The Ultimate Guide to Self-Publishing for Beginners
Welcome to our quick and easy self-publishing guide.
Self-publishing is easier and more lucrative than ever before.
There’s even a ton of shared knowledge from successful authors showing you exactly how to publish, promote, and grow your earnings WITHOUT ever signing a contract with a big, evil publisher.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about publishing a book by yourself in 2020.
Self Publishing in 2020: A Quick Rundown
Self-publishing is the publication of an author’s own work without the involvement of a traditional, established publishing company.
Basically, it’s making your book and promoting it on your own rather than giving a cut to ‘the man”.
A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away (1990’s), publishing your own material was cumbersome, time-intensive, and VERY EXPENSIVE. Hence why traditional publishing companies accumulated so much power.
Nowadays, it’s laughably easy.
You just set up an account at a self-publishing service, get the format right, add some key information, and wait for the money to roll in (kind of).
The Benefits of Self-Publishing
Bypassing the traditional gatekeepers of the industry is one of the most fulfilling and exciting creative experiences for authors.
Think about it like this…
Say you write your book and contract with a publishing company. Great, you’ll get your book to market…but on THEIR TERMS.
They dictate what you can and cannot say.
They tell you where to promote it.
They take the majority of the profit.
They almost always retain the rights for reprints, audiobooks, or film rights (If it ever gets to that stage).
It sucks for authors.
But if you publish on your own. Well, now you’re your own boss.
Total Creative Freedom: You’ll never need an editors approval or need to worry about corporate blowback. You get the final say on everything.
Retain All the Rights: What do the Godfather, the Lord of the Rings, To Kill a Mockingbird, and the Wizard of Oz have in common? The writers (Or their estates) of these books got rich when they were turned into movies. Now, when you accept your Oscar for best adapted screenplay, you won’t have to give any of the money away.
Keep All the Royalties: By cutting out the middleman, you don’t have to grease any wheels to get your cut of the royalties. They all go straight to you.
The 3 Most Common Ways to Self-Publish Your Book
First-time authors often DIY their book out of necessity, but most second-time authors will tell you they regret it.
It’s better to enlist a bit of help along the way. Your book will be a whole lot better.
Here are the common ways to get your book to market:
- 100% DIY (Not Recommended): This is where you literally do everything from design and editing to formatting and promotion. If you’ve got the skills, go right ahead. Just be warned: IT’S NOT EASY.
- Act as Your Publishing Command Center: This is where you write the book but hire a few helping hands. You’ll need AT LEAST an editor, designer, and online marketer who specializes in eBook marketing.
- Hire a Self-Publishing Service Company: this isn’t the same as inking a deal with “the man”, it’s a company that provides all of the services you’ll need to go from manuscript to market. They’ll coach you, edit, format, and design your book, then they’ll do the keyword research and marketing. Definitely worth a look if you’ve got the money.
How to Get your eBook Ready for Publication (And What to do Next)
OK, so you’ve got the next bestseller collecting dust on Google Drive.
Here’s what you need to do to get that bad boy ready for the digital shelves.
First, Hire an Editor
Nobody publishes a book on the first try.
Get an editor. One with a ton of experience reviewing, editing, and coaching for the eBook market.
We highly recommend going with an eEditing service for eBooks but they can be pricey. Your next best bet is to look on Upwork, Fiver, or Freelancer.
HACK: There are Facebook groups completely dedicated to editing and eBooks in general. You can find some great editors/designers here without paying a middleman fee. Just search for eBook groups in FB search.
Next, Get a Designer
Do not design your ebook cover on your own unless you’re an experienced designer.
It will not end well if you do.
The designer will make a vibrant, symmetrical cover that properly reflects the tone you’re going for based on experience in the market. Certain color palettes and text locations exude different moods and actually encourage purchases.
If you go it alone, you’ll get something that looks more like birthday cake splattered on someone’s face.
Format Your Text Based on Your Publishing Style
Are you going to publish with PDF (Yes!), ePub, or Amazon’s Kindle Format (AZW)?
eBooks should be plain font, lots of spacing (single spacing), page breaks after each page, no graphics, and only bold or italics modifications.
When you have tens of thousands of words, this can be a real slog. Again, we recommend hiring a professional to do it for you or going with a service company. You don’t want to do all of this work if you don’t have to.
TIP: Soda PDF is perfect for storing data and ensuring no one can manipulate it. Turn your manuscript into a secured, markupable PDF and share it with editors, designers, friends, and family, all protected by a password only they know. It’s also perfect for editing. Anyone can add notes!
Get a Copyright
Here’s the cool thing: Your book is copyrighted as soon as you publish it.
Here’s the not cool thing: If you don’t get copyright protection yourself, it’s time consuming and painstaking to prove you were the original author. So just get a copyright. It costs about $35 and is worth every penny.
LIFE HACK: Reach out to successful book reviewers in your niche, and offer them your book free in return for a real review. Good or bad, getting your book’s name in front of more eyes for free is a great way to gain some exposure.
Decide Where You’re Going to Publish Your Book
The vast majority of sales come from Amazon. This gets a bit murky since some retailers don’t care if you publish in multiple locations. Some even push you to multiple outlets.
These are the main publishers:
- Amazon: Kindle Direct Publishing is by far the most popular vehicle for self-publishing. Not only will you get in front of more eyes around the world, you can earn up to 70% royalties and your book is live in 24-48 hours. If you grant Amazon exclusive distribution rights for 90 days, you qualify for the Select program, which gives you even juicer marketing opportunities.
- iBooks: Apple offers a 70% royalty rate (Usually better than Amazon), and accounts for 10% of total sales out of major countries.
- CreateSpace: Owned by Amazon, your book will exclusively retail there. You’ll get a ton of exposure but you will pay dearly!
Now for the publishing aggregators. These aren’t really retailers, they just push your book to dozens of different outlets for greater exposure in return for a commission.
- Draft2Digital: this one service will list your book on Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Scribd.
- Smashwords: One of the biggest and best. Smashwords distributes your book to Apple and Barnes and Noble. Plus Tolino, Overdrive, Hive.co.Uk, and almost 10 more outlets.
Self-publishing is easier than ever. It’s possible to take a manuscript from in your computer to live and worldwide in a day or less. You might not even have to do any work yourself. Is that the next big bestseller there? I think so!