How To Self-Publish A Book In 10 Steps

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Want to learn exactly how to self-publish a book like a pro? I’ve been doing this for a decade now and I’ve created this comprehensive guide to help you through the ten steps to successful self-publishing.

This guide covers everything from how to write a book that readers actually want, finding a professional editor, learning your niche and nailing your branding, how to format that manuscript of yours so it’s a perfectly reflowable ebook (some serious pitfalls here if you don’t know what you are doing), what price you should stick on that book of yours so that you can be enticing to readers but still make some scratch, and a few pointers on how to sell the blasted thing – as if you didn’t have enough to be getting on with! And that’s just for starters.

It’s a long, comprehensive post so use the menu below to click ahead, if needed. If you want my recommendation, grab a sandwich and read the whole thing. Hell, two sandwiches – it’s a monster – but there is a treat for you at the end. (It’s not another sandwich.) There’s even a place for you to ask questions at the bottom… if you have any left after digesting this beast!

1. Write A Book Readers Want

You can write whatever you like. This is one of the joys of self-publishing and being the captain of your authorship. However, if you wish to sell you must write a book which readers actually want to buy.

Here we run right into the first misconception authors can have about marketing. The aim of marketing – the non-sleazy variety – is to connect customers with products they already want to buy.

Marketing is not about creating a desire to purchase but tapping into one that is already there.

Writing to Market

Of course, that also means that marketing isn’t about convincing someone to buy something they don’t truly want. Which is a problem if you have written for a niche audience but you’re selling it to a broader one.

If you want to self-publish a tragic love story about star-crossed space weasels, or a time-travel murder mystery starring a cybernetic centaur and his non-corporeal nemesis Mister Stinkcloud, you can totally do that (and I would totally read it).

If your tastes lean more towards latter-Han dynasty poetry or you have a forever-burning desire to tell the true story of Second Punic War – but in the style of a sea shanty – you can totally self-publish that as well.

You are the CEO of You, Inc. after all. But if you want a career as a professional author you must consider the market.

Finding the Sweet Spot

This doesn’t mean you have to sell out, whatever that means. But you do have to seek the overlap between what you like to write and what actually sells.

Commercial considerations don’t end there – not if you are focused on making a living out of self-publishing. If you are just a hobbyist, that’s perfectly fine and valid.

(And that’s not intended in any pejorative sense whatsoever. Both paths are valid. Just clearly delineating between writers seeking to build a full-time income and everyone else because the former requires a different toolkit.)

Size Matters

The career-minded self-publisher should note that novels sell much better than short stories. (But here’s some specific advice for short story writers.) And it’s far easier to build a full-time income if you write a series versus only publishing standalones. At least, that’s true for most genres and niches.

You’ll find that virtually every piece of self-publishing advice must be caveated. Writers and readers and books are so diverse that often anything goes. Some generalities must be made when dispensing advice, though, or else everything will end up qualified to death. So, let’s proceed with this firmly in mind: there’s an exception to every rule and authors love breaking rules.

Key point here is this: your personal preferences are irrelevant in one sense; the market doesn’t care what you prefer.

Going From Standalones to a Series

I started out self-publishing in several different genres. I focused more on short stories and standalones. As such, I can tell you the following with complete confidence.

It is much easier to make money if you focus on novel-length work in a commercially viable niche. A world or characters you can potentially spin out into a series too.

This advice really isn’t as limiting as it might sound; the market has swelled and balkanized to the point where that’s a rather generous runway for your story-plane and all sorts of sub-genres have become viable for self-publishers.

Maybe you’ll even surprise yourself! Personally, I found the process of considering the market and plotting out a potential series more enjoyable than predicted. And the increasing royalty checks from Amazon should make a rather comforting salve to any remaining discomfort.

Writing a book is an impressive feat. Getting all those words in the correct order is not as easy as Hollywood might suggest. And you should certainly congratulate yourself if you reach The End. You have genuinely achieved something special. And that puts you ahead of most people with literary inclinations. People who often never even start the book they have been talking about for years. Or rarely get beyond a few pages.

So, well done you. But now the real work starts.