Monday, October 24, 2011

Guest Post: Steps to Self Publishing, by Anastasia Pergakis

There is so much involved in self publishing. As the self published author, you are also required to be the publisher, editor, cover artist, and more.

The general steps to self publish your novel are pretty the same for e-book or print. After you write it, there is editing, cover art, purchasing your own ISBNs and making your publishing company, formatting, uploading to distributors, and marketing. But each step itself is done a little differently.

Okay, I left out a step. First thing is deciding on your release date! Yes, as the self published author, YOU get to choose. Just keep in mind the time it will take you to edit, format, etc. and make sure you have plenty of play room in case of emergencies. I gave myself four months. The ebook was out in two months and the print book will be released in another two, so I was ahead of schedule!

So, you have your release date a few months away. Time to get to work. And I do mean work.

Hire a professional editor or do it yourself. Now this where self published authors disagree. If, and I stress the if, you have top notch critique partners, access to a teacher (preferably a literary or English one), you can get away with not hiring a professional editor, some authors say. Many others will tell you that it is a requirement. Also keep in mind that the handful of book reviewers willing to review self published book still won't review yours without a professional editor in the picture. I will tell you now that I did not hire a professional editor and I know other authors who didn't either, and their books are selling fast. Again, do your research here.

Cover Art
Again, even in the Indie author world, the writers are split between whether you should make this yourself or hire someone. Here's my thoughts on it. In order to compete with the professional level of traditional published authors, you want to have a cover that stands out, right? If you don't have skills with graphic design, then yes, I say hire a cover artist. If you have some skills in it, give it a try. You can save a little bit of money designing it yourself.

I know graphic design due to my website building business. However, I decided to hire an artist too. Why? Well, I did make some covers - and they did look good and professional. However, even as the author, I couldn't capture the feel of the story the way I wanted to. I had my cover art for my book Cleanse Fire hand-drawn by an artist. My cover was the first one she's ever made. Here's a tip: Don't spend more than $200.00 on your cover art. Most cover artists I've found charge around $50 to $75 dollars. I spent $100.00 on mine, but it was hand-drawn and completely original.

Now, to prepare for formatting your cover later – professional cover artists know the following information, but other digital artists may not. So even if you do not understand the numbers here, the artist will.  Make sure the image is at least 300 dpi although I've found that having it in 600 dpi is better. Also, make sure your image is a big one, as it is easier to make it smaller, but not bigger. And that worked perfectly for me to resize to the different sizes I needed for websites and uploading to places like GoodReads.

Making Your Own Publishing Company (And ISBNs)
Yes! You get to make your own publishing company! Come up with a name, and a logo if you like! And no, you do not need a business license or anything like that. You are considered by the IRS as a "Sole Proprietor" so everything income and tax related is handled through your personal information, just under another name so to speak.

Now, in the publishing world, once you own 10 ISBN numbers, you are considered a real publisher. Plain and simple!

For those that don't know, ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It uniquely identifies a book. This allows efficient marketing and easier finding for readers as the book - no matter if the cover art, price, etc. changes, still has this number.

Interesting note: The United States is the only country (or one of a very few) in the world that makes an author/publisher pay for an ISBN. Any other place you can get them for free!

Formatting & Publishing
Now, here is where many self published authors take the most time when getting their book ready. You CAN hire a professional here to do it for you. However, you can save a few hundred dollars by doing it yourself.

Many guides for formatting your book tell you use OpenOffice rather than Microsoft Word or Word Perfect. However, I used Microsoft Word for all my books and they came out fine. In the end, you might need to upload your book, then fix any problems, and upload again. Just because it looks good on your computer doesn't meant it actually will on a Kindle or Nook or other e-reader. Find friends that have a Kindle or Nook. You're pretty safe that if you book looks good on those devices, it will look good on others.

I won't explain to you how to format it exactly. That would take way too long. has a wonderful and easy to follow step-by-step guide for formatting for e-book. It took me about three hours to format my 60K long manuscript. And the next time I do it, I'll get faster as I can plan ahead while I’m writing and editing.

Once I had the manuscript formatted for e-book using the Smashwords guide, I uploaded it to When it came back with no errors – as in their automated system found no major mistakes in the formatting – I turned my attention to Kindle format.

You'll need MobiPocket Creator for this. It's a free program to download and extremely easy to use. I uploaded my word document that I formatted with the Smashwords guide, uploaded the cover art, filled in the information about my book and pressed the button. A few seconds later – tada! – my book in Kindle format! Then I went to the Kindle Direct Publishing and uploaded the file to their system. It took two days for the book to be fully on their site for sale.

With Barnes & Noble, I went to and uploaded my formatted Word Document into their system, uploaded the cover art, entered the information and bam – three days later, Nook format for sale!

Overall, formatting and uploading, I did this in about four to five hours.

That was just for e-books! Print books have their own set of rules but the concept is still the same. The difference here is that you have to decide on a printer, which is a discussion for a later date.

Printed Books
My research tells me that if you use CreateSpace (part of Amazon), you can use your Word document to upload into their system. And they have a nifty little cover art design wizard that you can use as well. But I went with LightningSource, which is more complicated to use. (And my research says that they have better quality of print, but I don't know this for certain.)

Okay, LightningSource will tell you to download a program called InDesign made by Adobe. It costs $200.00! Luckily there is a "free" version of the same program called Scribus. Scribus is not easy to use, you have to literally do every single thing by hand. Without going into too much detail, it took me seven days (with many late nights!) to format Cleanse Fire for paperback and hardcover. Next time won't take me as long, as I'm now familiar with the program. It will still take a few days however, as there is a lot to consider in formatting for print. In fact, I think I'll write a post about it on my blog this week. So head over to Labotomy of a Writer and look for that.

For the cover art formatting, LightningSource has a template you can download – and then use in Scribus – to do this. You'll need your ISBN number first, as their template creator automatically puts the barcode on the back for you – which include the ISBN number for your book. I recommend you format the inside of your book before designing the cover. This is because you don't know how many pages your book with be in paperback/hardcover size until you format it. This is important because the number of pages determine the width of the spine for your book. If you format a cover with a spine of say 1 inch, but you really need a spine of 1.5 inch or even .5 an inch, it won't work!

Now, like I said before, CreateSpace has this little wizard on their site where you can design your cover art through them. Just upload and insert your own images or you can use one of the pre-made designs they have.

Okay, this is where I can only tell you about how LightningSource works. I'm sure CreateSpace is similar in their upload process, but LightningSource has many extra steps you must do first. But again, in order to keep this post from getting far too long, head over to my blog this week for a detailed post about using LightningSource.

Once you have the file of the book and the file for the cover art, you upload it into LightningSource or CreateSpace and order a "proof copy". As the author, you'll only have to pay for the cost to print it (my book is around $4.50) and shipping. When you get the proof copy, make sure everything is correct – spacing, page numbers, order of information, etc. If it's good to go, you log in and officially published the book. If not, reformat and try again.

LightningSource, when you officially publish, distributes to Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and a few other places automatically for you. They will handle all your sales for everything. Also, LightningSource will also distribute to places in the UK and Australia if you choose those options.

Final Words and Links
Whew, did I cover everything? Sorry it was so long! Like I said, so much information! Oh, I left out marketing, but I'll save that for later.

Oh, forgot another thing. Setting your own price. This again would require a whole nother post on how to decide what price is right for your book. You can visit my blog to learn about this as I'm putting together a post about it right now.

So that's three other blog posts on my blog for you: Things to Think about In Formatting for Print, Using LightningSource, and Setting your Price. 

Thanks again for having me, Annie!

Interview with Anastasia (which triggered this second post out of three)

Author Site:
Series Site:
Purchase Cleanse Fire: The Kinir Elite Chronicles at:


Anastasia V. Pergakis said...

Thanks so much for having me again Annie! I'm so glad these posts are helpful to you. Please don't hesitate to ask me anymore questions. I'll be posting those three blogs I mentioned at my place this week. If there are any more questions, I'll be sure to make sure I answer them at my blog too. :)

Emailman said...

Wow! What a fantastic post! You have helped me answer one question that lots of people have asked me, "Why don't you self publish?" Errr, no thanks hahahaha!!! I take my hat off to anyone that does :)

Annie McMahon said...

Haha!! Kurt, I agree that self publishing isn't for everyone, but it's still good to know about all our options, right? And I agree, Anastasia is a star!

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