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Self-Publishing for Beginners Part 2: Tools for Writers Series

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In this three-part guide, we’re deep-diving into self-publishing. This series contains everything you need to know to go from novice to published author. In part one, we shared the pros and cons of self-publishing. In this post, we’ll discuss how to ready your book for self-publishing. And in the next post, we’ll talk pricing, distribution, and marketing. Stay tuned for that one.

You’ve done the impossible. You’ve finally completed your book. And you’ve decided to self-publish.

Let’s throw the confetti and pop the champagne. You’re so close to becoming a published author that we might as well celebrate now.

But wait a minute. Aren’t there a bajillion things to do between now and holding your published book in your hand?

Technically, yes. And the publishing to-do list can be quite overwhelming if you don’t get a handle on it. But that’s the purpose of this post. Below, we’ll share how to turn your .docx file into a published book. Let’s get to it.

The Journey to Publication

To publish your book, you’ll need to embark on a journey.

Edit Your Book

Self-Publishing

The journey of 1,000 miles begins with your first draft. Isn't that how the saying goes? If you thought writing your first draft would be the longest part of your journey, you're in for a shock.

For most of us, writing is the easy part. The hard part comes when it's time to edit and re-edit and then edit again. It can be maddening. But don't let the frustration of editing stop you from doing it. It's in the editing process that you chisel and perfect your story and your storytelling. You can transform a lump of clay from kindergarten craft into museum-quality art through editing alone.

I said this to prepare you for the first part of the journey to publication: Editing.

Editing is probably the most challenging and longest part of the journey because you’re actively involved in it. Plus, editing requires multiple passes, as we’ll detail below.

In this post, we shared the path to editing and revising your book. Here's a quick rundown:

  1. Write draft #1

  2. Edit draft #1 to produce draft #2

  3. Edit draft #2 for grammatical errors and typos (👈 You are here)

  4. Share your manuscript with beta readers

  5. Incorporate their feedback to create draft #3

  6. Submit draft #3 to a professional editor for a developmental edit

  7. Incorporate editor's feedback to create draft #4

  8. Submit draft #4 to the editor for a comprehensive edit

  9. Make final edits to create draft #5

  10. Submit draft #5 for a copyedit (this corrects grammar, spelling, punctuation, typos, and other technical elements)

  11. Receive your publication-ready manuscript

You may be thinking, Wow, that's a lot of steps! And a lot of drafts!

And you're right.

Polishing your manuscript isn't something you do in one afternoon. If you want to publish content that you can be proud of—not just now, but also 10 years from now—you need to take these necessary steps.

So, let’s go over them.

If you want to publish content that you can be proud of you need to take these necessary steps.

Steps 4-5

This guide assumes that you've already written your first draft and revised it into a second draft that's now free of grammatical errors and typos. Now, it's time to share your manuscript with beta readers.

What the heck are beta readers?

Beta readers are people who read your manuscript before it's published.

Beta readers are not your friends or family members. Or even your co-workers. They're too close to you to provide useful feedback.

You need someone who doesn't know you and doesn't care about you to read your manuscript. If you choose a stranger to read your book, you won't have to question their feedback. You'll know that the feedback is pure.

We wrote an entire post on beta readers that you should definitely check out.

If you’re looking for beta readers, here are four places to start your search:

  1. Upwork

  2. Your Beta Reader

  3. Frostbite Publishing

  4. Scribophile

Steps 6-10

Beta readers are amazing, but they don't take the place of professional editors.

A professional editor will partner with you to ensure that you produce the best work possible. You pay for their experience as a professional editor who's shaped up other manuscripts. In addition to editing, they're also professional readers. They love reading and stories, but they also have the critical eye to spot errors and opportunities.

When it comes to editing your manuscript, your beta reader may get you to first base, but your professional editor will slide you into home.

There are three types of edits.

The first type is called a developmental edit. It's a big-picture edit. With this type of edit, your editor will provide feedback on the overall structure of your manuscript. This includes the plot, themes, and characters. This edit helps to tighten your work as a whole.

The second type is called a comprehensive edit. This is also known as a line edit. It's in-depth and intense. In this type of edit, your editor will dissect your prose line-by-line to improve pacing and clarity.

The third and final type is called a copyedit. The copyedit should only be performed after you're happy with your manuscript. In a copyedit, your editor resolves any technical issues in the manuscript, such as spelling, grammar, and inconsistency.

Learn more about editing services here.

After you’ve made it through all of those steps, you’ll need another bottle of champagne. Or maybe something even stronger. It’s finally time to move on to the next step.

Get an ISBN

After you’ve finished editing but before you’re ready to design the cover of your book, consider getting an ISBN.

ISBN, short for International Standard Book Number, is a unique 13-digit number that identifies your book.

Do all authors need an ISBN? No. An ISBN is only required if:

  • You plan to sell print copies of your book

  • You'd like to publish an audiobook

  • You want to distribute your book in libraries and brick-and-mortar bookstores

If you only care about selling an ebook, or if you're only interested in selling through Amazon, Apple, or Barnes & Noble, you're not required to get an ISBN.

Design Your Book

Self-Publishing

It's time to design your book. Excited? Or overwhelmed?

If you're like most writers, you're probably overwhelmed by the idea of designing your book inside and out. After all, there's a reason why you're a writer and not a graphic designer.

I get it. And I also have the solution.

Even though you're self-publishing, you don't have to do everything on your own. You can hire others to help.

Here's where you'll need help:

Book Formatting

Book formatting, also known as typesetting, is the process of turning your dull-looking manuscript into an aesthetically pleasing and professional presentation. Book formatting involves the arrangement of words and graphics on your page. The goal of book formatting is to produce an attractive layout that provides an enjoyable reading experience. It should also meet industry standards for book formatting.

For formatting help, check out these services:

  1. BookBaby

  2. Integrative Ink

  3. Girl Friday Productions

  4. Pressbooks

  5. Izzard Ink

  6. Author Friendly

Book Cover Design

While book formatting focuses on the interior of your book, you also need to worry about your book’s exterior. This includes the front, back, and spine of your book.

Book cover design poses a challenge for professional designers but it’s like climbing Mount Everest for non-designers. It’s easy to over-design, under-design, copy other designs, or miss opportunities. Sure, you can design your own book cover using programs like Canva or even Adobe InDesign if you’re fancy, but that’s not advisable. Your book’s cover is your biggest marketing tool, and you should consider investing in a quality design. Otherwise, your book may not sell as many copies as it could. (People do judge books by their cover.)

If you’d like to hire someone to design your book cover, check out these services:

  1. Susan Olinsky

  2. Erin Tyler Design

  3. Izzard Ink (Izzard Ink was recently interviewed by Forbes for book covers)

You can also check out Book Cover Archive to find additional book cover designers that you like. Scroll down for the portfolio sites of the featured designers.

Final Thoughts

We hope you’re enjoying this series on self-publishing for beginners. Do you have any questions about self-publishing we can answer? Leave them in the comments below!

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