A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing

A step-by-step guide to navigating the often confusing world of self-publishing, including how to get your book printed and in major shops.

Image Credit: 
Public Domain

Many writers believe that self-publishing is like the last resort, this may be true for some authors but not for most. If you plan on self-publishing, then you need to do it the right way, this includes a lot of hard work but it is worth it in the end. In this post, you will see many of the things I went through to release my children’s book ‘Tridea’s Children’.

1. Finish

The most important step before publishing, whether through a publisher or doing it yourself, is to make sure you have edited and proofread your work until you are happy with it. You can find many online services of editors and proof-readers who will edit your work for you for a price. If you cannot afford to use a service such as this, you can always ask a friend or someone who can go through your work and notice something that you might have missed.

After having your work proofread and ready for publishing you need to decide on how you want to publish. Since you are here, I can assume you are looking into self-publishing.

2. Cover

When self-publishing you want your work to look and feel professional. The first step after having your work proofread and edited is to find a cover. This is where one of the hardest searches comes into place for any author as the cover for your work will catch potential readers. Many people say don’t judge a book by its cover, but many people including myself have picked up a book just because the cover was attractive.

There are a couple of choices of what to do: you can build one using a photo you have taken; find a premade book cover online normally varying in prices from around £5 up to anywhere in the hundreds; or the other opinion, which is what I went with for ‘Tridea’s Children’, is to search for an artist. This can be done on sites such as Guru or Deviantart. After hours of searching I found an artist whose style I thought was perfect for what I wanted as a cover. After discussing with the artist and setting up a deal, a few weeks later I had a new cover which I was excited about. Before the release of your book, go with a cover release. A cover release can be done by many writer’s blogs, social media and author pages.

I know it might seem weird but here are some things to consider putting on your cover:

Front Cover
• Book Title
• Author Name
• Publisher Name

Back Cover
• Book Blurb
• Barcode
• Pricing
• Author/Publisher Website

• Book Title
• Author Name
• Publisher Logo


The International Standard Book Number is one of the most important things to have when you’re publishing. An ISBN holds the details of your book; this is what booksellers will use to identify your book. Depending on how you go about publishing—whether or not you are printing a physical copy of your book or publishing a digital version—you may have to pay for this. If you publish via digital many of the online publishers offer a free ISBN which marks the online publisher as the publisher for your book. These publishers can include Amazon and Lulu; both offer a printed service as well. Another way to get and ISBN is via Nielsen which is the UK’s official ISBN distributor. Apart from this you can purchase an ISBN from other distributors at a lower price, but with them as your publisher.

When I first went to publish for print I originally used an Amazon-owned ISBN, but I found that some of the big chains such as Waterstones and WH Smith would turn my book down because of the ISBN publisher being Amazon. After discovering this, I went and bought my own ISBNs costing around £190 but it has allowed me to be classed as a publisher and now my books are available to order in Waterstones and WH Smith.

4. Format

Formatting is the next important part for publishing. Digital publishing can be easy to format if using the correct program. A program I use for writing would be Scrivener, which is a fantastic writing program for Mac OS, Windows, Linux and iOS. It allows you to easily export your work into any kind of format, digital and print. When printing a paperbound book, all printers I have found require a PDF proof of your book.

When it comes down to setting up your book in Microsoft Word before converting to PDF there are a variety of things to help you format. The front matters, which includes the first couple of pages. The first page also known as the Title Page should include the title of your book, series title if a series, the author’s name and publisher’s name. The next page should contain the ISBN, copyright, website, and a brief notice mentioning that the book is a work of fiction. After this page, you can include a thanks page, and a contents page.

Each chapter heading should be set using Microsoft Word heading format, allowing you to place the chapter head within the header of the page.

Since I printed my book at 129mm x 198mm, my page size was set to width 12.9 cm and height 19.8 cm. Header and footer both set at 1.25 cm with the margins set at; Top 1.42 cm, Inside 2.29 cm Bottom 1.02cm, Outside 1.27cm and Gutter 0cm. With the page layout all setup it comes down to font and sizing. After much trial and error I found that Times New Roman set at a font of 12 suited my book size and word count. I would not recommend going up to 14 but if you have a larger word count and don’t want too many pages a minimum font size I would go with would be an 8.

Setting up a PDF proof from Microsoft Word is easy, all you have to do is go Save As, select PDF as the type of file, and before saving select options and make sure the ‘ISO_19005-1 Complaint’ is ticked.

5. Print

After getting your cover ready, gaining an ISBN and professionally formatting your book, you should be ready to print. There are different options here, you can use a print-on-demand service such as Amazon’s Createspace, or Lulu; they will print your book to order and sell on sites such as Amazon. If you bought your ISBN from Nielsen books you will receive orders for your books through the Nielsen website. If you go this route you can use a printer such as 4edge who print off a minimum 10 books and can print well into the 1000’s depending on your order.

If you are wanting to see your book in Waterstones and WH Smith then you will need to get your book into Gardners Books and Bertrams Wholesalers. You can do this in two ways: the first is to send in a physical copy of your book and see if they will accept it, and the second option is to set up your book to be printed by IngramSpark. IngramSpark charge a setup fee but your book will available to order from any bookstore in the world.

To get your book into Waterstones and WH Smiths you will need to send them a printed version of your book and they will decide on whether to order any copies or not. I will add addresses for where to send books at the bottom.

6. Review

Now that your book is ready to print there are a few last things to go through. One of the most important things to do is to gather early reviews. You can do this by sending out your book to book bloggers who are usually up for reviewing a book, but can take time due to their busy schedules.

Other ways of getting early reviews are by sending your book out to local newspapers or other authors, and by doing an early giveaway. This not only gets you some reviews but brings publicity to your work.

Speaking to book bloggers is a great way to publicise your work to potential customers, many book bloggers do interviews with authors as well. A book release party will help in announcing your book to the world and bring in potential customers.

7. Advertise

The type of book you have released will determine where you advertise. Social media has plenty of options. Make sure you have a huge Twitter following and keep your followers updated on your work, and publications of your book. With Facebook you can advertise on many writer’s groups, kindle groups, book groups and even the many buy, swap and sell groups. If you are a children’s or YA writer, contact schools to see if they will stock your work. Some schools will allow you to come and speak with students and give a buying slip to parents who want to purchase your work.

Another way of advertising your published book is by going to festivals. Hay-on-Wye has a literary festival each year and the London Book Fair is also a great opportunity to show your works off. If you are selling printed copies from your website or on social media sites, consider offering a free bookmark to the buyer. Bookmarks are also a great way to advertise your book if you leave some in bookstores or libraries.

8. Start

This has covered much of the process of which is needed to self-publish your book. Before your official publishing date, you will need to send your book off to the British Library.

Below is a list of how many books you need to send off to each place and their addresses.

Legal Deposit
Send 6 paper-bound books to:
Legal Deposit Office
The British Library
Boston Spa
West Yorkshire
LS23 7BY

Send 1 paper-bound book to:
Independent Publisher Submissions
Waterstones Booksellers Ltd
203-206 Piccadilly

WH Smith
Send 1 paper-bound book, marked for the attention of either Head of Fiction, Senior Buyer Non-Fiction or Head of Children’s Books, to:
Delivery Point B
WH Smith
Greenbridge Road

When sending out a book to Waterstones, WH Smiths, or any other bookstore, include a one page summary of the following list (which is provided by Waterstones):

• Bibliographic information (ISBN, Author, Title)
• Your email address
• A covering letter introducing yourself/the author

The more information you provide, the more accurately we can make a decision on a title. Please try to include as much of the following as possible:

• A synopsis of the book
• Who will it appeal to?
• Any geographical regions this book could sell well in (i.e., Waterstones has bookshops in Ireland, Scotland, Wales)
• What marketing/PR work are you doing to promote your book?
• Sales data of any previous publications
• A jacket image

Once you have sent out your copies and you are ready to publish, to gain a wider audience continue to advertise your work of art and gather reviews. When the book is published by whichever means you went with, always continue on with advertising, and keep gaining customers. One big piece of advice would be to never stop writing; the more work you have out the more chances you will have your work noticed. It will be a long road and lots of work to gain customers but with help from other authors, from sites and writers groups, you can push forward and continue your dream of having a book published.

Buy on Amazon

Kevin Peake is the author of the children’s fantasy book Tridea’s Children.

Join the Discussion

Please ensure all comments abide by the Thanet Writers Comments Policy

Add a Comment