You have a story inside you that has the power to make a difference in everyone who reads it—from your best friend to your editor, and eventually your readers worldwide. But you will never have the impact you’re meant to have if you never publish your book.
That’s why, in this article, I’m going to show you how to self-publish a book that you’ll be proud of and people will actually want to read.
It’s likely that you’re here for one of three reasons.
Over time, our self-publishing course has helped many aspiring authors and storytellers in all stages of their self-publishing journey. Self-publishing a book is a monumental project, and it can be easy to feel discouraged and confused. You have what it takes to become a self-published author but you might just need help to get there.
But before I show you how to self-publish your book, let me show you why self-publishing is the right option for most aspiring authors and storytellers today.
Today there are three ways to publish a book: traditionally publish, vanity publish, or self-publish. But for most of history, there was only one way to get published: get a publishing deal with a traditional publishing company like Random House, HarperCollins, or Simon & Schuster.
Getting a traditional publishing deal was no easy business. To get a publishing deal, an author had likely found a trustworthy literary agent to represent them to the publishing company. Often authors signed book deals knowing they were giving away some, or all, of the legal rights to their book. And it was a normal requirement for the author to pre-purchase a minimum of 5,000 books for the publishing company to distribute. While it was possible to get published, most didn’t have the time, network, or resources to do so.
If an author insisted on getting published but didn’t want to work with a traditional publishing company, they could invest thousands of dollars into a so-called “vanity publisher,” who would effectively self-publish their book for them. In other words, the vanity publisher would act like a traditional publisher without licensing or owning any rights to the book itself. Vanity publishers like Author House, Xlibris, or iUniverse are still used today by authors across the world. Unfortunately, most authors didn’t have the resources for this publishing option either.
Note: Vanity Publishing has developed quite a sour reputation over the years. Just Google the words “vanity publishing” and you’ll be greeted with a few less-than-encouraging headlines such as, “Vanity Publishing Information Advice and Warning” and “Self-Publishing & Vanity Publishing: Confuse them and Pay the Price.”
In a raving BookWorthy review, Angie Tolpin shares how she almost lost $10,000 in cash and her entire book manuscript while working with a vanity publisher. Don’t make the same mistakes she did.
The only option left for authors who were dead set on getting published but didn’t want to work with a traditional or vanity publisher was to “take the leap” and become an independent publisher themselves. And very few had the knowledge or resources to embark on such a journey.
As you can see, even in this super-short history of book publishing, it wasn’t commonplace to publish a book. But everything changed in the late 1990s, with the introduction of print-on-demand.
Almost overnight, authors could now publish and print their books as their readers ordered them. No more agents. No more contracts. No more expensive print runs.
The only publishing expense left was to create and design the book itself. And, as you can imagine, it didn’t take long before there was also an overwhelming amount of editorial, design, and book marketing services available to authors for free or at a very low cost.
Publishing power was no longer held by a publishing house. Publishing power was in the hands of the author. Now writers of fiction, writers of romance, and writers of all kinds could create, publish, and print their own books without agents, contracts, or resources.
A Bowker Report from September 7, 2016, stated that more than 700,000 books were self-published in the U.S. in 2015—an incredible increase of 375% since 2010.
And, just a couple years later, readers are no longer just looking for books in print, they’re reading digitally. According to Forbes, 19.5% of all books sold in the U.S. today are Kindle titles. And 30% of books sold in the U.S. are ebooks.
For anyone looking to publish a book, these statistics tell an important story: the publishing industry has not only changed. It’s been revolutionized. You don’t need a publisher. You don’t have to shell out thousands of dollars on an editorial team, designers, or marketing. You can do it yourself. You can self-publish.
When you get in the car and pull out your smartphone or GPS to help guide you to your destination, what’s the first thing it shows you? Where you are right now.
If you look through the map, you’ll see the major landmarks, twists and turns, and pit stops you’ll need to make along the way to your final destination.
Think of this roadmap like that. We’re going to start where you are. Then I’ll point out major milestones to expect and some of the twists, turns, and pit stops along the way. And finally, I’ll explain what to expect when you get to your destination.
There are three big landmarks along the journey to writing a book that people will want to read. First, you’ll write. Second, you’ll publish. Third, you’ll share.
You don’t come to all these landmarks at the same time. In fact, you’ll want to do each in the proper order. Let’s dive into writing.
Note: You can get the entire BookWorthy Self-Publishing Roadmap along with our best self-publishing tips, tricks, and secrets in our free mini-course: Discover How to Self-Publish Your Book. If you like this article, you’re going to love the free course.
The first thing you’re going to want to do is to create a vision for your book. Here are a few questions to get you started. Be sure to document your answers in a notebook or on a whiteboard.
Once you’ve explored and documented this list of questions, you’ll find that you’re confident in your book idea and you’re ready to keep going.
You’ll want to start with a brain dump. Think of all the ideas and concepts you want to communicate in your book and write them down. Then dissect each idea and break it down into sub-points. Keep going until you feel like you have a good understanding of what will go into your book.
People ask me all the time, “How do I beat writer’s block?” I tell them, “It’s simple. If you properly prepare your manuscript before you write it, you’ll greatly reduce your chances of running into it around every corner.”
You’ll want an outline that flows. That makes sense. That tells your story in a succinct way.
Here’s how to do that. Take notes from your brain dump and organize the subtopics into chapter headings and the sub-subtopics into chapter subheadings.
Here’s a little secret. It’s not going to be totally refined and perfect yet, but that’s okay. What your outline does is create a direction and momentum for yourself so that when it’s time to write, you won’t be able to stop.
For each chapter, you’re going to write, draft a 2-3 paragraph summary that explains what your chapter is about and what it’s going to communicate. Once you’ve written your chapter summaries, you’ve prepared your manuscript and you’re ready to write.
For some of you, writing your book is going to be the best part. For some of you, this will be the hardest part. I go through phases. I love writing but it can be hard at times, especially when I’m not feeling inspired. But as Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “There’s nothing to writing. You just sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
His point? Pouring your heart out on the page is never going to be easy. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. You just have to find your voice and write.
Related article: How to Write a Book in 30 Days
Many authors hire a professional editor. And if you can afford it, you should. But you don’t have to. I’ve done most of my own editing for everything I’ve written using a few simple and free online tools like Grammarly and Hemingway Editor to tighten up my writing and make it clear and easy to understand.
When you’re finished writing and editing your book, it’s time to publish.
The publishing process is where you pull all of the pieces together from your book: your cover, title, manuscript, ISBN (International Standard Book Numer), LCCN (Library of Congress Control Number), and publish it online. Here’s how to do that.
Before you can publish your book, you’ll need print-ready cover. Like editing, you can hire a professional designer or illustrator, but you don’t have to. In 5 Free Book Cover Makers for Non-Designers, we reviewed the best book cover makers on the market for authors like you.
Either you can format your manuscript yourself or hire a designer. In chapter six and seven of BookWorthy, we teach you how to do this for free. And we include plug and play templates in various sizes that you can use with Microsoft Word or Google Docs.
As a self-published author, you’ll want to do thorough research and pick a publishing platform to use. There are a handful of really great options, but be aware that some are definitely better than others. I typically recommend using CreateSpace, but I’d also encourage you to do some searching of your own.
As you poke around, you’ll want to consider how each platform handles the cost, rights, and experience. Do they charge you upfront costs to publish your book? Do they make you give them some or all of the rights of your book in exchange for using their service? And how’s their customer service? Are they available, helpful, and accommodating?
Sharing isn’t as easy as it sounds. Often, it comes along with a host of fears and insecurities. Will anyone read what I’ve put out there? Will anyone care? Or, what if it goes viral? What if thousands of people read it? What if I become famous?
Some of these fears might creep in as you go through the process. But don’t let them get to you. Remember why you started writing your book in the first place: to better understand your story and share it with someone else who needs to hear it.
Don’t listen to the critics. Ignore the naysayers. And believe in your story.
In order to ease into sharing your book, and do it well, here’s a simple three step process we recommend.
Pick 2–5 people you trust to give you honest, loving feedback and who will feel honored to be the first to receive your book.
Print copies of your book for each and write them a handwritten letter. Share what you went through while writing your book and why you wanted to share with them first. It’ll mean the world. Then put it in the mail or deliver it in person.
Going through this process will not only kickstart momentum in you sharing your book but will give you the confidence to take it further and share it with your following.
Share your book with your followers on your personal Facebook page, Instagram profile, or with your email contacts. Simply share the story of your book and why you wrote it.
All of these are great ways to show the world that you’re a published author and give them access to your story.
I’m not going to give you a false impression. Writing and publishing a book is hard work. It’ll take blood, sweat, and tears. In fact, it’ll take all the blood, sweat, and tears that you’ve got. There will be days when you’re ready to throw in the towel and settle with the false reality that writing and publishing a book isn’t for you.
This is exactly why we created the BookWorthy self-publishing course. Aaron, Jennifer, and I have been there before. We’ve put in our fair share of blood, sweat, and tears. And, collectively, we’ve spent literally hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars perfecting the self-publishing process. In short, we’ve done the hard work so you don’t have to.
In BookWorthy, we’ll coach you through the exact self-publishing roadmap I outlined in this article and you’ll get all the resources, templates, and tools that go along with it. But that’s not all. You get community and support from us, along with your fellow future authors in our private Facebook Group.
Don’t make the same self-publishing mistakes we did when we first started. If you’re ready to become a published author, register for BookWorthy today.
Simon Villeneuve is the Co-Founder of BookWorthy.com. He's also a consultant who helps organizations tell a better story that inspires their customers to action.MORE ARTICLES