How to Self-Publish

With self-publishing becoming a popular and accessible option for many writers, David Chitty explains how to go about it.

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So, you’ve decided that self-publishing is for you. There are a lot of different avenues that you can take, but I’m going to walk you through one option. Follow this guide and you can have you book on most eBook platforms and have it available in print through Amazon. That’s not a bad place to start, is it?

1. Find a distribution company

I’m going to recommend Smashwords. They’re an American company that distribute your eBook through their own platform, as well as nearly 20 other companies, including Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Apple. Best of all, there are no upfront costs and it’s very easy to get started. Upload a Microsoft Word document and the rest is done for you.

I’m a huge fan of Smashwords and they’re the company that I use to publish my books. But they aren’t without their faults. The conversion process that takes your document and turns it into eBooks is far from perfect and requires a bit of work on your end. For instance, if you use the tab key for a paragraph indent you need to change that. It causes a bunch of formatting errors in the finished eBook and Smashwords won’t send it out to the other companies because of it. This isn’t a problem if you get into the habit of using a first line, special indent on your manuscript instead of a tab, but editing your document is a pain. Luckily, Smashwords published an eBook to help with these types of issues and I would recommend giving it a read if you go with them.

They also don’t distribute to Amazon. This isn’t Smashwords’ fault; the problem is on Amazon’s end. Having said that, if you sell enough copies of your book through Smashwords—over $2000 worth of sales—they will distribute to Amazon for you. But if you want your book on Amazon, in reality, you’re going to have to use Amazon’s KDP service, in which case you will have to make a choice. Do you stick with KDP, or so you enrol in KDP Select?

KDP Select is a service that they offer that gives you, the author, a variety of different benefits. They allow you to do promotions on your book and give them away for free for short periods of time to increase readership. They also allow readers to ‘borrow’ your book and, each time this happens, you get a bit of money as if they had bought it. These are really good benefits. I haven’t enrolled in KDP Select because of the cost involved in enrolling. You have to give Amazon exclusivity. Kindle have a massive share of the eBook market and are the current leaders. They’re also, arguably, the most well-known eBook distributor. However, they aren’t the only one. When you lump all of the other eBook distributors into one entity, said entity is pretty much neck and neck with Amazon. Giving one half of the market exclusivity, in my opinion, isn’t worth what it offers. Not when you don’t have to. If it was the only way to get your book on Amazon, I’d probably say go for it, but it’s not. My books are available pretty much every place you can think of. I get more downloads from Barnes and Noble or Apple in a year than I have done from Amazon since I uploaded my first book nearly five years ago.

Ultimately, it’s up to you how you decide to handle Amazon. Whether you enrol or not, I hope it works well for you. If you do go for KDP Select, make damn sure that every single website or company that has your book for sale takes it down before you sign up. Amazon check. They aren’t happy if it can be purchased elsewhere. They give you a chance to rectify this, but they will take your book down and suspend your account if you don’t.

There are other distribution companies, of course, and feel free to look around and find one that suits you.

2. Make sure your manuscript is as good as it can be

If you read my essay on the pros and cons of self-publishing, you’ll know about the quality issues surrounding self-publishing. Edit your manuscript until you think it’s ready and edit again. This is true no matter how you publish, but it’s a very important process.

3. Tell the world about it

Upload your polished manuscript and wait for it to be downloaded by the masses. When it’s out there, market the hell out of it and do everything you can to get it read.

4. Get it in print

A further add-on that you can access is Amazon’s company Createspace. This is a print-on-demand service. You upload your manuscript and, when somebody orders a copy of your book, they print it and post it. This is a free service that’s available to anybody who has a KDP account, which only requires an Amazon account—you don’t need to be enrolled in the KDP Select programme for this. Editing your manuscript so that it can be printed is a pain but it’s not too bad. They provide templates for you to use and it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it. It’s certainly worth looking at, as the feeling you get holding your own book in your hand is quite something.


I hope I’ve helped with a few options to get you started. If you have any other suggestions, feel free to share them in the comments.

David Chitty was born and raised in Thanet in the 90s. He devotes most of his energies to writing fantasy fiction novels.

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