Have you tried self-publishing your book this year? Here’s a step by step guide on how to self-publish a book in 2023.
So, there are a lot of things you have to keep in mind when you want to self-publish a book. I'm going to go through a deep dive and look at every one of these key components.
By the end of this article, you're going to know exactly what is necessary to get through the entire process. That's why in this article, we are going to cover how to self-publish a book in 2023, a step-by-step guide.
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1. Write A Book Readers Want
So, the first thing is you want to write a book readers want. Right?
Writing to Market
So, that means you're going to be writing to market. And that is looking specifically at where we find holes in the market. So, before we even start writing, as we're just coming up with a basic plan of what we're going to be doing, we need to figure out where there is a market.
By definition, a market has buyers and sellers. You're writing books, and some people are buying books. What types of books are they buying? Which market are they in?
So, if you skip this step and ignore the demographics, psychographics, and all the other aspects necessary to understand who your readers are, you're going to lose quite a bit of time and money in this process, and perhaps even your motivation to write.
Because if you see that maybe your readers don't even exist, it's really important to spend some time researching, conducting market research, to make sure that there are actually books out there those people are buying, and then positioning your books with your voice into that market to ensure those same readers will be interested in purchasing your books.
As well, as opposed to the alternative of writing to market, which is writing just for yourself and then hoping for the best. So many authors do that, and that is why they don't sell books on Amazon and other locations.
Finding the Sweet Spot
But one of the other key issues here is finding the sweet spot. So, we're researching our audience and digging down into them. We're writing in a way that's going to engage those readers to ensure that we're pulling them into everything that we're doing. And we're seeking feedback from those same readers.
So, we end up with a nice feedback loop in the process where those readers are telling us what they want to see, and we are putting more material out there that goes along the lines of what they would like to see in our books. And that is something that so many authors skip—this phase of really doing that deep dive.
The next is Size Matters. You should consider your book's length, making sure that within your market, it's the same book-length that makes sense for your audience. Right? So, when they look at the size, it's not going to be this little micro book when all the other books you're competing against are several hundred pages each.
You're going to edit ruthlessly to make sure that the size is correct, and that you're not just bulging and getting so large that your readers can't get through your book. So, you're going to edit ruthlessly to make sure that it reaches that appropriate length and cut out all the unnecessary fluff that might be in there.
Because you need to remember, it's quality over quantity when it comes to your book. It's not just about making it bigger and bigger or too short, which is also a problem.
Going From Standalones to a Series
The next one is going from a standalone to a series. Now, this one is incredibly important. When you're transitioning, I can tell you the series is always going to do better than the standalone. For almost all books, people love series as they know when they're finishing a book, they want to see the next book in the series.
Standalone can sometimes be a problem for people. But there are a couple of things you need to do. You need to make sure that you've sort of mapped out the arc of all of the books, so that as they're going through the overall story arc, your characters, dialogues, and the narrative flow from one book to the next book, and you're building towards something.
But at the same time, each book in the series should also be a standalone quality, so that if they just read that one book, it would have a story arc and character development that would be tempting for them to read it.
I can't tell you how many readers complain because the book is so dependent upon the previous or later books, or there are cliffhangers at the end of the book that makes people angry that they have to get the next book, as opposed to just being satisfied and giving that satisfaction to the individual readers. So there's a balance that you're going to have to take into account when it comes to doing this particular part.
2. Find A Professional Editor
Number two, find a professional editor. So what do you need to do?
Hire a Pro
You need to hire a pro; that's one option you have. And there are lots of places you can do that on Fiverr or Upwork, and many other sites like Reedsy also provide some services like that. So that you're able to find somebody who's going to go into your book and be able to find a lot of the mistakes that you're making as you're going through it.
The Editorial Process
You have to keep in mind, as you're doing this, there's the editorial process, and that means there are going to be several steps like the first step of the editorial process involves. Just reviewing the manuscript and assessing its strengths and weaknesses, so we have a general idea of what's going on, looking for those areas that need improvement.
Then slowly working through the entire thing as we're doing copy editing, proofreading, and much of the manuscript, moving through the editorial process. And there are several ways this can be done as well.
So self-editing is maybe your absolute first starting point on this. It's where you're going through the book and you're identifying issues that need to be fixed. And instead of trying to fix everything at once, you might go through the book and look for specific things like plot problems or other things like that.
You're also going to be looking for spelling errors and grammar mistakes and such. But don't try to fix everything at the same time, or you're going to burn out on the self-editing. But we want to go through this.
The other key trick is making sure that maybe you've read through the book one time. You've given the book a little bit of time to rest so that you don't allow your writing process of the book to interfere with the editing process. So we're having a little bit of distance from the book itself.
The next one is story editing, and that means when you're doing story editing, you're assessing the structures of the manuscript, including the plot, the character development, and the pacing, to make sure all of these things are in alignment.
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There are so many books I've read, many books written by the big five publishing houses, where you're going from one chapter to the next. Just reviewing the manuscript and assessing its strengths and weaknesses, so we have a general idea of what's going on.
Looking for those areas that need improvement, and then slowly working. It's almost like a completely different author is acting a little bit strange. And sometimes, it just doesn't fit together. So during the story editing phase, you're going to want to get that all under control.
The next thing is your beta readers, and the beta readers play a significant role when it comes to your book because they're going to be able to go through the book and give you the feedback that you need to know in advance.
They are your ideal readers, and here are the problems they have with the book so that you're able to fix those aspects. They love your writing and want to help you make it the best you can. The best part is that many of these beta readers get a free copy and insight and connection with you.
But at the same time, they're not being paid to do this work, which isn't a huge advantage when you're trying to work off of a budget.
Next is copy editing, which involves correcting errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and formatting for your book. This, of course, is incredibly important because your readers are going to notice these mistakes.
And if you're not fixing these things, they're going to give you one-star reviews. So copy editing is a critical aspect of avoiding negative reviews and ensuring people have a satisfactory experience when reading your book.
Then comes proofreading. Proofreading is the final step of the editorial process before publishing. It involves checking the manuscript for errors and ensuring that it's ready for publishing. You're going to need a fresh perspective on the book during this phase to catch those errors.
Those last things you may think you've done thousands of rounds of editing and such. But when you get to the proofreading phase, then we find some of these additional things where we can polish it up. So it's completely ready for publishing.
My Personal Process
Then you have my personal process, and in my own personal process, we would start with a great deal of planning. We'll be hitting some of the key points with keywords and such up ahead, so we have a planning phase. We're looking at the markets, figuring out what people are buying.
Then we're looking at our competition, particularly the bestsellers. And then we're going through the entire flow that I just discussed a little bit, including the editing process and getting it formatted, choosing the right cover, and all of these things. We put it all together before we get it out onto the market. That is my personal process for a lot of these steps.
3. Know Your Niche & Nail Your Branding
Now let's move on to number three: know your niche and nail your branding.
Determine Your Specific Niche
The first thing is you need to determine your specific niche, as we've already discussed. You should find a niche where you already find a lot of readers who are buying books on Amazon, for example. But there aren't that many books available.
And using the tools I've discussed in previous articles, like KDSpy, is a very helpful tool when it comes to figuring out the exact keywords that you're going to want to use. Choose keywords that have low competition and yet high sales volume or search volume.
These are really powerful ways of figuring out what's going to work best when it comes to getting a niche that's going to sell. Now, you also need to balance this with niches that you are passionate about. Don't write in a niche that you're not interested in, or you will lose motivation, and that defeats the whole purpose.
Research Your Sub-Category On Amazon
The next thing is you need to research your subcategory on Amazon. Remember, it's not just about the top-level categories, but those subcategories give us a lot of information. That we can find on Amazon. In particular, some of them will even tell us which books, like there are not that many books on that type of book, and yet they're selling a lot of copies.
And this is powerful because we're going to be hammering and nailing not for the top-level niches, but the really subcategories. The top categories are impossible to compete in, but the lower subcategories can.
And if you're positioning yourself right to sell, you may find one of your books reaching a bestseller category and getting that bestseller flag inside one of these subcategories, assuming it has at least 100 books in that subcategory.
What is Packaging?
So another thing you have to consider is what is packaging, and packaging is sort of the visual elements of your book. That means pulling it all together with the cover, formatting, layout, and all of this so that it just looks and flows. This includes fonts, styles, spacing, margins, and all of this sort of stuff that you will have when it comes to getting your book in order.
One of the things I have my students in my group coaching and my one-on-one program do is look closely at the competition, who our best sellers are, and make sure that our book is not too far away from the look and feel of the books that they are already putting on the market. So that is a very important issue when it comes to packaging your book.
Find Commonalities In Your Niche
Another thing to consider is finding commonalities in your niche. That means looking and seeing patterns that emerge. Some people would say looking at all of the books in your niche, and that would be a bad move.
You want to look at the best sellers in the niche that you're targeting so that we make sure what they are doing for their covers, interiors, and all of the look and feel of their books. This single tip alone is one of the most powerful ones of everything I'm saying in this entire article.
It's that you want to align your books properly so that we're able to figure out exactly how your competition is doing, particularly the best-selling competition of the self-published books.
4. Design Your Cover
Okay, number four: design your cover. Cover design: there are a couple of things to remember about cover design.
Cover Design Costs
One of the big issues you should be considering is covering design costs. You have to balance between getting insanely high-quality covers and yet not getting pieces of garbage, okay?
You may think you can design a cover yourself, but unless you have a background in graphic design, you're not going to do a great job at it. It's just impossible for the average person to do a well-designed cover if you don't have a background in that.
It may look great to you, and you can even ask your family and friends who always say it looks wonderful, but at the end of the day, how exactly is your book supposed to sell when it gets out to the market and the average reader looks at it? They may not even know why it's a poor cover, but they're going to know it.
That's one of the reasons why when you figure out your cover cost, there's a cost to doing it with the free route, and that's something you're not going to want to make a mistake on. One thing I like to do is go with Fiverr specifically for my covers. You're going to pay $25 for individual covers, including all the taxes and everything that's on top of it.
You can find my affiliate link to my cover designer below in the comments of all of my YouTube videos. The person I specifically use for all of my covers does an amazing job and will do infinite revisions back and forth with you until the cover looks exactly perfect to what you're looking for.
5. Lay Out Your Book To Capture Readers
Number five: Lay out your book to capture readers. This is an important one.
Optimal Book Layout
You want an optimal book layout, you need to make sure that it exactly fits so it's easy for your readers to get into it. The font and everything should be fantastic when they're flipping the pages. The margins shouldn't be too close together, and you should choose a font that's easy on the eyes.
You should also include things like your table of contents and all of these elements that make it easy to navigate for your readers. We're trying to find this optimal book layout, and that's one of the things I go over in my "Formatting Made Easy for Self-Publishers" course, which you can find below in the description.
In the course, we use my powerful template where you put your manuscript right into it, and then we're able to get it to output in a format that looks fantastic for everyone who's gone through that particular course. I guarantee you go back and forth with me, and we ensure that your book is formatted properly. Just go back and forth, and we will get it formatted.
Slim Down Your Front Matter
The next thing is slim down your front matter. This is a huge mistake so many authors make when they get to Amazon and other platforms. There's a "Look Inside" feature. Where they can look inside the book to decide if they're going to purchase your book or not.
But the thing is, if you have lots of front matter, it's just going to distract you unless you're a famous author. And even then, I get annoyed by the front matter. Shove all of this stuff in the back of the book. There's no need to cluster it up.
You have your table of contents and title page. Then, you're going straight into your table of contents. After that, let's just start hitting the book right on into the story. You might have a preface, but I would not put a lot of stuff about yourself and everybody else who says your book is wonderful.
Put this stuff at the end of the book because it's not going to increase sales. It's going to decrease sales of your specific book.
Make It Easy For Readers
The other thing you need to remember to do is make it easy for readers. Making it easy means keeping it organized with the book so there's a flow of information, giving them exactly what they need at the time they need it. It's very easy with a table of contents to quickly find those pages.
Use headings and subheadings throughout your book to make it easy, and that's something I cover in my formatting course as well—how to get those settings perfectly so they can find it in both the paperback book and the ebook, and making sure that your formatting is consistent throughout the book. We are not trying to make this difficult for our ideal readers.
6. Format Your MS Into A Reflowable Ebook
Number six: Format your manuscript into a reflowable eBook.
Hire a Pro
You can hire a pro to do this on Fiverr, or you can do it yourself using Jutoh, which is the tool I like to use. You can find my affiliate link below in the description of my Youtube videos for that particular tool. Or learn how to do it yourself in the course where we go through exactly how to do it.
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To make sure that the ebook looks fantastic, both the ebook and the Kindle. The key that's beautiful here is you can just click a button, and it works for both of them.
Use a Tool
The next thing is to use a tool, and I use Jutoh as I was just mentioning, as my favorite tool for getting your ebook formatted flawlessly and perfectly so that Amazon and all the other platforms accept it on the very first try. You keep your current version inside Jutoh, and with a single click of a button, it will output into whatever format you need it to be in. That's such an important one.
Code it Yourself
You can code it yourself. But this is only for top-level experts. I don't know why you would do it when a tool like Jutoh is so much better than coding it yourself.
7. Decide Your Price
Number seven: Decide your price.
Look at Your Genre
So the first thing you need to do is look at your genre. What are they charging? I go through price strategies in other videos on this channel, and I give really deep secret-level price strategies to my clients.
But I can tell you one big, huge secret: you're probably undercharging the pricing on your books. You should probably increase the pricing. We'll just leave it at that, and you can watch my other videos where I go a little bit deeper into the pricing strategy itself.
But a basic one is $2.99 for your ebooks and make sure you're making five dollars on royalties for your paperbacks. And that is because. We want to be able to run ads against these books and make money off of them.
8. Optimize Your Metadata
Okay, number eight: Metadata. Optimize your metadata.
Collating Your Metadata
So the first thing is, you're going to be collating your metadata, pulling it all together to ensure consistency in your book. When they see the metadata you're using, you want it to be consistent. This is going to involve several key things in your metadata.
You also want to make sure it's all saved on Google Drive, so it's easy for you to find this information in a good folder structure, which I cover in other videos on the channel here.
The next issue is categories. Under categories, you need to select categories that are relevant to your book and will make it easier for your readers to discover your book by clicking through those categories.
Choosing the wrong categories for your books can result in your books getting banned from Amazon, so you do not want to do that. Make sure your categories are correct.
Then comes keywords, the most important aspect of anything with these books. Choosing profitable keywords is crucial, using the same strategies we talked about in the marketing research.
But specifically with keywords, this is how people on today's internet find your stuff. They type in keywords or speak to Alexa, and up comes a list of keywords. You'll want to make sure that those keywords for your book match what those people are searching for already on Amazon.
9. Distribute Your Book
Number nine: Distribute your book.
Always Publish Direct to Amazon
You always want to publish directly to Amazon to get a higher royalty rate. This route gives you better control, and if you need to make changes, you can make them quickly and push the book out within 24 hours. It goes live.
Most importantly, you can also consider Amazon exclusivity. There are some big advantages to that because, in some regions, they'll give you more royalties if you do that. Also, you can set countdown deals and set your books to go free for five-day periods.
You only have to enroll your book for a 90-day exclusivity deal, and when you enroll it, it's only the ebook. Your paperbacks can continue being sold on other platforms, with no problem at all.
Pros and Cons of KDP Select
Next one: Pros and cons of KDP Select. Well, the pros are they give you better marketing abilities with these countdowns and such, but the cons are you're stuck in a 90-day contract, and you can't publish wide as long as you're in this.
That's one reason why I recommend going wide, so you're not completely Amazon-dependent. Amazon has been and continues to terminate accounts, so it's very important to go wide with your books.
Going Wide: Outside the World of Amazon
Okay, the other thing is going wide outside of the world of Amazon. That's another key strategy: going to other places like Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and Google Play. This is a fantastic way of making sure you get a maximum distribution of your books across platforms.
Using a Distributor
Another thing is using a distributor. I personally like Draft2Digital. It used to be Smashwords was the one I would choose, but Draft2Digital, in particular, is going to get your book out to as many platforms as possible with really not that much trouble, and they continue to expand every single day. I was just looking at some of the new ones from my books on Draft2Digital. It's truly amazing.
10. Create A Marketing Plan
Number 10: Create a marketing plan.
Divesting Yourself of Marketing Myths
You're going to want to divest yourself of marketing myths. That's the first thing. Understanding there are a lot of myths around marketing, most of them around the idea that if you do this, do that, post your book on social media, and I'm sure it'll sell a million copies.
Post it to other authors. When it comes to our books, this is a really important thing you need to do: we let the numbers tell us. We don't care what you feel is going to sell your books or how many likes you're getting on a post, but how many book sales you're making.
What Sells Books
What sells the books is what you need to make sure of. You're getting these positive reviews, building a strong author brand, and doing what's necessary to get your book to sell.
Building A Marketing Campaign
Then there's building a marketing campaign. When you build a campaign, we want to follow best practices. That's one of the reasons why you should be watching videos like these, where I go through exactly how to set up marketing campaigns, whether it's paid advertising or using content marketing.
I have a Content Marketing course that goes through how to do the content marketing side of things, which is important when it comes to getting your books marketed correctly. Have a basic campaign idea of what you expect from the campaign and then measure your actual results against the campaign's results.
How To Get Reviews
The next issue is how to get reviews. This can be done by approaching bloggers who read books and asking them to help you get reviews, using social media. My favorite is email lists, building an email list, and having an advanced review team who can look at your stuff.
Or even using Amazon's Vine Program. Having your book registered there so that they would give you an honest review in exchange for your specific book.
So, as you can see, in conclusion, there are lots of steps to the whole self-publishing process in 2023. But here at selfpublishingmadeeasynow.com, we want to keep things as simple as possible. One of the things I do is provide my free Checklist. It goes through all of these specific steps.
If you want me to look at your situation, not giving specific advice but at least seeing where you're coming from and what the next step would be for you, you can also book a free Discovery Session. That can help with a lot of that. Otherwise, check out my other blogs and videos for more answers to your self-publishing questions.