Book Publishing

How to Self Publish a Book in 2021

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So you want to learn how to self publish a book? You have tried queries, sent manuscripts, and none of the regular channels seem to fit with your book idea. You are not the first to research self-publishing a book. We are here to help you with all the information you will need.  Plus, for the history lovers, we will take a look at the history of self publishing before we get down the nuts and bolts of how to self publish a book and the benefits of self publishing. 

The History of Self-Publishing

Did you know some of the books and literature we love were actually self-published? In fact, self publishing goes right back to Johannes Gutenburg’s invention of the printing press in 1440. From then on, authors could go directly to the printing press to print their work.  Benjamin Franklin used this to his advantage, self-publishing Poor Richard’s Almanac in 1732. William Blake self-published his famous Songs of Innocence and Experience in 1789. A few years later, in 1811, “a Lady” , determined to publish her own novel, self-published Sense and Sensibility. Yes, even Jane Austen self-published!  Just after the turn of the century, another young author and artist was rebuffed by standard publishers but determined to publish a children’s book small enough for a child’s hands. So, in 1901, Beatrix Potter self-published The Tale of Peter Rabbit.   

It’s not just history that shows self-publishing successes though.  Best-selling author Christopher Paolini self-published his first novel, Eragon, as did best-selling author E. L. James.    

How to Self Publish a Book

As you learn how to self-publish a book, you are stepping into a whole new world. By removing the standard literary agent and publishing company, you are now your own manager, task setter, scheduler, and marketing director. You’ve got a lot to learn about self-publishing a book, and we are here to help.

Let’s break it down into easy steps, and cover some important language.

First, you have your book. But it’s not a book —yet, it’s still a manuscript.

To get your book ready to self publish, you will need a team.  Where to find them? First consider the people you know; do you know any editors who would accept a freelance project? Any artists who could create your book’s cover art? What about graphic designers who could work on the formatting of your manuscript. And don’t forget your beta readers —the first line of defense, reading your book and giving you feedback. (There’s a reason beta readers always get thanked at the end of books!)

Okay, you say. That’s a lot of people. How much does it cost to self publish a book?

The cost of self-publishing a book varies and part of the cost is linked to the book’s genre and length. Technically, you can do a lot of work yourself, editing, cover design, even formatting. All the work you do is going to drive down your book’s price —but you don’t want to burn out, either.

Also, it is important to get outside perspectives; that is worth some investment! 

Still not sure you can envision what all of this looks like?  Take a look at Self-Publishing Confessions of a Writing Mom to see one author’s journey. 

Some things to keep in mind:

What’s in a name —and a book cover?

Ultimately, your book’s name and its cover are going to be your first line of marketing. Do they catch a reader’s attention?

Take the time to hire or design an excellent cover and an eye-catching title. It will be worth it!

Edit. Edit. Edit.

The best book cover won’t do anything if you can’t keep a reader reading. (If you publish with Amazon’s KDP (read more below), you’ll actually be paid per page read, so this is IMPORTANT!  

After working on your manuscript yourself (remember, the more you do, the less you need to pay someone else!) hire a great editor, and bring in that team of beta readers as a test audience.

Final Touch —Formatting 

Have you ever opened a book and winced? The cover was good. The text is fine. But visually, you just don’t like what you’re seeing. Nodding your head? This is why formatting is important.

Research other books to determine the best formatting for your book. (Ebooks are going to be formatted differently than print books, so you might need two different formats for your book.)

Still trying to figure out about how much your book will cost to publish? Take a look at this helpful infographic. 

Where to Go Next?

Self Publishing on Amazon

What’s another reason behind so many people self-publishing a book? Amazon. With KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) Amazon has created a free platform for authors who self-publish.  

Amazon has discovered the market for self-publishing and makes it easy. 

So, how to self publish a book on Amazon?

However, there’s some important things to remember along the way.

  • Since Amazon acquired CreateSpace, KDP now offers POD (print on demand) self-publishing as well as e-books.
  • Amazon is the largest market in the US, but not in the world, so know your intended audience.
  • While Amazon has a lot of great incentives, you are putting your proverbial eggs in one basket —with a lot of other farmers (that is, writers!) 

Do you research, and weigh the pros and cons of Amazon. If possible, talk to some authors who have taken the Amazon route, as well as others who have taken less traveled routes. 

Self publishing alternatives to Amazon:

While Amazon has a huge corner on self-publishing in the US and an easy platform with KDP, there are some alternatives including:   

Apple Books —While not as ubiquitous as Amazon’s KDP, iBooks is a solid option. 

Kobo —Another solid alternative is this Canadian arm of a Japanese company.

One more tip:

As you decide which self-publishing path is right for you, you might decide to invest in an aggregator —such as Smashwords— to help distribute your self-published book.

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    Getting Ready to Launch

    Once you’ve selected where you’re going to self-publish, it’s time to set up your account. This includes writing copy (such as product descriptions), setting a launch date, and then promoting your book across social media.

    It takes more than one person to party —so you’re going to want a team to help as you launch. Not sure where to start? Take a look at some of your favorite authors on social media, and see how they are going about promoting their books. (Maybe you could even join one for an author’s group event!)

    Don’t Forget Endorsements

    Sometimes it’s not the cover that catches a reader’s eye. It’s not even the story. It’s that name at the end of a sentence, recommending your book. This is the power of an endorsement, so as you get ready to launch, think through who you can ask to endorse your book.

    The Benefits of Self-Publishing

    Whew. There is a LOT to learn, and you have covered a ton of ground.  You might find yourself wondering, are there benefits of self publishing?

    Yes. Absolutely. There’s a reason people are quitting their day jobs and becoming self-supporting authors. Amazon’s KDP has helped, creating a ready-made audience for many writers. If you like gaining experiences beyond writing, self-publishing could be right up your alley. Self-publishing brings a freedom you don’t find in mainstream publishing. It removes middle-man fees and rewards entrepreneurial spirit. 


    You just learned a LOT, and you now know the basics of how to self publish a book. Give yourself a high-five. If you can’t tell already, self-publishing will turn you into a jack of all trades. (As well as an expert in the field of self-publishing!) If you’re creative, like research, and are ready for a challenge beyond the pages of your story, self-publishing could be the perfect path for you. So what are you waiting for? Go get to work on self-publishing that book!

    Hayley Schoeppler

    A lover of books, coffee, and most of all the gospel, Hayley comes from the Midwest. When she's not reading, she's often hunting for a pen or scrap of paper to write down a new idea.