How to Self-Publish a Book (Part 1 of 4) By Stacey D. Atkinson

Have you written a book and are now ready to take the next step toward publishing? Or perhaps you are a freelance editor who works with self-published authors, and you want to build up your knowledge of the steps needed to turn an MS Word manuscript into a printed book for sale on a bookstore shelf. How does that happen?

Well, overall there are ten steps to self-publishing a book. In Part I of this blog, we’ll review the first five steps, which are to first determine if self-publishing is right for you, and then move on to writing a book, editing a book, designing a book interior, and designing a book cover.

1. Self-publishing—Is it for you?

Stop. Before you go any further, you need to ask yourself three questions:

  • Why am I writing a book? (e.g., for family and friends; for sale at speaking events)
  • Do I have an entrepreneurial drive? (e.g., I enjoy promoting what I do on social media; I’d rather just write and have someone else sell my book)
  • What kind of book am I writing? (e.g., a popular genre such as a thriller; a niche topic with a small audience)

Your answers to these questions will determine if you are a good candidate for self-publishing—that is, being your own project manager and running the business of selling your book—or if you should be spending time seeking out a traditional publishing deal with a publisher (spoiler alert: publishing deals are hard to get, which is why so many new authors turn to self-publishing).

Tip: According to the 2015 Smashwords survey, the top fiction genre is romance, and the top nonfiction genre is biography.

2. Writing your book

Write the best book you can possibly write, and be original. That means taking the time needed to fully work out the plot/thesis, character development, and style and tone. Keep writing and rewriting, and look for inspiration wherever you can, for example, by taking a creative writing class, watching YouTube tutorial videos, and buying yourself some inspirational writing books, such as On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King.

Is your book complete? You’ll want to spend time planning out the front matter and end matter. The front matter is a section of pages found at the beginning of the book that could include a half title page, a copyright page, a dedication, a foreword (not written by the author), a preface (written by the author), an epigraph (quote), and endorsements or blurbs from notable people.

The end matter content is placed at the back of the book and could include an author bio, an epilogue or afterword, a glossary, end notes and footnotes, an acknowledgement page, an appendix, an index, and a bibliography.

 Tip: If you’re having trouble finishing writing your book, remember that we all have a creative voice and a critic voice inside our heads, and any negativity you might be feeling is coming from the critic voice. So find ways to quiet it, such as writing for ten minutes straight, without stopping to rework anything. 

3. Editing your book

A writer simply can’t edit his or her own material—even if that writer is a professional editor! It’s just too hard to find your own mistakes. Plus, it’s always good to have fresh eyes on your work. For those who are not familiar with the different ways to edit a book, here’s a rundown of the four types of editing that an editor(s) can do for you to polish your book for publishing:

  1. Structural editing focusses on assessing and shaping material to improve its organization and content. This is the type of editing you would need if your manuscript was incomplete and you wanted advice on how to close the gaps in the story line, reorder the chapters, and resolve the plot.
  2. Stylistic editing clarifies meaning in the sentences, improves flow, and smooths out the language. This is the type of editing you would need if your manuscript was complete but you wanted to improve your wording and vocabulary, and you wanted advice on the plot and characters.
  3. Copy editing ensures correctness, consistency, and completeness. This is the type of editing you would need if your manuscript was complete and well written, and you wanted a review of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and consistency of style.
  4. Proofreading examines material after layout to correct errors in textual and visual elements. This is the type of editing you would need as a final review of your fully designed book after a copy edit and before going to print.

Tip: Use Editors Canada’s Online Directory of Editors with keywords to help find an editor experienced in editing books in your genre (e.g., historical fiction, memoir).

Stacey is Director of Training and Development, Editors Canada, and has published two books, Stuck and Letters from Labrador.  

For a more in-depth learning experience on the ten steps to self-publishing, check out the online course How to Publish a Book, offered by Stacey D. Atkinson. Contact the author at info@mirrorimagepublishing.ca or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Watch out for Part 2 of this article soon!

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