Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR QUICK START GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING and to be notified when the 3rd Edition of the Indie Author Survival Guide releases!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tips N Tricks: A Checklist for Self-Publishing

Commenter, author, and blog-follower Adriana asked if I would put together a checklist for self-publishing. A comprehensive checklist is probably impossible, as it would include a whole lotta marketing stuff (I recommend you make your own, tailored marketing plan, especially for your first book). But here's a checklist that will hopefully help point you in the right direction for getting that first book uploaded and on sale.

These are my best recommendations (i.e. unless you're a professional designer, I recommend hiring a designer, etc.). YMMV

  1. Decide if you really want to self-publish this novel
    1. see my Seven Questions to Ask Before Self-Publishing
    2. make a business plan
    3. have goals beyond this book
  2. Hire a copyeditor
    1. Send several copyeditors a 5-10pg sample to edit and get quotes
    2. See who fits your style as well as your pocketbook
    3. Plan ahead - I highly recommend my copyeditor Anne Victory of Victory Editing, but she books up months in advance. The editing job itself can take a couple weeks.
  3. Hire a cover designer
    1. Peruse the top 100 books on Amazon in your category. You want your cover to sit comfortably next to these.
    2. Get recommendations, peruse the galleries of several cover designers to get a feel for their work, and ask them for quotes
    3. Once you've got a contract for the work, make sure you work closely with your designer to get the end result you desire. The actual work can take days or weeks, depending on the schedule of the designer.
    4. I highly recommend Dale Pease, my cover designer - he has 20 years experience designing magazine covers, and it shows. Also: he's a genius.
  4. Order any swag you might need. I'm not a fan of lots of swag - it's costly and doesn't have a high ROI (Return on Investment) - but I highly recommend professionally designed bookmarks. Dale designed my bookmarks, and I had them printed through
  5. Incorporate your edits from the copyeditor
  6. Format your ebook - hire someone to format, or do your own.
  7. Format your print book - send off for proofs (this will take a couple weeks total turn-around, so plan ahead for print, or release print separately)
  8. Proofread - send it to at least one other friend, plus proofread the book yourself on both the ebook and print version. For print, I usually read backwards, trying to catch every last typo.
  9. Upload to the Big Four retailers (Amazon, B&N, iTunes, Kobo) - these take between 12 hours and 4 days to go live, so plan ahead
  10. Add your book to Goodreads (you may want to do this earlier, even before you have a cover, as a placeholder for advanced buzz)
  11. Announce your book on all your social networks and newsletter/email; add your cover and links to your email signature, board profiles, FB page, and anywhere else you can get away with it.
    1. Four to six weeks from publication, announce the book, reveal the cover, put your marketing plan into play.
    2. Send your ARC to reviewers (note: do this AFTER the copyeditor - while ARC technically means BEFORE copyediting, you don't need to give reviewers any more reason to complain about low quality indie books by handing them a product that's not finished)

In other news: Draft Two of Free Souls is complete and off to my critique partners. I'll be spending the day pretending I'm not sick and catching up on some critiquing of my own.

One more Tips N Tricks then we'll be back to our normally scheduled programming...


  1. This list is fabulous. I'd only add one thing to the decide part--when you make a business plan, make sure you think about tax implications. In some municipalities (tax-hungry big cities like Philly for instance), any royalties you bring in are treated like self employment income. You need to do some serious hoop jumping to get your small business licensed and be prepared to pay taxes on a quarterly or even monthly basis. It's best to get this out of the way before you're in crunch time working through final edits etc.

    I'd hate to see another indie suffer from not knowing the rules, and they vary from state to state, municipality to municipality.

    1. It DOES vary a lot - I just visited my tax accountant (for the first time) this week and was advised that for my state (Illinois) it didn't pay to incorporate until I was making a lot more money than I am. But I don't have local taxes like Philly - and incorporation can make a lot of sense when it comes to keeping some of that royalty money and not handing it all over to the government.

      Great comment!

  2. Thank you soooo much for this, Susan!! :D I'm so excited! *rubbing hands together* I have a question--do you choose bookmarks over other types of swag for any specific purpose (i.e., have readers indicated they like these better?)? Also, when do you give them to readers?

    1. Bookmarks are great because I can 1) carry them around and hand them out whenever I tell people I'm an author, 2) hand them out by the hundreds when I speak or meet groups of students, 3) are a substitute for a business card, 4) can be tucked into books that I giveaway, for people to share with their friends...and there's lots more. I tried postcards, but they're less handy. Tangible swag (like charms or specialty items related to your book) can be fun for giveaways, but cost more and you get fewer items. I think of each bookmark as a potential reader, I just have to get it into their hands. :)

  3. Thanks for the shout-out. I'm sitting at my computer waiting for the requests to pour in :-) Seriously though, if it weren't for great authors to work with, like Susan, my job would be awfully boring. Thanks, Susan.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Aw, you are sweet!

      Note to readers: Dale doesn’t just make brilliant covers, he’s an incredibly easy person to work with. Seriously consider him for your art needs (he also made my bookmarks and blog header)!

  4. Does it sound crazy that your posts make me more interested in self publishing??? You are an amazing resource, Susan.

    1. I forgot to add Step#0 Gather lots of information from all kinds of resources about making this decision. I'm glad I can be that step for you!

  5. Fantastic list, Susan!!! Thanks for putting that together.

  6. It looks somewhat less daunting when organized like this. Thanks, Susan.

  7. And I was hoping it was: 1. Compose book; 2. Send to publisher; 3. Write fan mail.

    Kidding aside, yes, the self-pubbing route is rife with to-dos. You've made it seem less like a maze with your delineation!

    1. Ha! I don't think even Scott Westerfeld has that short of a list! :)

  8. Totally bookmarked for later reference. This is a terrific resource, Susan, thank you.

  9. Great information Susan. I have always wanted to publish a book but have been to afraid to take the plunge. Now I have much better insight.


Erudite comments from thoughtful readers