If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing your carefully crafted words in someone else’s hands but have been put off by traditional publishing, there’s another way. Self-publishing has risen in popularity over the last few years, with more than one million books making their way to the internet every year thanks to self-publishing. It’s easier than ever to share your work online, and we’re here to give you the step-by-step directions that you need to self-publish a book.

Why Self-Publish a Book?

Before you start looking at different self-publishing platforms, it’s important to think about why you might choose this path over traditional publishing.

There’s a certain prestige that comes with working with agents and a publishing house. But self-published authors often find that they’re able to hold onto greater control when they’re the one in charge of their book’s distribution.

When you self-publish a book, you’re also able to keep your margins higher. Self-publishing costs significantly less than a traditional route, since there’s no publisher taking a cut of the profits. Aside from any editors or designers that you might work with and need to pay upfront, the rest of the money that your book makes belongs to you.

Another perk of self-publishing is the opportunity for new writers or underrepresented voices to share their work. Until the traditional publishing industry catches up, self-publishing can often level the playing field for authors who would be overlooked by publishing houses.

Have a manuscript in hand and convinced that self-publishing is for you? Let’s take a look at what you actually need to do to make it happen!

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How to Self-Publish a Book

Step 1: Choose a Format

Once your manuscript is written and edited, you’ll need to format it for publishing. Your first decision: will it be an ebook or a print book? 

With print, the format is fairly straightforward. All you need to do is save your manuscript as a PDF, which can then be dropped into a book design template for any standard print book size. 

There is some variation in this, depending on if you’re going for a small mass market paperback, trade paperback, or hardback. But on the whole, a PDF gives you the adaptability that you need to fit all of the industry print standards.

When it comes to ebooks, though, PDFs just won’t cut it. The text can be incredibly small to read on digital devices, so special formats need to be used to adapt to different screen sizes. 

EPUB is the most commonly used choice and is standard for all ereaders, except for the Kindle. To ensure that everything is formatted correctly, you’ll need to use a validation tool before uploading anything in EPUB (the International Book Publishing Forum has a free one).

Because Amazon likes to be unique, Kindles use a format that’s similar to EPUB called MOBI. The output will look exactly the same to a reader, but you’ll want to make sure that you create a separate MOBI file before uploading to Kindle Direct Publishing. While you can use an EPUB file with Kindle, there’s a higher chance of the layout breaking than if you use MOBI.

When you’re trying to make a decision on which format is right for you, keep in mind the costs associated with publishing a printed book vs. an ebook, how quickly you want to get your book on the market, and the size of the audience you can reach with each format.

Step 2: Design a Cover

You’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but—let’s face it—looks still matter. Unless you also moonlight as a graphic designer, it’s best to hire someone to help you with this process. Professional book cover designers will have insight into the types of cover art that audiences want to see and what will make them pick up your book. They’ll also have a good idea of the imagery and typography that works best for the genre of your book and help you to avoid any copyright issues with similar publications.

As the author, you’ll want to work closely with your designer to make sure that your vision comes to life within the cover art. No one knows your book better than you, so it’s your job to convey your ideas to the designer. 

Step 3: Find the Right Self-Publishing Software

These days, there are hundreds of self-publishing platforms that you can use besides Amazon (although that’s still a good option to reach a wide audience). For ebooks, there are significantly more options out there since distribution is instant and only requires a single file upload. Notable names in this space are:

Some of the most popular options for both ebooks and print books are aggregator sites. These platforms will distribute your book to both digital and print retailers, including the ebook publishers above. The most commonly used software include:

Costs can really vary when it comes to publishing platforms, so it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting for your money. Try to find the sweet spot between something that fits your budget and has the biggest possible audience size. Royalty payouts is another crucial area to look at, since that will ultimately determine how much money you can make from your book sales.

If you’re hoping to sell print books, compare costs across different providers and how their process works. Do you need to bulk order a set number of prints before they go on sale? Or can you work on a print-on-demand system, in which books aren’t printed until a customer places an order? It’s often a more cost-effective and eco-friendly option since there’s no waste or large upfront costs.

Step 4: Prep Your Book and Get Published!

Once you’ve made some decisions about the platform that you want to use, you’ll need to go through the actual publishing process. Most software will require you to enter the same basic information, including:

  • Your book title: You probably already know this one, but keep in mind that it should be original, memorable, and searchable.
  • A short description or blurb: This is the paragraph or two that you’d see on the back cover of the book. Even for ebooks, you should have a description that’s around 200 words and gets people interested.
  • ISBN: Your International Standard Book Number is unique to your work, and you’ll need a new ISBN for every edition or format of your book (so the paperback ISBN will be different from the ebook ISBN). Your publishing platform should provide you with a help area where you can purchase any ISBNs that you need—just know that you’ll need to purchase it before your final cover is designed as it will need to go on the back barcode.
  • BISAC Code: Retailers will use this code to categorize your book based on the genre, topic, or theme. This helps them to place it in the right spot in their online or physical store so that the right audience can find it.

From there, you’re ready to upload the manuscript and cover art before reaching the most rewarding part: hitting publish! 

Share Your Story With the World

The world is your oyster when it comes to self-publishing. With a little creativity, motivation, and some hard work, your book could be sitting on someone’s shelf in just a few months. So what are you waiting for? Get writing!

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