How to self-publish a book 7

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A step-by-step guide for Indie authors


Books by dan

As an Indie writer, a question I am often asked is how to publish a book. Not what on, or how to write it, but how to actually publish the book online.


While I don’t purport to be an expert, by any stretch of the imagination, I can share the process I went through in publishing my own books – The William S Club, and Vampire Origins: Project Ichorous


First things first, you need to have a manuscript ready to be published. I cannot stress enough how important it is to follow a FULL editing process. The very worst thing you can do for your new book is publish as soon as you finish writing.


BEFORE you publish, make sure the book has been through various self-edits, a beta read process (where other people read it for story and plot value and give feedback), and at least one professional edit (and no, your mother does not count at a professional editor, even if she was very good at English).


If you skip any steps in this process, it will hurt you in the long run. I can’t count how many aspiring authors have told me they can’t afford to pay an editor. I am telling you, you can’t afford not to.


Once your manuscript is fully ready for publishing, you need to choose a platform, and that means deciding on whether you want to have your book available in as many markets as possible, or you want to reap the possible benefits of having it exclusive through Amazon.


Personally, I chose Smashwords, as it prepared my manuscript for the largest number of markets in one go – and allowed me to upload those files direct to Amazon later.


Smashwords is free to use. It also has the added benefit of selling direct to Apple, Sony, Diesel, Barnes and Noble and a couple of other markets through the Premium Channels, though you do require a properly formatted book cover and an ISBN to be included in these markets. While you can purchase your own ISBNs, which is probably better in the long run, I went with Smashwords’ free ISBN.



There are a number of ways to get cover art. The cheapest way is to do it yourself though people will judge your book by its cover. Only use this option if you are confident that you can put together a really professional looking cover.


I chose to go with a professional because I’m in the business of writing, not graphic art. I chose Ray Bull of Bull Art. He charges between $500 and $700 to design both an ebook cover (just front page) and a print cover (front, back and spine).


You can get cheaper options online but I wanted to use someone I was comfortable with.


Smashwords has tips for formatting, which they call the Meat Grinder. You can download the free ebook here –


Basically, they get you to remove any weird formatting that will look silly on an ereader.


It does take a little bit to get your head around but it’s simple once you get it down pat (and now I just write with that format always so it’s easier to do in the future).


Click on the publish link on Smashwords and follow the instructions.


Set the price you want for the book. I went middle of the road at $4.99. There are plenty of books cheaper and plenty that are more expensive, though I personally don’t recommend ever giving your work away for free unless you have a specific marketing goal in mind.


Select how much of your book potential buyers can view without purchase. I chose 20 percent so that people get a good feel for the story but you can choose more or less depending on personal preference.


Now it’s time to select the category, add tags (these are basically the book’s descriptions and are used for people to search. Choose as many as are relevant to your book.


Tick all the ebook formats – that makes it more widely available. Add your cover art and the word document of the book and upload.


Smashwords will check it to make sure it is all okay, which takes about 24 hours.


Once you get it approved, your book is published and officially for sale.


It will then take about a week to go live on Apple, Barnes and Noble, etc.


Now it’s time to set up your author page and payee account on Smashwords. For examples of the author page, check out mine.


Smashwords generally pays into your Paypal account.


To publish as an ebook on Amazon, go to


Sign up – or if you have an Amazon account, just sign in – and then follow the links for adding a new title.


You can use most of the stuff you’ve already used on Smashword.


First up, they’ll ask you if you want to be part of the Kindle Direct Select program, which means for 90 days, you only sell on Amazon exclusively.


As I was already on Smashwords I did not sign up for this immediately but did enrol later on. You can read about my experiment with Kindle Direct here, but in a nutshell, I was not impressed. Nor have I found many authors who have found it to be the raving success they promise. I am happy to be proved wrong by anyone who has found it to be a great success.


Not too hard to follow all the prompts there.


Once your book is live on Amazon, you will need to set up an author page.


This is used to determine all the info that will show on your profile. 


Final step I used is to create an account on Createspace, who are the Print on Demand publishing arm of Amazon.


There are other options, like Lulu and Lightning Source but I still find Createspace to be the cheapest option around, even with shipping to Australia.



Create an account, add new title and follow the steps for setting it up.


You will have to now change the format of your book to be more in line with a real chapter book – but they give you the format and I just copied and pasted each chapter into their format. Worked fine for me.


You won’t be able to use your Smashwords ISBN here (on Kindle you don’t need an ISBN – they assign an ASIN). But Createspace also have free ISBNs available to use and again, that’s all I did.


Where this gets a little more complicated is that instead of just a front cover for your book, you now need a proper book cover with back cover, spine and front cover. Plus you have to get all the dimensions right, which is, again, why I happily paid a professional to do it for me.


Createspace have a template to create a free version yourself but I just didn’t like any of the covers I tried. They also offer a number of paid options – which you can choose to use or you can do the work yourself and not pay a cent.


Once it is all uploaded, it takes about 24 hours for them to approve the files and make sure all the formatting it correct. They’ll let you know if there are any issues. You then select your distribution channels (I paid the $25 for the extended distribution).


You can do this step before the Amazon Kindle and then they have a quick easy step for doing Kindle afterwards but no idea if it really is quicker or not as I did the ebook first.


Once you’ve set up Createspace, it goes up for sale on Amazon. People order the book and pay Amazon – then you get a cut of the action.


My book is available for $13 on Amazon and I get about $3.04 for each copy sold. But you can also order author copies through Createspace (for around $4 a copy plus shipping) and then sell them yourself through your website, or in a local bookstore or even at the market. I know people who do this and sell the books for $20 each – making around $13 per book instead of $3.04.


Now you’re a published author and all you have to do is market yourself, which some would say is even harder than writing and publishing a book.


Time to set up a website and blog, and get active on Twitter, Goodreads, Google+, Facebook, Pinterest, StumbleUpon…



Do you have any questions about self-publishing? Ask them here and I’ll help you if I can.


Image by dan at FreeDigitalPhotos


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About Riley Banks

Riley Banks is the author of Vampire Origins, and The William S Club. She blogs about books, entertainment, and writing. For more information on Riley Banks and her books, go to

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7 thoughts on “How to self-publish a book

  • J.L. Campbell

    Lots of useful information here, Riley. I have to admit that I couldn’t get past the formatting stage. I read the Smashwords manual, but felt I’d eventually end up going mad trying to figure out the formatting, so I paid someone else to do that. Still, I think it’s very useful to develop all sorts of skills as a writer.

  • Riley Banks

    It was a bit overwhelming but when I first did it, I had no money to pay anyone else to do it. We’d just moved back to Australia and money was very tight so I forced myself to sit down and read it bit by bit. Gave me a headache but I got through it. Now, as I said, I just use my original document as the basis for the next.

    Good luck with your books.

  • Stephanie

    Love this. You’ve simplified what can otherwise be a very daunting process.
    I’m from Australia too and I’m glad you mentioned us! It was always one of my major concerns about ebooks, because I felt as if self-publishing was more readily available to US.

    I’m making the jump to self-publishing from traditional (my first series is being published traditionally), just to test the waters and compare, and I’m still in research mood so thank you, found this very helpful! More excited to self-publish now. :)

  • Jean MacIntyre

    Here’s a proofreading tip – something I’ve found very helpful. Once your book is ready for proofing, highlight the entire text, bump the font size to about 38, and read, line by line. The errors will jump off the page at you. :)