Publish The Book Self Publishing

DIY Self-Publishing: eBooks and Print Books

In answer to the most basic question I’ve been asked several times – how do you publish your own book. Plenty of people who are in the position to publish a book easily (e.g. those who already provide lots of information for free on topics on forums or their own blog), seem intimidated by the thought of going it alone with actually publishing a book. The unfortunate, or clueless fall for the many self-publishing scams out there. 

Plus there are a number of companies who would just LOVE to help you – for a small fee – of course. So here’s how you can do it yourself – for low or little cost. 

How To Write &  Publish A Book In Six Fairly Easy Steps 

Step 1: Write a “book”

Informational books are often about  8000-30,000 words. We are not talking War & Peace here. Answer the questions you know readers have about your area of expertise. It doesn’t have to be great literature,write clearly, use sub-headings and bullet points to make it easy to read. If it’s a factual book try to write your advertising “blurb” – the description on the back cover  first. Write  down 4-5 key points you want to explain to the reader for the blurb – there’s the start of your book outline! 

Step 2: Pay an editor

No one can pick up their own mistakes, there are some tricks:

  • leave the draft t for a few days before you review, 
  • uploading it to your Kindle to get it to read aloud to you really helps, 

but if there is one thing you spend money on – pay an editor. I generally pay around $50-$100 for editing a 20-30,000 word book. 

Step 3: Make or pay for a great cover design

I’m no designer – but I’ve generally done my cover designs myself with LOTS of help from designer friends. I pay for the stock photos (about $20) – paying for the design would cost maybe another $100. The trick it has to be eye catching in the very small size that book covers show on Amazon listings

Step 4: Format the book for Amazon ebooks (MOBI)

This requires learning a bit of HTML stuff – its a little tricky until you get used to it – I’ve actually written a book on Kindle formatting on how to do it. I also format books  for clients – about $50-$100 for a book depending on the complexity

Step 5:  Upload the eBook to Amazon

Amazon is about  60% of the eBook  market. If you ONLY have your eBook available on Amazon then you can enrol in a program called “Kindle Select” which allows you to set a book free for 5 days out of the 90 day exclusivity period. Also Americans who are members of the Amazon Prime program can borrow your book for free and you still get paid. Note you can publish a book via Createspace (or any other print publisher) while your eBook is in the Select program -the exclusivity agreement ONLY applies to eBooks. 

Step 6: Create the paperback via Createspace

Createspace is owned by Amazon. They allow your book to be made into a paperback which is them printed on demand when someone buys it.  Having both the paperback and ebook version means that you end up with a pretty listing on Amazon which emphasizes how much cheaper the eBook is, and also suggests that it’s a “real” book – you know – not self -published 🙂 

You have to now take that same file you had and make it into a PDF all pretty and laid out. It took me about a day to do it – I use OpenOffice which is a free wordprocessor (like Word) which will save-as pdf. You also have to get the book cover now extended to cover the back and spine. Load it all up to createspace, approve the proof, either digitally or pay for a copy to be shipped (about $10 to NZ). Details on publishing at createspace here 

Self Published Book for sale - Amazon

 In total I think costs for self-publishing 25,000 word book could be summarised as 

Cover ($40-$150) most author’s will need to pay for this
Editing ($60-$120) every author should pay for this
Formatting($60-$120) most author’s could do this themselves  but there is a learning curve (hint Word is not a good HTML editor) 

Paper Books 
Cover ($0-$40) if you have some skills with GIMP or photoshop you can probably take the eBook cover and make the paper back version yourself
Formatting($0-100) This is not hard but you need to add in a whole lot of front matter that you wouldn’t  have in an eBook plus you need to worry about
footers, headers,page numbers, fonts, page breaks
Proof copy ($5-$10) – depends on how much the postage will cost. I only got the proof copy for my first book – because I had no idea what to expect for the quality.  

Advanced Distribution 

The above six steps only cover getting your book into Amazon (com, uk and the European stores inclusive).
Distributing via
They will distribute your book via a long list of retailers the most important of which are: 

  • Barnes & Noble
  • Apple 
  • Sony
  • Kobo 

Kobo has recently (July 2012) started their own portal which allows you to upload your own books directly to them via Writing Life – it still seems buggy – but presumably will improve with time. 

Only American residents, can submit books to Barnes & Noble directly. 

Only Americans using Macs who have their own ISBN, can submit direct to Apple. 

All three of these sites, if you can load directly to them, will accept a file in ePub format. You can easily convert your Amazon eBook MOBI file using  free Calibre software

However to actually submit a file via Smashwords you need to submit a Word file. This is a problem because this severely limits the chances that your formatting will look any good.  It also means you have access to Microsoft Word. Creating a doc file using OpenOffice will not work in my experience. Watch this space for a solution! 

15 replies on “DIY Self-Publishing: eBooks and Print Books”

Couple of questions on the Kindle Select feature–

–Are you able to join “Select” for a while, say that 90 days, get it out there for free for the 5 days or so to build readership, then take it out of select and distribute to these other sources?
–If you are NOT a select member, can you still offer the book for free yourself?
Thanks, Lis!

Hi Mary
Yes after the 90 days you have the option of renewing Select or not, if you don’t renew you are free to distribute it elsewhere. If you are not in Select the only way to offer a book free is to have is to persuade Amazon to price-match – by offering it free elsewhere. Amazon will eventually price match – particularly if a few people report it as free elsewhere.

Light editing Dani. Remember I’m not writing fiction – I don’t need someone to fix characters and words, but I need sometimes to change words so that Americans will understand, and sometimes I just use the wrong words, plus I’m a natural dyslexic so I am more than capable of using the write word in the wrong place 🙂

Excellent article Lis. This is obviously very helpful and free! I have published only one book on the kindle so far for my case study I am doing. I’m curious to know how your books are doing. So far, it seems like you must use the KDP select option to break into the top 100 of a category, which will give your book enough exposure to sell a few copies, moving it higher up the top 100 until it cements itself somewhere near the top at some point?

It’s way too early to tell with my case study, but I think maybe I am missing something. My first book only got like 130 downloads for its KDP select day. I used the other four days, which just ended today, and only got about 200 downloads. It is a learning experience. I have plenty of book ideas in the pipeline. Fortunately, I have years of freelance writing experience, so I have decent-enough editing skills to proofread my own books! 60$ to 120$ seems a bit steep!

What do you think about self-publishing in general? It would seem that the little dream of autopilot passive income ship has already sailed with the kindle? How are your books doing? What is your take on the current effectiveness of the KDP select promotion? Have more books planned for the future?

Talk soon! Good luck lis.

How did you promote your free giveaway Julian? You have to promote the sh*t out of giveaways – to get the figures up. Remember Amazon only counts giveways at about 10% of sales – you need an awful lot of giveaways to make the top 100! I tried this – and when I promoted the giveaway I did OK – and saw a subsequent bumb in sales for both that book plus my other (non-free) books. It’s not a permanent effect though. My first book that has been out for over a year still sells better and far more consistently, than the new one (which is in Select).

And sorry, you are wrong, you can’t proofread your own books – no writer can. It’s something in the brain that will read what it wants to read not what you wrote. I know a published (trad) author who fell into that trap.

I think eBooks are at the point where affiliate advertising websites were at in 2002 i.e. the start of something exciting. I swapped my attention to eBooks because I was tired after years with fighting with Google. I disclose my book sales here

Super useful. This is getting all so exciting. I have several Kindle singles I can put out and two standard sized ebooks to finish up. So this post, Lis, is just what I needed.

I do believe, however, paying an experienced cover designer is worth it. It’s so important for your book’s marketing to have a killer cover to attract potential readers to buy. But that’s just me.

Thank you Lis for the breakdown on cost. That helps me plan, and I will get your book on formatting for sure. I’m finally out there painting Christmas windows this year and have been planning an e-book for years. I also plan to do video so readers can get private lessons on “how-to”. I am wondering if I could do some creative bartering for the graphics (although I will probably do those myself) and the editing, by offering to mention the person who does the editing in a credit in the book? What do you think?

Hi Lis,

I’m thinking of getting your ebook on formatting for Kindle. Do you mention in your book, the type of software you use to get a first draft out? I plan to use OpenOffice to “brain vomit” Thanks.

Also, I’ve partially read Guy Kawasaki’s book APE – Author Publisher Entrepreneur, which I feel is quite a good book for anyone who wants to self publish a book. In the book, he suggest MS Word for certain reasons. Keen to hear your thoughts

I should write a post on it – I actually write in Scrivenier – I don’t like OO or Word for longer pieces – they are too hard to navigate around. From a formatting point of view – anything will do that will save to doc format – which is anything!

Thanks Lis,
Scrivener was also suggested in the book for outlining & structure. Just thought to keep this simple. Still thinking whether I need to or want to do ebook format or just stick to pdf?

Thanks for the reply.

OpenOffice is crap and DoA. They are no longer updating it. Much better platform = LibreOffice, which is made by the same guy who write (and sold) OO to Oracle. MSWord and LibreOffice have almost all the exact same features, though you’ll have to learn to navigate the menus in LO if you’re used to Word. LibreOffice is also free.

Scrivener is too much awesome, as Lis mentions.

Hardly Dani – I’ve been using OO spreadsheet and word processor for many years and they just work – the next major update is due in May according to this – Libre is probably OK too – I just see no need to change. Free is a good price point too

Think I might have to do a post on Scriviner

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