I want to self-publish my book. What do I do next?

So you’ve finished writing your book…now what?

You may have solicited to agents and publishing houses with no luck. But that’s not the end for authors today. In fact, many best-selling books are now indie books—indie meaning they are “independently published” by authors.

If you’re looking to indie publish your book, the following is a brief guide to quality self-publishing. These are the steps a large traditional publishing house would generally follow, so by working through each of these steps you’ll essentially end up with a book quality that could compete with any traditionally published book. Certainly you can skip steps listed below, but understand that the quality may be hindered by doing so. Remember—better quality gives your book better credibility in the market to compete against traditionally published works. A better product means more sales.

Most steps come highly recommended. The steps are numbered chronologically.

1. First, you need a completed manuscript that has been professionally edited. Your book is an investment; don’t skimp on creating a quality product. Proofed to Perfection provides editing services that range based on the book’s needs. Inquire at inquiries@proofedtoperfection.com for details. Also, this is the time to decide on a title and genre for the book. If you’re uncertain of the exact genre of the book, the standard fiction/nonfiction genres can be an acceptable default, but it helps with targeting your audience if you can narrow down the genre. Also, you need to decide if you want to go with a hardcover or paperback book (or both). The retail price will depend on the length of the book—the longer, the more expensive—so you’ll also want to set a price that competes well in the market. These decisions can be made in advance to avoid unnecessary costs down the road. The book should have all of the necessary parts, in this order:
a. Half title page
b. Title page
c. Copyright page
d. Dedication
e. Acknowledgments
f. Table of Contents (if applicable)
g. Introduction/Foreword (if applicable)
h. Chapters
i. Author Bio

2. Have the book copyedited/content edited. A content edit can help polish the prose by trimming out excessive adverbs, progressive tense, repetition, reworking awkward prose, as well as cleaning up the mechanics and fixing any plot holes or add missing information. It can also address any flat characters or unclear content to ensure that the final manuscript reaches its best potential. Remember—your book will be judged by all its readers, so you don’t want to cut corners with the material.
3. Once the book is content edited, consider getting a second proofreading. If the book was being published by a traditional publishing house, it would then be proofed several more times. For authors with a budget (which most authors have, understandably), at least one additional proofing would be a big help in cleaning up lingering errors. This diminishes the margin for error in the text. If you can’t afford to pay for a proofing, make sure you read through it very carefully and perhaps solicit the help of a friend who is very familiar with grammar and mechanics to also look for errors. Keep in mind all books have lingering errors, so don’t worry if a few slip through. You can always correct them after print and update your files as needed, which is a common traditional publishing practice.
4. Next, you will need to come up with marketing text. Marketing text is what goes on the cover of the book. It often consists of a riveting book blurb/summary, endorsements for the book (if applicable), and a catchy headline. The marketing text should focus on what makes the book stand out amongst the competition. Some books have a brief author bio and author picture on the back cover.
5. After the second proofing, the book should go to layout. A layout designer sets the creative interior of the book into a final PDF form. For those on a budget, you can also do your layout in Microsoft Word, but it will take some tinkering to get it just right. You’ll need to make sure to use page breaks, remove excessive hard returns, and apply chapter headings to ensure it looks professional. You can find layout designers on websites like http://www.fiverr.com, http://www.upwork.com, and on Facebook.
6. While the interior layout is being designed, it’s usually a good time to hire a cover designer (in some cases an interior layout designer can also design the cover). For most books, the font and some design elements of the cover will be used on the title pages, so the interior layout and cover design should roughly be done around the same time so that the interior designer can use some of the cover design elements for the interior. Some authors design their own covers, but remember that a book is sold by its cover, so make sure it’s quality work.
7. While the final touches to the design are being done, it’s time to purchase an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) and barcode from Bowker. If you plan to sell books through traditional methods (bookstores, online, etc.) you need an ISBN and barcode (you can purchase both in a single package—just make sure you get the barcode with it). This keeps track of sales and other bibliographic data. Go to http://www.isbn.org for more information. Once you receive your ISBN and barcode, you will register the ISBN with Books In Print at http://www.bowkerlink.com. Then you will send that barcode file to the cover designer to put on the back of the cover. Some authors also register Library of Congress CIP (Cataloguing-in-Publication) data. You will want to do this step if you plan to get your book in libraries. This information will go on the copyright page. Go to http://cip.loc.gov/ecip1.html for more information. Note: Each version of the book—hardcover, paperback, e-book—requires a separate ISBN. However, eBooks do not use a barcode.
8. Once the cover design and interior layout are completed, a final production proofing is standard. A production proofing proofs all of the cover text, as well as spot checks the interior layout for any lingering mechanical errors, general layout design, widows/orphans (extra spaces), table of contents consistency, page numbering consistency, chapter start consistency, and other details to ensure that everything is properly organized and clean. It’s that last set of eyes to make sure everything looks clean before it goes to print. Many authors do this step on their own if they have a tight budget.
9. Once the final production proofing is complete, the book is ready to go to print. Here is when you’ll start looking into printers. There are countless printer options like print-on-demand (the printer only prints copies as they are ordered so there is no overhead and you have no responsibility other than to sit back and get paid) or some big-selling authors prefer large quantity print-runs since it’s cheaper. Some printers even have ties to large distributors, such as Lightning Source/IngramSpark. Some popular print-on-demand publishers are Lulu, Draft2Digital, and IngramSpark, but there are many others. Do your research to find the best printer for your needs.
10. Setting up your eBook is the easiest part. Make sure you put your eBook on Amazon (the top eBook seller) at http://www.kdp.com. If you also want to distribute your eBook to all other retailers, you can use a site like Draft2Digital to distribute it for you easily (www.draft2digital.com). These eBook distributors will allow you to set up a preorder (where the book is available to buy but it’s not released to readers yet) of up to 90 days, which gives you time to plan out marketing before the book releases. Plus you can upload your preorder book before it’s finished (allowing you to sell the book before it’s ready for release), thus giving you time to make any final changes before it releases.

Note that setting up a print preorder can only be done using IngramSpark. However, many authors will do a preorder for the eBook only, but release their print book on release day (or a month earlier to get early reviews) rather than setting up a preorder for it.

By this point we have the interior and exterior completed and proofed, and the book will be ready for purchase once printed. However, the following steps incorporate publicity tactics that can enhance your sales and promotion:

1. Before you start selling books, it’s recommended that you set a release date at least three months out. This is called a preorder. This will give you time to plan a publicity campaign before the official release date.
2. Print a couple dozen pre-release, or “galley,” books that you can submit for endorsements and book reviews. Send copies of the book along with a press release or one-sheet to places like Library Journal, Midwest Book Review, Kirkus, and Booklist. (Simply Google those names to find their submissions information online.)
3. Start contacting local and/or national bookstores to set up book signings. Ideally, a book signing tour should take place shortly after the release date. Most signings are scheduled well in advance, so it’s important to start contacting stores as early as possible if you want to get a spot in their schedule.
4. An author website in today’s virtual market is highly recommended, so you have a couple options: building your own site, or hiring a web designer. Either way, the more online exposure, the better.
5. Get on social media and build your following. You can also create a newsletter where you host giveaways and connect with your fans. If you’re a serious author, social media is a great way to build a relationship with readers and market your book.

Proofed to Perfection offers a free, extensive marketing plan for our clients, so now that you’re ready to market your book, ask us about the marketing plan so we can send you a copy. A lot of the marketing is free, but there are some suggestions that can be costly, such as booking ads. You’ll want to cater the marketing to your budget and goals.

May your book find great success, and let us know if you need anything along the way!