Self Publishing? Where to start

There are a number of myths and/or outdated views on self-publishing today. They tend to undermine and demean the quality of the end product, your book, in the eyes of the mainstream publishing world.

But what often gets left out of those conversations are the benefits of self-publishing. And there are plenty of them that we will explore in upcoming articles. But one key benefit is CONTROL. Control of the timing, the layout, the content, the visuals (i.e. book cover), and where it is sold.

Far too many self-publishers think Amazon is the only game in town when it comes to self-publishing, and they are a critical piece of the puzzle, but there are many other avenues to getting your books in front of readers.

But before we delve into where to publish your new book, let’s go back to the beginning and discuss how to get your book ready to publish.

Once I have decided on a title, which usually comes to me in the first few chapters of the writing process, I start thinking about cover design. As a matter of fact, my most recent book, STONE SCAR had a cover before I had even written a word of text. This allowed me to start pre-promotion while I was writing the book. One of the things that often sets self-published work apart from the traditionally published works is the quality of the cover. Please, I beg you, unless you are a graphic designer who specializes in Book covers and Album covers, don’t make your own cover. It will never be as good as someone who does it every day.

Don’t think you can afford a cover designer? Think again. You can’t afford NOT to do this right. Your cover is the only thing people see in the digital marketplace. It may not be what ultimately sells your book, but it is often what gets people to click on it and see what it is all about. While I support finding a local designer when you can, there are plenty of places to have a cover made very affordably. My last three book covers were designed by someone that I found on at an average of $40 each and I promise you my best work would never have come out this nice.

Once you have finished your writing process, the next step is Editing. This is, in many ways, the most difficult piece of the puzzle for many authors. Do the best you can on your own, then run it through something like Grammarly or Once you have gone through that again (and perhaps again) have someone else edit it. You simply cannot edit it yourself, our brains tend to fix things to what they should be as we read what we wrote. This causes us to miss many errors. Another set of eyes is critical. Choosing an editor is a whole separate discussion in and of itself, but for the sake of brevity, get someone else to do it.

The next step to getting your finished manuscript ready for publishing is to format it properly. To do that, you will first need to decide what ‘TRIM SIZE’ you are going to use. This means what size book: 5″x8″, 5.25″x8″, 6″x9″ etc. Depending on what program you wrote your manuscript in, there are several ways to approach formatting. If you wrote it in WORD on a PC, you can actually format it in WORD, I did that for my first two books. Vivien Reis has a great step-by-step tutorial on how to do that here

For my last novel, I formatted it using Vellum. It made it simple and beautiful. The drawback to Vellum is two-fold: it is a MAC-only application, so if you are a PC user there is no easy way to utilize it. It is also quite expensive for its narrow niche, but the beauty and the ease make it worth it. In fact, when it became time to upgrade my PC, I splurged on a Macbook simply so I could use Vellum. I don’t regret it for an instant.

Keep in mind that you will be doing several different formatting versions: paperback, ePub, Mobi, and possibly even a Large Print paperback.

Once you have your manuscript edited and properly formatted, you will have a page count and can have your full book cover made and set to a template for Amazon and/or IngramSpark (more on that in the next blog post)

If you have thoroughly gone through these steps, you will be prepared for publishing… Now you just need to figure out how and where to publish. We’ll answer those questions in my next post.

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