This article shows the five steps to self-publish a book you need to take to ensure that you come to market with a high-quality nonfiction book you’ll be proud of.
The quick read below will give you the 30,000 foot view of the self-publishing process, the actions that you need to take at every step, and the required reading with links to articles that will teach you in detail how to execute those actions.
Here are the five steps to follow:
Step 1: Prepare Your Manuscript for Editing
All self-published books that want to be taken seriously require a professional editor, and this is especially important for nonfiction books. Chances are that you want to publish your book to achieve some of the following outcomes:
- You want to be recognized as an expert in your field
- You want to drive more leads to your business
- You want to increase your business or career profile
- You want to open new doors for more lucrative contracts and new markets by reaching out to prospects in other countries
- You want to launch a public-speaking career
In all of the above cases, your book will become a proxy for your professional reputation, so it behooves you to create a product that’s professionally written and designed.
In this first step I’ll prepare your manuscript for the professional editor that you’re going to hire in the next step. Professional editors are not inexpensive, so you’ll want to ensure your manuscript is formatted to industry standards to reduce your editor’s workload.
Your manuscript preparation will cover the following areas:
- Textual Elements – Here you’ll take care of elements like line spacing, font style and size, page breaks and excessive use of the space character throughout your manuscript.
- Graphic Elements – These are any graphic elements like charts, images, tables and so on. All graphic elements to be used in your book will have to be supplied to your editor in separate image files. You’ll indicate in your manuscript where images are to be placed and where to locate the actual files by following a clear file naming convention.
- Headings – All your chapter and sub-chapter titles need to be formatted in a specific way to facilitate the automatic generation of your table of contents.
- Page Numbering – Before you hand over your manuscript to your editor you’ll need to number all the pages (the numbering process is automatic, you just have to place a variable in the header).
- Title Page – This is the cover page of your manuscript, which needs to be formatted following editorial rules.
- Manuscript File – This area pertains to how to package your submission in an editor friendly way.
Action to Take:
Perform all manuscript-formatting tasks described in the article below.
Step 2: Have Your Manuscript Professionally Edited
Now it’s time to hire a professional nonfiction editor for your book.
When you do an online search, you’ll likely find hundreds of sleek-looking websites advertising the services of book editors. The problem is that a lot of them will not really be suitable for your book, because:
- Although they might show a number of edited books in their online portfolio, few if any of them will be nonfiction (the largest genre by far published by first-time authors is fiction, so this is the genre they tend to gravitate towards).
- They may not have the experience necessary to meet the standards your book requires.
- They may just be English majors trying to make money on the side.
So, what to do? Just follow a proper due diligence process and be armed with a solid list of questions to ask your candidates. You’ll find them both in the required reading section below.
Action to Take:
Shop around for and hire a professional nonfiction editor.
Step 3: Have Your Book Professionally Laid Out
In the same way that your book must be professionally edited in order to pass the high bar of quality expected of the nonfiction genre, it must also look professionally designed. Even though you’re self-publishing your book, your layout must still meet the standards of a traditionally published book.
Why? Because in the eyes of the decision makers and gatekeepers that have the power to open doors for you, there will be no difference. They don’t care (anymore) whether a book is traditionally published or self-published.
All they care about is that the expert who’s behind it is credible, trustworthy and professional, and this can only be ascertained from a top-notch book. Any sign of amateurishness will hurt your reputation.
When searching for candidates, make sure to look at copies of their nonfiction work by browsing Amazon for those titles and using the Look Inside feature to study the interior layout of the books.
Then compare their work with your favorite bestselling nonfiction from your personal library to see how they measure up – make sure you look at the interior of printed books on Amazon and not Kindle eBooks, which have a bare-bones layout design.
To familiarize yourself with the work that a professional nonfiction book designer will perform on your book, check the required reading section below.
Action to Take:
Shop around for and hire a professional book layout designer.
Step 4: Have Your Book Cover Professionally Designed
Next, you need to hire a book cover designer with vast experience in nonfiction books. As we all know, a book is judged by its cover and unfortunately that judgment will not only reflect on your book but also on you as the author.
Apply the same technique used above to screen candidates. Ask them for the titles of the books whose covers they designed and then find them on Amazon. Click on the cover images to enlarge them.
Nonfiction books have very specific rules when it comes to book covers, and professional cover designers know these rules very well. Don’t attempt to do this work by yourself, or outsource it to a relative or friend. It’s just too important a task to settle on anything less than a professional job.
To be able to have a good discussion with your cover designer, read the article in the required reading section below to learn how to avoid critical mistakes amateur cover designers make.
Action to Take:
Shop around for and hire a professional book cover designer.
Step 5: Upload Print Files to Distribution Channels
When both your layout and cover designers are done with their work, it’s time to officially publish your book!
The first thing you’ll need to do is to buy an ISBN – this is the number found on the barcode of printed books – which acts as your official record of publication. Each ISBN is associated with a publisher (you), the title (your book) and a book format (paperback or hardcover).
The next step is to open self-publisher accounts on the two largest book distributors in the world: Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), which fulfills all book orders placed on Amazon, and IngramSpark, a division of Ingram, the largest book distributor in the world for bookstores (excluding Amazon properties and libraries).
When you set up your accounts you’ll have to make choices regarding retail pricing, book formats and bookstore discounts, and then you’ll have to instruct your designers to upload their print-ready files onto both platforms.
For more details on how to perform all of the above tasks, read the article in the required reading section below.
Action to Take:
Create KDP and IngramSpark accounts and have your designers upload all print-files in all required formats.
Congratulations, you now know the five steps required to self-publish nonfiction. The next step is to begin to actively market your book.
Best of luck!
Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to just to generate additional leads for their businesses.
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Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning author of 6 books published through Harper Collins (NY) and Titan Publishing Group (UK). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press and the founder/CEO of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, printing, distribution and marketing.