Don’t know how to publish a book successfully? That’s a good problem to have! If you’re wondering, “How do I publish a book on my own?”, it means you’re a small part of the population that has actually finished writing a book. That’s incredible!
Now it’s time to take the next step in your writing career and learn how to publish a book to share your story with readers all around the world.
There has never been a moment in history that has offered authors so much flexibility in publishing a book and reaching a global market.
Today writers can break the limitations of publishing using technology, course education, and internet networking to learn how to publish a book on their own. It is even possible to self-publish as a kid! The publishing process for self-published authors can be broken down into a system of steps for anyone to follow. And that's exactly what we'll teach you today.
Warning: Reading this post could make you a bestselling author.
This blog on how to publish a book will cover:
How to publish a book in 14 simple steps
Here are the steps you should follow when learning how to publish a book:
1. Decide how to publish a book
Now that you’re a soon-to-be-published author, you’re faced with a big decision: How do I publish a book? Should I pursue self-publishing or attempt traditional publishing?
But what does it really take to learn how to publish a book? You may have heard of authors who self-publish their own books and are earning passive income. Then, there are other stories related to traditionally published authors who were fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to get in with an actual publisher.
Do you pursue a traditional book publisher, acquire an agent, send book proposals, wait for a response, and stick it out for years before getting published?
Or, do you take publishing into your own hands and follow in the steps of successful independent authors, who navigate how to publish a book on their own using self-publishing platforms?
Traditional publishing vs self-publishing
There are advantages and disadvantages to both publishing routes. Since this article is about how to publish a book, we’ll cover the pros and cons of self-publishing vs traditional publishing briefly.
Traditional publishing pros:
- Bigger audience exposure since publishing houses can get your print book into major bookstores and retailers quickly.
- Production expenses are covered by the publishing house, such as the cost to actually publish your book and get it to market.
- Marketing and book promotion is supported by the company (but not in all cases).
- Advance royalties mean you will get paid an advance for your book, typically before it’s completely published.
- Professional in-house services like book design, interior formatting, and editing are handled by the publisher’s team.
Traditional publishing cons:
- It’s a slow process. You could wait years before your book is released, even if you’ve already received a contract from the publisher.
- Book design decisions are made by the publishing company. As the author, you are not consulted (in most cases).
- Big deal contracts are very rare. You could be paid enough to just get by for six months.
- Extremely competitive. Getting accepted is very tough and requires a lot of work. This can take months or years, and that is before the book is put into the production phase.
- You may never get traditionally published. Some authors spend years querying for agents and are faced with rejection more times than they can count.
- You are guaranteed to publish your book. Pursuing traditional publishing can take years before you secure a deal if you do. But as a self-publishing author, you set the publish date. You can guarantee that your book will be published without having to wait.
- You own the creative decisions. You get to decide who creates the cover and what that looks like. You hire your own editor and designer, and make your own decisions about book marketing.
- You own the rights exclusively. When authors sign on with traditional publishers, they often lose the rights to movie deals or other lucrative opportunities. But as an indie author, all rights are yours.
- Earn higher royalty rates. With a traditional publisher, you have heard stories of authors landing 6- and 7-figure book deals. But these are very rare. In many cases, you earn enough to pay your bills and the rest goes into marketing the book. Through Amazon KDP you earn 70% per eBook sale. You can also create audiobooks and large print books.
- Set your own publishing schedule. Imagine you can publish as many books as you want without restriction. This means more royalties and more freedom. Many fiction authors are publishing a book every few weeks and earning 5-figures a month.
- You’re in charge of everything. One of the pros of self-publishing is that you have creative control. But this can be a con because not everyone enjoys the creative process and it is a lot of work when doing it by yourself. Being your own boss sounds great, but if you are the type of person who struggles to manage yourself, it can be a detriment to your book business.
- Self-publishing costs money. I know…you have heard that it is free to publish your own book. But a book of quality costs money, and it will cost you on average $2,500 to write, edit, and publish your book. You can do it for cheaper but good books are not cheap. We will cover costs in more detail later in this post.
- You are in charge of the marketing. Sounds exciting, marketing your own book? It is until you dive in and realize how much goes into this. But to be successful in the self-publishing industry, you have to wear several hats. Marketing your book is one of them.
- There are no guarantees on your investment. Yes, although the royalties are much better and you can start making cash right away with self-publishing, the reality is you could make nothing after having spent $3,000 to publish a book.
- There is less prestige when it comes to independent authors. Self-publishing is still considered the underdog in the literary world, and if you’re seeking social prestige to impress other authors, you might not find it with self-publishing.
Should you learn how to self-publish a book?
Now that we have looked at the pros and cons of both traditional and self-publishing paths, the big decision is up to you…what do you choose?
If it is self-publishing, then the rest of this post walks you through the steps for how to publish a book on your own.
Here’s how to decide if you should learn how to self-publish a book:
- Do you have thick skin and patience? Traditional publishing takes time and you’ll likely face a lot of rejection.
- Do you have money to invest in your book? If you cannot budget for self-publishing costs, you might consider the traditional route first.
- Do you want to publish your book as soon as possible? If so, self-publishing your book will make it faster to market.
- Are you a motivated self-starter? Self-publishing means you’re in charge. If you can’t handle that, or simply don’t want to, then it’s probably not for you.
- Is social validation your main priority? If you’re looking to impress other authors in the literary world, and are publishing mainly for prestige, then self-publishing might not be the best fit for you until you get past that mindset.
2. Work with self-publishing companies
Now, before we get into more steps of how to publish a book, you might be asking the question: Is it worth it to hire the services of self-publishing companies?
If self-publishing is truly publishing a book on your own, then why would someone need to employ the services of a self-publishing company? We'll explain why below.
But first, be warned: The publishing industry, like any jungle, is full of predators.
Avoid big hairy promises that sound too good to be true. If you think it sounds like a dream, or that you are the only one lucky enough to discover a company that will publish your book and give you these huge bonuses, I will spare you the suspense: These “publishing companies”, known as vanity press publishers, are in it for your money and don’t care about you or your book.
Luckily, there are a lot of credible, solid self-publishing companies out there.
The types of self-publishing companies
There are four main types of self-publishing companies to consider investing in, and it’s important you understand the differences of each so that you can figure out what service will benefit you most.
- Self-Publishing Education Company: If you’re interested in learning from and being guided by a company that will walk you through the publishing process with self-publishing courses.
- Self-Publishing Author Services: If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop for book production services like professional editing, cover design, formatting, and more.
- Retailer: If you need a company that sells self-published books on its retail platform. Popular companies that fall in this category are Amazon’s Kindle Store and Barnes & Noble.
- Aggregator: If you need a company that helps you upload and distribute your self-published book to multiple retail channels. Popular companies that fall in this category are IngramSpark and Smashwords.
Best practices for working with a self-publishing company
- Know the type of company you need to work with. Are you looking to be guided through your self-publishing journey? Do you want a company to distribute your self-published book? Get clear on your specific needs and intent for working with a self-publishing company to decide what you want to invest in.
- Avoid vanity publishers. Don’t throw your money at a company that promises you unrealistic things. Vanity publishers are essentially scams that take your money and give you sub-par, low-quality services.
- Do your research. Once you have a specific company in mind, do your research. Search online for reviews and testimonials, reach out to an author community for recommendations, and don’t invest in the company until you are 100% sure they are credible to work with.
Now, let’s move on and cover the steps you need to learn how to publish a book your way.
3. Budget for publishing costs
This is a question that every self-published author asks: How much does it cost to publish a book?
The book production costs vary just as book genres vary. What it costs a fiction author to self-publish will be different from nonfiction.
To set your self-publishing budget, some questions to ask yourself are:
- How much are you willing to invest, and;
- How well do you want your book to perform in regard to sales?
If you go cheap on your book, you could produce a low-quality book that nobody wants and gets a heap of bad reviews, and then it won’t sell at all.
By saving money, the decision to not invest could cost you money.
When it comes to Amazon self-publishing, quality is everything. But quality costs money.
On average, you are looking at a general cost of $1500—$3000 to self-publish your own book to market.
This includes cover design, research, editing, proofreading, formatting, and possible marketing costs of which there are no limits to how much you can spend on this.
What to avoid: Publishing companies offering you a package deal that exceeds $10,000. I have seen little value in these and many cannot deliver on the promise they are making.
The decision on how much to invest in your book is critical to self-publishing because it determines who you hire to work on the various pieces, from editing, formatting, and cover design.
4. Hire freelancers for self-publishing services
A critical part of learning how to publish a book on your own is about figuring out what services you need, and who you should hire for those services.
In today’s digital marketplace, creative freelancers are readily available for hire to get your book ready to be published.
But, where do you find these freelancers? How do you know if they are reliable?
Here is a shortlist of reliable resources for hiring outsourcers that can handle any part of your book project:
Upwork is a freelancing platform where businesses and independent professionals connect and collaborate remotely. As with Fiverr, you can hire people to do anything that is needed for your book services.
On Reedsy, you can find just about anyone for anything book-related. You can hire anyone for:
- Cover design
- Book promotion
Elite Authors started up in early 2018 after Createspace shut down. Since then, Elite Authors has partnered with cover designers, book interior designers, marketing specialists, copywriters, and other book industry professionals who would continue helping authors through all the steps of the publication process.
Hire a professional book editor
If you haven’t had your completed manuscript edited by a professional editor, now is the time to do so.
Even if you’ve voraciously self-edited your book, you still need to find a book editor to help you mold your manuscript into a completed final draft.
You can find budget-friendly editors from the freelance sites we listed above, or if you have a higher budget to spend, you can choose to seek out a specific editor that’s more well-known.
Here are some tips to hiring a professional book editor:
- Know what type of editing you need. There are different types of editing, such as copyediting and line editing. You can choose to hire editors that do both, or you can decide which type you need most.
- Do a test run. Always try to do a trial with a prospective editor before you commit. If you can pay a small fee to have the editor edit a chapter, this will help you immensely in deciding whether it’s a good fit.
- Find an editor that’s experienced in your genre. The more experienced your editor is in the specific topic or book genres you write in, the quicker and more effective the editing turn-around will be.
- Set a clear timeline. Editing takes time, and editors usually have booked schedules. When learning how to publish a book, make sure your editor can deliver your edited book by the deadline that you need it.
- Communicate. This is the golden rule to a successful working relationship. It’s important that you over-communicate your expectations, needs, and timelines. The same goes for your editor.
Once you receive your book’s final edits, you can make any necessary changes to your manuscript before moving on to the next step of how to publish a book.
5. Finalize your book’s title
If you haven’t decided on a final book title for your completed draft yet, then you’ll want to do this before moving on to the next step of how to publish a book.
If you’re writing a nonfiction book, your title should be catchy and clearly communicate what your reader will learn from your book. It should include a subtitle as well.
Here’s an example of one of my nonfiction book titles, which follows a similar structure to other bestselling nonfiction titles:
Relaunch Your Life: Break the Cycle of Self-Defeat, Destroy Negative Emotions and Reclaim Your Personal Power
For help crafting your nonfiction book title, use our Nonfiction Book Generator, which will help you produce a bestselling title.
If you’re writing a fiction book, you can be a bit more creative with your title, but you’ll still want it to be relevant to your story.
Don’t get stuck on this step. If you can’t decide on a title, you might need to do more research and check out successful titles from other books that cover content similar to yours.
You can also crowdsource for book title opinions. Choose your top three title ideas, then have your target readers vote on their favorite one.
6. Get a professional book cover design
I will be direct about the cover design: If it isn’t good, it won’t sell, no matter how awesome your writing style is.
Hire a pro for your cover design. Readers do judge a book by its cover.
If you try to throw something together on Canva with little-to-no experience in book design, you will create a cover that YOU think is good, but your potential readers won’t.
On average, expect to pay $100—$600 for your cover design
Where can I get a professional cover made?
You can find professional book cover designers at the digital marketplaces we mentioned in the section above on hiring freelancers. We've also included more of our top recommendations.
Here are 5 recommended sites for creating quality book cover designs:
For pre-made book template designs you can check out:
Here are 3 recommended book cover designers on Fiverr:
7. Format your book files
The next step in learning how to publish a book is determining the format. Formatting your book has to do with how your book will appear for the reader, depending on how it is being printed or displayed.
When you publish a book, you have three formats you can create: eBook, Paperback/Hardcover, and an Audiobook.
Remember, the more products you have, the deeper your earning potential.
Setting up your book formats
If you want to publish a hardcover book, Amazon doesn’t print hardcovers. For this format, you should set up your title on IngramSpark, which is a global distributor and another option for print-on-demand.
To learn more about IngramSpark, read our IngramSpark review.
To format an eBook or paperback book, you have two options: you can do it yourself, or outsource to a professional.
Do-it-yourself book formatting
If you are confident in being able to learn how to format your own book, there are a few different services and softwares available to you.
Here are some DIY book formatting tools:
- Atticus: A paid software that allows you to format your eBook and print book. Check out this Atticus software review and tutorial.
- Novelpad: A paid subscription service that allows you to plan, draft, and format your novel. Only available for eBooks.
- Kindle Create: A free formatting service from Amazon.
Hire a professional formatter
When it comes to formatting, hiring the right person for your interior book design is a big decision. You want to get it right. Hire the wrong person and it can go very badly for your book, tying you up for weeks sorting out the mess.
Here's where to find book formatting services:
- Self-Publishing School
- Archangel Ink/Formatting
- Elite Authors/Book Formatting
- eBook Launch/Formatting
- Formatted Books
Once the formatting is completed, you should have two types of formats for your books.
The eBook, in order to be uploaded to KDP, must be in epub format.
For the eBook, you want to use an ePub file. More about how to publish an eBook here.
The paperback can be in a formatted Word .doc or a .PDF file. You can read more here about Paperback Manuscript Templates for KDP.
8. Set up your book to self-publish
The next step in learning how to publish a book is taking all your book details and plugging them into a platform for publishing.
The most common self-publishing platform is Amazon’s KDP, or Kindle Direct Publishing.
As soon as you sign up for KDP, you can upload everything to the platform and begin working your way towards launching.
Don't actually hit “Publish” in KDP until you're ready to launch.
Here’s what to include when you publish your book to KDP:
- Your formatted manuscript in the correct file form (Word .doc or PDF)
- Your book cover design
- Your author bio, headshot, and links to your website or blog
- A book description to captivate potential readers
- 7 keywords and 2 categories (see the next section on how to find these)
9. Research keywords and categories
It’s simple: In order for potential readers to buy your book, they have to be able to find your book. And to ensure your book is found, you need the right keywords and Amazon book categories.
What are keywords, and why are they important?
Keywords are specific words or phrases used to describe your book. If someone was looking for a book on your topic, they might type one of those keywords into Amazon or Google in order to find it.
If you want your book to show up on Amazon and search engines like Google, you’ll need the right combination of keywords.
Since Amazon allows only seven keywords per book, keyword selection requires strategy.
Use a keyword research tool
To make your keyword and category research easier and save you time, we recommend using the tool Publisher Rocket. It will not only help you discover effective keywords for your book, but will give you a breakdown of all the analytics the keyword ranks for.
To get started, make a list of possible keywords for your book, then use Publisher Rocket to test your keywords.
Or, you can plug in your keyword and Rocket will give you keyword ideas for your book.
Putting in the time to get keywords right will have your book rank higher and appear more frequently to readers, so don’t skip this part.
Set up your book categories
Amazon provides a collection of categories and subcategories to choose from. Like keyword selecting, your goal is to look for trending areas that don’t have tons of competition.
As with keyword research, the Publisher Rocket tool can quickly find these categories for you without you having to search on Amazon at all.
You can have your book in ten categories. To do this, after finding your first two categories, you can contact Amazon through KDP’s customer support and request that your book be placed in the additional categories.
Here is an example of a category string that you need:
Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Self-Help > Creativity
You will have a list of 10 categories to send to Amazon on the day your book goes live in the store. That’s it! Your book will be more discoverable when you place it in more categories.
10. Get an ISBN and barcode for your book
The next step to learning how to publish a book is getting an ISBN. An ISBN is needed for every published book, regardless if the book is self-published or traditionally published. You’re not required to have one for the eBook, but every printed book must be fitted with its own ISBN number.
ISBN, which stands for International Standard Book Number, is a 13-digit number that’s used as a unique identifier for books, including a specific book, a book edition, or any other book-like products.
An ISBN number can be used to identify the book’s code digits, language, publisher, book title, edition, and format. The ISBN is used internationally and requires a different number for each version of the book.
To get an ISBN number for a self-published book, there are a few options to consider. You can receive a free one from Amazon, or you can buy your own.
Should I get a free ISBN from Amazon, or buy my own ISBN?
My recommendation is to purchase your own ISBN. Or, you can get your ISBN for free through Amazon and later, if you decide to, can upgrade to your own number.
If you live in the United States, you can get your book’s ISBN for free through your self-publishing platforms, such as Self-Publishing School, Amazon, and Draft2Digital, which will provide you with an ISBN at no cost. If you live in Canada, ISBNs are issued for free.
11. Set a price for your book
Don’t worry if you’re wondering, “How much should my book cost?”
During your book’s launch, your price will likely change, depending on the book launch strategy you choose to go with. For example, we recommend pricing your book for as low as $0.99 during the launch phase, which we’ll go over more in the next section.
For your regular book’s price (post-launch), it’s important to have a reasonable, competitive price that is in close range to what other books in your genre cost. For example, if a competing book is priced at $5.99, it wouldn’t be smart to price your book at $17.99, unless you had a specific advantage, or reason, for doing so.
A general practice for successfully finding the sweet spot in your book’s price is to set the price low after publishing, then gradually increase it by $1 to measure performance. Once you notice sales are dropping, this usually signifies that your book’s price is too high, and you can adjust accordingly.
12. Build a book launch team
A book launch team is a group of people in your target audience (people that will actually read your book), who can help make your book successful.
Your launch team can be made up of people who are fans of yours, readers of your blog or previous work, friends who would read your book, and/or members of your writing community group.
This team will be invaluable for spreading the word about your book, boosting your book reviews, and building momentum for your book’s launch and continued sustainability.
Here are the steps to build a launch team:
- Recruit launch team members from your network and online.
- Offer a team incentive such as a free pre-released book, live Q&A sessions, video training, and other freebies.
- Manage team expectations by being clear on what each member needs to do.
- Communicate clearly about timelines, instructions, and other news.
13. Launch your published book to bestselling status
Now that your book is uploaded to KDP, and you are just moments away from hitting the publish button on your book, you want to take a few minutes to consider how you will launch your book to readers.
When it comes to self-publishing your book, your launch plan can determine the success or failure of your book, which is why it is crucial when learning how to publish a book.
Why? You need book reviews for your book, and you need people to buy the book when it launches.
When launching your book, there are several tried-and-true launch strategies that you can try.
How you launch your book really comes down to one word: Platform. If you have a relatively strong platform, you can leverage that in your launch.
To give you an example of how other established self-published authors have launched books, you can check out the following launch plans:
- Steve Scott’s 5-Day Launch Plan That Works
- A detailed launch plan by Rob Cubbon
- Nick Loper, creator and founder of Side Hustle Nation, and his successful launch strategy
- Mark Dawson’s podcast on the book launch process to 10,000 copies.
These book launches work because they are prolific in their planning and strategic in their execution. If you don’t have a plan for launching, you don’t have a plan for the future success of your book.
The 12-Day Book Launch Model
I recommend the 12-day book launch strategy, which is a simple launch plan with a specific formula to help you hit the Amazon bestseller list in a matter of days or weeks.
But keep in mind, there are different ways to follow this launch model, depending on your goals, platform, and budget.
To keep things simple, I will provide you with a book launch model here to follow for your launch.
Here are the steps to launch your book with the 12-day Launch Strategy:
- Day 1: Soft Launch. The first day of your soft launch kicks everything off. This is the day when you are going to set up your book to successfully launch over the next 11 days. The price point is set at $0.99. Don’t worry about the price; You will increase to full price after the launch. This is just temporary to kick the launch off.
- Day 2-3: Soft Book Launch. Make social media announcements, post in your writer mastermind groups, and use other sources to spread the word. Don’t forget about other social platforms with large reader audiences like Twitter and Tumblr.
- Day 4-6: Free Promo. The promotional sites you got in touch with on Day 1 will be advertising your book. Send an email to your launch team to notify them that your book is now free. Promote to social media!
- Day 7-10: Paid Promo Sites. Run paid promo sites recommended from the list above. You can cluster these a day apart or combine 2-3 promos a day.
- Day 11-12: Winding Down. If you followed the plan you should have had a considerable number of downloads for both your free promo and your $0.99 promo. Remember that your numbers will vary depending on your platform, book quality, niche, and effectively optimizing your keywords for Amazon’s algorithm.
Consider how to publish a book on other platforms
While it is true that 80% of book sales come through Amazon, making it your biggest platform for potential book sales, there are other self-publishing companies you can set up and sell your book through.
If you decide to do this and publish to a wider global market, be sure that your book is opted out of KDP.
Book aggregators are mediums that you submit your self-published book to, and they send it to retailers and libraries all at once. While it may be more convenient so you don’t have to figure out where to self-publish, the cost to use these companies may be higher.
Here are the most widely used self-publishing book aggregators:
Decide where to self-publish your book after assessing which markets you want to reach, as well as your budget and needs. Some authors even use a combination of retailers and aggregators when learning how to publish a book on their own. Here's a list by Deborah Jay on publishing and marketing info if you need extra resources.
14. Read more on self-publishing
Educating yourself on how to publish a book is one of the best investments you can make as a self-published author. Because the self-publishing industry is rapidly growing, it is also changing, and it's important to stay ahead of the curve.
Here are the top books to read on how to publish a book on your own:
- Published.: The Proven Path From Blank Page to Published Author by Chandler Bolt
- Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should by David Gaughran
- Lifelong Writing Habit: The Secret to Writing Every Day: Write Faster, Write Smarter by Chris Fox
- Writing Habit Mastery – How to Write 2,000 Words a Day and Forever Cure Writer’s Block by Steve Scott
- Business For Authors: How To Be An Author Entrepreneur by Joanna Penn
- The Miracle Morning for Writers: How to Build a Writing Ritual That Increases Your Impact and Your Income (Before 8AM) by Hal Elrod and Steve Scott
- Write. Publish. Repeat. (The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success) by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant
- Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt
- Guerrilla Publishing: Dangerously Effective Writing and Book Marketing Strategies by Derek Murphy
- Why Authors Fail: 17 Mistakes Self-Publishing Authors Make That Sabotage Their Success (And How To Fix Them) by Derek Doepker
- How To Self-Publish A Children's Book: Everything You Need To Know To Write, Illustrate, Publish, And Market Your Paperback And Ebook by Yvonne Jones
- Ten Quick Wins for Writers: How to Ignite Creativity, Write Steadily, and Publish Your Book! By Jed Jurchenko
Ace the Self-Publishing Author Journey
Now that you know how to publish a book, your journey is just beginning.
The next step is to start marketing and selling even more books and building a sustainable author business.
A huge part of building your career as an independent author is in writing multiple bestsellers, so it’s time to get started on your next book-writing adventure.
There are many books that people are begging authors just like you to write…so get busy!