How-To Guide

How to Self Publish a Book as a First Time Author

Have you been sitting on a book idea? Now is your time to learn how to self publish your book.

    Part 1
    How to self publish your book
    14 min read
    In this Article

    Have you been sitting on a book idea?

    Maybe it feels like it could be a bestseller!

    Traditionally, authors had to work within a publishing house’s boundaries in order to attract an audience with their book, but now anyone with an online presence can publish their book, their way.

    With so much creative freedom and opportunity, it’s no wonder the self publishing industry continues to climb each year.How to self publish a book as a first time author

    So what does this mean for you as a content creator? It means that learning how to self publish a book has never been more accessible.

    But before you jump in with both feet, we want to share some pros and cons and steps to self publishing before you make your decision. Then you can decide if it is the right choice for you.

    The benefits of learning how to self publish a book

    Let’s start with the benefits. Self publishing has become a popular choice for new authors because they don’t have to wait for a traditional publishing house to approve their book.

    You can take success into your own hands! It also helps you take advantage of a few more benefits, which we’ll discuss below.

    Benefits of how to self publish a book- faster time to marketFaster timing to market

    Most authors who work with traditional publishing houses finish their manuscript several months (if not years!) before they get to see their book in print.

    Many authors find it hard to sit back and wait for their book to be published. When you learn how to self publish, you’re able to move forward within a few days when using select self publishing platforms.

    That means you can start building buzz around your book and know it’s going to be released much sooner than it would with a traditional publishing house.

    Benefits of how to self publish a book- higher royalty payoutHigher royalty payouts

    You get higher royalties when you learn how to self publish because you don’t have a traditional publishing house that will take a percentage. This means more profits from book sales will come straight to you.

    Keep in mind that your royalties will still be affected by your book distributor and book printing costs as a self publisher, but those would still apply with a traditional publishing house.

    Benefits of how to self publish a book- full creative controlFull creative control

    When you work with a traditional publishing house, they have a full team to help you with editing, designing, and creating marketing materials for your book.

    While that may sound appealing to some, others may find themselves having to give up an aspect of their vision because the publishing house gets the final say.

    When you learn about self publishing, you alone have control over:

    • What your book cover art looks like
    • How your book will be presented and edited
    • What you want to include inside the story

    If you have certain non-negotiables when it comes to how you want your book to sound or look, self publishing will be a great option for you.

    Benefits of how to self publish a book- you'll retain your rightsRetain your rights as the book’s creator

    This is one of the most significant benefits of self publishing your book. When you work with a traditional publishing house, they often give you a large book advance for the rights to exclusively publish your book.

    It makes sense, but it also means you don’t have the rights to do anything you want with the book anymore.

    If you decide you want to make the book available with a retailer the traditional publishing house doesn’t approve of, you can’t take it to them because the traditional publishing house now owns the rights to your book. You also can’t make edits without their consent.

    Some authors don’t mind this tradeoff, but many content creators who are used to having full control over where and how they sell their products may have trouble with selling the rights to their work.

    The cons of learning how to self publish a book

    It’s only fair to follow up with the downsides of self publishing your book after presenting the benefits. Depending on your goals, publishing your book with a traditional publishing house may be a viable and attractive option for you.

    Traditional publishers are usually looking for:

    • Authors who have a very strong book proposal backed by a well-connected agent
    • Strong plot lines in trendy genres (zombies and vampires are on their way out!)
    • Authors who have already amassed a large online audience (that’s why it’s great to start building your email list and social media presence now!)
    • Book ideas that have wide appeal in growing markets
    • A well-crafted manuscript that is already written (with the exception of non-fiction, since many of these authors are picked up mostly for their audience size)

    If your book fits within these guidelines, traditional publishing may be worth looking into. Self publishing may not be right for everyone, so here are a few cons to the process of creating and selling your own book.

    Cons of how to self publish a book- harder to get into bookstoresHarder to get into bookstores

    Many authors dream of going to Barnes & Noble and seeing their book sitting on the shelves next to their favorite authors. If that is your vision of “making it” as an author, a traditional publishing house will be a good partner to help you get into bookstores and local libraries.

    However, keep in mind that book sales are decreasing at bookstores and increasing online with popular retailers like Amazon. Just because your book isn’t in a bookstore doesn’t mean it won’t sell.

    Before you choose to self publish your book or go with a traditional publisher, it’s good to ask yourself how important it is to be in a bookstore and if it’s worth it to you.

    Cons of how to self publish a book- you have to self fund your bookYou have to self fund your book

    A traditional publishing house is there to take care of funding the book, but they also get larger royalties because of it. Many self published authors think they need to fund all of their book costs upfront, but that isn’t necessarily the case.

    Instead of having to self fund the upfront costs of printing hundreds or thousands of book copies, you can choose a print on demand service to help you reduce your out-of-pocket costs.

    Some print on demand service providers like CreateSpace allow you to self publish your book with NO upfront fees!

    There is less risk involved with the print on demand route because you don’t need to predict how many books you’ll sell in order to make a nice profit.

    You also don’t have to worry about fulfilling orders and shipping books, which is nice for authors who are looking for a hands-off approach. And it saves you from having to store a large inventory of books in your home or elsewhere.

    Cons of how to self publish a book- responsible for marketing your bookYou are solely responsible for marketing your book

    Since you don’t have a built-in team of people at a publishing house that will help you market your book, much of those responsibilities fall on you as the self published author.

    That’s why we recommend building your online presence as soon as possible with your website, email list, blog, and social media. It will be essential in helping you reach more people and sell more books when it comes time to self publish.

    While you can publish blog posts and social media posts that talk about your book, you may want to look for outside-the-box ways to market your book. If so, here are a few of our favorites:

    • Go on a DIY book tour to get your book in front of more readers. People are usually more likely to buy when they have a connection to the author, know they’ll get an autograph, and can experience the contents of the book in-person through a speech. It’s a great way to build buzz!
    • Create a Kickstarter for your book and start crowdfunding. You can do this before you start writing your book or when you’re ready to launch your self published book. Crowdfunding has helped thousands of authors self-fund their books.
    • Build your own book launch team so you can hit the ground running with early adopters. When choosing people to be on your book launch team, think about reaching out to loyal followers in your community along with influencers in your book genre. Your followers will be more open to posting in-depth reviews and creating valuable content about your book, but influencers will help you reach bigger audiences with just a few mentions of your book.

    We’ll talk more about how to create a winning book promotion strategy, but before we tackle your book marketing, we need to go back to the beginning.

    Self publish a book in 7 steps

    If you’re ready to dip your toes into self publishing, I want to start off by saying congratulations! This is a big step forward in bringing your book idea to life.

    When I self-published my poetry collection, I didn’t really know what to expect.

    How long would it take to create the book? How would I market it? Would my book sell?

    These questions may be swirling around your head too.

    The good news is you don’t have to have every question answered before you move forward.

    All you need is to understand are these steps to self publishing in order to self publish your first book.

    When you know the path you’re following, it’s easier to take your first step and keep the momentum going throughout the book writing, publishing, and marketing process.

    Know the “why” of your book

    As the author, you need to be deeply connected to the “why” behind your book.

    Ideally, you’ll be able to fully describe what this “why” is before you start writing your book. It’s important because people are more motivated to read books that have a strong purpose that can be easily understood.

    If you are struggling to put your “why” into words, don’t worry! We have a few prompts to help you get started:

    • What is the point of your book?
    • What is the end goal?
    • What journey are the characters going on?
    • Who is the target market of the book?
    • Why would your target audience want to read the book?
    • Why do you need to write it as the author?
    • What would make this book a success for you?

    How to find the why for your book

    Every book has a different “why”, and it’s the “why” that makes it successful. You could have a brilliantly written book, but if a reader can’t understand the “why”, they won’t buy it.

    Your book’s “why” isn’t usually found overnight so give yourself some time to explore it.

    Build an audience

    Remember how we talked about the importance of having an online audience before you self publish? This is because most of the people who buy your book at first will be those you have already built relationships with.

    The sooner you build an online audience, the better!

    Just think of how much more confident you’ll be in self publishing your book when you already have a community of social media followers, email subscribers, and blog readers who can’t wait to buy your book.
    Steps to self publishing- build an audience

    You could share progress reports of what part of your book you’re working on, or you could publish excerpts from your book as you go. One of the greatest tools you have is the ability to show your process and get other people excited about what you’re creating!

    Set deadlines for yourself

    If you just groaned a little bit, you aren’t alone. Setting deadlines can be difficult, especially if you are juggling other side hustles, a full-time job, or a full-time business.

    Most people don’t have the ability to take off months at a time to write their book, but thankfully you don’t need ample vacation time to write a great book.

    Elizabeth Gilbert wrote books in between her waitressing job shifts, and JK Rowling wrote small notes on scraps of paper that she later turned into the Harry Potter series.

    Steps to self publishing- set deadlinesAll of that is to say that you can start writing your book at any time! As you get started, try to set realistic deadlines for yourself that take your current responsibilities into account. It may be helpful to set deadlines for:

    • Finishing your rough draft
    • Self editing your rough draft
    • Sending your book to an editor
    • Finalizing your book
    • Creating a cover design

    Set a budget

    Before you think about hiring a book editor, book designer, and calculating your printing costs, it’s good to set a preliminary budget for how much you’d like to spend.

    Steps to self publishing- set a budgetYou can find this by looking at your current finances and predicting how many books you’d like to sell. Having a budget in mind will keep you from overspending on your first book.

    If you outsource your book’s design and editing, it could come with a hefty fee depending on the freelancers or businesses you work with. We recommend getting quotes from a few different editors or designers so you can choose your best fit from there.

    Create an outline

    All of the steps you’ve taken so far will help you prepare to create your first book outline. It’s helpful to have an outline before you start writing that gives you direction for where to take the story.

    You don’t need to have everything explained in detail before you get started, but it is helpful to have any key scenes or important stories mapped out.

    You can keep some wiggle room in your outline so you can follow each surge of creativity as you progress through the story.
    Steps to self publishing- create an outline

    Have a writing ritual

    Now it’s time to do the actual writing! It might be helpful to set goals for how many words a day you’d like to shoot for.

    Some authors choose 1,000-1,500 words each day if they want to finish their book in a month, while others take a more relaxed approach.

    Since you are the book creator, you can decide what works best for your own creative process. Once you find your flow, it’s best to keep that rhythm going.Steps to self publishing- have a writing ritual

    You can also create an ambiance for your writing time to get you in the zone. This could include lighting candles, writing at a designated desk, opening the curtains to let light in, making your favorite warm beverage, playing instrumental music, or anything else that helps you relax and write more freely.

    Prepare your book for self publishing

    Once you’ve finalized your manuscript after working with an editor and completing all of your deadlines, you will start looking into choosing the right self publishing platform. This will be helpful when you collaborate with a book designer so they have the right dimensions.

    You can then focus on what book printing and book distribution options you want to move forward with. We’ve done a lot of the research for you so you can choose your best option in record time.

    Having your book summary and title ready will also help you when uploading your book on your self publishing platform and setting your launch date. When doing so, you’ll want to think even more in-depth about your book promotion and marketing strategy.How to Self Publish a Book in 7 Steps

    Ready to learn how to self publish a book?

    There are so many ways to make the self publishing process fit your schedule, your vision, and your needs. To help you along the way, we’ve put together resources and tools that can help you on your self publishing journey. We can’t wait to see what you create!

    Make a living selling your work

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    Kayla Hollatz

    Kayla Hollatz is a copywriter and content creator for creative entrepreneurs who want their words to connect and convert. Few things make her happier than ghostwriting for clients in her studio, aka her four-season porch with a lake view. She can frequently be found fighting Minnesota winters with a mug of hot chocolate in hand.