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  • Writer's pictureTara

What Are the Steps Involved in Self-Publishing?

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

You probably know that you are no longer limited to having a publisher decide if your book should be in print and read by many. Self-publishing is what many writers do when they want to be assured of holding their book in their hands. It is a really good option; it allows you the freedom to have your words, the cover, and the price how you want them.

But what is the process? For some, self-publishing can be daunting. It's true; there are quite a few steps to take between the idea and the book.

To help you understand self-publishing a little better, here are some of the essential boxes you will need to tick in order to fulfill your dreams of seeing your words in print.

1. Write your manuscript. This seems like an obvious one, right? Of course, you must commit to it, learn about writing, and hone your craft. Write an engaging story. Give your characters life. If you are struggling with writing your story, search out some online writing clubs, take a class, and read a lot of craft blogs! We live in a time when we can learn anything just by asking our computers to show us a list of resources. Write, learn, write, learn, and so on. Keep with it, and eventually your story will take shape. No one learned to ride a bicycle in one day.

2. Self-edit. Once you’ve written your story, put it away for a couple of weeks. Then, take it out and try to read it as if you had never read it before. Revise, reword, and rework. Do this at least twice.

3. Ask others to read it. This is sometimes called an alpha reader or a beta reader. These are people who will read your story at different stages of its development and offer you advice and critiques for improvement. These people can be paid or unpaid. A paid reader will generally be someone who has some expertise in this area. Unpaid readers are usually someone who will do this because they care about you (mom, sister, uncle) or are someone who will do this for you in exchange for you reading their early manuscript.

4. Self-edit again. From these suggestions that your readers gave you, make your revisions as you feel you should. Sometimes, giving your manuscript to others to read is heartbreaking. You’ve done all that work, and the readers told you to change things. Take these suggestions in the spirit in which they were intended. They were trying to help you. But that doesn’t mean that you have to accept all the suggestions and revise as they told you to. However, if eight out of the ten people suggested you change the same things, you should consider that with more weight.

5. Hire an editor. Next, you will want to have an editor read your manuscript with a more critical eye. Most editors have been trained to look at your words differently than you do. We are looking at the correctness of your punctuation, grammar, and spelling. We ensure that your writing adheres to accepted style guides. An editor also checks facts and inspects your formatting.

An editor will also read your manuscript to determine if it flows well, if the dialogue is suitable, and if the characters are believable. We will also offer revision suggestions and ways to make your book better. There is a lot that an editor can do for you. This second set of experienced eyes reading your writing and helping you to make it better is invaluable.

An unedited book is a huge turnoff to readers, and if you get even one review that mentions your book needs editing, all your hard work can be lost. Would you buy a product that reviews said was sloppy, messy, hard to use, or difficult to understand?

Choose the editor that you feel most comfortable with. There are plenty of ways to find and get in touch with an editor, but there isn’t only one way to choose an editor. The main thing is that you feel that the editor can complete the job accurately and efficiently.

6. Revise again. After getting your edited manuscript back, make the changes that have been suggested. But again, only the ones that you want to make. Your editor has suggested changes based on their professional expertise, but that doesn’t mean that you have to make those changes. The corrections to grammar, punctuation, and spelling are generally rule-based, and you should normally accept these. The suggestions about a character’s dialogue or a description, etc.—those are for you to decide upon.

7. Don’t forget about your book blurb (copy on the back of the book that tells why the reader needs to read your story), “About the Author,” and your sales copy! It’s important that you have these things written (and edited) as well. When your book is nearing completion, these elements will be needed.

8. Format your manuscript. Once you’ve finished, you’ve said, “The End!” and your story is complete, your manuscript should be correctly formatted. This involves elements like margins, gutters, headers, footers, pagination, front matter, back matter, maybe a table of contents, possibly an index, chapter title designs, and section division design. This can all be a bit technical and a little overwhelming for some. While there are tutorials available to do these things yourself, hiring someone with experience in this might be more cost-effective for you.

9. Proofread your manuscript. This last stage for your manuscript is where you inspect it one last time to ensure that there are no lingering errors or errors from the formatting. This is for the “little things” like typos, missing or incorrect punctuation (a comma rather than a semi-colon), a page number starting on the wrong page, or too much space between sections. Again, if inspecting details—lots of details—is not one of your strengths, hiring a trained proofreader will be something you will want to consider.

10. Get a cover. People do judge a book by its cover. This is what entices us to pick it up, turn it over, read the blurb, or flip through it. A good cover is vital. If you do not know anything about designing a cover or how a great cover is made, you can learn about it or you can have a designer make one for you. Whichever you choose, you owe it to yourself and all of your hard work to give your book a cover that people will want to pick up.

11. Put it all together and upload it. You should have two files now: the manuscript and the cover. Follow the instructions on your chosen platform (Amazon KDP, Ingram Spark, etc.) and upload your files. There is usually a wait time before your book is “live,” but once that has passed, you should be notified, and your book will be for sale. Congratulations!

12. Market and sell your book. This is arguably the toughest part for authors. You are the only one responsible for getting your book in front of people. You have to sell it. There are plenty of ways to get your book out there. Some suggestions are: book fairs, book signings, social media ads, libraries, farmers’ markets, local events, and networking. You will have to be creative and diligent. Don’t be discouraged, and be ready to learn something about marketing and try new ways to sell your book.

I hope that I’ve helped you know more about the steps to self-publishing your book. If you are ready for editing, formatting, a book cover, or would just like some advice, let me know. I’d love to be able to help you achieve your goal of having your book in your hands.

Happy Writing!




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