You can write and publish a book.
This often sounds crazy or intimidating to the writers I mentor in my church’s writer’s group. We’ve been taught that writing a book is hard, that finding a publisher is nearly impossible, and that self-published books don’t look professional. However thanks to the internet, Amazon, and print on demand, it’s now easier than ever for you to professionally publish your book yourself without paying vanity publishers or waiting years for a traditional publisher to be interested.
Having a self-published book that looks professional requires following the process that traditional publishers use and following the style guidelines that are industry standard. This guide is certainly not exhaustive and you will need to do more research to complete each step. But I hope that by having the steps to self-publish laid out you feel empowered to write and publish that book you’ve been carrying in your heart.
Many people do this after publishing their book and don’t understand why it’s not selling. Book publishing doesn’t have to come first. Write a blog, post quality content on social media, establish your voice and grow your following. If you build your platform first your book will already have eager buyers waiting when it publishes.
An email list is an extremely important part of this because that is an audience you own vs renting one on social media. Look at TikTok for example: if that platform goes away those influencers have lost their audience.
They were “renting” their following on someone else’s platform. With an email list you own your following. No matter what platforms come and go, your list can go with you since you “own” your following.
Be sure to setup your email list legally. You must use an email marketing platform like Mailer Lite or MailChimp. And don’t add anyone to your list without their permission. Here’s some basics on email marketing to get you started.
This step is optional and you can wait until after publishing your book to build your platform. However, if you really want to sell your book and build your career as an author, taking this step is vitally important.
Not everyone plans on writing multiple books or building a following and that’s ok. There are many books that need to be written, stories that need to be told, and many of those can be marketed well with just Amazon ads. But if you’ve tried self-publishing before and don’t understand why you aren’t getting any sales it’s likely because you haven’t built your platform or because your book doesn’t look professional.
You can write wherever makes sense to you – Word, Google Docs, Scrivener, random notebooks. You will need your text in Word doc format eventually in the process but that doesn’t mean you have to do your actual writing there. Google Docs and Scrivener both give you the option to save directly to a Word doc. Google docs is a great free option and also makes it easy to collaborate if you have coauthors. Scrivener is a paid writing software that some writers love and some don’t. If you want to try it they have a free trial.
The free version is available for Google Docs as Chrome plugin. Even if you write in Word or Scrivener you can open your Word doc in Google Docs and run Pro Writing Aid and then save back as a Word doc.
It is time consuming to go through all the suggestions but it is worth it. The more time you spend self-editing with Pro Writing Aid, the less money you’ll spend paying a professional editor. The paid versions have more options for what they check for and you can use them on desktop with Word and Scrivener instead of just in Google Docs.
Get 2-3 people to read it and give you feedback, depending on how well you know/trust them you may have them sign a non-disclosure agreement first
These need to be people that will give you clear constructive feedback. Not just “Oh I loved it!” but also “this part didn’t make sense, I wish you’d explained this more, this sentence needs some reworking”
Give them a time frame of when you need feedback returned
Get 2-3 people to read it and give you feedback. Again, these need to be people that will give you clear constructive feedback
Get at least one new reader this time and keep at least one that was an Alpha reader
Give them a time frame of when you need feedback returned
Some try to skip this step, but it is extremely important for professional self-publishing. The more self-editing you do with Pro Writing Aid and getting feedback from Beta readers, the cleaner your text will be for the editor, and the cheaper it will be to have professionally edited.
Reading the book out loud will help you hear where the editor has changed your voice and find more places that need editing for flow. Take notes as you read of spots that don’t make sense, are difficult to read, or don’t say what you intended.
You’ll need two versions of your bio. A shorter one for the back cover and optionally, a longer one for the back matter of your book.
The basics this should include:
Trim size is mostly up to preference but staying within common trim sizes for your genre will help your book look professional and sell well. Workbooks and educational material is often in an 8.5×11 trim size but that size would be odd for a novel.
A trade paperback 6×9 size is one of the most common trim sizes across genres. Depending on the length of your book you may opt for a slightly smaller size to increase the thickness. No matter where you publish, these are the industry standard trim sizes you can choose from.
The back cover copy sells your book. It should tell the reader what your book is about but also why they should care. There are lots of great resources out there on how to write back cover copy and often the best way to write them is to have someone else write it for you.
You don’t have to pay for professional photos, but it should look like you did.
The cover is one of the bigger costs associated with publishing, but it will have the biggest return on investment. You might be able to get away with skipping a professional editor in favor of a helpful friend with an English degree and several rounds of Pro Writing Aid, it’s not as easy to get away with a non-professional cover. You may have written the most life changing book ever, but if the cover isn’t engaging and clear your book just will not sell.
Your book description can include your back cover blurb but should be longer and written more as a sales copy than just a description.
Keywords are not just important for your title and subtitle they are important for your book listing as well. You will be asked to enter up to seven keywords for your book. Be sure to use all seven and don’t use the same keywords you used in your title and subtitle.
You’ll also be asked to select two categories for your book. Categories are important for helping readers find your book and also for getting good sales ranks. If you can find a very niche category for your book the chances of getting a bestseller badge are much higher. After your book is published you can contact Amazon to ask that your book be listed in additional relevant categories, the more the better.
You do not have to sell your book as both ebook and print but with print on demand it makes sense to offer both options. You don’t pay anything to have the additional options and it gives you a wider reach of potential readers.
You can also use different publishers for your ebook than your print book. Some authors will use Draft2Digital for expanded ebook distribution and KDP for their print books. Or many use IngramSpark for their expanded print distribution.
Many authors are tempted to order large quantities and try to tell the books themselves because the profit margins look larger than the royalties you get selling through Amazon or other publishers.
However, the profit margins aren’t actually larger when you factor in the cost to store and ship the books, the work it takes to process orders yourself, and the profit loss if your inventory doesn’t sell. You can always order more author copies.
This is a simple step but helps readers find you yet another way. It also creates an easy way for readers to find your other books if you go on to write more. Amazon Author Central also has some good tools for keeping track of your reviews and sales.
This is the step most self-published authors skip and the reason even most professional self-published books do not sell well. You don’t have to spend a lot on ads, but even a few dollars a day can translate to big returns in sales.