Baptism by Fire: Self-publishing checklist


***Disclaimer: Nothing in this blog post, or on this blog, constitutes legal advice***

June 5, 2017 – Alexandria, VA

For the first novel I self-published, I learned the self-publishing process as I went along. It was truly baptism by fire.

Picture it: You have completed a draft manuscript, finished rewrites, and proofread for grammar. What’s next? This goes without saying, but make sure that you have someone copy edit and proofread your work. EVERYONE needs editing. No matter how impeccable your grammar is, no matter how anal retentive you are about structure, after you’ve read your manuscript ten, 50, or 200 times, your mind will automatically gloss over some mistakes. It is worth paying a professional copy editor and proofreader, in addition to doing your own proofing.

Thus, you have already copy edited, proofread, finished rewrites, and edited and proofed again. You are ready to self-publish. What do you do next?

1. Decide the format(s) in which you want to publish. Many new indie authors publish exclusively in mobi format for Amazon Kindle. Personally, I recommend that you also make your book available in print. You can use Amazon Createspace or other print-on-demand services. With print-on-demand, you do not need to store copies (of course, it is always a good idea to have 30 or so copies at home to give away on the spot to those who may be interested).

Here are three important reasons to publish in print:

  • You need a print copy to do a Goodreads giveaway, which is one of the most valuable marketing tools for new authors (more detail on that another time).
  • Several bookstores around the country carry indie books (see, for example,, which carries my books). This is great exposure for new authors.
  • Many people of all ages still prefer to read in print.

2. Obtain an ISBN for each format in which you want to publish. A print book will have a different ISBN than an electronic book. You can obtain ISBNs here.

3. Create a barcode for the back cover.

4. Decide what you want on the book jacket. You should have already done at least the front cover a looooong time ago (have the front cover ready as early as possible for promotion purposes). Now, you need to decide what other text and/or photos you want on the front and back cover. E.g. do you want your author bio or reviews to appear?

5. If you haven’t done it already, and you plan to publish in print as well as e-book, create the back cover and binding. You will need to know the exact page count of the print book before completing the binding (see below re: print format).

6. Decide whether you want to include other text within the body of the manuscript, the “front matter.” Do you want to include a dedication to someone? Do you want to indicate that this is the first book in a series (otherwise, readers may not know)? You’ll also need to include the title page, copyright page, table of contents; and possibly a testimonial page and acknowledgement page, etc.

7. Formatting: You’ll need to format the book for print, if applicable, and mobi. If you are making your book available via Nookpress, you will also need to format as an epub file. Now, a word of caution. You can download formatting tools for a low cost (or even for free), and do the formatting yourself, but the work is painstaking and tedious. I have read several self-published books where margins and indentations are inconsistent/erroneous, and it’s a turn-off for the reader. So be careful if you do the formatting yourself. Alternatively, you can hire someone to do the formatting for you, either via places like Elance or Fiveer (which put you in contact with freelance contractors), or with, e.g., a small publishing group that provides self-publishing services. I pay for someone to do the print and ebook formatting for me, because I have a day job and don’t have the time or patience to do it myself. It’s your call based on your budget and drive.

8. Proof the print and ebook layout. This step is essential. I know, you’re sick and tired of reading the same manuscript, and you just want to start the next project. But you must do this.

9. Choose a print manufacturer. I use Amazon Createspace.

10. Upload your file to Amazon Kindle, Amazon Createspace, Nookpress, or whatever other platform you’re using.

11. I would recommend that you register your book with the Copyright Office. First, whenever you create a copyrightable work (such as a book), you have a protectable copyright, without needing to do anything (including register with the Copyright Office). However, the advantage of registering your copyrightable works with the Copyright Office is that registration permits you to have the option of getting statutory damages should someone infringe your copyright. Thus, statutory damages are not available if you don’t register your works.  Having statutory damages available can be advantageous, especially for works that are not commercially successful or have not been released to the market because, for these works, it would be difficult to show what the actual damages were, or the actual damages might not justify a lawsuit to stop the infringing action. Bottom line: once you publish your book, register it with the Copyright Office.

12. Pin down your book launch date, and plan your book launch party!

13. PROMOTE. More detail on promotion another time. Remember: no promotional strategy is better than PUBLISHING ANOTHER BOOK. So spend around 90% of your time working on completing your next book, and about 10% of your time promoting your already published books.

Do other authors have anything to add here? Please leave your comments!




2 thoughts on “Baptism by Fire: Self-publishing checklist

  1. Carolina nikolic

    For nd this through a friend’s share on Facebook. Great information, and looking forward to future installments (especially on valuable marketing tools for new authors).


    Liked by 1 person


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s