A hopeful author, like yourself, has written a manuscript, wants to publish it, but doesn’t know where to start. You are ready and determined to reach your dream of self-publishing a book–YOUR book.
I’ve written this post for you, if you are completely new to self-publishing and have no idea where to begin. It can be overwhelming when you start researching the process of self-publishing a book. So, I would like to give you some places to start. Of course, I could write a book on the subject of self-publishing a book, but others already have, so this is not comprehensive. But I will give you some steps to follow that will kick you off in the right direction toward achieving your dream.
1. Find an editor
No matter how many times you’ve heard this, I can’t give any further advice without first emphasizing the importance of having another set of eyes on your writing. I can’t be the final editor of my own work–and I edit others’ writing for a living–and you can’t edit your own work completely. Nothing screams ‘self-published’ to a reader more than sloppy writing and typos that could be avoided. So, here it is again: get an editor. That’s your first step in reaching your goal of becoming a published author.
2. Hire a cover designer
So, while your book is being professionally edited, find a cover designer. As readers are combing the deluge of books online, your cover will be the first thing that catches the reader’s eye. Tell your designer you need a high resolution, print-ready cover and an ebook cover. Don’t skimp on this step. A good designer will know exactly what specs to use, depending on information you provide. With a good story, professional editing, and a professional cover, ‘self-published’ or ‘traditionally published’ will never even enter the reader’s mind.
3. Build your tribe
And while you’re waiting on the editor and cover designer, start building your author platform. Do what works for you, but get yourself in front of your future readers. Join Goodreads; write a blog; start an author Facebook page; create a Twitter account and start interacting with the types of folks who will enjoy your genre. In short, start acting like a published author. Put yourself out there and say ‘hey, I have a new book coming out!’
Take care of first things first
Have you noticed a theme? None of the above steps are about submitting your book to Amazon or choosing a printer or distributor. These things are important and will come later; but first you need to build a strong foundation for a professionally published book–a book that you are going to self-publish.
Building that foundation–strong editing, strong cover, and strong marketing–is the most important, and first step, toward your publishing dream.
Now you can take care of the nitty-gritty details
Here are some more important steps you can take toward getting your book ready for publication.
Perform basic style formatting
Okay, now you’re on your way to self-publishing a book. You’ve been through the painful editing and revision process, and your book’s content is as strong as anything published under <insert famous author name>. Now you can start formatting your book. How you format will depend on your self-publishing and distribution choices. But do some basic formatting now that will make your life easier later.
Add styles to your chapter headings and paragraphs. You can change these later with a few quick steps if you’ve already included basic formatting. Remove tab stops. Remove extra paragraph tags. Make your text as simple as possible with a style for every element in your book. Take a look at this post for some quick stylistic tips.
Identify distributors for self-publishing a book
Amazon is not your only option. There are many distributors and aggregators that can serve as a platform for self-publishing. Here’s an article I posted that will introduce you to the best distribution options.
Next, find the formatting instructions for each option you choose. Most distributors publish some sort of document that tells you what elements are allowed and which ones are prohibited for uploading to the service. Smashwords, for example, publishes a very comprehensive guide for self-publishing a book to its online store, and if you follow it to the letter, you’ll have no difficulty uploading your book, and it will look professional.
Format for each distributor
This is another step you can out-source; or you can do it yourself if you are comfortable with using styles and following guides for specifications. For ebooks, keep it as simple as possible: only a few styles, no page numbers, and a linked table of contents, if you want one. Many online distributors for ebooks will allow you to upload a Microsoft Word document or PDF. For print, the layout and resulting PDF is more complicated for a professionally self-published book. If you’ve never worked on layout design, I strongly suggest you invest in out-sourcing this step to a professional book designer.
Purchase an ISBN
I’ve written two posts about why you need an ISBN and how to buy an ISBN and add your book’s metadata. I even included a PDF with step-by-step instructions for buying an ISBN and adding your metadata. The ISBN needs to go in the front matter of your book on the copyright page and on the bar code on the back cover of the printed version.
Get ready to upload
As you can imagine, each step is a lot more involved. Self-publishing is not as simple as a single blog post. But once you have a professionally edited manuscript, a professionally designed cover, a neatly formatted document, and an ISBN, you can upload your book to your many book distributors.
Wait, how do I upload to a distributor? We missed a step. You need to set up your distributor accounts.
Seriously, that missed step was just to prove a point: there are many details along the way. Don’t be discouraged if this is the first time you are self-publishing a book. You’ll figure out what you’ve missed as you go. The most important matter is that you focus on those first few steps of getting your manuscript, cover, and final document in the best possible shape–professional shape. Take care of first things first because you won’t get another chance to make a good first impression.
And that good impression will make the realization of your dream all the more sweet.
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