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The Self-publishing Guide

Kristin Noland speculative fiction editor crime fiction editor

Guest blog by Katie Chambers of Beacon Point

Self-publishing is not for the faint of heart. After all, you are assuming the financial risk instead of the publisher, and you are in charge of all. the. steps.

Supporting Help

However, you don’t have to go it alone. You can use hybrid publishing services, self-publishing education services, and/or author services.

Hybrid publishing services 

Hybrid publishers do the publishing for you—much like traditional publishers—however, you cover the cost of publishing, so you’re still assuming the financial risk, not the publisher. And as such, it is still considered self-publishing. 

With a good hybrid publisher, you get professional quality. But unlike traditional publishing, you still get to maintain some control.

If you decide to go this route, research the company and make sure they are not a vanity press or a scam.

Way too many authors have been scammed into high fees for little to no return.

Check out Writer Beware, whose “mission is to track, expose, and raise awareness of scams.” Search their site for any company you’re considering to see if they are listed, and if they are, run, don’t walk, away. 

Self-publishing education

Since self-publishing can be a steep learning curve, you can find several companies that teach you how to write and publish your book.

They provide you with mentorship, a writing community, resources, and often a Rolodex of curated author service providers.

Companies like this save you time spent researching how to do each step and from relying on trial and error.

You pay for this, of course. So, keep in mind that you’re now paying for the education and the publishing. But time is money, so if the learning curve is steep for you and time is a rare commodity, this isn’t a bad route to go.

Just like with hybrid publishers, you’re going to find good education companies and not-so-good ones, so make sure you research any learning company you’re considering. 

Since I am on the Rolodex of curated editors for Self-Publishing School, I can vouch that they aren’t a scam. I don’t necessarily agree with everything they say to and teach their authors, but I do know they provide good-quality help and my clients have been happy with them. They work with both fiction and nonfiction authors.

I have also visited with Jake Kelfer, who runs Big Idea to Bestseller, which is for nonfiction authors only.

Publishing Steps

I could write one blog on each step, as a lot goes into publishing. But for sake of an overview guide, I have given the main information for each step.

It goes without saying: you have to write the book. If you’ve never written a book or have never taken a writing course, you may want to study the craft of writing first or simultaneously.



Once your book is written, do not send it off to an editor. Never give your first draft to an editor. You need to edit it first. 

While I called this “self” editing, you can and should use others to help.

You can self-edit first and use others for draft two, or you can use others on draft one to help you create draft two.

However, your friend, spouse, or mom isn’t going to be the best help. It’s best to seek help from other writers, whether in book form, online, or in person.If you didn’t

·         read any craft books

·         use a book coach

·         work with a critique group before or while writing your first draft

now may be a good time to do that.

Craft books are relatively inexpensive, critique groups are often free, and alpha and beta readers are free as well.

You can save so much time and money on editing if you first take the self-editing step seriously.

Of course, don’t fall into the trap of perpetually editing.

At some point, you have to call it good enough to submit to a hybrid publisher, an author service company, or a freelance editor. But this could be your third draft or your tenth.


Since I work as a freelance editor, this is the step I know the most about.

To save room here, I am just going to direct you to other blogs I have written that discuss the editing step. 

I will say this here: in traditional publishing, a book has no fewer than three professional editors editing the book. So be aware that you may need to pay for multiple editors and/or multiple rounds of editing.

Watch my webinar “What to Expect from the Editing Process.” My blogs on this topic may interest you. 

·         Purpose of an Editor

Cover and Book Design

For your cover design, you will want a professional graphic artist with experience in covers.

Not all graphic designers/artists know how to make good covers. It is a specialty within the graphic design world. So, again, check their credentials.

Book designing includes interior book design and formatting. 

You can find a book designer who does both, or you may pay for a formatter and book designer separately. 

A book designer will design a pleasing, balanced layout for your book and will expertly set the type, resulting in an attractive and much more readable file than your Word document. 

A formatter is someone who prepares a Word file so that it flows easily into the page layout software (usually InDesign) and can be converted to an e-book. 


In traditional publishing, proofreading comes after the book designing stage and is done on the actual proofs. This is so the proofreader can check for errors in design, not just in the content.

In self-publishing, proofreading often comes after editing and before the book design and is done in Word, just like the editing. This is because it is quite expensive to do the proofreading after, as you pay the proofreader to proofread the PDF or proofs, then you have to pay either the proofreader or the formatter to implement the proofread changes into the formatted book file.

So more often than not, indie authors have their book proofread before it is designed.

Just know you’re risking errors in the design if there weren’t any professional eyes on the book after the design.

However, readers are more forgiving of errors in design than they are of errors in the content.

Regardless of the order you do it, proofreading is not the same thing as editing.

Any proofreader worth their salt will not proofread a manuscript that hasn’t been professionally edited first. 


To sell your book online in the United States, you must purchase an ISBN code for your book. While many online sites sell ISBN codes, only one platform is legitimate: Bowker Identifier Services

Then you can use Amazon or Ingram Spark.

To understand the difference between the two publishing platforms, Amazon and Ingram Spark, remember Amazon sells books at retail price to individual consumers, while Ingram Spark distributes to libraries and store outlets at a reduced or wholesale price.

It is up to you to decide which platform (using both is an option) best serves your marketing strategy.

Both Amazon and Ingram Spark have a similar process for submitting book material for publication on their platforms.

Both require you to register an author account to submit and manage your books and both walk you through the submission process, requiring you to load your book details, content, and pricing. 

Writing the Metadata

The metadata is important for marketing your book. This includes

·         Title and subtitle

·         Genre and subgenre

·         Price

·         Author’s name and bio

·         Book description

·         Book type

You, of course, can write your own metadata, so this is one step you may not need to pay for.

If you do write your own, at the very least, get your editor to edit your bio and book description.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to look at a book I’ve edited and cringed at the poorly written book description.

If your book description is riddled with errors and awkward sentences, the reader is going to assume the book is too. So please get these edited.

After these steps, it’s simply a matter of pushing the publish button for final approval and going live.

Other Steps

Depending on your needs, you may also need to find or DIY these other optional publishing steps:

·         Illustrations (picture book, a nonfiction book with needed illustrations, etc.)

·         Audiobook narration

·         Author website (may need to hire a website designer)

·         Marketing (may need to hire a marketing consultant—there are a lot of scammers in this industry, so again, do your homework)

A quick note on marketing.

It’s an unfortunate truth that an indie author has to be a good marketer, not just a good writer. You can write the most amazing book in the world, but if you don’t know how to market it, no one is going to buy it.


Self-publishing is not for the faint of heart. It is not easy. It is not cheap. It is not quick! It is a labor of love. 

If I have one piece of advice, it is this: Do not race against some arbitrary deadline for publishing your book.

Doing it well is better than doing it fast.

With that said, you also have to call it good enough at some point and hit the publish button. A book can always be made better. Always!

For those of you thinking of self-publishing, expect it to be more time-consuming and involved than you thought. But don’t let that deter you. If your goal is to self-publish a book, you can do it, and you have a lot of resources—more than ever—to help you along the way!

About the Author

Katie Chambers

Visit her business website, follow or chat with her on Instagram, or connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn.

If you’re an author, take a look at her writing resources page to access free resources for you.

Katie Chambers editor Kristin Noland speculative fiction editor crime fiction editor


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