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Self-publishing - Behind the Scenes

Self-publishing is a great option for many authors. Fiction and nonfiction alike.


You get all the royalties!

This is one of the major benefits of self-publishing. You keep the profits. All the profits!


You keep the control of your story!

Another great benefit. Traditional publishers most likely will want to guide your story in a different direction. Self-publishing you are always in control of your plot, messages, characters ...

Behind the Scenes

When self-publishing your novel, there are a lot of things to consider. Since you are in control, you also have all the responsibility.

Of course, writing your novel is free and uploading your novel is free (or a minimal cost). Obtaining your ISBN (International Standard Book Number) doesn't cost too much—between $30 and $150.

However, unless you are an author, beta reader, editor, formatter, designer, and marketer, it can get expensive.

  1. Beta Readers

  2. Editors

  3. Formatter

  4. Cover Designer

  5. Marketing

Beta Readers

Good news! You can get beta readers for free.

But make sure they read a lot of books in your genre. They will need to know the tropes and reader expectations.

And create a questionnaire with what you want specific feedback on, as this will help guide beta readers on how to evaluate your manuscript.

Free readers can be found on Facebook and Goodreads.

Join groups for readers in your genre and see if there are people interested in reading your novel for free.

Another option is finding authors willing to do an exchange.

With an exchange, you have to read their novel and report on it as well, without being paid for your time. And time is a big consideration when self-publishing.

There is a risk with free readers. They can ghost you and you may spend your time keeping your word, while they don't.

Paid beta readers.

Paying for beta reading may be a better option.

Some ask for a flat rate, some hourly.

The more experience they have, the more you will be asked to pay.

Keep in mind, they will spend hours reading your novel and answering your questions so the flat rate will reflect that.

Don't forget a contract! This ensures you will get the review and your questions answered and they will get the payment.

So how much?

The pricing varies quite a bit. But expect the flat rate to be at least $500 or the hourly rate at least $20.

If they charge hourly, before you sign the contract, ask for an estimate of how many hours they see it taking them for your word count.


While you should edit your novel, nothing replaces a professional edit.

Self-editing is difficult, especially after you've done a few rounds. Not only are you close to the novel emotionally, but also physically. What I mean by that is the more you read and edit your story, the less likely you are to see the errors.

Professional editors are trained editors.

There is more distance between them and your story. Their feedback will be geared towards increasing reader enjoyment and engagement. Whether that involves character development or plot structure or simply grammar, depends on the level of editing you hire them for.

There are four types of editing you and or your editor should do.

  1. Developmental editing - the big picture: plot, character development, worldbuilding ...

  2. Line editing - paragraph and sentence level editing for pacing and flow

  3. Copyediting - verb and word usage, grammar and punctuation

  4. Proofreading - punctuation, capitalization, page numbering, chapter title placement


Formatting is the last step before you upload your manuscript for publishing.

This involves the placement of maps, pictures, cover and title pages, special character or fonts, margins, hyphenation ...

Keep in mind, formatting e-books is different from formatting printed books. Various sizes of books can affect formatting as well. Hardback vs. paperback and paperback length and width as well.

Cover Designer

You can be your own cover designer, especially if you decide to only have an e-book.

But you will need to do some research, before you jump to Canva or another design site.

Design sites are good options for e-books, but when it comes to paperbacks or hardcovers, getting the spine lined up correctly for the size can be a trial.

Believe it or not, there are specific fonts and colors that readers expect for certain genres.

If you deviate too much, the reader may not know your novel is science fiction or apocalyptic fiction from the cover, which is the first impression your potential reader gets.

Look at some best-selling novels in your genre and articles about the fonts and colors. They are out there.

But a professional already knows these things. They don't have to spend time researching.

Some professionals have premade covers that are cheaper! However, you may not be able to change much more than the title, author name, and main picture.


I don't know many authors who like marketing. I don't like marketing.

It's hard to put yourself out there, but it's necessary to sell books.

Social media is free, but it requires building your following, posting regularly, revealing some personal stuff.

You should have an author website, which can be free, but removing the hosting site's end tag from the web address costs a little.

I'm not saying hire a marketer, but know ads, booths at book fairs, driving, hotels, and air fare, will cost a lot.

Cheaper options are to keep it local and look for opportunities to speak either locally or on podcasts to get started.

Self-publishing isn't cheap if you want quality.

In all honesty, to put out a quality product—which is what novels end up being—it can cost anywhere from $5,000 to upwards of $20,000.

So, save, save, save!

Sometimes, I wonder if when the first letter of a manuscript is written shouldn't be the first time a dollar is saved.

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