Want to publish your own book this year? Great! So do many others. If you want to set yourself apart from everyone else who will struggle with their goals, kick your year off right with our checklist for self-publishing a book.
To understand why each item on the checklist is important, we’ll break down each part of the book publishing process and what you need to know.
You already know editing is important, right? In case you’ve forgotten, the point of editing is to make your manuscript the best it can be. A poorly edited book is unlikely to get much positive reception, no matter how interesting or important the story or topic is.
The multiple stages of book editing can be separated into two divisions: one where you and/or your family and friends can help, and one where you need professionals. The first step is self-editing and beta reading, which you can do yourself (self-edit) or have family help (beta reading). Then comes the professionals with developmental editing (big picture), copyediting (how you say what you say), and proofreading (final mistakes).
For more information on the editing stages, we’ve got a great Author Learning Center resource with a step-by-step guide to the book editing process.
The level of editing you need depends on a number of factors, including how much you’ve edited before you reach the professionals and what your strengths and weaknesses are as a writer. Consider getting something like a manuscript evaluation from a professional and experienced book editor, which offers suggestions for the level of editing you’ll need, along with how to publish the best book you can.
How much time does editing take? Two to three weeks for each round with an editor is a good start. Don’t forget to factor in all the time it’ll take you to self-edit and incorporate the suggestions your editor’s made. With all the editing you have to do, it’s perfectly normal to spend months in the editing stage of the publishing process. Like many of the other stages of the self-publishing process, it’s one that you don’t want to rush.
If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a million times: people judge books by their covers. It’s not difficult to understand why, either. Humans are visual people, and the cover is the first thing people see. Consider this: some readers buy books just because they loved the cover.
Your book has one chance to make a good impression on potential readers, and that’s going to be the cover. And covers are hard. With shopping online, covers need to look good as a thumbnail on a computer screen. Your cover designer will know how to do this, and stay within genre expectations, while still creating something fresh and new. A stellar book cover design will increase your book’s chances of success.
And your cover isn’t the only part of your book that needs to be designed. The inside of your book has to look as awesome as the outside to give you a competitive edge. For print books, that means going through layout, usually through software such as InDesign. For ebooks, that means having your book formatted in both MOBI and EPUB.
How long does design take? The front book cover design can take a few weeks and the back cover design (if you’re doing print) can take about a week. The layout of your interior can take a few weeks, and comes after the cover because the cover design informs the interior layout. Formatting for ebooks can also take a few weeks.
Distribution can fall under two categories: print and ebook. Each has its own considerations and timelines. There’s also the direct-to-reader sales page, which allows you to sell your book—print or ebook—directly to readers, cutting out the wholesaler or distributor and putting more net profit in your pocket. The direct-to-reader sales page can be used in conjunction with print and ebook distribution or as your only distribution model.
Because ebook distribution doesn’t involve the actual printing of books, getting your ebook out into the world takes less time. That doesn’t mean it’s any less important, however. Getting your ebook—and the correct files for the correct ereaders—into as many retailers as possible is a must. When you distribute your ebook, don’t forget the most advantageous distributor: you, with a direct-to-reader sales page.
With print book distribution, you must also factor in the time it takes to actually print books before they can be distributed to the warehouse, retailer, or consumer. Print distribution falls under two types: print-on-demand (POD) and expanded. Expanded is similar to the traditional model, where books are printed ahead of time and stored in a warehouse, rather than being printed as needed.
Whether you choose print-on-demand or expanded distribution depends on a number of factors. If you’re not sure what’s right for you, we’ve detailed the pros and cons of each distribution model for you.
Although we’ve listed marketing under its own section at the end, marketing is something you have to do throughout the entire publishing process. The good news is, sending your manuscript to professionals for editing and design creates natural breaks to give you time to begin marketing. Whenever your manuscript is with someone else, you can work on your marketing efforts.
Successful marketing involves creating momentum rather than executing a single marketing task. That means you have to start early, before your book is even published. You can market your book before it’s published by marketing yourself—which means building your author platform and engaging with people.
When you market yourself and form lasting relationships with people, those people will say, “You have a book coming out? I must have it!” by the time you begin marketing the book itself. Having your author platform in place by your release date may also make it easier to gain coverage for your book and spread the word farther.
The Self-Publishing Checklist
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