Self-publishing takes work…

Self-publishing takes work, and even money, but it can be rewarding — personally, professionally and even financially. Let’s take a look at the potential rewards and then at the work and potential costs involved in self-publishing a book

Personally rewarding

If you want to publish a book for friends and family, then self-publishing is the way to go. This can be personally rewarding and doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg to have a bunch of books printed that you can give to friends and family. (Although see below for work and costs associated with getting the book ready for self-publication.)  Using companies like Amazon’s KDP or Lulu will let you do this. You can have the books shipped to you for distribution or directly to the people to whom you want to give books. You can, if so inclined, even sell direct to the public via the sites or through the sites via Amazon. But you don’t have to sell your book if getting it into the hands of particular people is all you want to do.

If books sales are part of what you want, then consider Ingram Spark or its sister site, Lightning Source (for small presses) as that will get your book into wider distribution. Of course if you want electronic versions of your book available, you can use Amazon’s KDP, Kobo Writing Life or Draft2Digital. KDP makes your Kindle electronic book (ebook) available through Amazon; Kobo Writing Life makes your epub ebook available through Kobo and in Canada. Draft2Digital creates ebuts, Kindle files and PDFs.

Professionally rewarding

Self-publishing a book can help you professionally. Do you conduct workshops, seminars or webinars? Do you teach? Do you do public speaking, or do you want to? Having a book on a particular topic can enhance your credibility and  professional profile and help you obtain more speaking or teaching engagements. Of course, you can sell books at events too, so having a book can also enhance your income. While this applies to authors of non-fiction work, fiction writers can also benefit from self-publishing as it can lead to readings or speaking at conferences.

Financially rewarding

Not every self-published author is going to sell like 50 Shades of Grey sold. But if you have a well written book targeted at a specific audience, then you can sell books and make money doing so. I’ve sold 20,000 books over fifteen years. It’s not a full-time income, but supplementing my writing and training services through book sales suits me just fine. Having said that, I know authors who sell 10,000+ books a year. They work at selling books full time — writing books, self-publishing them, and promoting the heck out of them.

How targeted will your book be? Is there an audience for it? How hard are you willing to work promoting it? If income from writing is important to you, you need to be willing to bust your buns–writing, publishing and promoting. In other words, you need to treat self-publishing as you would your own full-time business. Because seldom, if ever, is it a case of if you write it they (readers) will come and buy it.

Work involved

There is work involved in self-publishing. Excuse me for stating the obvious, but first you have to write the book. Then you should edit it, and then proofread it or have it edited and proofread. In short, you want the writing to be as strong and as error-free as possible. Then you get to the self-publishing part. The first question to ask is where and how do you want the book distributed? That will help you determine the company (companies) you use to distribute your book.

Want print only? Look at Ingram Spark, Amazon’s KDP or Lulu.

Want to make an ebook available? Look at Amazon’s KDP to get a Kindle in Amazon and Kobo Writing Life to sell epubs from Kobo and Chapters. You may also want to look at other ebook distribution channels such as Nook (Barnes & Noble) and the iBookstore (Apple) or aggregate distributors like Lulu or Smashwords.

Picking your distribution channels first lets you determine how to format your book — the interior and cover (front, back and spine if you are going print). Formatting your book takes work, and a few technical tools — all of that goes beyond the scope of this post. However, allow me to say that it is unwise to format your book before you pick your distribution channels as each channel has different technical specs you must meet when formatting your book and cover.

The big question is: Can you do the formatting  yourself or do you need to hire someone to do it? That brings us to potential costs…

Costs – potential

You can learn how to do things yourself, as I have done. You can get knowledgeable friends to help you, or you can pay someone. A lot depends on you — if you are a do-it-yourselfer or if you need assistance. No matter the case, here are the things you have to consider, and that you might spend money on:

Copy editing your book. This is important because you want the writing to be as strong as possible.

Proofreading your book. This is important because you want the writing to be as error-free as possible.

Formatting your book. You can use Word, InDesign or several other programs to do this. Whatever you choose, you have to meet the technical specs of the company/companies that will be printing your book. For instance, for my print books, I have to meet the technical specks of Lightning Source (now IngramSpark for most self-published authors), KDP and Kobo. That’s because I sell most of my books as print on demand books, Kindles and epubs. This applies to the interior of your book as well as the cover (front, back and spine for print books).

Speaking of the cover, if you are not a designer you may want to hire one to create the best cover possible — something that reflects the content of your book and appeals to your target audience (there are hunks and/or often scantily clad women on the cover of romance novels for a reason!).

Promotion. I suggest that you have website for your book(s), and perhaps a blog, with links to the pages where people can buy your book(s). In addition, I suggest that you engage in social media and use other means of promotion to get the word out there about your book. This can take time. If you are not sure how to go about it, it can take money too.

In the end, only you can decide how much time and money to spend on your self-published book. As I’ve said, though, spending time and money on self-publishing your book can be personally, and financially, rewarding. And it can be great fun too!

Paul Lima is a freelance writer and self-publishing consultant. You can read about him or contact him at Read about his book Produce, Price and Promote Your Self-Published Fiction or Non-fiction Book and eBook. And if you need assistance self-publishing a print on demand and/or ebook (book and cover formatting and design), talk to me:


3 thoughts on “Self-publishing takes work…

  1. Good article, Paul. Obviously, in one essay you couldn’t cover what you did, as well as the most scary aspect for most writers — promotion, which needs more than a brief paragraph.
    I’ll post a link to this article in the next issue of my newsletter Bobbing Around.


  2. Pingback: Self-publishing takes work… | Toni Kennedy : A Writing Life

  3. Very helpful, Paul, thanks.
    Two thoughts:
    1. You mention copy editing but not substantive editing. Surely anything you intend to publish commercially ought to have been reviewed by a capable editor.
    2. Why don’t you offer a full-service package, guiding authors step by step through the whole process?


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