Everything You Need To Know About Self-Publishing A Book

person writing, writer, person on laptop, self-publishing
Juliette Leufke

Ever thought about writing a book? Well, you’re reading this, so odds are: yes.

With the rise of self-publishing stars like Andy Weir (‘The Martian’) and E.L. James (‘Fifty Shades’ series), we now fully realize that you don’t need a book deal to make it on the bestselling list.

Producing The Book:

File this under duh, but to publish a best-selling book, you have to write a book that’s worthy of being a bestseller, or, at the very least, will appeal to your specific audience. Countless blogs and guides will teach you the ‘craft’ of writing, but, for now, focus on developing healthy writing habits:

1. Read as much as you can. Never be an author who writes more books than they read.

2. Create a profile of your target reader. It’s easier to write when you can picture the reader as a real person, rather than a faceless, genderless entity.

3. Start with a plan. Some people write by the seat of their pants but that’s an easy way to write yourself into a dead end.

4. Give yourself a deadline that means something. Enter a novel writing competition or tell your SO to sell your Xbox if you don’t finish 40,000 words by the end of the month.

Rewrite And Rewrite And Rewrite:

Don’t show your first draft to your buddies, to an online forum, or to a professional. Your first draft is a stank pile of garbage that someone left to bake in the hot August sun. And that’s okay. Take time away from your manuscript and then come back and tear it apart. Kill your darlings: if any scene isn’t necessary, trash it or rewrite it.

Work With An Editor (And A Copy Editor. And A Proof-Reader):

A good editor will be your best friend, and you can find some excellent freelance ones. They help you find holes, tighten plots and deepen characters. And if you want to make a good book great, editors are essential. And often you need more than one to get the job done.

1. A Developmental Editor (sometimes called a content editor) assists you with the big picture stuff. If the characters are unbelievable, or the plot has more holes than swiss cheese, they will show you how to fix it.

2. After that, Copy Editors help you on a line-by-line basis, moving commas, un-splitting infinitives, and suggesting ways to make your sentences clearer.

3. Then there are Proofreaders, who go over your manuscript with a fine tooth comb and weed out every last mistake hallelujah amen.

We won’t sugarcoat it. Working with professional editors cost money. On Reedsy, getting “the works” for a book of 60,000 words will run authors an average of $3,240. But if you’re serious about publishing your book, it’s worth it. The number of consistently successful writers who don’t rely on editors can be counted on zero hands because they exist about as much as unicorn steaks and fat-free croissants.

Get A Professional Cover Designer:

Just as nobody should do their own dental work, authors should never design their book covers. That is unless you’re in some ‘Brewster’s Millions’ situation where you need to lose money as quickly as possible. Go to the Kindle store and you’ll see thousands of ebook covers that are so god-awfully bad that they’re actually brilliant. But most are just bad. Readers judge books by their cover. If yours looks amateurish, they will think it was written by an amateur. (And not the wunderkind kind.)

Format Your Book:

Once you have a watertight manuscript and a compelling cover, you need to assemble everything into a book. There are professional book formatters that will handle stuff like margins, bleeds, kerning  — whatever that all means. Unless you’re working with a picture-heavy project like a cookbook, the Reedsy Book Editor is a good way to save some dough.
The Reedsy Book Editor is a free online tool that lets you professionally format your book. You can copy-and-paste chapters from MS Word or Google Docs, keeping all your existing formatting like italics and bold text.

The editor lets you insert images, scene breaks, even hyperlinks. It automatically creates your table of contents and copyright page and typesets your book so that it’s easy to read. Once finished, just upload a cover and hit ‘export’.

One more thing! The Reedsy book editor will export your book in EPUB, MOBI and PDF formats, which will allow you to sell your book through virtually any eBook platform or print-on-demand service.

Hey! Look at that! You’ve got a fantastic book that readers are going to love.

But before you quit your day job and tell Tyler in accounting what an asshat he is, you need to sell some books: let’s talk about distribution and marketing.

How To Distribute Your Book:

As a newly self-published author, you can pretty much forget about seeing your book on the shelves at Barnes & Noble. Chain bookshops rarely stock independent titles. But fear not, gentle reader. The internet is your friend.

Selling E-Books

This is the easiest way to make your book available for sale. Directly upload your book to platforms for Kindle, Nook, and other e-bookstores at basically no cost. By self-publishing, you’ll get a much bigger cut of everything you sell —  anywhere from 40% to 70% of the e-book retail price. That’s amazing considering how most published authors only get seven cents from every dollar spent on their paperbacks.
To sell on these platforms, all you have to do is submit your book as an EPUB file. Upload it to each of the platforms, or use an “aggregate” service like Draft2Digital or Smashwords that distributes your book to all the major retailers in exchange for a small royalty.

Selling Physical Books

The independent authors of yesteryear would commonly print hundreds of books upfront. Their thinking was: reduce per-unit costs by printing in bulk. But, more often than not, they’d end up with a garage full of unsold books and a thoroughly crushed spirit.

These days, print-on-demand (POD) services let you print copies only as-and-when someone purchases the title. The most popular and reliable of these services are Blurb, IngramSpark and CreateSpace. The latter belongs to Amazon, so they’ll also sell your physical book through their platform, printing them out whenever someone hits ‘check out’. Three cheers for a streamlined system.

The 4-Step Marketing Plan:

How can you make your book stand out from the chattering masses? There are more theories and techniques you can adopt than copies of The Da Vinci Code at your local library. But here’s one proven method that you can apply to promoting almost any book:

1. Build Your Mailing List

An active mailing list is the best weapon in an indie author’s arsenal. Get an author website going, and start luring in fans of your genre with a “lead magnet”  — where you offer an incentive (like the chance to win a prize or a giveaway) in exchange for readers’ email address.

2. Get Your Mailing List To Review Your Book

Send out advanced review copies (ARCs) a couple of weeks before launch day and encourage readers to give your book a shot. A professional book publicist can help you secure that sweet, sweet press coverage and reviews from hashtag influencers. High profile reviewers get hundreds of requests a month, so make sure readers from your mailing list post reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

3. Gain Visibility With Discounts Or Giveaways

You can give away your book for free (or at a discount) to attract more readers. Bookbub, Freebooksy, Bargain Booksy, Book Gorilla, The Fussy Librarian, Pixel of Ink, and BookSends: all excellent places to advertise these promos. We know you’d rather have people spend $29.99 for each precious copy of your masterpiece, but this is a proven method for attracting reviews and building word-of-mouth.

4. Use Facebook Advertising

Real talk: most digital advertising is pretty ineffective for books. But Facebook is a (proven) godsend for authors. You can target very specific audiences  — fans of other writers, certain genders, and ages. You can even focus on certain geographical locations. Starting with a $5 budget, you can quickly test and scale your adverts.

Build Your Author Platform:

Wonder why YouTube celebrities are getting so many damn book deals? It’s because they already have a platform: an ability to reach potential readers. So work on building your own. Long story short, you can organically grow your base of fans and readers through:

Your Author Website

If people love your book, they’re probably going straight to Google to find out more about you. This first step to building your online presence is crucial to keep your fans happy and engaged.

Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are terrific (and sometimes terrible) places to interact with readers. Keep them engaged by sharing good original content and replying to their conversations… when appropriate.

Mailing List

Send out newsletters, but make sure they’re of genuine interest to your audience. Let them know about your blog posts and your podcast (if you host one). Maybe run a contest every once in awhile and give away cool prizes.

Will Your Book Become An Instant Bestseller?

The short answer: lol idk. But, truly, many authors have recently found success through self-publishing. Some of them have become famous, others have sold hundreds of thousands of books even though you’ve never heard of them. Pragmatically, your chances of hitting the bestsellers lists with your first book are slim  —  but just keep swimming!

If you have the talent, consistently hone your craft, develop your author platform, and make weekly sacrifices to the writing gods, your audience will expand with every new book you write. It takes work, but at least you can control establishing your Brand as an author.

The publishing industry is changing like crazy, so keep an eye out for new developments and opportunities. Most importantly: learn from your mistakes, and keep writing!


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