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What Does It Mean to Self-Publish a Book?

Updated: Nov 9, 2022

by Kate Rafferty /

Home computers and the internet freed up authors to new ways in which they could publish and distribute their books. In the old days, most authors were forced into seeking out a publisher willing to take a risk on their work. These writers faced many rejections. If a publisher green-lighted a project, they would invest in the editing, design, printing, distribution and marketing while paying the author a royalty based on the books sold. The only other publishing choice for an author was to pay a “vanity” press to create and print the book. At that time, there was a strong stigma against self-published books, i.e., books that no publisher wanted in their catalog. That sentiment locked them out of most every distribution channel. As the name indicates, books published this way were viewed as created for no other reason than the author’s vanity.

Traditional publishing is still alive and well and the way most every book ends up in a brick-and-mortar bookstore. Fortunately for writers, advances in technology allow for them to do much or all of the editing and design work at home, or have it done for them at a reasonable cost through an online self-publishing house. Authors can distribute their printed books or e-books through Amazon or many other online book vendors. There are numerous opportunities to market one’s work using online strategies.

If you have a book in your head, a children’s book, or have always wanted to write a book for your business, self-publishing might be the solution for you.

Self-Publishing Tips:

  1. Document your ideas. What is your title, subtitle, genre, category? Write a description of the book before you write the book; you will need a long description, short description, and blurb for the back cover. Write an author bio; this will be used in the book’s About the Author section, and a shorter version will go on the back cover.

  2. Who is your audience? Having a clear vision of your intended reader helps determine where and how you are going to market your book. Having a specific readership in mind will not limit your book’s reach; in fact, it could expand it. Focus on a target audience.

  3. Just because you finished your manuscript doesn’t mean you’re finished writing. Take editing seriously! Don’t rely on just anyone’s editing solution. Your first line of spelling and grammar verification might be a spell checker or grammar checking in MS Word, Grammarly, or other software. Next you should consider reading your own book out loud. You might also ask a friend or relative to read it to see if they find any confusing parts within the writing. A professional editor is highly recommended to assist with grammar, punctuation, spelling, structure, and continuity.

  4. What kind of book are you creating? A paperback/hardcover book and/or an e-book? Each format has different design requirements for its cover and interior. Hardcovers print and bind differently than paperbacks. Fixed layout e-books remain set on the screen while reflowable formatting allows for page manipulation. A discussion with the designer is often important unless the author chooses to do the designing themselves.

  5. How do you plan to sell your book? The answers will make a difference in the number of books printed. Do you want to get the book into bookstores? This may require having the book with a distributor. For selling online, uploading the files to Amazon is pretty easy and is free. Other online vendors may be considered.

  6. Marketing your book should start before your book is complete. Create a list of potential customers. Use social media to get the word out. Create an author website where you can post upcoming author events and talk about your book.

SelfPublishingUS prints self-published books and offers services for editing.

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