Self-Publishing in 2020: A Complete ACTIONABLE Guide

Don’t you agree that there’s almost too much information online about how to self-publish a book? So much that it can be really hard to actually determine what’ll be helpful to YOU?

We get it. We’re in the space every day, and we have to say…not all the advice you read will work.

Much of it is outdated in this everchanging space and doesn’t help you self-publish on Amazon in a way that actually brings you SUCCESS.

There’s far more to self-publishing a book than simply uploading it on Amazon and hitting “publish.” You can absolutely do that.

But don’t you actually want to sell books?

No matter what your goals are, to grow your business with a book, become a full-time fiction author, or simply to publish a memoir or self-help book to create an impact, we here at Self-Publishing School know what works.

We’re in the weeds with hundreds of students every week, learning, growing, and even expanding our program’s content to ensure it’s up-to-date.

And you know what? We want to give you a full, complete guide right here…for FREE. Nothing. Because we believe in you and the story you want to tell, no matter what it is.

WARNING: This blog post will be lengthy, and will cover topics not JUST related to uploading your book and self-publishing it on Amazon. Because again, there is MORE TO IT than just that. So focus, even bookmark this page, prepare to take some notes, and know that it’s possible for you to do ๐Ÿ™‚

If you want to skip over some important points and JUST get down to the how-to list, click here.

Here’s how to self-publish a book for success:

  1. What is self-publishing?
  2. Is it a good idea to self-publish?
  3. What are the best self-publishing companies?
  4. Cost of self-publishing a book
  5. The BEST way to self-publish a book
    1. Create a self-publishing plan
    2. Choose the right book idea
    3. Mindmap your idea
    4. Outlines your book
    5. Write & produce your self-published book
    6. Get an ISBN & Copyright
    7. Decide where to print & distribute
    8. Set up your Amazon Central profile
    9. Set up your launch team
    10. Create a launch plan
    11. Upload your book to KDP to self-publish
    12. Launch!

Learn How 100 People Have Published in the Last 60 Days!  Learn the exact step-by-step methods 100 of our students have used the last 60  days to publish their books--and how YOU can do it too, just as easily!   Start Here!  <https://selfpublishingschool.lpages.co/organic-eg-bab-how-100-people-have-finished-their-books-in-the-last-60-days/>

What is self-publishing?

Self-publishing is when you publish a book without a publishing house first buying your book’s rights and producing the book for you. With self-publishing, you maintain 100% creative control as well as 100% of the royalties.

We have a handy self-publishing vs traditional publishing blog posts that really dives into specific differences you can check out. But really, self-publishing is all independent.

While traditional publishing requires writing a manuscript, querying, landing an agent, agent selling to the publishing house, and ultimately, you only writing and editing based on what your editor wants, only to receive 8-10% royalties AFTER printing costs and AFTER your advance gets earned-out.

There’s really no wonder we believe, in today’s world, self-publishing is the superior option.

But hey, you can decide for yourself after reading through this post ๐Ÿ˜‰

Is it a good idea to self-publish a book?

The best way to publish a book is dependent on what your own unique goals are. Some people will find great success in self-publishing while others are better suited for traditional publishing.

Ultimately, unless you have a good amount of experience as well as connections in the traditional publishing world, this route will be difficult, and you may not ever get published.

With self-publishing, anyone can do it. Anyone can get on Amazon and upload a book. HOWEVER, not everyone can do it well in order to succeed.

There are thousands and thousands of authors making full-time income and MORE from self-publishing. Those people have figured it out. Some of these people are our very own coaches here at Self-Publishing School, teaching our students what it truly takes.

Others, have done the work and have spent years honing their craft and series’ in order to see success.

So ultimately, you have to ask a couple of questions in order to determine if self-publishing is a good idea for you:

  1. Do you want to maintain creative control and tell the story the way YOU want, with a cover that YOU want, and keep 100% of the royalties?
  2. Do you want to simply write and let others dictate the rest?
  3. Do you want to market your own books? SPOILER: this is required for BOTH publishing avenues.
  4. Are you serious about this?

No matter which way you choose to publish, you have to do the work. You have to do the book marketing. You have to commit, set writing goals, and work toward it.

What are the best self-publishing companies?

There are a couple of different ways to look at what “self-publishing companiesmeans.

You have retailers to publish, like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and more. You also have aggregators like IngramSpark, Lulu, Bookbaby, and more that print your book and distribute it TO the retailers.

And then you also have self-publishing education companies, who teach you the ropes about how to self-publish the right way, with resources to help you get there.

The latter is what Self-Publishing School is. So of COURSE we’ll put ourselves at the top of this list, because we truly believe it’s the smartest and best way to self-publish.

Why not take the guidance from those most experienced? But because we want you to make the best choice for your needs, we’ll cover the other types as well.

Here are some of the best self-publishing companies you can work with:

  1. Self-Publishing School (That’s us!): An education company with 1-on-1 coaching, a private and exclusive Mastermind Community, and an entire digital course you keep access to for LIFE, all dedicated to helping you not only write a high-quality book, but also publish it for increased visibility and that coveted “Bestseller” banner. Learn more about our various programs for various types of authors-to-be here!
  2. Amazon, Kobo, B&N, iBooks: These are retailers, places readers can go to purchase your book and have it shipped to them. Amazon is by far the largest of them, however, you should aim to self-publish across all mediums to increase buyers.
  3. IngramSpark, Draft2Digital, Smashworlds, Lulu: Through these companies, you can have your book printed and distributed to the retailers listed above (and more). Amazon also prints its own books. So you could go exclusively with Amazon. But Amzon doesn’t publish hardback covers, like IngramSpark does. Do some research, and check out some reviews to choose where to print yours from.

When you self-publish a book, you’ll use a variety of these types. You can go it alone and simply upload with Amazon, using KDP Print (their book printers), or you can learn what it REALLY takes to do this successfully, and potentially work with us.

Cost of Self-Publishing A Book

Since you don’t have a massive publishing company backing you, there are expenses you’ll incur on your journey to self-publish a book.

Most are very mild, but they may seem like a large chunk of change to invest in your book (really, your success).

Thankfully, there are ways to cut costs. Our students have discounts through book designers, formatters, editors, and other book production services they’d have to pay full price elsewhere.

It’s likely that you can cut self-publishing costs by opting for freelancers or even checking out Reedsy’s resources to find someone to work with.

That being said, we have an entire post about how much it costs to self-publish, so we’ll keep it brief here.

Here’s how much it costs to self-publish a book:

  • Writing: free, but costs time
  • Editing: $200 – $2,000+ (this depends on word count)
  • Cover Design: $300 – $500 average (this is IMPORTANT!)
  • ISBN & Copyright: $100 – $400 (depending on country and number of ISBNs you choose to purchase)
  • Interior Formatting: $150 – $300 (depends on internal design)
  • Proof Copies: $50
  • Launch Team Goodies *Optional*: $100+ (signed copies, posters, etc.)
  • Self-Publishing Resources to Succeed *Optional*: $500 – $5,000+ (education companies)

TOTAL COSTS: $850 – $3000+

DON’T LET THESE NUMBERS DISSUADE YOU! You can save up while writing your book (which takes a good chunk of time). Just be prepared to invest in this if you want to be successful.

Also keep in mind, this is to produce a HIGH quality book. Which is the entire purpose of finding success in self-publishing a book. You have to be able to compete with traditionally published books, which are backed by massive budgets.

You can stick to the low-end of these costs and NOT opt for a developmental edit, which is one of the most expensive components.

But ultimately: do NOT skip at least a copy edit and do NOT skimp on the book cover. The book cover design…is the most important in today’s world of visually stimulating content.

What is the best way to self-publish a book successfully?

As the leading experts in this industry, we here at Self-Publishing School know we have the best way to self-publish.

It’s about more than just how to upload your book onto Amazon. And most people forget this. Most people who want to succeed in self-publishing a book, at least.

So we’re breaking down the best way to self-publish a book for maximum SUCCESS, from start-to-finish.

#1 – Create a self-publishing plan

You want to do this the right way, yes? And skip over the crap that’s not useful or the stuff that won’t really make a difference?

Good. Then you need a plan so you understand what it really takes to succeed. We don’t mess around here at Self-Publishing School.

So this includes putting together a timelineโ€”or at the very least, a to-do listโ€”of all the steps you’ll need to accomplish in order to self-publish your book.

You can even just jot down notes from this blog post in the order they’re here, since we’re handing you the ultimate blueprint for self-publishing in this blog post.

Our recommendation? Get a calendar, get an author planner (we actually have a GREAT one with author-specific prompts here).

Here’s how to plan to self-publish a book:

  1. Give yourself 1 full day for ideation (if you don’t have a book idea yet)
  2. 2 – 3 days for mindmapping
  3. 1 day for outlining (planning a novel may take longer)
  4. 3 – 8 months for drafting (this depends on your type of book. Fiction will lean months-long, nonfiction can be done in 90 days with the right system) but SCHEDULE writing days.
  5. 1 month for self-editing, revising, or beta readers
  6. 1 – 2 months for a hired book editor (book this out as early as you can so you’re not waiting forever on this!)
  7. 1 month for cover design (can be done along with hired editor)
  8. 2 weeks for formatting (can be done AFTER the final book edit)
  9. 1 week for ordering author copies + any time for revisions in formatting here
  10. 1 week for uploading, creating your Amazon description
  11. 3 weeks for launch team initiatives (can be done while cover is being done, etc. so long as you have a PDF copy they can read)
  12. 1 week for the full launch!
  13. At least 1 full day of celebration (far more preferred ๐ŸŽ‰ ๐ŸŽŠ)

This seems overwhelming, and that’s because doing this process well takes time, planning, and focus.

#2 – Choose the right book idea to self-publish

Now’s the time to determine if you want to write whatever type of book you want OR if you want to write-to-market in order to build a full-time writing career.

Both are equally as lucrative if you know how to do them well.

But ultimately, you have to decide which avenue to take, and this will help you develop a plan for book ideas you want to write.

Here at Self-Publishing School, we teach our Become a Bestseller and Fundamentals of Fiction students to choose their first book idea based on a few key criteria:

  1. Which will be the easiest to write?
  2. Which do you have the most passion for?
  3. What can you write and publish the fastest?
  4. Which idea has the most need in the market?

Now, obviously the above questions are for those of you who have many ideas already. But what about if you don’t have a full, developed idea just yet?

Here are some tips if you don’t know what to write about yet:

  • Do you want to write a nonfiction book or write a novel?
  • If nonfiction: what do you know the most about? What do people often tell you you should write about? What do you find yourself explaining over and over (for example: I often get asked “how’d you turn out successful?” from those who know my upbringing–this would be a great topic for nonfiction).
  • If fiction: start with some writing prompts. Try the “what if” strategy: what if a character in a certain town comes across a certain oddity?

Let your mind wander, come up with a book idea you think is GREAT, and dive into the rest of the self-publishing process.

#3 – Mindmap your idea

Have you heard of a mindmap? This is a powerful tool we use here at Self-Publishing School to help our students when they “don’t know where to even start” when they have an idea.

It allows you to get ALL your ideas out so you can better organize in the next step.

A mindmap is what you create when you start with a blank sheet of paper, and in the middle you draw a circle with the main topic of your book, or the main plot.

Then, you draw branches from this for other main elements, where you create more branches to fill out those ideas. It’s hard to describe in words, so here are some examples:

mindmap example
mindmap for a book example

A mindmap is the space to dump ALL of your ideas, no matter if they’ll make the final book outline or not. Anything you can think of, the more, the merrier.

Then move on to the next step.

#4 – Create an outline for your book

Outlining a book can be really fun, and really difficult at the same time. It’s when you’ll finally put your ideas in the order you want them to appear in the book itself.

You trim the fat. You add the details. You have a clear blueprint for writing your book.

This step is also completely up to you. Different people outline in different ways.

Here’s a brief overview of only a few of the various methods to choose from (we suggest watching this video for more tangible examples):

  • Sticky Note Method: This is when you find a blank wall or large poster and use small sticky notes to write your main plot point or book elements and then arrange them in the order you want to write them.
  • Skeletal Method: This one is like what you may have written in school. You start with the main point as a title (chapter title maybe), then the next bullet can be the overarching idea, and then beneath that, you’ll have the supporting details or events you want to write about.
  • Basic Bullet Points: For this method, it is as it’s named. You start at the top and create bullet points for all the events you want to happen and write about. After this is complete from start to finish, draw lines to separate chapters.
  • Snowflake Method: This method involves starting small and broadening the outline. You start with one sentence of what will happen, expand this into a full paragraph, and then multiple for each chapter of your book.

#5 – Complete the book you’ll self-publish

This includes the entire writing-to-finished-product process, and we’ll outline this in just a moment below. But just know that this is the longest and most difficult part of self-publishing.

Yes, the actual self-publishing part isn’t as difficult as creating and maintaining the discipline to finish your first draft, self-edit, revise, hire an editor (YES, you need one), format the book, have the cover designed…I think you get the point.

Getting the first draft done is the most difficult part for most of our students. So let’s break down what this looks like, along with the other steps mentioned above to complete book production.

Here’s how to actually complete a book:

  1. Start writing, and follow our outline IN ORDER
  2. Maintain a writing schedule to finish your book
  3. Once the first draft is complete, let it “rest” for a week or so
  4. Book an editor (do this now, they usually have waitlists and you can do the next step while you wait. Plus, it’ll give you a deadline ๐Ÿ™‚)
  5. Self-edit the book chapter by chapter, rewrite, and make any changes
  6. OPTIONAL BUT SUGGESTED: After you have it the best it can be, send it to beta readers or critique partners for feedback (DO THIS BEFORE SENDING IT TO AN EDITOR)
  7. Book a formatter and cover designer (some services have packages that include both)
  8. Perform book edits from the editor (really take their feedback to heart. It’s easy to be offended or not want to listen, but if they’re qualified they DO know best) and set up launch team and marketing goals while you wait to get it back
  9. Send to the formatter when it’s 100% edited
  10. Get your ISBN and copyright your book
  11. Work with the cover designer on tweaks (they’ll also need the barcode, ISBN, etc.)
  12. Order proof copies and review, adjust if needed
  13. DONE ๐ŸŽ‰

This process is extensive and what our students truly get a lot out of our programs, since each of these steps is thoroughly outlined with video tutorials. But, we’ll still cover a few more points below.

We do have blog posts and/or videos for many of the steps above if you want more details. Just do a quick search in the bar at the top (or click the three bars to see search if you’re on mobile), or head to our Youtube channel and check them out.

#6 – Get an ISBN & Copyright your book

Amazon provides a free ISBN if you choose to use this. However, keep in mind that with an Amazon ISBN, you cannot sell your book on other retailers (like B&N, Kobo, iBooks, etc.) with that same ISBN.

For this reason, we always recommend our students buy their own (and get a package of them if you plan to publish more than one book).

Here are the quick steps to get an ISBN number & copyright your book all in one step, bundled at Bowker.com (or you can click that highlighted text to read a full blog post):

  1. Go toย myidentifiers.com
  2. First, make an account (you need this to check out)
  3. At the top right, under “Register and copyright your book” hit “CopyrightsNow!”
  4. On the right, select which package option you’d like and add it to your cart–we suggest the 1 ISBN and Copyright, but if you plan to publish more than one book soon, choose another
  5. Click “go to cart” from the pop-up screen
  6. Click “checkout”
  7. Follow the process to check out

This process is pretty painless, but it does cost $184 USD for 1 copyright and 1 ISBN. These are essential costs.

If you want to add a copyright paragraph into your book, we have an actual book outline template you can use for those opening pages. Just choose fiction or nonfiction, fill out your details, and check your inbox for DIRECTIONS for how to use and access.

Book Outline Template Generator

Choose your book type to receive a "fill-in-the-blank" book outline template you can use to plan your book.

Enter your information below to receive your free outline template!

Book Outline Template Generator

Thanks for submitting! Check your email for your book outline template.

In the meantime, check out our Book Outline Challenge.

#7 – Decide where to print / distribute from

There are a growing number of options for where to get your book printed and distributed from. For self-publishing a book, Amazon is a typical go-to, but KDP print has some limitations that can move your attention elsewhere.

Why do you want to go with someone besides Amazon to self-publish a book? Because you can get your book into other online retailers, like B&N, Kobo, iBooks, and many more.

Amazon keeps everything on Amazon.

Here are the main print/distributors and their differences in self-publishing:

โ€” Amazon’s KDP Print โ€”

This is Amazon’s own printing press, which used to be CreateSpace. It was acquired by Amazon so they could serve self-publishers on their platform all in one place.

Ease of use: 5/5

Cost to publish: $.85 flat fee per book over 108 pages + $.12 per page (for a 300-page book, Amazon would take $4.45 in printing costs out of your retail price)

Retailers included: Just Amazon.

LEARN HOW TO USE IT: KDP Print Guide & Review

โ€” IngramSpark โ€”

IngramSpark is one of the most popular book aggregators out there because they include hardcover in their printing options, where Amazon’s KDP Print does not. Many find this to be more appealing and a higher benefit.

Ease of use: 3.5/5

Cost to publish: $25 – $49, with a $25 per book edit fee, plus handling fees per book. You can see a breakdown of the costs here in the review linked below.

Retailers included: They have global distribution, you can read the full list here.

LEARN HOW TO USE IT: IngramSpark Guide Review

โ€” Draft2Digital โ€”

Ease of use: 4.5/5

Cost to publish: They take 10% of the retail price of a book for a sale. (if you price your book at $14.99, they will receive about $1.50 per sale)

Retailers included: Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Koboย (including Kobo Plus), Tolino, OverDrive, Bibliotheca, Scribd, 24Symbols, Baker & Taylor, Hoopla

FULL REVIEW: Draft2Digital vs Smashwords

โ€” BookBaby โ€”

This is another distributor that’s been around for a little while. They have a flat fee for using their service, plus a royalty rate for you. Their services range from book printing to distribution to even ad management serivces. However, in all honesty, you can get the same level of service with a higher royalty rate elsewhere, but you may find they work best for you!

Ease of use: 4/5

Cost to publish: You pay $99 – $399 depending on distribution choices, but only KEEP between 11% – 20% of your royalties. PLUS, there are fees for editing your books.

Retailers included: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BAM!, BookShop, Baker & Taylor, Ingram, Powells

LEARN MORE: Full BookBaby Review

โ€” Smashwords โ€”

Smashwords was one of the first alternative options for self-publishers, that made sure authors could get their books distributed to other online retailers other than Amazon.

Ease of use: 3.5/5

Cost to publish: You can make 70% – 80% royalties from retail price, while Smashwords keeps the rest

Retailers included: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BAM!, BookShop, Baker & Taylor, Ingram, Powells, Blio, Hive, Overdrive, Tolino, Scribd, Odilo, Apple iBooks, and more

FULL REVIEW: Draft2Digital vs Smashwords

#8 – Set up your Amazon Central profile and account

Your Amazon profile does matter. It can help people find you, and you can optimize it in order to sell more books as well grow your author platform.

And best yet? It’s free! You can create one and it’s the space all of your books will be hosted on Amazon’s platform.

Here’s how to make your Amazon Author Central account to self-publish your book:

  1. Log in here
  2. Follow the prompts to set up your page
  3. You’ll receive a confirmation email to finish setting up your account

If you want a more comprehensive guide to Amazon’s Author Central page, click here.

#9 – Set up your launch team

It’s time to start building your launch team! This is such an exciting time, because self-publishing your book is getting REAL!

If you’re not sure what a launch team (or street team) is, it’s a group of people who are dedicated to reading your book, writing a review on the platforms you want, and helping your self-publishing journey become a success.

Overall a launch team helps you build hype and market your book before and during your launch.

When you build your launch team, you’ll want to find people who are actually interested in your book. Yes, friends and family can certainly help, but tapping into the market you WANT to sell to can be more effective.

Here are a few steps for building your launch team:

  1. Create a social post, email, or announce it anywhere else you see fit
  2. Offer a FREE version of your book (a PDF copy is usually fine) to get people to sign up
  3. If you have an email list or a website, use a form to capture their information for use later
  4. Create a Facebook Group or a Discord or something equivalent where you can communicate with the launch team all at once in a singular location
  5. Set up a list of tasks, challenges, or other initiatives to ensure your launch team is invested in helping you market the book
  6. Set them up for success by clearly communicated and listing DATES you expect things completed by
  7. HAVE FUN!! This team is here to help you succeed! Be kind and treat them well.

#10 – Create a launch plan

This highly coincides with the previous step on building a launch team and creating a plan for THEM. Ultimately, to self-publish a book successfully, you should also set up an effective launch plan.

We have a book launch checklist available to download here to help you get started on this.

We also have an entire blog post dedicated to running a book launch, which we think should be a topic on its own. Check it out right here and keep this page open to come back to.

#11 – Upload your book to KDP to self-publish

There are many steps in this process. You’ll have to have your cover, your manuscript file formatted effectively, and more.

Typically, it can take a few days for Amazon to approve your book being uploaded.

For a step-by-step guide here, we wanted to point your toward the experts over at SelfPublishing.com for a complete set up, with all the information you could need to get this right.

Read how to upload your book to KDP to self-publish here.

#12 – Launch! And celebrate!

Once you set your date and click “publish,” THE CELEBRATION BEGINS!!

It’s a huge milestone to write a book. Let alone go through the process of editing, cover design, formatting, and actually self-publishing it.

BE PROUD!

And let us know how it went in the comments below!

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Bella Rose Pope

Bella Rose Pope is the Content Marketing Specialist here at Self-Publishing School. While she's not whipping up content here, she's creating her own Youtube videos, fiction writing tips blog posts, hanging out with her dog, and eating something with cheese! Give her a follow: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Youtube

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