Might self-publishing be the right decision for your book?

Self-published books aren’t just becoming increasingly common, but also ever-more likely to actually be a success — that is, to draw in a large audience, make lots of sales, and even win indie book awards. As an aspiring author, you have plenty of reasons to go this route, not as a second-rate alternative to traditional publishing but as your first choice.

By self-publishing your manuscript, all the creative control remains in your hands, you will have more freedom in deciding how to market and promote your book, and a much larger portion of the profits will end up in your own pocket, too. 

Although no short guide can comprehensively cover the steps you’ll need to take to successfully self-publish a book, we can offer useful pointers to get you started. As we do so, we’ll assume that you already have a manuscript, and also that it still needs work.

1. Polishing Your Manuscript

Quite literally anyone can publish a book on Amazon these days, and plenty of printing services will also happily churn out any number of paperback or hardback copies of your manuscript. Aspiring authors who want their book to perform well, however, need to take the entire process extremely seriously. That means finding beta readers and critique partners to offer feedback on your plot (in the case of fiction), your voice, and your style. Have you picked your book apart, reworked the weak points, and proofread it to death? Now is a good time to bring in a professional freelance editor.

2. Deciding Whether You Want a Print Book, an Ebook, or Both

At this point in the 21st century, almost all authors who self-publish will make copies of their book available in ebook format, allowing them to reach millions of people across the world. Some will also choose to have their book printed, while a select few opt to exclusively self-publish print books. 

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, which played a large role in popularizing ebooks and self-publishing, is an obvious choice for your ebook. Apple, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and IngramSpark are other options very much worth exploring. In some cases, your choice will lock you into a contact that limits you from distributing your book via other avenues, and this is an important factor to think about as you decide how to move ahead.

IngramSpark and Barnes & Noble are also excellent options for self-published authors who are interested in producing print books, while smaller and independent printers can likewise be considered.

Authors who are going the ebook-only route can find plenty of free and paid ebook formatting software that takes care of the entire formatting in a few easy clicks. 

As audiobooks become increasingly popular, you may also wish to consider whether this is something you wish to pursue. ACX is your easiest choice if you do want to publish an audiobook.

4. Considering You Cover Design

Your potential readers won’t refrain from judging your book by its cover. If the title and cover design do not speak to them, they’re much less likely to pick your book up — unless, perhaps, you are already a celebrity. You will want to hire a professional artist to create the best possible cover, while offering concise but clear guidelines that allow the designer to convey what your book is all about.

3. Marketing and Promoting Your Self-Published Book

It is, today, entirely possible to self-publish a stunning and well-edited hardback that absolutely nobody will read. Some people decide to have their memoirs printed for future generations to enjoy or learn from. Authors who want their books to be successful and profitable will, on the other hand, need to have a solid marketing strategy that may include virtual book tours, guest appearances on podcasts, and social media campaigns.