DIY Self-Publishing

Or, how to lose your mind in (approximately) three weeks

Hi, everyone!

While you’re waiting on my posts about editing my old books, I figured I may as well write about something a little more … recent.

For those of you who don’t know, once upon a time, I wrote a lovely little novel for my thesis in college. It was one of the most difficult and time-consuming things I’ve ever done (I’d never seriously edited anything before), but it was great experience and very much helped me as a writer. Now, when it came time to publish it, I thought I’d go the traditional way. I’ve always dreamed of seeing my books in a Barnes and Noble or local indie bookstore (what writer hasn’t?).

And then I started looking for comp novels (that is, books similar to mine). That’s when I hit a bit of a snag. I couldn’t find anything successful within the last five years that had anything to do with what I’d written. Which is a problem if you want to pitch your book to agents or publishing houses.

Enter the self-publishing option. That’s when I discovered that doing self-publishing well, especially doing it DIY, is a bit of a ... process, let’s say.

Right off the bat, you have to choose how, where, and when you’re publishing. You have to decide whether you want just a eBook, that and a print book, or both of those and an audiobook. Then, you have to choose platforms — whether you want to stick with the megacorporation that is Amazon or try your luck in other avenues as well.

And then there’s the fun that’s doing last-minute edits to your book. Trust me — there were several times I thought I was done, and then went through for one last pass and found about a dozen instances of the same error. True, it would be better to hire professionals, but I’d also be a couple thousand dollars in debt.

After that, you have to typeset your book. While there’s a variety of highly recommended apps (or you can always hire out), I decided to do it the hard way. Initially, I started out in Scrivener (which is a very good app for writing novels, by the way), but ended up switching to Pages after I nearly tore my hair out. Fortunately, there’s a number of excellent articles out there on how to format a book correctly, and you can usually finagle your way into getting things to work.

Then, you have to export your book to the correct format, and check to make sure everything looks ok. Long story short: ePubs are for eBooks and PDFs are for print books, across the board (Calibre is an excellent app for viewing ePubs to make sure they look good). I ended up still using Scrivener for the ePub, since Pages’ version is meant solely for Apple Books.

Last but not least comes the cover design. I could spend three hours and more pages than I care to count to explain how, but long story short: Canva is an excellent app for this purpose, and can do a whole lot even in its free form if you’re willing to take extra time. And again — yes, it would be better to get professional cover art. But I’d also be even more thousands of dollars in debt.

Anyway, all that’s only scratching the surface of what all goes into self-publishing a book. I’m still learning, so I won’t be going into the rest. But if you take the time and effort to do it well, it won’t look like that stereotypical self-published book that a lot of people tend to think of. And frankly, it’s kinda nice not to have to rely on traditional methods to get your stories out there.


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