How I Became a Self-published Author (Part 1)

Anyone can publish a book. Amazon’s publishing company, Kindle Direct Publishing, has seen to that. However, the self-publishing road can be rocky if you don’t have a guide.

I should know. I’ve self-published eight books now. My first ones were on the CreateSpace platform which Amazon purchased several years ago and absorbed into their KDP umbrella of publishing avenues.

During that process, I wrote about creating a cover, finding an editor and even using the CreateSpace platform.

Some of that information is obsolete.

As I’m preparing to launch my ninth book on May 9, 2023, it’s time to relate my journey again. I can’t be a publishing Sherpa if the trails I used have been washed away in a tidal wave of market growth.

Writers write the book, but they need a team of other professionals to produce a professional book to place in the hands of readers.

What every book needs:

  • A well-written manuscript
  • A professional cover
  • Polished formatting
  • An edited and proofread final manuscript
  • Copyrighting
  • Attention so readers can find it

This will be a lengthy post if I address all those things, so I’ll speak directly about my process in publishing A Promised Plan. If enough commentors request information on the how-to of each step, I’ll write a series of posts and create YouTube videos that correspond with them.

The Manuscript

The story in A Promised Plan was written as a short story during National Novel Writing Month in 2014. Its premise came from a real event and writing it helped me process my grief over losing my mother that January.

But the manuscript that became the book hardly resembles that first effort.

I’ve written fourteen separate short stories (under 4,000 words each) and three original poems to create a somewhat unique book. It’s “A Novel in Short Stories.” Together, these pieces tell a larger tale, but each one contains a complete vignette, too.

I began writing this manuscript in 2019, but I didn’t decide that it should become a published product until 2021. During those years, I was struggling through creative burnout, so forward progress was snail-like or stone-like.

But in 2022, I felt I had a clear idea of what I wanted the final product to be, so I gave myself a lenient one-year timetable to take it from rough draft to published book.

The Cover

One way I tied myself into the project was by purchasing a cover.

There are many ways to find a cover for a book. Some people are content to design one using free templates, but I know how important a quality cover that represents the genre is for selling books.

I’ve purchased pre-made covers, but none of them fit this story. I’m a member of multiple Facebook groups where cover designers show off their wares. I’ve worked with a cover designer on Fiverr, through email, and with a graphic artist I knew in real life.

One of the designers had a $50 sale for a custom designed cover, including eBook and print formats. In March 2022, I bought that package because I knew investing money in the project would keep me moving forward.

In September, I finally had a draft ready for the editor. I crafted a blurb, settled on a title, and contacted the designer I’d purchased the package from. A few weeks later, I had a cover that represented the story and the genre quite accurately.

Isn’t she pretty?

The Editing Process

Finding a reliable editor who gets your writing style is no easy task. I know because I’ve worked with nine different editors—four assigned by the publishers I’ve contracted with in the past and the others I found on my own.

It’s possible to find an editor by checking the directory of one of the major editorial associations. I connected with two of my editors that way, but I only had a fifty percent satisfaction rating.

Since I’m a member of multiple writing membership groups, I found my most recent editor by referral. Our partnership is working, but I won’t know if it was completely successful until I get the final edits from her.

I recommend asking other independently published authors to recommend editors they have used before. This means that it may take some time to get on their schedule, and they may charge higher rates. But an editor who listens to the author, works seamlessly to maintain the writing style and voice, and knows the grammar and style rules is worth the price.

Unfortunately, this is one area where many self-published authors cut corners. They have a friend who teaches English edit their manuscript. Or they find someone else who seems to have a grasp on rules of grammar do the editing.

A skilled fiction editor understands genre expectations, publishing norms for things like italics and breaking grammar rules, and will do more than clean up typos and incomplete sentences in your manuscript.

The choice is yours, of course, but I suggest you have at least a content or line edit done on your manuscript before hitting the publish button on Amazon. Traditional publishers send books through three rounds of publishing for different issues: developmental edits look at the story level issues, line edits work on clarity and consistency, and proofreading catches all the misspellings, missed words, and typographical errors.

Come back next week to find out how I published a book on Amazon.

What do you think? Add to the discussion here.