Considerations for self-publishers

The book

Manuscript clean-up

  • Eliminate double spaces, and spaces at the beginning and ends of paragraphs
  • No tabs
  • Use “curly” quotes and apostrophes
  • Oxford comma
  • Use the proper dashes (hyphen, en dash, em dash), and remove spaces
  • No space between paragraphs
  • Indent paragraphs except the first ones in scenes
  • No bold, nothing in all caps (unless an acronym), italic used appropriately (foreign words, internal thoughts, not for emphasis)


  • Seek a professional, if at all possible
    • Developmental
    • Line
    • Copy
  • “Revise until you’re sick of it”
  • Seek feedback from a team of trusted beta readers


  • Seek a professional, if at all possible
  • Look at covers in your genre
  • Paperbacks
    • Front, spine, back
    • The size of the spine depends on number of pages, type of paper, etc.
    • Glossy versus matte
    • Well written blurb and bio (make sure these will sell your book)


  • Front only
  • Follow guidelines for resolution, dimensions, etc.
  • Needs to look good as a thumbnail


  • Again, look at others in your genre to see what works
  • Use styles (as few as possible)
    • Normal (body of your book)
    • Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.
    • First paragraph
    • Title
    • Copyright
  • Determine look and feel
    • Keep the body of your book simple and readable
    • Not all fonts are free
    • E-book readers can override your choices
    • Add your “zing” in the headers
    • Indentation—where and how wide
    • Spacing of lines and paragraphs (especially in printed version)
  • Paperbacks
    • Trim size—what size book?
    • Bleeds?
    • Paper color—white versus cream
    • The width of the gutter depends on number of pages, etc.
    • Size of margins
    • Headers and footers
    • What pages need to land on an odd number (right side)?
    • Sequence front and back matter
    • Final number of pages will be a multiple of four
    • Don’t include your cover in your layout
    • Gloss or matte cover?
  • E-books
    • What format are you planning to submit?
      • Word
      • HTML
      • EPUB
      • MOBI
      • PDF
    • Publishers will take a variety of formats
    • Publishers have services to assist if you’re willing to purchase them
    • Amazon wants you to make minimal customizations, as few tags as possible
    • Nook needs more tags to retain formatting—and don’t use a shortcut (single line) for margins
    • Smashwords doesn’t provide much information; they prefer a well-formatted Word document they can run through their “Meatgrinder.” You need to incorporate the Word requirements into your EPUB.
    • Vendors provide simulators, use them. Buy the readers too, if you can.
    • Make sure your EPUB passes validation

Tools to create a printed version

  • Word
  • Desktop publishing packages (most take time to learn)
  • Adobe InDesign
  • Microsoft Publisher
  • Serif PagePlus

E-book tools

(Note: make sure you have anti-virus, anti-spyware, and anti-malware software protecting your computer before downloading any software. Only download software from the product source, avoid a download “service.”)

  • Calibre
    • Free
    • E-book reader—provides “look and feel”
    • E-book converter
    • E-book editor
  • Jutoh
    • E-book converter
    • E-book creator
  • Sigil
    • Free
    • E-book editor
  • Adobe Digital Editions
    • Free
    • E-book reader—provides “look and feel”
  • Kindlegen
    • Free
    • A program you can download to convert your EPUB into a MOBI
  • Kindle Previewer
    • Free
    • E-book reader
    • Handles EPUBs, MOBIs, HTML

Which publishers?

  • Paperback
    • Createspace (Amazon)
      • Provides extended distribution (with their ISBN)
    • Lulu
    • IngramSpark
      • Provides extended distribution (with your ISBN)
      • Not as “user-friendly” as Createspace

Front matter/back matter

  • Title page
  • Copyright page
  • Dedication
  • Table of contents (required for e-book, optional in paperback)
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgements
  • Call to action


  • Buy your own or use one provided by CreateSpace, Kindle, etc.
  • You can purchase in bulk from Bowker, $250 for 10
  • If you use the vendor’s, they “own” the ISBN. Any publisher communication goes to them. The vendor is listed at the publisher of your book.


  • You can purchase these from Bowker as well, not as critical to purchase your own

Paperback conversion and publishing

  • Your software package should have a function to convert your work to a PDF
  • Each vendor has a site where you can upload your PDF
  • You can preview the final product
  • Order a proof and go through it before you publish
  • Book description: make it unforgettable
  • Author bio: make it interesting, memorable
  • Determine book price

Creating an e-book

(Note: If you’re using Smashwords, they prefer that you don’t convert it. Upload your Word document.)

  • To convert from Word
    • Save as Web (filtered HTML) and upload
    • This isn’t a true EPUB, but the vendor will finish the conversion once you upload it
  • Convert via desktop publishing software (InDesign, MS Publisher, etc.)
  • Convert with tools such as Calibre (free), Jutoh
  • Writing tools such as Scrivener
  • Upload a PDF
    • Some vendors will handle the conversion for you when you upload your PDF
    • Be careful with this option, make sure the vendor can convert it well

The business

  • Sole proprietorship? LLC?
  • Your own publishing company?
    • Related to ISBN decision
  • Acquire an EIN (
  • Seller’s permit if you’re planning to sell books at signings, etc. (query your state)
  • Set up checking account
  • Set up credit card
  • Set up an account to handle credit card transactions (I’d say it depends on how ambitious you want to become in selling your books yourself)
  • Business address
    • Yours or rent a mailbox?
    • I rented one from UPS so my publishing company didn’t have a P.O. Box
    • Sometimes you need to use your address regardless (IRS, etc.)
  • Library of Congress number for book (here’s a great guide)
  • Copyright your book


  • All of your sites should have a similar “look and feel”
  • Hone your elevator pitch
  • Get a flattering picture of yourself (but not from a “past life”)
  • Try to keep your sites up-to-date and interesting
  • Pen name?
  • Web site
    • Once again, compare. Look at sites of your favorite authors in your genre.
    • Domain name
      • Can purchase from vendors such as GoDaddy
      • Have to decide on extensions—which ones (.com, .net, etc.)
  • Determine purpose
    • Media page with sample descriptions, cover art, author photos
    • Event page
    • Excerpts of book
    • Collect email addresses from visitors (MailChimp, etc.)
  • If you’re doing it yourself:
  • Email list
    • Cover reveals
    • Monthly, quarterly or annual newsletters
    • Contests, giveaways
    • Make them feel like family, the inner circle
    • Book releases
  • Blog
    • You can set it up on your site
    • You can set up as a standalone with
    • Goodreads offers author a blog
    • Amazon allows you to hook up a blog to your author page
    • Offer something interesting to the reader
    • If you start, you’ll need to do it consistently
  • Facebook
    • Personal page or public page?
      • If you create a personal one, people will need to friend you or at least follow
        • Personal ones require items to be posted as public
        • Far more effective communication
      • Facebook has decreased the reach of public pages in the hopes of forcing you to pay to boost
      • Public pages only need to be “liked”
    • Dozens of groups available to writers; some are strictly promotion and members of others offer invaluable advice
  • Twitter
    • Can follow up to 2000 others. Once you reach that limit, you need a sufficient number of followers before you can follow anyone else.
    • Tools like Hootsuite are useful to schedule tweets and for bulk loading (can be used on Facebook, too)
    • Again, make the tweets interesting
    • Retweet items you think of interest to others
    • You can purchase tweets, but make sure it’s worth the price tag
  • Author Central on Amazon
    • You can connect other social sites to your Author Central site
  • Goodreads
    • Set up an account
    • Once your book is published, you can set up an author page
    • Have Author Q&A
    • Giveaways are popular
    • A variety of groups
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Tumblr
  • Instagram
  • Google
  • Podcasts
  • YouTube (popular for book trailers)
  • Interviews
    • Blog tours
    • Web sites


  • Make sure your cover is dynamite
  • Work on your book description, make it exceptional
  • Make your author bio interesting
  • Invest in a quality author photo
  • Select keywords that will help rank you
    • My novel was ranked in the 5000 range on Amazon, but it was ranked as #28 in Mystery, Thriller & Suspense => Thrillers & Suspense => Crime => Kidnapping
  • Don’t blast “BUY MY BOOK”
    • Offer interesting information
    • Utilize tools such as Hootsuite
      • Bulk downloads of tweets
      • You can set date/time for posts
    • Cover reveal
    • Book release party
      • Community calendars
    • News releases
      • Newspapers
      • Local talk radio stations
      • Magazines
    • To blog or not to blog
      • It’s a commitment
      • “Pick your approach”
    • Blog tours
    • Book reviews help legitimize your book
    • Book giveaways
    • Contests can give a little bump in sales, but they, like reviews, legitimize your book

Put your book on sale?


Web site recommendations

Book recommendations

  • APE How to Publish a Book by Guy Kawasaki
  • Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt
  • How To Write A Novel by Nathan Bransford
  • Books by Joanna Penn
  • Books by David Gaughran (Let’s Get series)
  • Zen of eBook Formatting by Guido Henkel

Formatting guidelines

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