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8 Steps You Must Take Before Self-Publishing Your Book

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Poppy is a freelance writer and proofreader. She loves to read and help make stories shine.

In this new digital age, publishing has never been easier.

Amazon and Goodreads are a breeding ground for hopeful new authors, most of whom are virtually unknown and inexperienced in the publishing world. Many writers haven't the first clue about what it takes to publish a book. I'm not talking about throwing something together on CreateSpace. I'm talking about publishing something professional, memorable, worthwhile and, most importantly, well written and well edited.

Readers are more likely to choose books that are professional, memorable and well written.

Readers are more likely to choose books that are professional, memorable and well written.

So you're here, and you're still reading. Perhaps you're a writer yourself, and you've published a few of your own books. Perhaps you're almost at the publishing stage and you're researching what you have to do before you finally release your masterpiece to the world. If the latter is you, then bravo. I applaud you. You have already taken the first step to making sure that your book is worth more than the hastily released works that aren't even nearly ready to be bought and read.

Your book is finished, or almost finished. What do you have to do before you become an officially published author? How can you stand out from the crowd, and make sure that your indie book is worth reading?

8 Essential Steps for Self-Publishing a Book

  1. Write a Good Book
  2. Get Beta Readers
  3. Take Criticism Well
  4. Get More Beta Readers
  5. Hire a Copy Editor
  6. Hire a Proofreader
  7. Get an Amazing Cover
  8. Format, Format, Format

Step 1: Write a Good Book

Well, duh, you're probably thinking.

You'd actually be surprised how bad some self-published books actually are. It's a hell of a shame, because there are just as many good self-published books out there. Don't be another one of those authors who was so excited to release on Amazon that they forgot rule number one - making sure the book is actually good. People will hate it. They'll hate you. And not long after, you will hate you.

How Can I Make Sure My Book Is Good?

If you are happy with the plot, the characters, prose and narrative - genuinely proud of your work - then you're one step closer to having a finished product and a "good book".

However, reading and checking for yourself alone isn't the answer. Whether you think it's good or not, there are going to be people who disagree with you. There will be people who find errors that you couldn't spot after reading over it 50 times. At this stage, then, you need beta readers.

Beta readers will offer you their honest opinions on your work (good or bad!).

Beta readers will offer you their honest opinions on your work (good or bad!).

Step 2: Get Beta Readers

Beta readers are people who read your book from beginning to end and give you a raw, honest opinion. Some readers will be writers themselves, and other readers might just be people who love to read. They're getting a free book, so it's a win-win situation.

However, it can be surprisingly difficult to find people to beta-read, especially if your book is long. People say they don't have time to read, and others would prefer to just enjoy a book, without the pressure of having to talk you through your mistakes. Here's a clearer list of people who don't make good beta readers.

Who You Should Not Ask

  • Your best friend. Even if they're super eager, there's always a chance they'll lose interest or never find the time to sit down and read it. You'll keep pestering them, they'll feel awkward about it, and you can potentially lose friends. It happens.
  • Your mother. Your mum is probably going to love what you write no matter what, and less likely to point out areas where it can be improved. If you want to hear a string of compliments, your mother is the best person to choose to read your book, but probably not good for honesty.
  • Your girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband. Again, someone close to you is unlikely to be completely honest and tell you things that need to be improved.

Who You Should Ask

  • Other writers. Writers know their craft, and an experienced author (particularly someone who writes in the same genre/field as you) will be ready to point out anything that doesn't sound right. They'll be able to offer constructive criticism and even offer suggestions on not just what needs improving, but how to improve it.
  • Editors. Editors are people who love books, and probably won't charge you for beta reading your book for free. Editors and proofreaders are experienced in this sort of thing, and won't be shy to point out things that could be improved. And if they become interested in your project, you already have an editor sorted out (more on that later).

Where can you find beta readers? Critique groups and writer groups are all over social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Be friendly, be humble and willing to read other people's work, too, and you have a huge group of willing beta readers (and possibly future customers) clamouring for your book. Popular sites like these include Writers World and Phoenix Quill on Facebook.

Step 3: Take Criticism Well

Don't send off your book to someone and expect them to say it's perfect. They won't, unless they're in the "SHOULDN'T" list above.

Think of criticism as a free gift helping you to make your book better. Even if they trash it, ask yourself "why?" If someone says "your book is crap" without any meaning behind it or way of justifying it, then by all means, ignore them. But if you get comments like "the description of X in Chapter Y sounds a little off", "you have a continuity error where the main character thinks this in Chapter Three but then this in Chapter Seven", or simply "this part doesn't make sense", then you've got something to work with.

People aren't trying to hurt you, but it can sometimes feel that way. It's like being told your baby is ugly. Even if your baby is hideous, you're going to love it anyway.

But unlike a baby, a book can be made better. Take criticism well, and use it. If one reader thinks something is wrong, it's highly likely others will agree with them.

Send out more manuscripts to more beta readers.

Send out more manuscripts to more beta readers.

Step 4: Get More Beta Readers

That's right. Clean up your manuscript and send it to more beta readers with the new improvements. Hopefully, you'll have some interest from your original readers to read the new version. This is ideal, because they can let you know if your changes are better than before, and extra things you may have missed.

The beta stage is a pain, but it's necessary if you want to be taken seriously as a writer.

Copy editors will help you make your manuscript glow.

Copy editors will help you make your manuscript glow.

Step 5: Hire a Copy Editor

One of the downsides to self-publishing is that often you have to pay for editing services out of your own pocket. The upside is that you know what you're getting and you can choose an editor who is right for you.

The first step in editing (aside from your own) is to hire a copy editor. A copy editor checks for things like repetition (and what synonyms you can use instead), words that can be replaced to have a bigger impact, and a general "clean up" of your weaker sentences. Beta readers won't do this for you, but a professional copy editor can help you make your manuscript glow.

A good proofreader will help you find those elusive typos you've overlooked.

A good proofreader will help you find those elusive typos you've overlooked.

Step 6: Hire a Proofreader

All stages are important, but they can (perhaps) be skipped if you're a more seasoned writer with an already established fanbase. However, proofreading is an absolute must.

What Does a Proofreader Do?

You can't spot every single mistake yourself. A proofreader fixes:

  • Typos
  • Punctuation errors
  • Grammatical errors
  • Spelling mistakes

Unless your book is very, very short and you're a proofreader yourself, it's a great idea to hire someone to check for these errors.

A sadly huge amount of self-published books have been nowhere near a proofreader, and you can tell. They're riddled with spelling mistakes, tense confusion and incomplete sentences, ruining the reading flow and often leaving paying customers frustrated and unsatisfied. To avoid becoming one of these writers, hire a proofreader (AFTER your copy editor is finished with your work) to polish and perfect every sentence.

Designing a book cover includes front, back and spine.

Designing a book cover includes front, back and spine.

Step 7: Get an Amazing Cover

Believe it or not, people do judge a book by its cover.

Hire a computer savvy friend (or a professional) to design your cover for you. As well as beautiful art and the right font, the designer must take into account the book spine and back cover. Check out Charlie Hoehn's great article on creating a professional cover. You can do this yourself too, but make sure you know how.

Your book cover is the first thing potential readers see. You wouldn't want your masterpiece of a manuscript hidden behind a cover that looks like this, would you?

Step 8: Format, Format, Format

Self-publishing either a paperback or an ebook takes a lot of work with formatting. The font has to fit properly on a Kindle or other ereader, the spine and cover size on a paperback has to look correct, and there are potential issues with paper sizes and page orientation. You also have to make sure that your formatting is absolutely perfect.

If you decide to publish with CreateSpace, they will send a sample copy of your book to make sure you're happy with the paperback version - please do this step. It can be frustrating to have to wait a few days for the book to arrive, but it's much better than realising the mistakes after it's been released, and having to un-publish it and start again.

Your Manuscript Is Ready!

After these steps have been completed, you will (hopefully) have a well-written, professionally edited manuscript, with a great cover and proper formatting. You are ready to jump into the world of publishing, where you can proudly call yourself an author. Congratulations!

Are you happy with this guide? Is there something we missed? Leave a comment below.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2016 Poppy


Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on November 09, 2016:

Thank you for your comment. I agree that it's difficult to market your book. My advice to people who struggle with marketing is to just research how to do it (I'm doing that myself too); there are a lot of cheap, and even free books on Amazon about how to promote.

Readmikenow on November 09, 2016:

This is excellent advice when it comes to writing a good book. The next step in the process is selling it. I've known many writers who self-published amazing books that didn't sell. Sadly, these were writers and not people good at promoting their book. They were confused by the concept of marketing their book. Excellent article.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on November 09, 2016:

This valuable advice is key to writers like me who can always use a few helpful hints. I like the caution about choosing Beta readers. My Mom loves my book! (Of course). I hope you will continue this series with help on how to promote our finished novel.

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on November 09, 2016:

Thanks for the great advice. I am in the middle of writing an e-book and this is timely advice. I also would add that joining a local writer's group is a great addition. They can provide the helpful critique that are invaluable.

Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on October 28, 2016:

Thank you for your lovely comment, Jodah!

John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on October 28, 2016:

What great advice, Poppy. Easy to tell you are writing from experience. Well done.

mactavers on October 05, 2016:

Some very good tips in your Hub. As a writer who has self published one book and had two of my books published by a traditional publisher, I'm ready to self publish another one. A traditional publisher will typically promote your book from six months to a year if you are lucky. A self published book allows the writer creative control. In preparing a book on Northern Arizona my traditional publisher would not allow me to include a section on Route 66 which I have witnessed over and over how many people come from all over the world to drive on Route 66, eat at the old cafes and stay in the old motels. I also know that I have made far more money on my self published book, as I constantly think of new ways to promote it that I can't do with my traditionally published books.

Amelia Griggs from U.S. on October 05, 2016:

Great tips, Poppy! I have several writing projects in the works. Wish me luck!

You offer great advice.

Regards and happy writing and proofreading,


Mohan Kumar from UK on October 03, 2016:

Well done- some really useful tips organised well. I am sure there will be many grateful aspiring authors who will appreciate your insight.

Rosa Marchisella from Canada on September 29, 2016:

Awesome advice!