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Writing

How to Self-Publish a Book: A Guide to Publishing Your Own Book

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Feb 3, 2020 • 3 min read

The road to becoming a published author can be tough, especially if it’s your first book. Both experienced and new authors encounter obstacles in the traditional publishing world that make self-publishing a more appealing avenue. If you’ve written a great book you think is the next bestseller but aren’t having luck through traditional publishers, it may behoove you to skip the gatekeepers and put your book out there yourself.

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What Is Self-Publishing?

Self-publishing is when an author decides to print and distribute their own work themselves—usually through a self-publishing platform—bypassing traditional publishing companies. Working through a publishing house has its advantages—they know the ins and outs of the publishing industry, what booksellers and readers want, the best strategies for book marketing—however, self-publishing provides you with the ultimate freedom and control over your own creative work.

3 Advantages of Self-Publishing

Whether you’re an indie author having difficulty breaking into the publishing world, or a writer on your second book who wants to bypass the traditional publishing process altogether, there are many advantages to publishing your own writing.

  1. You’re your own boss. Self-publishing means you have all the creative control over every aspect of your own book—how it’s written, how it’s marketed, and when it’s published. You become an independent author in charge of your whole project from start to finish. You can choose to hire outside help at your own expense, like a proofreading or advertising service. If you want to push your book launch, or you’d rather release a digital book than a printed book, or you want to market your published book as fantasy rather than sci-fi, the decision is yours.
  2. You retain nearly all of your profit. When you cut out the middlemen of book publishing, you keep the money that would have been spent on their services. While the self-publishing service will still keep a percentage, the amount you retain on your book sales is relatively larger—especially if you experience publishing success.
  3. You’re guaranteed publishing. As a self-publisher, you can put out your writing anytime. You are not beholden to any rules, limitations, or deadlines of traditional publishers—your book will be published as soon as you want it to be.
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How to Self-Publish a Book

If you want to self-publish a book, it’s important to know what you’re looking for in terms of service and affordability. Certain sites give writers the choice to publish an ebook, make print copies, or both. If you want to know how to self publish a book, check out the following guidelines below:

1. Use the Right Format

Some sites will only publish books that are saved in or converted to a particular format. For example, EPUB files are the common standard for ebooks and can be accessed by most devices, while MOBI files work best for Amazon authors publishing on Kindle. You can also upload your book as a PDF, but it’ll need to be converted into the right format (using a conversion software or paid service) in order to sell on most ebook sites.

2. Check out Online Retailers

Many booksellers have their own guidelines regarding royalty rates, linking, pricing, or distribution information. Some online portals will let authors publish their books for free in a digital format, some will charge a fee to include advertising services, others may offer print-on-demand services (which is good for authors who want to offer physical copies but don’t want to deal with unsold inventory). Each self-publishing site has its own benefits and resources, so do your research when deciding which one will best suit your goals.

3. Get an ISBN

If you want your book available as a hard copy in libraries or bookstores, you’ll need to obtain an International Standard Book Number or ISBN. You can buy one through the self-publishing site you use or through another website that sells them. While it’s not necessary for many ebooks to have an ISBN number, certain self-publishing sites may request you get one, so make sure you’ve read the guidelines.

4. Market Smartly

Since you’re in charge of how your book hits the market, you control how much it sells for. Look up the current book prices of other authors in your genre and price your copies wisely—for instance, most people won’t pay 25 dollars for an unknown author’s non-fiction books. You could also consider offering your novel as a free book for a limited time in order to entice readers and gain an audience. Whether you create a website, pay a service, or use social media, advertise your writing smartly to maximize its reach and increase sales.

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