How to Publish Your Book, Your Way.

It’s the one great question that hits anyone the minute they finish writing their first book-

What the heck do I do with it now?

If you’re a storyteller, you’re no doubt going to want to share your story. There are two ways you can get your story into the hands of readers.

  1. Try to get a traditional publishing house to take on and publish your book
  2. Self publish your book

In the past, self publishing has had stigma attached to it. It was the realm of “vanity press” (people who just wanted their book in print to feel good about it and boast to family or friends).

These days, self publishing is a respected, massive, and thriving industry.

I self publish all of my own books. I still believe there is some benefit in both options, and there are many “hybrid” authors who keep some rights to self publish their books and sell some rights to traditional publishers as well, getting the best of both worlds.

Not sure which direction is right for you? Here is a fantastic site with statistics about author earnings through different channels that might help you decide- http://authorearnings.com/the-report/

Because I self publish, I’m going to talk mostly here about that option. First, I’ll give a very brief rundown of how to get published by a traditional publishing house.

Traditional Publishing


Traditional publishing is a way to go that means the author doesn’t have to pay for any expenses themselves, and can stick just to writing. On the negative side, it will take much longer for your book to reach readers, and may not be given the same chance to find readers as you could do on your own.

  1.  Polish your manuscript- make it something a publisher will want to publish
  2. Write and polish your synopsis/sales pitch and query letter. You need something that will stand out in a crowd to get an agent or editors attention (there are sites and forums that will help with this, do some searching)
  3. Start submitting your query letter and synopsis to Literary Agents and/or direct to publishers and editors in publishing houses. Use a service like http://querytracker.net/ to find them and keep track of results.
  4. Wait. It could take months or years for someone to want to represent your story.
  5. Keep submitting. Keep writing. Keep submitting. Keep waiting.
  6. When and if you are offered a deal, be sure to read your contract carefully, looking at things like duration and non-compete clauses that could cripple your chance to publish other books.
  7. Understand that even when your book has been accepted by a publisher, it could take years before it hits stores.
  8. The publisher will organise and pay for all editing, design work, and distribution. Under a traditional deal the author NEVER should have to pay for anything! The agent and publisher pay YOU. If they are asking for any money, it could be a scam, or generally a bad deal.
  9. You will still need to do marketing, promotion, and platform building for yourself as an author.

Doing it yourself


Self publishing is a great option for people who love projects and love having total control. It will mean you will need some start up money, and it will mean that success or failure is all in your own hands- you won’t have a publisher to help you, although you will find the self publishing community of authors very helpful!

  1. Polish your manuscript- you still want it the best it can be!
  2. Edit your manuscript- this includes a content edit (make sure the story structure is right), line edit (make sure your prose sounds right) and copy edit (catch all those last little typos). This will be a service you will need to pay for. A common complaint from readers is that self published books can be poorly edited. Don’t be one of those books.
  3. Get cover art designed- unless you are a professional designer, hire one. Books are judged by their covers, so don’t publish with an unprofessional cover. Need it cheap? Search for “premade ebook covers” and grab something for as low as $30.
  4. Format your book for ebook and print. You can hire people very reasonably to do this, or learn pretty easily how to do it yourself.
  5.  Upload your formatted books to all the FREE distribution services out there. These services sell your book for you, and give you a percentage of every sale (taking a cut for themselves of course). Here are the big ones for ebooks-
    1. Kindle Direct Publishing– Amazon’s ebook publisher. The biggest ebook option out there.
    2. Nook Press– Barnes and Noble’s ebook publisher. You may need to be in the US for an account with them, but don’t worry there are other options.
    3. Kobo– another major ebook distributor.
    4. iBooks on iTunes is also important, as is Google Play ebooks. (Learn how to publish to Google Play here)
    5. Not in the US, and think this is a lot of places to sign up to? Well there are second tier distributors that will distribute your ebook to those places for you (for another small cut!). The two leaders are draft2digital.com/ and Smashwords.com
    6. For paperback, the leading Print on Demand distributors are CreateSpace.com (Amazon’s service) and Ingram Spark/Lightning Source.
  6. Your books are now live and available to readers. Write more, advertise, learn how to be a professional author or just sit back and see what happens, it’s up to you!

How much will all that cost you to do on your own? You CAN do it all for free, but it’s not recommended. Unless you’re a professional designer and editor yourself, those are two services you really should pay for. Here is a good site with some self publishing budget options listed in more detail- http://writerlycommunity.azurewebsites.net/how-much-does-it-cost-to-self-publish-a-book/ 

How do you find all those professionals and services? There a list here that can get your started- http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,123703.0.html

And here’s another great list for helpful links for authors- http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,149935.0.html

What’s this KBoards place I keep linking to?


Kindle Boards is an online forum for all things kindle. It’s most active section is the Writers Cafe, which is a place where authors hang out to help each other and share tips. It’s mostly self published authors, and most of the discussion revolves around the business of publishing, rather than the craft of writing. It’s an amazing place to learn and there are many professional authors there who share their wisdom- http://www.kboards.com/index.php/board,60.0.html 

 And that is my very brief, simplified run down of what it takes to get your story published and available to readers.


If you intend to publish your book in any way, what I’ve described is just the tip of the iceberg. You will have a lot to learn, especially if you intend to make writing a career. Hopefully my quick outline above will give you some idea of how to get started.

Starting at the Bottom

I still remember when I first put my art in an online gallery. I was fourteen years old and the whole “internet” thing wasn’t as big back then. Elfwood was already around though, and as a timid amateur artist, I posted the minimum amount of art that was required to actually be eligible for a gallery. I think it was four images. It was scary, and I never thought my art was good enough (I still don’t, but that’s another story!).

(Gah, even the scan is awful!)

I also remember how incredible it was when people started commenting on my art, and liked it. I wanted to draw more (I hadn’t really started painting back then), so I had more for my gallery. I wanted to get better, and with everyone’s encouragement I improved my art, until people started saying, “Hey, you should sell this!”. And I started thinking maybe I could.

I learned how to set up my own website with a store section, and I had just completed a series of goddess artworks that I thought were my best work yet. I put them online for sale and waited. The response wasn’t everything I had hoped for. I was crushed and wondered, what am I doing wrong? Looking back now, I can see SO MANY things I was doing wrong! I was still an amateur, and frankly, a bit clueless. I was on my way but I still had so much to learn. Over the next five years I put everything I had into working out what I was doing wrong, and finding out how to do it right, until I was selling enough to support myself on my art income alone.

It was a long journey, with steep learning curves and a lot of hard work. And now that I’ve started releasing my novels, I suddenly realised something.

I’m back at the bottom again.

Some people might argue that this time I’ve already got a lot of people interested in my work, and I’m lucky to some extent that is true, BUT… Most people are interested in my art, not my writing. And to be honest, being a visual artist making the switch to novel writing, I think a lot of people assume my writing isn’t going to be very good 😉 It’s not just my imagination. More than a few reviews for Memory’s Wake sound like this-

“I’ve known Selina online for a number of years (through our mutual arting), and was a bit hesitant to read the book… But I figured, hey, even if I don’t like the book, I can look at the pretty pictures :)”

“Have to admit was a bit biased as Selina is one of my favorite artists so I was excited to read her work but was also a hesitant but needn’t be.”

“I wanted to like it so much since the author is both a fabulous artist and a fabulous person so I was really glad it did not dissapoint.”

And, again, to be honest, I think people have every right to assume the book mightn’t be great. Because here I am, starting at the bottom again. I’ve got a lot to learn, and Memory’s Wake was my first novel (although I re-wrote it so many times it could almost be considered my 5th novel!).

In some ways it’s fun to be starting at the bottom again. I have become a little jaded in the art scene, but with my writing, I’m remembering the exhilaration of every reader who contacts me to let me know they liked my book. The joy of every single individual sale, knowing that is someone else who will read my story.

There is also terror. I have the same doubts I did when I started out with my artwork. I’m worried I’ve still got SO MUCH to learn. So much work to do ahead of me to get my stories out into the world. There’s a strange pressure when it comes to writing, as everyone is always talking about the next Big Thing (Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games, anything by Amanda Sold-A-Million-Books-Hocking). It’s almost as though if a book doesn’t break out and become famous, it’s considered a failure. That’s entirely untrue of course, but a writer still feels that pressure. And sure, don’t we all dream of being as rich and famous as JK Rowling?

But then I remember, that I didn’t publish my book to become rich and famous. I published it to share my story. And hundreds of people have now read Memory’s Wake, and enjoyed it. And some of them email me and let me know they enjoyed it and it makes me all happy and glowy inside.

I’ve got many more stories to share, so much more to learn, more to improve. I know my next books will be better and better. That’s the joy of being at the bottom.

So if you’re starting out in a new direction in your life, remember that being at the bottom has as much value as being at the top, or you know, somewhere in the middle, which is where I normally hang out 😉