’ll actually answer you.
- Put together a blog tour
Blog tours are a fun way to get the blogging community involved. If you have an active enough blog, sometimes you don’t have to go and knock on inboxes. But otherwise, you need to go contact bloggers. Blog tours are where different blogs come together, and for about a week, they all take turns posting about the book or topic. For my blog tours, I usually over the option of review, spotlight, or interview for the posts. And then you give them graphics, and usually host a giveaway. It’s so much fun, and a great way to spike up views.
- Contact local book stores about preorder arcs
A lot of local book stores are eager to partner with authors, regardless of indie or traditional. At a local book store, they have a self dedicated to book available for preorder. Contact local bookstores to see if they do a similar thing, in order to get more eyes on your book.
- Send arcs out to authors
What are arcs? It stands for Advanced Reader Copies. Contact authors you admire or that are in your genre, and offer to send them an arc. They might just read it and post about it in their IG story, or on their feed. It’s honestly a great way to build relationships and connections with authors.
- Offer preorders
I LOVE PREORDERS. Not only does it allow you to see how dedicated your little book family is, it’s also a great way to boosts sales over a longer period. Preorders are counted as sales on your first day, so it’s a great way for you to get your book on the top 100 list on Amazon.
- Offer preorder goodies
Who doesn’t love free gifts? And as someone who’s second love language is definitely gifts, I love being able to do this. Find out important things in your book, or check out other authors and see what goodies they’re offering. For Sixteen, I offered a small bag of coffee, eye shadow, stickers, and an extra poem.
- Host a launch party
On the day of your launch, find some authors who would be willing to party with you. It could be virtual, doing it over IG Live or YouTube. Or you could do it in person at a bookstore, writing conference, or coffee shop. It’s a great way to celebrate your accomplishment, and build a bit of hype around the actual launch.
- Have an Instagram challenge
Not quite as common anymore, IG bookstagram challenges used to be all the rage. Still, why not try to bring them back? Put together a graphic with different themes for people to post about. I did this for Fifteen’s launch, and it was lots of fun!
- Host giveaways
Giveaways are a key to good marketing and getting the word. Giveaway books, pre-order goodies, t-shirts, book marks. These are also easy for you to team up with a small business, fellow author, or a friend in order to reach more people. Definitely recommend!
- Find authors with similar release dates and work together with them
When Fifteen launched, there was another author launching as well, and I was able to join a few of the Lives she hosted, and vice versa. It was lots of fun, and we were helping each other at the same time. 10/10 recommend.
Self publishing can be crazy intimidating, but it doesn’t have to. Take it step by step, and know that your story is worth publishing, worth reading, and worth all of the work you’re putting into it. If you end up self publishing, please put your book’s title and a link to your book in the comments. I’d love to see your work!
If you’re interested in the books I self published, I have two poetry compilations out in the world at the moment.
Fifteen is a poetry compilation that touches on mental health, like depression and anxiety, while showing that despite the pain, beauty will rise through the ashes.
Sixteen is a poetry compilation that touches on expectations, how the expectations we have for ourselves, the expectations others put on us, and that the world puts on us can lead us to different drastic actions. And how expectations effect the world around us.
I hope this post helped you out, and if you have any questions, drop them in the comments below.
6 thoughts on “How to self publish (a detailed guide!)”
This is the most thoroughly helpful and informative article I’ve read on this topic. If I ever decide to publish a book, I’m coming back to this! Thanks!
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No problem! I’m glad you found it through. 😅
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Thanks so much for this thorough break-down of self-publishing, Amie! I haven’t tried B&N Press (just KDP which works for what I’m doing), but I think I’ll look into them now, if only to print some special editions for the future. 🙂
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You’re so welcome! I hope you found this helpful. 😉
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I love how detailed this is! Thanks for sharing your insight and wisdom!
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You’re so welcome, Kristianne!
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