Let’s assume that you have a book that you think is worth selling and you’ve decided to publish it yourself.  What do you do?  Put it up on Amazon?  Find a Print On Demand site?  How do you make sure that your wonderful book looks appealing enough for others to give it a chance?

It all depends on your needs and (frankly) your budget.

There are some things that are out of most people’s specialties and require a good amount of training.  If you’re a graphic designer, then you have a leg up on others.  (I’m not even going to mention marketing or SEO in this post.)

The point is that there are gateways that all would-be self-publishers have to pass through.

Here are some of those key questions that have to be answered.

Do I have to pay for an editor?

No, but you really should.

Most people read books for enjoyment, but very few people are taught how to read a book for whether or not it will sell.  This, along with the commonly understood proofreading part of the job, is why an editor will help.  David Kudler wrote a great article in The Huffington Post on this topic.  Also, Joanna Penn has a page dedicated to the topic along with recommendations.

Total Mandatory Cost:  $0

Do I have to buy an ISBN?

No, but you probably should.

In the U.S., Bowker is the only legitimate seller of ISBNs.  Most others who sell them for cheaper have bought them in bulk and are scamming new authors.  The prices range depending on your needs, but spending the money makes it more likely that bookstores will carry your title.  Bowker General FAQs.  Bowker ISBN FAQs.

There are free ways to get an ISBN, but whoever provides it for you will be listed as the publisher.  For example, if you take the free ISBN from CreateSpace, then Amazon is listed as the book’s publisher.  You still retain full author rights and the book is yours to do with as you please, but you would have to republish it again with a different ISBN to be registered as the book’s publisher.

Total Mandatory Cost: $0

Do I have to copyright my book?

No, but you definitely should.  Your ideas are only your ideas if they are protected.

Copyrighting your work is a quick and inexpensive process.  Go to http://www.copyright.gov/ and click on Register a Copyright.  It will ask you to create an account so that you can log in later.  Here’s a list of Frequently Asked Questions for those who are nervous about copywriting for the first time.

There is such a thing as a poor man’s copyright, but it doesn’t offer as much protection as we’ve all been told.  Just check out one of my older posts, The Power (and Problems) of Writing with Public Domain Characters, for more on that.

Total Mandatory Cost: $0

Do I have to pay for a professional book cover?

No, but you certainly should.

The original cover to Captain James Hook and the Curse of Peter Pan.

The original cover to Captain James Hook and the Curse of Peter Pan.

The redone cover to Captain James Hook and the Curse of Peter Pan.

The redone cover to Captain James Hook and the Curse of Peter Pan.

Unless you are REALY good at Photoshop and have taken classes in graphic design, don’t try this.

The first book cover for Captain James Hook and the Curse of Peter Pan was a disaster, especially compared to the professionally redone cover by Jaycee DeLornezo.  There are many other cover artists out there, but she’s really good and charges a fair price.

You still don’t have to pay.  You could do this on your own if you have the skills.

Total Mandatory Cost: $0

Do I have to pay for a professionally formatted book interior?

No, but you undoubtedly should.

Book interior formatting is the dead giveaway of an amateur.  Do you know which pages are supposed to be odd or even?  I didn’t at first.  How about margins and header text?  No?

You have two options when it comes to formatting a book interior:  Spend a lot of time researching or spend some money to get it done by a professional.

Again, Joanna Penn has a great page on this topic, but that is if you have the $300-$800 to pay for it.

CreateSpace has a few forum topics on the subject and, of course, there is my post on Using Adobe InDesign.

Total Mandatory Cost: $0


Total up the mandatory expenses!

Editor: $0

ISBN: $0

Copyright: $0

Cover: $0

Interior: $0

Final Mandatory Cost: $0 (but you’ll be spending hundreds of hours not writing)

7 thoughts on “Tips for Self-Publishing (Almost Completely) Free

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