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The Self-Publishing Process 101

Self-publishing logo

I go to a lot of conventions and often people will ask me about the publishing process. Self-publishing is not that common in Denmark(just like ebooks are only slowly starting to become an alternative to paper books here) and many have no idea you can publish a book yourself. I have had quite a few people contact me after a convention as well, wanting to know more because they are interested in publishing something they wrote. I’m happy to help, but it becomes some rather lengthy conversations, since I want them to know what they’re getting into, and there’s a lot more to publishing than just writing a book.

So here I’ll try to prepare a list of the main things you have to go through before you’re ready to self-publish. It’s just a summary, and I still suggest to do a lot of research on the subject, but it’s a place to start for those who know nothing about the process to begin with.


Decide on Your Route

Self-publishing is not for everyone. Some enjoy the complete control it gives you, but it’s also a lot of work, and no one will hold your hand through it. You have to do everything yourself. If you go the traditional route, you will have a publisher hiring editors, cover artists, people to format your book, plus they will make sure to get it out to retailers. If you self-publish, you have to take care of all that yourself, but in return, you also get to make all the decisions. No chance of getting cover art you hate or having to cut your favorite scene out of the book.

If you want to go the traditional publishing route, you need to find a literary agent willing to help you sell your book to a publisher. They will be able to guide you along. On the other hand, if you’re ready to do the work of self-publishing, get ready to do some research after finishing reading this list!


If you think simply writing a book is enough, you’re in for a rough time. Editing a book is the thing I hate the most about publishing. It’s an absolute nightmare, but it’s also the most important thing for creating a quality book.

Editing is not the same as proofreading. Proofreading is the stage where your book is nearly ready and just needs to be read through for spelling and grammar mistakes.

Editing involves a lot of things:

– Making sure the story is consistent. This means no contradictions later in the story or plot holes that make no sense. It can’t be spring in the beginning of the book and then two months later in the story be winter.

– Improving the writing technique(the technique, not the grammar or spelling). You might use a certain phrase too often or your writing might be moving at the completely wrong pace. That’s the kind of thing that needs to be corrected in the editing phase.

– Developing the story. Your first draft might have to change a lot in order for the story to move along and your characters to become deep and interesting.

Personally, I edit my own books from front to back about 4-5 times. It’s crucial that you go through it yourself first, because there will be many things you want to change. But editing yourself is far from enough, as it’s extremely hard to see the weak points in your own writing and nearly impossible to catch all consistency mistakes. It’s because you know your own story. You know what should happen and how the characters should act, so that is what you see when you read the text, even if it’s not really what’s written. So you need other eyes on it after you’re done with your own editing.

The very best thing you can do is to hire a professional editor. They know what they’re talking about and can be a huge help in getting your book to where it needs to be. However, not everyone can afford that, but that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to publish an unedited book. Trade favors with other authors to get them to help you, get friends(preferably ones who won’t just smile and say it’s all great to spare your feelings) to give feedback. If you can’t afford an editor, get as many qualified people to help you out as possible.


As I wrote above, proofreading is the step that follows the editing process. You can hire a proofreader, but professional help is not nearly as crucial at this step, so if you find 2-3 people with a good grip on the grammar and spelling of the language you write in and get them to proofread for you, it should suffice.

Getting Cover Art Made

People judge a book by its cover. Everyone says they shouldn’t, but they do. And that’s completely fair.

If you don’t bother putting effort into the cover, why should readers believe that you put effort into the book? Unless you have experience with graphic design, DO NOT try to design your own cover. A lot of self-published books have cringe-worthy covers, clearly made in Paint with no graphic skills whatsoever. They signal extremely low quality, and many people won’t even glance at the book summary if the book’s cover is horrible.
You can get a cover made professionally fairly cheap, so this really isn’t the place to save money. You can have a graphic designer use stock photos to make a cover or you can do like me and get an artist to make you custom-made artwork for a graphic designer to use.


Formatting is the act of preparing your digital book file for publication. It’s also something you can hire someone to do, but if you’re good with computers, it’s not that hard to do. It just takes a long time!

Before formatting, decide which formats you want your book in. Do you want both an ebook and a print version? How many different ebook formats do you want your book to be available in?

Many ebook retailers will accept a Word document or a PDF, and then convert it for you, so unless you want every format to be flawless, you probably won’t have to format more than two files. I personally suggest formatting one for print and then a Word file that meets Smashwords’ requirements. Of course, you will have to change a few things every time you upload the file to a new retailer (Amazon won’t accept a file that says ‘Smashwords Edition’ on the first page), but if you format after Smashwords’ guide, it should otherwise be fine for any converting process.

Smashwords’ converting system is one that converts your Word file into nearly all ebook formats at once. It’s very hard to format it so nothing goes wrong in the converting process, but it’s worth it to make the effort to get it right. Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, wrote an excellent guide on formatting rules: Smashwords Style Guide

Remember that formatting for print is very different(but a lot easier). Do your research.


Editing done? Proofreading done? Cover art made? Formatting done?

Great! You’re ready to publish.

There’s a lot of ways to distribute your book. For your print book, you’ll probably want to choose a Print on Demand publisher that will let you create a print version of your book and then print copies every time some are ordered. For ebooks, you can either go the easy route and let a distributor site like Smashwords send your book out to all major retailers, or you might want to upload your book directly to retailers who allow you to. Uploading directly will give you more control and faster updating, but it’s also more work. Under any circumstance, there’s some retailers who ONLY accept books through a distributor site, so you will probably have to go through one, anyway.

I, myself, upload directly to Amazon, then let Smashwords handle other retailers. In my case, I have to do it that way, as very few retailers will let non-US authors upload directly. For printing, I use Createspace. They are cheap and easy to use (and excellent quality), but the main reason I prefer them is because they list your print book on Amazon for no extra charge.

Here’s a list of Print on Demand options and ebook retailers I have experience with.

Print on Demand options:


Ebook retailers:

Apple iBookstore
Barnes & Noble
Diesel Ebook Store

Wow, this got a lot longer than I meant it to be. Yet it only covers the basics of self-publishing. Don’t even get me started on marketing and promotion. That’s an entire book by itself. The best advice I can give you:

Research, research, research!

Oh, and stay away from Author Solutions. Really, I mean it. They will screw you over.

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KDP Select – A Great Promotion Tool or the Slow Murder of the Ebook Market?

Earlier, I have shared my thoughts about Amazon’s KDP Select program, both concerns and positive experiences, but back then the program was still in the beginning stages. Now, the program has been up and running for 5 months and the negative effects are slowly starting to show, while the positives are on the track back.

My concerns, when Amazon first announced the release of Select,  were focused on the requirement of exclusity.

To sum up the KDP Select program, it gives the authors using Kindle Direct Publishing(KDP) the opportunity to enroll their books in Kindle’s Lending Library, allowing Kindle Prime members to borrow their books. Each month all enrolled authors get a share of a monthly fund, depending on how many times their book was borrowed.

It also gives the authors a chance to make their book free for 5 days every 90 days period(A thing authors can freely do on retailer sites like Smashwords), which is a powerful promotion tool.

It all sounds like a great deal, but as with everything else, there is a catch. To enroll in the program, Amazon requires you to agree to sell your book exclusively on Amazon for a period of 90 days. Which means that not only can’t you sell the digital form of your book on places like Barnes and Noble, you can’t even sell it on your own website. To say it simply: Amazon owns you for 3 months.

Being the good little capitalist I am, I balked at the sound of that, but it was completely understandable that many authors didn’t hesitate with signing up for the program. After all, most indie authors have most of their sales(If not all) from Amazon’s Kindle Store and it was no loss for them to take their book down from any other retailer.

And in the first months it did indeed seem like the Select program was a God-sent gift to help indies promote their books. By making their book available for free for a couple of days, many authors (Myself inclusive after I caved) experienced hundreds or even thousands of downloads of their books.

Some might think it’s a self-destructive thing to do if you want to sell your book, but it’s actually a fantastic way to be seen. Not only may someone who download one of your books for free like it enough to actually pay for one of your other books, your freely downloaded title will also be shown in hundreds of places under the “Costumers who bought this also bought:” section that is shown underneath each book. That’s a great way to gain visibility.

In those first months, many saw huge bumps in their paid sales after having run such free promotions, because their book suddenly showed to a lot of new potentiel readers. The program was praised to the skies in the KDP author forum and most swore they would re-enroll after their 90 days were up.

They don’t anymore.

Like with many other things, the program’s success seems to have died down and given backlash. Thousands of authors have made their books free, making the market overflow with free books. So why should readers pay for books when they can get them for free?

Not only has readers had the chance to fill up their Kindle’s with free books, it seems many are actually waiting for particular books to be free, instead of paying to get it immediately. Some authors even experience getting mails from readers, who have downloaded the first book in a series for free, asking if the next book will also be available for free at some time.

Doesn’t bode well, does it?

Many authors have no realized this and are pulling their books out of the program and re-uploading them to other stores. More and more authors on the KDP forums are complaining about their sales having crashed to the ground after the Select program was set into motion, even authors who used to make a living from their books. Books doesn’t seem to be borrowed through the Lending Library too often anymore either. After all, why should Kindle owners pay $79 every year for a Prime Membership that allows them to borrow one free book every month, when all the books are free at some point anyway?

The KDP Select Program might have seemed like a great opportunity in the beginning, but I fear that it has only had negative effects of the market in the end. My hope is that Amazon will soon realize this, and either cancel it or change the details on free downloads to prevent readers to go only for the free books.

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Aggressive Indie Promotion

Book Magic Fantasy—–

Goodreads, Twitter, book forums… They’re everywhere.

I’m talking about the thousands of indie authors attempting to promote their books. And not the ones that send the occasional tweet advertising their books or the ones who have a book cover in their forum signature.

I’m talking about those that try to force their book down your throat at any given moment and have absolutely no interest in anything besides getting you to buy their work.

I’m absolutely sick of them.

It’s no wonder independent writers have such a bad reputation, because many of them are just damn annoying and downright shameless.

Understand me right, I’m an indie author myself and of course I promote my books. I have to, or no one would ever know about them. But I consider myself above practically begging for others to read my books.

I’m sure everyone who uses book discussion forums have seen the indie authors who pretends to have something to say in a thread, but it turns out they just want to advertise their book.

Yeah, I totally agree!

By the way, I written a book on “almost” the same thing: *Insert link*

And that would be one of the less shameless examples…

Everyday I encounter more and more writers who seem to have nothing else in mind. I can’t count the times I have had someone say that my book seems “really interesting, and by the way, could I read theirs?”. Really, it’s actually more pathetic than it is annoying most of the time.

Many people also uses my Twitter feed, because they see I’m a writer and I have a pretty big following. They merely write @mlouring before their tweets to show up on my Twitter stream. If they’re going to violate my personal space, they should at least buy me a cup of coffee first…

Another example is one time I started a thread on a book forum asking for fantasy book suggestions. The thing about that forum is that it forbids self-promotion in there. What did this desperate author do? Go to my website to throw their book in my face, of course! Because I wanted to read some fantasy recommended by others, so of course I would want to read their book, right? Forum rules shouldn’t hinder me in discovering this wonderful new book they had written,  should it?

I realize I’m ranting… It just makes me wince every time I see another author demean themselves to this desperate behavior. It’s also clear that many readers are getting annoyed by this. For example, despite not using Goodreads to promote my work, many will keep their distance from me when they see I’m a writer. Many refuse to ‘friend’ authors on there, because they know they might be force-fed self-promotion from them. And I completely understand them.

Aggressitivity hurts not only the author in question, but all indie writers. Then so many will do everything to promote their book, the indie community as a whole appears desperate to sell their books and no one have respect for that.

So to all of you who succumbs to this behavior, I can only say: Have some respect for yourself. If your books seem interesting, when you don’t have to force them upon others! And for the love of God, stop trying to promote to other authors. They are trying to sell books as well, they don’t have time to ‘help you out’, if you don’t have time to even say “hi” before you start telling them to read your book.

And if I see anyone start promoting their books in the comments on this post, God have mercy, I will hurt you. I will hunt you down, find out where you live and hurt you.

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Indie Publishing vs Traditional Publishing

Heart Book


Let me start out by saying that I have never sent a manuscript to a literary agent or a publisher. From the beginning, I knew that countless rejection letters would quickly kill my love of writing and I would rather have the dream of seeing my book on the shelves remain a dream, than go through that.

Which is why this isn’t the bitter talk of someone who was never able to publish the traditional way, but merely the view of someone who never tried. 

Self-publishing has a bad reputation and it has been that way for a long, long time. There’s still many people who refuse to call independent writers for “real” authors. They believe that all indies are people whose writing is just not good enough to be published.

That is far from the case for many indies.

Just because you never got accepted by a traditional publisher doesn’t mean that you don’t have a great piece of work in your book. After all, J.K Rowling was rejected many times when she sent the manuscripts for the Harry Potter books to different publishers. How many books have she sold now? 450 million copies was the last number I heard.

The fact is, agents and publishers only accept books that have worked before. After Twilight became a success, the market was stormed with supernatural YA fiction and vampire novels, both good and bad. They all had that in common that the publishers knew they had a market for those books.

Many, many, many books have been rejected because, though well-written, were too original or far-fetched. Publishers need to earn money like everyone else, and they are rarely willing to take a chance on something. Which is why so many great books never see the light of the book store.

Don’t get me wrong, some indie books are horrible. The both good and bad thing about indie publishing is that everyone can publish anything. That means that there is no quality control. Poorly edited books with grammar so bad that it makes your toes curl, and plots where nothing make sense at all, find their ways to the online retailers because there’s no one sorting through the trash.

It’s perfectly understandable that readers may hesitate before buying a self-published book, because there’s no guarantee it isn’t a piece of garbage. But on the other hand, indie books give you the opportunity to find books so mind-blowingly unique that you’re willing to swear off traditional books forever.

Exactly because there’s no one sorting through the books, the original ideas that agents won’t take a chance on are now within your reach. If you want an urban fantasy story, you can actually find books that aren’t rip-offs of Twilight, because indie authors doesn’t have  to write something that’s already been written. There has been no one to tell them that there isn’t a market for their kind of stories, so books are no longer restricted by trends. Now only the imagination of the writers set the limit.

Many writers also choose the way of indie publishing, not because they can’t get published by a traditional publisher, but because being an indie gives you all the freedom and control a publishing contract would take away from you.

A publisher decide your cover, they can make you cut or rewrite entire chapters of your book if they doesn’t think it should be there. It could be the most important scene in the book in your mind, but it would have to go.

You wouldn’t have full control of how and where your book was sold either, because the rights would now be with the publisher.

And even if you get accepted by an agent, would you really want to wait years before your book hit the stores? Just because someone believe your work is suited for publishing, there’s so much that needs to be done before your book gets into print. Choose a Print-on-Demand service and have your book in your hands within a month.

The only thing traditional publishing really gives you is the backing of their name and easier access to a proper editor. For that they take most of whatever income the book will gain and at the same time depends rights to do what they like with the book.

I’m sure there’s a lot of authors who will disagree with me, and they are welcome to! But looking from where I stand, being an indie seems to be a better deal these days.

The war between traditional publishers and indies still rages, and I think I will just sit back and watch what the outcome will be.

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The Spiteful World of Indie Publishing

Books Stack

Every day, I take some time out of my schedule to follow the KDP’s author forum as well as a couple other forums dealing with independent publishing. It’s a great way to connect with other writers and get help and useful information.

But it’s also the place for learning more about the business we’re in. Despite many opinions and views on self-publishing, it’s a business like any other, with unending issues you have to deal with. But even though I’m perfectly aware of the spitefulness of human nature and the tough fight to be noticed among thousands of other authors in the crowd, the behavior that seems to be spreading among competive indies like a wildfire is appalling to me.

Now, I have no need to complain, as I myself haven’t been a victim of this, but I still feel the need to address this issue. Had it been a few isolated cases, I would just put it down to a few people who never learned to respect others and compete fairly, but I’m hearing about this being done to more and more of my fellow authors.

The thing I’m talking about is independent authors, instead of just promoting themselves, doing everything to bring down their competition.

We have all heard about authors posting fake reviews on their own books in order to drive the ratings up and make the book seem more attractive to the potentiel buyer, but some of these authors take it much further.

Some actually pretends to be readers with no ulterior motive and posts vicious and downgrading reviews on other books in the same genre as they are writing themselves in order to hurt competition. They act like they have read the books and hated them, but a few clicks leading to their profiles show that they are not unpartial readers, but competing authors. Some even have the nerve to attack other books in their reviews and then suggest readers to read their book instead, even linking to them in the review.

The first time I read about someone who had been a victim of this, I was repulsed and didn’t get how anyone could have so little shame. I felt the same way the second time… And the third… Until I slowly started realizing that this was actually happening often and was becoming a common way to fight competition.

The worst thing is that so often it’s so blaringly obvious. I have seen reviews that don’t even target the book, but are direct attacks on the authors. Many of them are purely hateful comments with no arguments to explain why the “reviewer” dislikes the book/author so much.

And the most scary thing is that it’s not only happening among indie authors. Even some traditional publishers have used this method to bring down competition! This article on describes the behavior pretty well, and it was already published in 2010 showing that it’s not a new trend:

It’s a sad, sad thing that people are willing to stoop so low in order to get success. And in the end, I really doubt ruining potentiel success for others will ever lead to anything good anyway.

And what’s the use of reviews, when you can’t trust them at all?