Self-Publishing 101

Updated: Apr 26, 2020

More often than not, the DMs that I get on Wattpad, Instagram and Twitter are from aspiring authors like myself asking how I got my books published. The answer is: I didn't. I decided to go a different route with my books, and I self-published all of them...including a trilogy that will never see the light of day on Wattpad, since it was published about eight years ago.


Self-publishing takes a lot of hard work. Like...a lot. You don't have a publisher breathing down your neck with a deadline, you don't have a team of editors analyzing every sentence for grammatical errors, you don't have a professional graphic designer making the best covers their degree taught them to make. It's just...you. It's you and your computer and whatever motivation you can muster to finish it. So in this post, I wanted to walk through every step of the process, or at least every step of my process...and hopefully help some author out there who is trying to see if the self-publishing route is right for them.


1. Writing


Obviously the most important part of publishing any book is actually writing the book. This is where a lot of the motivation comes in, a lot of the late nights, early mornings, and cramming in a little time where you can. This probably seems like a step that would be longer in length, but this post isn't about writing a book--it's about the steps necessary to self-publish one. So, you have to write it. Everyone knows that.


2. Editing


I feel like a lot of people forget about this part when self-publishing. You have to make sure the book is actually...good. Once you finish writing, you're so proud of yourself and you're ready to be done. The hard work is finally over--except that it's not. I have a very specific way of editing my books that I am prepping for publication, and it's different from how I edit my books that are going on Wattpad or Radish Fiction or any other web platform.


The best way of editing for me is to go through each chapter twice through. I start with Chapter One and read it through once, correcting typos and grammar errors and anything else that might need simple touching up. Then I read it through a second time. This time, I'm looking to add depth to the chapter, whether that's through a subplot that I want to add in, an anecdote about a character's childhood, or anything else that I feel would add to the story. By going through each chapter twice, I ensure that every page is exactly what I want it to be.


3. Formatting


This step may vary based on publisher, but this is how I go through the process with my own books. I use KDP, or Kindle Direct Publishing (formerly known as CreateSpace) to publish my books. It's a great self-publishing company that doesn't charge an arm and a leg to do it, and gives you a lot of help when publishing. So when it comes to formatting, this is very specific to them and the options they give.


KDP has a lot of different templates you can download to your computer to format the book yourself, since self-publishing is pretty much all done yourself (it's even in the name). You choose the dimensions of your book and choose whether you want a formatted template--which comes with fill-in-the-blank pages for your dedication, acknowledgments, page numbers, and a ton of other things--or a blank template, which formats the words in the right dimensions of the book (so you're not making an 8x11 inch novel) without forcing you to do anything else.


For me and my books, I use both kinds of templates. I start with a blank template and I use this during the editing process so that I have a rough idea of the book's length while editing. Then, when I'm done editing, I download the formatted template and copy and paste the book from the blank one onto the formatted one, and then I add in the extra stuff like dedications and acknowledgments, which I'll talk about a little later.


4. Covers


This is where you're really able to do whatever you want. Book covers are great ways to express yourself and the message you want the book to get across. I personally use Canva to make my covers, which works great for me. The one important thing to remember during this step is to ensure that you're using images that are available for public use and modification, so that you don't risk being sued by the picture's owner at a later date.


5. The Little Stuff


This is a step that I think a lot of people bypass, or just forget that it exists in the first place. This is where you add in the extra things that make a book a book. You're going to want a cover page, which contains the book's title and author. You're going to want a page with the ISBN number on it, which your self-publisher should assign to the book. You're probably going to add in a small dedication, usually in italics and no more than two lines, and then a separate page for longer acknowledgments. You're also going to want to make sure you give credit for any images used in your book, and include an "About the Author" section in the back if you want to.


6. Putting it All Together


This is another step that's very specific to the self-publishing site you choose. For me and KDP, you put everything together online in one place. You'll upload your front and back covers, you'll upload the file with your actual book. You'll put everything together and then order proof copies to look over.


7. Proof Copies


This is plural because I usually like to order two. Proof copies are inexpensive copies of your book that are sent to you to review. When reviewing a proof copy, you're back in the editing world. I have a very specific system when it comes to reviewing my proof copies. I usually have one for myself and have someone else that I trust review the other one (for Dear Sydney, it was my dad). I use those little multicolored mini sticky notes to mark the pages where I've made changes, with different colors for grammar errors I didn't catch before, new additions I want, and formatting mistakes that I need to fix. I write directly on the book so that I am able to really ensure I'm catching everything. After I review the copies, I take my copy and the copy I gave away and I enter every change into the computer before re-uploading the manuscript to the KDP website.


8. Publication


And then...you're home free. Kind of. You're ready to publish the book, which usually means clicking a button. You can choose where you want your book to be available, and you can set its price as well. Most self-publishing sites will tell you the royalties you are expected to make per book sold, which often helps in determining the price point. It might take a day or two for the book to pop up on Amazon, but there you have it: you're a published author!


 

Self-publishing is difficult, and being published isn't even the end of the road. I plan on making another blog post in the near future about all of the tips and tricks regarding marketing a self-published book, and how to use social media and timing to your advantage when publishing. It's a hard journey and it takes so much effort and commitment on your part, but holding your own book in your hands is so worth it in the long run.


Let me know your thoughts on this post and if it helped you along your own self-publishing journey!

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