How not to waste time and money when self-publishing your first e-book: a 10-step process

For those of you self-publishing your first e-book, you may be wondering about all the steps involved, from writing the first draft to seeing the book for sale on It's not a complicated process, but it is a process nonetheless, and the steps need to be done in the right order, or else you'll find yourself wasting time and money.

In general, you can lump all the steps into three categories: writing, editing, and publishing. If you are self-publishing, you'll be the project manager and will have to know when to do the work yourself, and when to hire help. You only have one shot to make a first impression with your book, so respect the time and money needed to do it right, and write the best damn book you can.

Javier, The Cat Editor, says "Use a dictionary!"

10-Step Process to Self-Publishing Your First E-book

1. Write, re-write, and re-write again until your book is the best it can be.

2. Hire an editor to do a structural edit and/or copy edit of your book.
Structural editing is a review of the book storyline, character development, chapter order, etc.
Copy editing is a review of spelling, punctuation, grammar, and consistency of style.
If you don't have a lot of money to spend, turn to work bidding sites such as

3. Make the changes suggested by the editor and prepare a new draft of your book.

4. Hire an editor to proofread your final draft.
Proofreading is fixing the small, sneaky errors in the text and formatting (e.g., misplaced comma, wrong heading font, wrong URLs)
Your eyes will be so used to reading the manuscript that you won't be able to detect these final errors.

5. Make all the changes from the editor and re-read your book one more time. 
Don't make any further changes, just look for errors.

6. Hire a designer to create an e-book cover for you.

7. Apply for an ISBN to register your book. You'll need this for your copyright page and to sell the book.
In Canada, you apply at Library and Archives Canada; in the USA, you apply at Bowker.

8. Hire an e-book developer to format your book into a mobi file (Kindle) and an epub file (all other retailers). 

9. Test the files on as many devices as you can: e-readers, tablets, and phones. 

10. Set up your vendor accounts to sell your book online.
You can aggregate with one vendor (e.g., Book Baby, Smashwords) or set up separate accounts with Kindle Direct Publishing, NookPress, Kobo Writing Life, iTunes Connect for iBooks, etc. 

And the bonus step:

11. Promote, promote, promote! Nobody will buy a book they don't know exists.

If you follow these steps in this order, you can minimize the amount of back and forth you do with your editor, designer, and tech support, and you won't waste your time and money redoing any work or making last minute changes.  

You can publish a book without following all these steps. However, in my experience, I can guarantee that if you try to rush the process and go at it alone without a team to help you, you will have yourself a book with errors and an unprofessional look that will turn off your readers. 

Happy e-publishing, everyone!

Stacey D. Atkinson is a freelance editor and author of Stuck, a novel she published via her independent company Mirror Image Publishing. 

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