My Self-Publishing Journey

In a previous post, I talked a bit about why I went with self-publishing and the impossibly difficult path I had to take to get to that decision. I breezed through some of the things I did in order to get published, but I wanted to take a bit more time going through the process for those who are curious or are thinking of self-publishing themselves.

  1. The first thing I did was hire a professional editor. Editing your own work is possible, but even the most diligent writer can miss a typo. If you want your work to look polished, put some money aside for an editor. It is worth the investment, I promise you.
  2. The second thing I did was hire a professional cover designer. Again, you can make your own cover, but keep this in mind: the success of your book depends ENTIRELY on a solid book blurb, and an eye-catching cover. EVERYONE judges a book by its cover, and an amateur cover will stick out like a gravy stain on a lily white tablecloth. Also, look at other professional book covers in your genre and age-range. What is the trend these days? What styles/colours/fonts are popular? Will your book fit in if it was placed on the shelf with today’s bestsellers?

3. Typesetting. This is another task you can delegate to a professional, but I was on a tight budget, so I actually did this myself. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, typesetting is formatting your manuscript from an 8×12 Word document into the 8.5×5.5 print book format, and it can be done. but be warned, it can be exacting and meticulous work. You have to make sure that you have mirrored margins, that your text doesn’t run off the page and the font is easy to read. It can’t be too small and the lines can run too close together. Take a look at the books on your bookshelf and try to match the typesetting. Remember, this is not the time to adopt a ‘that will do’ mentality. Embrace your inner perfectionist, and if you order a proof copy of your book, and you don’t LOVE it, make changes until it’s exactly what you want. Note that the typesetting for ebooks will be slightly different than the typeset you need for paperbacks, which will be slightly different than the typeset you need for a hardcover (if you want different sized books).

4. Apply for ISBNs. If you are just publishing an ebook on Amazon’s KDP platform, you don’t need to apply for an ISBN (they will assign you an AISN automatically). However, I was publishing an ebook, paperback, and hardcover, and I was going to do so through various markets, and to do that, I needed my own assigned ISBN – one for each format. Luckily, these are free to apply for in Canada. All you have to do is submit an application through Library and Archives Canada.

5. Create a website. You aren’t just a writer now. You are a writer, editor, publisher, marketer, and bookseller, and if you want to be able to reach your audience, you need to be able to connect with them on a professional, public platform.

6. Get ARC reviews. Reviews are the bread and butter to a successful book, and if you are starting from a place of obscurity, you’ll need to get your book into the hands of reviewers as soon as possible. I did this through Netgalley, an online platform where reviewers, booksellers, librarians and media professionals can request e-ARCs for soon-to-be released books. Note that the reviewers do not get paid to review your book; reviews are 100% honest, which means you are not guaranteed a five star review. (You don’t pay reviewers, but Netgalley is a paid service, so keep this in mind when budgeting).

7. Get your book on Goodreads. Getting your book on Goodreads is important if you want to increase its visibility. Your ARC readers will post their reviews, and you can link the page to the retailers that will be selling your book. Make sure you sign up for the Author program and link your profile to your book! (Note: you can only do this once your book is available on Amazon, not before).

8. Set up your KDP and Ingram Spark accounts. KDP is the self-publishing platform on Amazon, and it is a very straightforward and user-friendly interface. Like KDP, Ingram Spark is an online self-publishing company that allows you to print, globally distribute, and manage your print and ebooks, and this includes hardcovers. If you want your book in any brick and mortar store, you will need to print through Ingram. I wanted to use both KDP and Ingram Spark, which you can do, so long as you don’t select the ‘global distribution’ option when setting up your book in KDP. This is important!

9. Determine the cost of your book. Remember, you are the publisher, so it’s up to you to determine the cost of your book. Here are a few things to keep in mind: if you want to be competitive in the market, your price has to be competitive. You what to match your book’s price to the price of similar books on the market. Too expensive, and no one will buy it, too cheap, and you won’t make a profit (and you might actually lose money). What you want to do is calculate the printing costs, the wholesale discount, and then ensure that you’re earning a royalty off the top.

10. Develop a marketing plan and organize a launch week. This is your time to promote your book, so scream it from the rooftops – now is not a time to be shy! Reach out to other bloggers for interview or guest post opportunities. Contact your local libraries to see if they would carry your book, or host a public signing. There isn’t a limit to what you can do, but there is a limit to what you can afford, and it’s careful to approach marketing with a firm budget in mind so that you don’t get carried away and end up at a huge loss (unless you can afford to, which most of us can’t). You can do so much before you book is even available, so don’t wait until the last minute.

11. Hit PUBLISH. It’s scary, but it’s exciting too, and if you’ve come this far, you should give yourself a major pat on the back.

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