The 10-Step Checklist for Self-Published Authors

Dear aspiring authors,

This post is for you. This post applies to especially those of you who are considering self-publishing your book. I write it, because it needs to be said, and because I want you to avoid the frustration, upset, and anger I see boiling up in the Indie community every day.

For those of you who don’t want to read through the entire list, here’s the main idea: Do your homework. It’s not just about putting your book out there; it’s about doing it in a manner that will reflect well on you as an author and publisher–because that is what you will become. It’s not just about the art of creating something out of nothing; it’s about conducting your business professionally–because that’s what it is: a business. It’s hard work, and it doesn’t stop when you hit the Publish button. Are you ready for that?

If you’re planning to self-publish, you should be. By going this route, you are taking on the responsibility for everything you put out there, from this moment forward. It’s all on you. Even if you hire professional editors, cover artists, formatters, etc., the final published product is yours, and no one else’s. Readers won’t see what you intended, or what you wanted to do. They won’t see your financial or personal struggles–and they shouldn’t. Your readers are your customers; they’re paying for a product that has your name on it, and you owe it to them to give them the best product you are capable of producing.

For those who want more details, here’s my little 10-step decision tree:

How to tell if your book is ready to publish:

1. Is your manuscript completed?

YES: Move on to Step 2.
NO: Step away from the Publish button!

While some people in the industry say it’s a good idea to list a book as an “assetless” pre-order, keep in mind that as soon as you put a release date on your purchase page, readers will be counting on it. Any delay will require you to change that date and will look unprofessional.

2. Do you have a synopsis, two-sentence description, and author bio prepared?

YES: Move on to Step 3.
NO: Step away from the Publish button!

These are basic elements every author should have before going through the publishing process. They are required by every platform, every store, and distributor around the world. Take it from someone who knows, they can be harder to write than the book itself. It’s much less stressful when you do it ahead of time.

3. Has your manuscript, synopsis, and author bio been edited by someone other than you?

YES: Move on to Step 4.
NO: Step away from the Publish button!

This is the bare minimum every author should do for every single book. No excuses. No exceptions. Everyone needs a second pair of eyes. For affordable editors and proof readers, check out Mark Coker’s list or ask your fellow authors for recommendations.

4. Has your manuscript been formatted to your platform’s specifications?

YES: Move on to Step 5.
NO: Step away from the Publish button!

A poorly formatted book diminishes readers’ enjoyment of the story you are telling. As a self-published author, you are a publisher as well as an artist, and it’s your responsibility to present a book that is both readable and enjoyable. To do it yourself, even if you don’t plan to publish with Smashwords, read the Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker. For affordable eBook formatters, check out Mark Coker’s list or ask your fellow authors for recommendations.

5. Do you have a cover image for your manuscript?

YES: Move on to Step 6.
NO: Step away from the Publish button!

A cover image is a requirement for every platform, every store, and distributor around the world. It’s the first thing readers see when they come across your book. If you feel you can create one for yourself, check out free and affordable resources on my Links and Resources page.

6. Is your cover image formatted to your platform’s specifications?

YES: Move on to Step 7.
NO: Step away from the Publish button!

Always be sure to read the specifications before publishing your cover image. They are there to ensure your cover image looks professional in the store, as well as on the readers’ screens.

7. Does your cover page compare in quality to others in your category/genre?

YES: Move on to Step 8.
NO: Step away from the Publish button!

This is the second most important investment for book publishing, after edits. While some authors have the skills and training to create a professional cover image on their own, if you don’t feel comfortable or don’t have any experience creating custom graphics, always employ a professional to do it for you. For affordable cover designers, check out Mark Coker’s list or ask your fellow authors for recommendations.

8. Have you read, understood, and agreed to all the terms and conditions of publishing on your chosen platform, and in your chosen manner? (Applies to all platforms, but especially Amazon, and their KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited programs.)

YES: Move on to Step 9.
NO: Step away from the Publish button!

Always know what you’re getting into! Read the terms and conditions through and through. They will tell you what you can do, what you can’t do, what your publisher/distributor will do, what they won’t do, and how much it’ll cost you. It’s your responsibility to educate yourself on how the publishing world works. If you’re unsure of anything, hold off and do more research. Always keep in mind that anyone you publish/distribute through is a business professional, and they will expect you to be one, too.

9. Have you set up your author profile and payment information on the platform? Do you have an author website and/or social media accounts?

YES: Move on to Step 10.
NO: Step away from the Publish button!

Make sure you have all your ducks in a row before you put yourself out there. Once you put something on the internet, it stays there forever! Always conduct yourself in a professional manner. You are about to become a small business, and you want your customers (a.k.a. your readers) to think and speak well of you.

10. If you made it this far, congratulations! You’re now ready to publish your book! I wish you much luck and success!

A few final thoughts…

The resources are out there, if you’re willing to look for them. The Indie community is by and large a friendly, open, and welcoming place for newbies, and most of us are more than happy to lend a hand if we’re able, but there’s not much we can do once the book is published. Then, it’s all on you. If you’re willing to put in the prep time and legwork before publishing, there’s no reason why your book shouldn’t succeed. Just keep in mind that simply because a thing can be done, doesn’t mean it should be done. Yes, it’s very easy these days to put a book (or twenty) out there in a matter of minutes. But if you answered “No” to any of the points above, if you’re not ready for any part of this process, or what comes after, financially or otherwise, the best advice I, or anyone else can give you is to hold off until you are. 🙂

Until next time!

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