My second self-published poetry collection comes out next week. I thought the second time around would be easier. I was wrong. Turns out going wide is more work than sticking with Kindle Direct (Amazon). I learned the ropes a bit when I published prisonbreaks, and Killing Ghosts felt bigger to me. I wanted to give it a shot. I went with KDP the first time. The second time, I decided to go wide. I learned SO MUCH throughout the process both times, and I thought a small checklist for self publishers may be useful.
This checklist for self publishers will not only include things I did but things I wish I did.
1. Finish the book
Seems elementary, but don’t get ahead of yourself. Before you can do anything, you have to have a book. Not an idea. Not a synopsis. Write the book. It’s okay if it takes you a while.
Everyone has a process that works for them. Some people spend a ton of time plotting. Some people make it up as they go. Both are valid! Figure out how you work best.
Before you send your book out, give it a round of edits. Look for glaring errors. Catch as many typos/tense problems/grammar issues as you can catch on your own. It won’t be perfect. In fact, it probably won’t even be that great. But it should be together enough that it won’t distract your readers from the story and your characters.
If you have no idea where to start or generally struggle, here’s a great tip from Susan Semadeni.
3. Send it to some beta readers
This is the part that I skipped. I wish I wouldn’t have. Beta readers can help you find those glaring problems your brain skips. They can tell you what works and what doesn’t. They can help give you confidence and help you strengthen your work. You can ask a writing group or even trusted friends. If you have no idea where to start and have a bit of a budget, you can go to Fiverr and find some paid beta readers. Whichever way you choose, getting feedback is so important.
4. Edit (again)
Once you’ve gotten your feedback, USE IT! Well, the stuff that makes sense. Not all feedback is good feedback. Get your work ready!
5. Professional editor
There are several options here. Depending on your strengths, your feedback, and your confidence level you may need help in different areas. If your book needs a lot of work, you may need a developmental edit. This will cost you more, but a good dev editor will help you stay consistent with your tone, strengthen your characters, tighten your plot, and generally make your story better. A copy editor will make sure your grammar is strong, check for typos and mechanical errors, and generally comb the text and make sure it’s ready for publication. A line editor looks at pacing, sentence structure, and word choice, ensuring that the work flows the way it is supposed to.
All of them are important and all of them have their place. Decide what you can afford, what you need the most, and find someone who is a fit for your work.
6. Cover design
You need a cover! A professionally designed cover can help you sell a lot more books. You want your work to stand out on an Amazon search page, and not in a bad way. A good cover designer will talk to you about your story, listen to your ideas, and offer suggestions for the best cover to fit. You should be able to work together to revise your cover until it is right. If you don’t have the budget for a custom cover, a lot of designers will create premade covers that you can get at a discounted cost. All you’ll need to do is plug in your name and title.
You need to make sure you have the ebook format, the correct dimensions/requirements for each platform you are publishing on (KDP and IngramSpark are slightly different, for example.)
You’ll want to wait until you get your final edits, but the book has to be typeset. If you are including artwork, you’ll need to add that. Chapter breaks/headers, drop caps, anything you want to add needs to be done in the formatting stage. There are programs that can help you–I used Affinity, but you can use Vellum or Kindle Create as well.
You’ll need to design your ebook and print copies separately. If this feels like it’s out of your wheelhouse, you can also hire it out. There are a ton of resources on Fiverr and book designers exist.
All books need an ISBN. If you’re Amazon exclusive, you can opt to use their free ISBN. This was what I opted for the first time. If you want to publish across all platforms (go wide), you’ll need to purchase an ISBN. In the United States, this is done through Bowker.
The pricing is significantly more economical to buy 10 at a time. 1 ISBN is $125. 10 is $295. Do the math. Keep in mind you’ll need one for each edition.
9. Build a launch plan
This can be really scary for self-publishers. You’ve created something you’re proud of. You love your book and you want other people to love it too. There isn’t just one way to launch a book, but here are some things you should consider:
- Set a release date in advance.
- ARC readers: ARC stands for Advance Release Copy. Send your book to people you know will read it. Ask them to review your book ahead of launch.
- Promo sites. A lot of them are scammy, so be careful. BookBub is reputable, but hard to get in with.
- Find reviewers! The book communities on Instagram and Booktok are powerful. Reach out and send them your book.
- Social media marketing. It isn’t the be all end all, but if you know what you’re doing, you can drive sales with ads.
- Online presence. Ideally, you have something established ahead of time. Again, it isn’t essential, but it can be an effective way to connect with your audience and ultimately sell your book.
- Conferences and events. Look up events relevant to your genre. Sci-fi, horror, and fantasy in particular have a large conference culture and frequently allow vendors. Look into local events. Art walks, fairs, etc. are all likely to have vendor spaces where you could set up a table and sell your books.
- Book signings. Find book stores/coffee shops/any venue that will host you. Sell your book on site.
Again, these are just ideas. But the gist is to have some semblance of a launch plan before your release date.
Do not forget to do this You wrote a frigging book. That is a big deal. Let yourself be excited.
About the Writer: Allie Gravitt is a mom of 3 and lives in metro Atlanta with a house full of animals and plants. Her debut poetry collection, prisonbreaks, is available now on Amazon. Killing Ghosts is available on Oct. 26. Follow Allie’s writing journey on TikTok and Instagram.