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  • [She Self-Publishes] The Steps In Self-Publishing
[She Self-Publishes] The Steps In Self-Publishing
Written by
Emily Suess
December 2012
Written by
Emily Suess
December 2012


Last time on She Self-Publishes we talked about paying a company to get your book in print. This time, we're talking about taking a more independent approach. In this kind of scenario you might do a lot of the legwork yourself while contracting professional designers and editors to handle anything you don't have the skills or equipment to accomplish.


Here are some of the basic steps of the self-publishing process:




The only way out of this step is to hire a ghostwriter, and—call it a hunch—but I think this defeats the purpose for most of us who consider ourselves writers. Even though most of the burden here is yours, there are people and resources available to help you through, whether you're a first-timer or you just need some help getting unstuck.


  • Writing software like Scrivener can help you organize your thoughts and track your progress.
  • Professional coaches and mentors can help you jump over the mental hurdles keeping you from finishing your book.
  • Virtual and real-life writers' circles offer support from other writers who've been where you're sitting.




Your book must be edited by a professional editor. Preferably one who specializes in fiction if you're writing a novel, or non-fiction, if you're writing a self-help or how-to book. In an ideal world, you'll spend most of your money here. Editing and proofing are needed at a couple of different stages. This isn't a once-and-done endeavor. You might need to go through either or both types of editing more than once to ensure that your book is truly ready for publication.


  • Substantive and developmental editing deal with the big-picture questions. Does everything in the book support the overall goal? Is the content engaging for the reader? Are things like plot, character development and dialogue the best they can be?
  • Copy editing or proofreading are for getting the details just right. In this phase, your editor will help you deal with word choice, grammar, punctuation, typos and spelling errors. If you skip this, people will notice. Often after substantial revisions are made, another proofread is necessary to clean up any straggling errors.




It may be wrong to judge a book by its cover, but it doesn't change that attractive, marketable covers sell books. In addition to hiring a cover designer, you should work with someone who knows a thing or two about interior layout. Orphaned sentences and odd page breaks can reflect poorly on you, making you look sloppy and careless.




You have lots of details to work out when self-publishing your book. It's impossible to cover all of these in great depth for this post, so do some research on the following list. I hope to cover each of these things in more depth down the road.


  • Creating your own imprint
  • Purchasing an ISBN or block of ISBNs
  • Registering your copyright
  • Obtaining a Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN)
  • eBook formatting
  • Printing and distribution


Marketing & Publicity


If you haven't already heard authors tossing around the term "author platform," you'll hear about it soon. Your platform is really a combination of things that make you noticeable.  Jane Friedman breaks it down into four categories: visibility, authority, reach, and target audience. Things that can help you establish and build your platform over the longterm include:


  • Consistent publishing via blog, newsletter or through established media outlets
  • Speaking professionally at conferences or other events
  • Building social media and real-life connections with members of your target audience
  • Developing partnerships with other pros in your niche


Direct promotions are also necessary for spreading the word about your book. You can handle all the marketing and publicity yourself if you've got the gumption, but it's generally not a good idea to farm out all of the responsibility to a third party. Be genuine and be involved as much as possible in the following activities:


  • Building and promoting your author blog and website
  • Writing guest posts
  • Taking part in a blog tour
  • Scheduling events and book signings
  • Requesting reviews
  • Hosting giveaways and contests
  • Take advantage of social media for relationship building with your target audience


I'd love to get some feed back from all of you self-publishers on your personal experience with the process. Did you run into snags along the way? How did you work around them? Which of these steps did you find to be the most challenging?

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  • Crystal Mary Lindsey

    I made a mistake...re Advertising. I used my Blog, where I had a good following. I have also developed an authors Blog. I guest write for Christian Writers Downunder.  My son set up a Web page for me yet has never had the time to make me a Youtube Trailer.. I am getting sales world wide. As yet I have not made anywhere near to covering the cost of getting my book on the market. It is not easy as an author. But to everyone reading this, be encouraged Rome wasn't built in a day, and not many movie stars made it the first time.  Endurance wins the race.

  • Crystal Mary Lindsey

    Hello Emily, I found this to be very helpful and professional. I self published my first book. I did get tremendous help and learned a lot through the process. The cost was astronomical, and I would never fall into the trap of paying out so much money again. My cover design was ugly and looked like a Mills and Boon novel, I was very disappointed. Then my daughter who is a professional photographer took over and made the cover absolutely the way I wanted it to be, just lovely. Advertising was my next hurdle. I used Facebook and my book where I have a good following. However, to spend on advertising with the price running to three thousand dollars I wasn't prepared to pay. I did however, spend five hundred dollars on having the book displayed in the Miami International Book Fair last November. I have not been informed how sales through this eventuated?  I have just finished my second book and am approaching the editing and publishing of this differently. This time I am going through Christian Manuscript Submissions and hope to acquire an agent or publisher through here. 

    This is my first book. I had it editored but did not use a ghost writer.


  • Lisa Thomson

    Great info! I self published in January, 2012. I went through all of the steps you bring up and some took longer than other steps. The editing was on-going! I thought it would never end. I've been self marketing and it can be draining. I also had a fellow writer who started a publishing company take on my book but that ended up being a flop. My advice, be careful who you deal with and be sure if a publisher wants your book that they're legitimate. I'm sending my book out to publishers and agents now, and getting some great feedback. It's never too late to get a 'deal'.

  • Emily Suess

    @Jane: I am so glad you shared this! Having self-control and patience are two huge pieces to the puzzle. I've heard dozens of stories of writers just being too excited to think rationally about the next step. This leads to time delays and  sometimes lots of money down the drain. Your points about desire are a critical part of the self-publishing discussion. Thanks a ton for jumping in with your words of wisdom.

  • Emily Suess

    @Kristen: That's the goal! I'm doing my best to work from general information to the more specific stuff so we don't lose anyone along the way. Thanks for your feedback.

  • Jane Hanser

    This is a very good post. But as somebody who has self-published, let me translate: Don't think that self-publishing is going to be inexpensive, or quick. If you want to do it right, it's going to take a long time and it's going to cost you money.  not just the money up front, but even more than that.

    I have had a good experience with my self-publisher. I did my research and chose a good company. My biggest enemy was desire: the desire to do this inexpensively, the desire to do it quickly. I did several major revisions over a period of several years, each one costing me $$$, to eliminate even small errors, and even my most recent revision still has errors in it.  (You have to pay for the time it takes for them to make the revisions, you have to check to see that they were done correctly, you have to pay for them to upload the new file to the printer, and you have to pay for your subsequent proof copy.)

    Then, being an enthusiastic person, I quickly became enthusiastic about the first cover design that I was shown. Being new to this, I appreciated the cleverness of it.  "It's so clever!" However, my business sense wasn't very well honed.  I didn't ask the question, "Will this book cover drive business to me?"  Even if I had asked the question, I'm not sure I would have been, early on, in a position to allow for the possibly that it might not.  I was entitled to a second design, I could have asked for it, but I didn't. I took the first one that came my way. Clever as it was, it was not the "right" cover for the book.  It didn't compete well against the others that are being displayed on the internet.  Years later I can ask for another but - yes, you guessed it. That will cost me more money - a lot more money now than it would have cost me originally (you can't beat zero).

    So with all the steps involved, you need to also examine your attitude: If you're anxious to do this quickly, you may sacrifice quality. If you take your time and do it right, you may be spending much more time and money that you may not have.

  • Kristen Elise

    This is an excellent checklist.  I would love to see each step fleshed out as a separate blog post  (hint, hint...)  

    Thanks for the great advice!

  • Daphne Q

    This is such good advice. Thanks for posting!