How to Publish Your Book Independently


Indie Publishing vs. Self-Publishing

There are three terms for publishing a book yourself:

  • Vanity Publishing
  • Self-Publishing
  • Indie Publishing

These three terms describe the act of publishing a book yourself rather than publishing through a traditional publisher. The term someone uses reveals their degree of bias against the practice. 

A person who is hostile to the idea of authors publishing their own books will call it “Vanity Publishing” or “Self-Publishing.” Proponents of the practice call it “Indie Publishing.” 

I use the term “indie publishing,” and I have no dog in the fight. There are pros and cons to traditional and indie publishing, and I work with successful authors who make good money with both methods. 

I am also convinced that both methods require the same amount of work for the author to succeed. However, some authors are better suited to one or the other. 

To discover which method is best for you, you need to be fully aware of what the process requires. We’ve already talked about How to Get Published with a Traditional Publishing House.

So with that out of the way, let’t talk about the indie publishing process. 

Step 1: Prep the Inside of the Book

Focus on the substance first.

Write & Edit the Book 

The first step of indie publishing is to write and edit the book yourself. The writing should be as tight and compelling as you can make it before you share it.

Beta Readers 

Getting beta reader feedback on your book is key to getting more five-star reviews. Test your self-edited book on your beta readers so your story will be more likely to connect with your readers. 

Developmental Edit

After you get feedback from your beta readers, work with your developmental editor to fix the problems beta readers pointed out. While beta readers are great at pointing out problems, they rarely suggest viable solutions.

Beta reader feedback often sounds like this:

“When I hit the brakes, my car squeaks. I think it needs an oil change so it doesn’t squeak so much.” Your developmental editor can determine the real issue, just like a mechanic who can clearly see the problem is with the brakes, not the oil. 

A developmental edit is an edit of the ideas in a nonfiction work. For a novel, the developmental edit is an edit of the story. It is the big-picture edit.

Add the Utility Pages

Once you finish the developmental edit, it’s time to add the utility pages.

  • Copyright Page: This page also includes the ISBN and other metadata.
  • Table of Contents: If your book is formatted correctly, you can do this with two clicks. Correct formatting means you have consistently used the “Headings & Styles” feature inside your word processor.
  • Acknowledgments: Thank the people who have helped you personally while you wrote the book, such as your friends, family, babysitters, and coffee shops. 
  • Back Matter: These pages in the back of your book encourage readers to read your next book, sign up for your email list, or write a review.
  • Credits: Thank the people who helped you professionally. If you paid them, list them. You can also list members of your launch team, beta readers, and Kickstarter backers. I have found that people work harder and better when they know their name will be attached to the work.

Once you’ve added your utility pages, your manuscript is complete! But your work is not finished.

Copy Edit

The next round of editing is an edit of the words. Your copy editor will take a detailed look at punctuation, grammar, and word usage. I recommend hiring someone other than your developmental editor. When most people ask for an editor, the copy editor is usually what they have in mind.

When you are done with the copy edits, your writing is finished! But your book is not!


Typesetting is the process of laying out the words on the page. In this stage, your document goes from being double-spaced to single-spaced. Book pages are about half the size of a standard laser-printer page, so the words jump around a lot during this process. 

When the typesetting is complete, you’ll find out exactly how many pages your book will be. Everything before this point was an estimate. If you’re worried your book is too short or too long, there are many typesetting tricks to increase or decrease the number of pages. We discussed some of those tricks in last week’s post, 10 Decisions Every Indie Author Needs to Make Before Publishing a Book

In the typesetting process, you’ll make sure new chapters always start on the right page and that there are no ugly page breaks. When typesetting is complete, you create the ebook version of your book. 

Typesetting used to be a huge undertaking. In ye olden days, they used actual metal type and placed it on the printing press. They pulled the letters out of a “type case” where the big letters were stored in the upper case, and the smaller letters were stored in the lower case. That’s where those terms came from.

Typesetting has come a long way since then. In the computer era, digital tools like Calibre or Indesign are easier than laying out letters by hand, but they’re still pretty complicated. 

Now you can use Vellum to typeset your book, and you can easily do it yourself. 

If your document is correctly formatted, typesetting could take as little as 15 minutes using Vellum. Book Sections should be Heading 1, chapter headings should be Heading 2, and chapter sections should be Heading 3. 

You can customize your headings styles, and your word processor will keep it consistent throughout your document. Remember, if you are changing the font size by hand, you are doing it the hard way. 

To learn about formatting, check out the following resources.