How to self-publish a book

Congratulations! Whether you’ve written a book, started writing a book, or have a story to tell, self-publishing is a great way to get your story read.

I’m going to walk you through how you can publish your very own book in 4 steps. This is not the “traditional” way of publishing, whereby you have a literary agent or your book is published through a publishing house. Self-publishing is essentially what the name suggests – publishing a book on your own using a self-publishing provider.

So, let’s go!

DIY: Self-publish a book on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing

I am a DIY self-published author, this means I do pretty much EVERYTHING myself through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. And you could do the same!

I will admit, where possible, I work with other professionals to help me get my novels ready for publication.

The professionals I work with, and recommend you do too:

  • Designer for my book cover – although we’re all told not to, everyone judges a book by its cover, so it needs to be high quality.
  • Editor/proofreader – recommended to ensure your story is as strong as it can be.

I’ve always worked with an editor for my books. However, it’s only in my last three novels where I have worked with a designer for the book cover. My first few novels were created by myself, and you can tell, the quality just isn’t there.

Time for the steps of how you can self-publish too.

Here are the 4 steps to self-publish a book

Step 1: Write your story

It seems pretty obvious, but your first step is to get to work on writing your book.

Writing your book requires time and patience. Depending on its length, it could take you anything from months to years to get your first draft complete. My books usually take me about two to five years to write and then publish.

Traditionally published authors will have an advance payment, agent and team to support them through the writing process. For us indie authors, it’s all about motivating ourselves to get that first draft written and keeping ourselves motivated through to final read-through.

Where to start with writing your book

I will base this on being a fiction writer.

Whether your story so far has a protagonist, fictional world, a title, or even all of these elements, it’s essential to plan your story. Take some time to understand and compile your thoughts, and carefully plot your plot before jumping in to write.

Think of yourself as God, you need to create your world. Even better it doesn’t need to be finished in six days!

Once you’re confident that your plot is ready to unravel and your story is set to be written, then write!

Writing your story

From my experience I would say that the most challenging part of writing a book is finding the time to write. Especially if you have a full time job or a family to look after, you need to find every and any opportunity to write.

The key is to finding a routine to write. Fortunately for me my 2016 novel “Deception: A Love of Lies” was written during my university studies. My 2020 book “Familiar” was written on my lunch breaks at work and in the evening and weekends.

You must find a routine to suit you. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself if you have a day where you only write say 500 words. You will have productive days and other days where you want to do anything but write.

How can you set a routine and motivate yourself to write?

Try writing at different times in the day – first thing in the morning, afternoon, evening or late nights.

Bribery is effective for some – set a word count target and reward your future successful self with food (works for me!).

Exercise and walks – getting outside gives you a break and change of scenery. It allows you to have some time away from the story to reflect and reinvigorate your writing mind.

Aim for that first draft

When it comes to writing your novel, it is one hell of a challenge to reach first draft completion. Your main objective is to keep going, no matter how many writer’s blocks you hit – smash through them and keep writing until you have your first draft staring back.

Also consider what your approach is going to be. Are you going to be the type of writer who:

  • Writes fast to get the story onto paper and edit once the full draft is complete?
  • Writes the story but makes sure to go back after any chapter is complete and edit what you’ve just written?

Here’s a secret tip from me – the main progress of your novel comes in the editing phase. There, I said it. Not much of a secret now. What I’m saying is, get that first draft complete, no matter to what quality. Get the story formed in some shape and form.

Make sure you have your first draft written up and complete, and then make sure to move onto editing it fully.

Step 2: Edit your manuscript

Editing can actually take just as long as writing your first draft. And no wonder, editing is where all the hard work is done.

Editing is also a pretty broad term for rewriting, restructuring your plot, and potentially realising you need to rework a lot of elements. It’s at this point where you begin to reflect on the plot as well as the way in which you tell your story.

  • Does the tense fit?
  • Is it in the right person?
  • Are you happy with how the story unfolds?
  • Can you add more to the story?
  • Could you remove words?

All sorts of questions will filter your mind as you enter the editing phase of writing your story.

Stay strong, edit as much as you can by yourself

It may have taken a long time to write the first draft of your manuscript, but trust me, stay strong and get your head into editing.

I will be the first to recommend that you hire an editor, but first YOU need to become the editor. No one knows your story like you, which is why you must read it with a critical eye.

What will you be editing, proofing, reviewing, checking and correcting?

  • Story/plot
  • Characters
  • Spelling errors and typos
  • Grammar
  • Punctuation
  • Tense
  • Character inconsistencies – e.g., Paula had blonde hair and glasses at the beginning, later she has no hair, no eyes, and a sleeve tattoo!
  • Scene inconsistencies – e.g., Paula was sitting at the table a moment ago, now she’s standing on her head.

When editing a novel there’s a lot to think about, but don’t let that scare you. This is the right time to review your first draft and make what you’ve written better.

Struggling to find issues with your work? Now’s the time for a professional to come in

Now that you have torn your story and writing to pieces, it’s time for a professional editor to do the same. Trust me, putting your work through this much aggro will do wonders for your book once you self-publish it.

The last thing you want is a reader to rip your story apart when an editor could do that before you publish it. This is why finding an editor/proofreader is key. You as the writer may miss certain things in your work because it’s your own work. It happens to all of us, we go a little blind to our own writing sometimes and it’s hard to spot errors.

Working with an editor will still require your involvement. They will more than likely work through your manuscript and track their changes and make comments. They will review everything from the plot to spelling, grammar and punctuation. Ultimately, you’re the author so you can decide whether you accept their changes and suggestions or not.

Once you have finished up on the editing, now it’s a good time to turn to how your book looks.

Step 3: Design your book’s interior and exterior

Designing the exterior (cover) of your book is key. However, for us self-published authors, we must ensure the interior of the book is designed and formatted correctly for paperback and e-readers, like Kindle.

Before we jump in, KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) will guide you on formatting your paperback – so if you’re every unsure, head over to KDP.

Formatting the interior – decide what you’re publishing on first

When you self-publish your book your first decision before designing the inside is whether you’re publishing on paperback/hardback, e-reader, or both.

Formatting your physical book interior

When publishing on paperback you need to ensure that your content fits on every page. There are several standards to meet too, including:

  • Chapter headings
  • Page breaks for new chapters
  • Wide enough margins
  • Page numbers
  • Font
  • Copyright

If you’re not keen on formatting the interior on Word or Google Docs, then there are templates available online. In most cases, if you need support on anything, do head over to KDP as they have many templates. Including manuscript templates.

Do check out the paperback manuscript templates on KDP.

Formatting your book interior for eBook/Kindle

I am no professional in this element. It’s very difficult to factor in the different types and size of e-readers. But there is help out there to make it easy.

There are professional designers who can help with this. However, I use a tool from Amazon’s KDP – it’s called Kindle Create. It’s a nifty tool that transforms your Word document into a Kindle-friendly file. It’s a clever software that makes your book look great on Kindle.

Designing your book exterior cover
My Familiar book cover design

The reality is people really do judge a book by its cover. It’s more important than ever to design a compelling book cover. Traditionally published authors have a team of designers to work with on their book cover, so if you want to compete you will need to team up with a talented book designer.

If you would like to design your cover on your own, then you will need to consider:

  • Front/face
  • Back cover
  • Barcode
  • Synopsis
  • Book title and author name
  • Spine size (this depends on the length of your novel)

KDP provides a lot of support on designing your book. If you fancy yourself as a designer, then do check out Amazon’s Cover Creator.

Preview and order a proof

When you have designed every aspect, make sure to preview and order a proof of your work. There may be some issues that you pick up and can rectify before publishing.

Step 4: It’s time to publish

There are two ways really to self-publish. Print-on-Demand (POD) or a more traditional way of finding a printer and ordering a batch of copies. You can even just choose to publish on eBook and not bother with the hassle of sorting your print book.

Modern publishing, and the super easy way to publish, is through KDP!

Kill two birds with one stone through KDP – a Print-on-Demand service for paperback, where you upload your print-ready interior and exterior files (step above). And then upload your digital book cover and interior for Kindle.

Top tip: publishing on paperback through KDP means a high cost with low returns for you. However, eBook sales means the royalties you receive are 80%!

Once you follow all the steps through KDP to publish on eBook, paperback or both, hit finish, your files will be checked by the team at KDP and your book will go live on the Kindle store and, of course, Amazon.

Hallelujah, you’re a self-published author!

Now you’re a self-published, what’s next?

Now that your book is available for pre-order or actually available for readers to buy on paperback or download on Kindle, it’s time to connect with readers and market your novel.

This for me is the most challenging aspect of being a self-published author. Traditionally published authors have a marketing team to support them with their marketing, for us indie authors, we’ve got to do everything ourselves. This is tremendously difficult, especially if you’re like me and have a full time job.

Top tip: In fact, a top tip from me, when it comes to your marketing, do try to build a buzz for your book BEFORE its release.

Some ideas to get you started:

  • Share writing progress updates
  • Create & share your character’s profiles
  • Connect with readers and authors to build beta readers/reviewers for release
  • Create a book trailer
  • Share writing tips and your process
  • Start a countdown to your book’s release
  • Approach local libraries and see if they will stock your novel

Essentially, stay active online, be yourself, and do your best to build excitement around your book’s release.

If you have any questions related to self-publishing or even book marketing, please get in touch.

If you would like to feature on my blog in an author Q&A, head over to my Author Q&A page, answer these questions, and send them over to me!