Self-publishing checklist: 19 steps to self-publishing your book

  • The steps to self-publishing a book can be broken down into 5 stages: writing, editing, publishing, marketing, and launching.
  • Self-publishing isn’t easier than traditional publishing; it’s a very different process that’s much more hands-on.
  • You’ll need to manage the whole self-publishing process yourself, so keep this checklist on-hand to help you stay on track.

The internet has made publishing accessible for everyone. With potential readers just a few clicks away, self-publishing is the preferred method for many modern authors.

But if you’re just starting your self-publishing journey, it can be pretty daunting. Unlike traditional publishing, you have to take care of everything yourself — from writing to marketing to launching your book.

To make the process a little more manageable, here’s our self-publishing checklist for writers. This checklist for writing a book includes 19 steps to self-publishing success.

What to know before you self-publish

Before you begin the self-publishing process, there are a few key things to note:

  • Self-publishing isn’t easier than traditional publishing. Querying publishers may feel like a trudge, but self-publishing a book isn’t any easier. You’ll spend a lot of time fretting about editing, formatting, and marketing, even after the book has launched.
  • You need to be a marketing machine. Self-published authors don’t usually have the budget or marketing expertise of traditional publishing houses, so you’ll need to dedicate yourself to marketing your book if you want to receive substantial royalties.
  • You need a bit of a budget to self-publish a book. You don’t need to spend thousands, but it’s a good idea to have a self-publishing budget to cover professional editing, proofreading, and book cover design services.
  • Here’s the good news — you’re guaranteed to be a published author by the end of the process. There’s nothing like making that first sale, so let’s take the first step to becoming a self-published author.

The 5 stages of self-publishing

There are 19 steps in this self-publishing author checklist, but they fall into 5 broad stages:

  1. Writing
  2. Editing
  3. Publishing and printing
  4. Marketing
  5. Launching your book

Let’s break the process down into more manageable steps.

Step 1 — writing your book

1. Create an outline

Many authors choose to create a book outline before they start writing. Having an outline is useful because it keeps your story on track, potentially saving you time in the drafting stages. Not all authors outline their story, though, so feel free to skip this step if you’re more of a pantser.

2. Complete your first draft

This is the fun part — and probably the longest part, too. Writing the first draft of your book is often the most daunting and exciting element of self-publishing. Most writers find that the first draft takes between 2 months and 1 year to write, depending on how much time you have to dedicate to your craft.

Step 2 — editing your book

3. Reread your draft

The first step of editing your draft is to reread it cover-to-cover. Try to leave your manuscript for at least a few weeks before you read it — you’ll spot more changes and errors if you return to it with fresh eyes.

4. Complete your second draft

When you’ve reread your book, you should have lots of ideas (and probably a few plot holes, too). Rewrite your manuscript, plugging plot holes and making sure your protagonist stays in character throughout the story.

5. Complete your third, fourth, and fifth draft

Your manuscript will be much improved after a second draft — but it may need further revision. Write as many drafts as you feel is necessary to perfect your story. You’ll know when you reach this stage because you’ll be nervous-excited for other people to read it.

6. Send it to an editor

If you have the budget, send your manuscript to a professional editor. They’ll be able to spot things you can’t see in your own work, and tell you if there are any parts of your story that don’t quite fit. If you’re editing on a budget, ask someone you trust to read your manuscript and give you their honest feedback.

7. Finalise your manuscript

When you receive feedback from your editor, you can incorporate this into your final manuscript. It’s a good idea to put the finished version back into a drawer (or at least close the tab) and read through it a final time a few weeks later, to ensure it’s ready for publication.

8. Write your author bio

While you’re waiting to give your manuscript a final once-over, it’s the perfect time to write your author bio. This is usually published as part of your book, so make sure it’s ready to slot into the front or back cover and tell your readers a little more about you.

Step 3 — publishing and printing

9. Decide on your book format

With your manuscript finally finished, it’s time to decide how you’re going to deliver your book to your readers: ebook, paperback, audiobook, or all 3. Most self-publishing authors usually start with an ebook format, since this is cheaper to create and sell. If you want a printed version, too, it’s a good idea to budget for a small print run (at least initially) to keep costs low.

10. Format your book

Whichever option you choose, you now need to transfer your manuscript from a Word document into its final format. Most self-published authors choose to publish in ebook format on the Amazon Kindle platform, so take a look at Amazon KDP’s formatting guidelines to see how your ebook should look.

11. Get a book cover design

The cover of your book is crucial (especially if you’re getting your book printed). Get a professional book cover design to make your self-published book as appealing to readers as possible. If your budget is tight, you can also buy premade book covers.

12. Do your Amazon KDP research

It’s time to think about your marketing strategy. Start considering which keywords and search terms relate to the content of your book, so it can be easily found by potential readers on Amazon. Learn how to do Amazon KDP research here.

13. Submit your book

With your keyword research in place and your book fully formatted, it’s time to submit it to the Kindle store. Use this Amazon KDP guide to get started. If you’re sending your book to print, it’s a good idea to wait until Amazon KDP has accepted and listed your book (usually within 72 hours of submission). They may have feedback that also applies to your print run. You can also order author copies from Amazon after publication.

If you want to ramp up the excitement for your book launch, you can set a launch date and allow pre-orders.

Step 4 — marketing

14. Make a marketing plan

With your book now available for download, you need to start promoting it. If you haven’t already, register a domain name for your book website and set up your social media accounts. These are invaluable tools for any self-publishing author. Then make a marketing plan, including budget, promotion channels, and a launch date for your book.

15. Promote your book on social media

Get your followers excited about your forthcoming book release with fun social media content. Video book marketing is invaluable, so make use of visual platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.

16. Launch your book website

Create a website to promote your book that tells readers where and when they can buy it. It doesn’t have to be too fancy — you can use Carrd to create a simple website for free (although you’ll need to upgrade to add a custom domain).

Step 5 — launch your book

17. Plan a launch event

Many self-publishing authors organise an event to celebrate the launch of their new book. This is often online — Instagram Live is great for interactive launches. If you’re feeling fancy and you want to splash out, you could even consider hosting an in-person book launch.

18. Launch your book

Whether your launch consists of a low-key Insta story or an in-person party, the important thing is that you did it! Your self-published book is now part of the literary canon.

19. Continue your marketing efforts

Your book launch may feel like the end of the road, but until the royalties are rolling in, there’s a lot of work left to do. Maintain your marketing momentum across social media. Ramp up your marketing efforts with book readings at local bookshops. Join author circles online and promote their work, too.

Ready to start self-publishing your book?

If you’ve decided to self-publish your book, congratulations — you’re one step closer to becoming a published author. And if you get stuck along the way, we have tons of useful resources to help you get back on track. Take a look at our self-publishing advice pages for more information.

Advice from a published writer
This article is always evolving and being updated regularly by our expert writers. Information featured in it has been fact-checked and verified.
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