An Introduction to Self-Publishing

Self-publishing is an attractive and inexpensive way to get your book out there! The tips below will help you get started – and they’ll show you how to market your bookf (something you should start thinking about before you finish writing your book).

Why self-publish?
For very low cost (or no cost – I’ve done it that way!) you can:

  • print an attractive memoir for family and friends
  • publish and sell your own creative writing
  • bring an idea or a cause to the attention of the public (free ebooks are ideal for this)
  • sell copies of your own book at speaking events
  • publish and sell a book about any topic that interests you
  • Here’s an article from a successful Kindle author that makes a convincing case for self-publishing – and includes some useful resources:

How is printing-on-demand (POD) different from vanity publishing?

  • in vanity publishing, you pay to have copies printed and bound. You store, sell, and ship them yourself. The process is expensive, especially if the company formats your manuscript for you.
  • in POD, copies are printed only when someone wants to buy them. You don’t store or ship them. Your book is available from online booksellers, which will give you a free marketing page and opportunities to post a bio, reviews, and a video.
    Most important, the whole process is free unless you want to pay for professional editing, custom formatting, original cover artwork, or other special services. And because publish-on-demand services are inexpensive, you can buy copies of your books very cheaply (a boon if you’re doing book signings or sending out review copies).
    If you use Kindle Direct Publishing, there are even more benefits: a free ISBN, a free marketing page on, a free “Look Inside” marketing feature, and other marketing tools.
  • KDP requires you to publish your book and offer it for sale. If you’d prefer to just print copies for yourself or a special project (a history of your book club, for example), you should consider Lulu, Blurb, the Book Patch, or Barnes & Noble Press.

Before you begin writing:

  • learn how to use styles in Word software (Normal, Heading 1, Heading 2, indent, and so on)
  • learn as much as you can about Word
  • use the settings in your style menu for indentations and other special effects. DO NOT use the tab key or space bar for indentations.
  • familiarize yourself with writing conventions like quotation marks and capital letters
  • have a professional photographer take some digital head shots of you
  • go to an online provider to start a blog free. Or you can have a designer create a WordPress blog for you: Warning: free blogs don’t provide customer service, and you and your followers may have difficulty with access.
  • educate yourself about permissions and copyright
  • consider participating in one or more free social networking sites, such as Facebook ( or, if you’re a professional, LinkedIn – which is especially useful because it allows you to showcase your professionalism. 
  • start thinking about friends and colleagues who might write endorsements or a foreword for you

Writing/formatting tips:
No matter what publishing option you use, you’re going to have to create a publishable manuscript on your own. Do it right the first time to avoid spending days cleaning up your manuscript later (or paying a pile of money for someone to do the job for you).

  • use your computer’s spellchecker and grammar checker. They’re not infallible, but they’re a tremendous help.
  • use only one space (not two) after a period. (You’re not in high school any more!).
  • fact-check relentlessly
  • choose the styles you want (Normal, Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.), and monitor them carefully while you’re writing.
  • write with the “Look Inside!” feature at in mind. It allows potential buyers to read your table of contents and first chapter online, free. Make sure your table of contents effectively presents your content and unique approach to your topic, and make sure your first chapter positively sparkles.

These tips from Joel Friedlander at Kindle Direct Publishing will help you convert your manuscript into an e-book:

  • use styles to control paragraph indents; don’t use a few spaces or a tab to indent the first line of your paragraphs. This can be set in the style definition in Microsoft Word under “first line indent.”
  • use styles to control space between paragraphs instead of just hitting Return. You can stipulate this spacing in the paragraph formatting dialog in Word under “Spacing after.”
  • if you’re planning to publish an e-book or Kindle, create a bookmark for your Table of Contents so readers will be able to navigate to it from anywhere in your book. Name this bookmark toc.
  • don’t “Paste” in photos or graphics; use “Insert” instead. This will ensure your photos and graphics get into your eBook with the best resolution. In Word, use the “Insert” menu.
  • use heading styles, not local formatting, for emphasis. Word comes with heading styles, named Heading 1, Heading 2, and so on. Modify them to your liking, then make sure every similar heading is assigned the same style so your book is consistent throughout.
  • if you’re planning to convert your file to an ebook, remember that you’ll need to remove any running heads or page numbers you’ve inserted for the print edition.
  • always work on a backup copy of your print book file. You want to end up with two copies of your book: one for KDP to print, the other to be converted to Kindle eBook format using Kindle Direct Publishing.

Publishing options and services:

  • Kindle Direct Publishing (POD service attached to Amazon website). Their free publication service includes an ISBN and a book page at Free covers are available, and there’s a wonderful gallery of pictures you can use at no charge. They’ll even publish your book as a Kindle e-book, free. You can also opt to pay extra for formatting, editing, and other services.
  • (popular online bookseller) publishes books in Kindle format free (the author provides a formatted file). Free publicity through their Author Central service.
  • (popular ebook publisher and bookseller). Publishes formatted files free in popular electronic formats (SONY e-Reader, Nook, Kindle, Apple, etc.). Free author’s page. Free listing in premium catalog.

Resources for self-publishers

  • Kindle Direct Publishing (the self-publishing arm of Top-notch and professional. Free articles and webinars. KDP has many resources on its KDP Jumpstart page. There are instructions for formatting and publishing paperbacks as well:
  • (a free and excellent e-book publisher) offers many free resources. There’s a list of experts who can help you with many publishing tasks at reasonable prices. Smashwords Book Marketing Guide ( Although this book targets ebook authors, many tips will work for any kind of book. Helpful features include a detailed template for writing a press release. Smashwords Style Guide ( Detailed instructions for converting a computer file for a book into an ebook.
  • find illustrations at by typing in your search term and clicking the Images link. Then click Tools and Usage Rights. Click Creative Commons for copyright-free images. Warning: Not everything that you find there will actually be fair use. Click through for the sources. Wikipedia and Wiki Commons are wonderful sources for fair-use images. You can also trust Flickr and Pixabay – but do check to make sure the picture you’ve chosen doesn’t require payment. And be sure to credit the creator in your post, article, or book.
  • consider a paid subscription to (there’s no “www”). You’ll get up to 10 images a month, and unused images carry over to the next month.
  • Building Your Book on Kindle (free) will help you format your manuscript as an e-book.
  • I use a paid hosting service for my marketing newsletter:
  • Take a look at this link to learn more: Money-Saving Guide for Authors and Writers (offers free publishing resources on many subjects)

To market, to market:

Getting the word out about your book is the biggest challenge in any kind of publishing. This video by Gary Vaynerchuk will help motivate you and give you some terrific ideas:

Important point: Even if you’re publishing with a big commercial company, you’ll have to do most of the marketing yourself. Here are links where you can learn more:

Miscellaneous things self-publishers should know:

  • be professional: install Word on your computer. Using another word-processing program might cause huge headaches later when you have to convert your files to Word.
  • sometimes formatting commands are hidden in the hard return at the end of a paragraph. If formatting problems are driving you crazy, try deleting the hard return at the end of the paragraph, and then re-insert it.
  • printed books should have an ISBN (a bookseller’s number – but e-books don’t need them). ISBNs are free at KDP, Lulu, and Smashwords. Those companies will be listed as the publisher, but you can also put a company name that you make up yourself on the title page. (For example, I use “Maple Leaf Press” for my books.)
  • If you’re using KDP, stick with their free ISBN. I made the mistake of purchasing my own ISBN for a book. It was a waste of money, and schools and libraries had difficulty ordering my book. You’ll save yourself some headaches by using the free ISBN.
  • On Word, you’ll find a ready-made copyright symbol © in the Insert pull-down menu.
  • headers and footers can be a huge headache. To get your page numbers and chapter headings right, insert Section Breaks and click (or unclick) “Same as Previous” in the header/footer menu. Sometimes “Same as Previous” appears (confusingly) in two places in Word. Be sure to find both of them, or your Section Breaks won’t work properly. You may have to unclick “Same as Previous” several times. (I wasted hours before I discovered this useful information!)
  • if you’re converting the file for a book manuscript into an ebook, begin by making a new copy of your manuscript file and saving it in .txt or Notepad. (Yes, you’ll lose all that lovely formatting!) Then redo your headings by using your style menu, with one important warning: Use the same typeface (such as Times New Roman, Arial, Garamond) for everything.
  • the style settings in your word processor are your best friends. Set them up carefully to get the look you want for your manuscript. Don’t use the tab key ever. Use the space bar only to put a space after a period (one, not two). Never, NEVER underline.
  • if you want to copy something another person has written, or a picture produced by someone else, you’ll need written permission unless the work is considered “fair use.” Often you’ll have to pay a fee.
  • another great resource for learning about copyright is posted at

Useful links:

Good luck, and have fun!

9 thoughts on “An Introduction to Self-Publishing

  1. Chris W.


    Wonderful information resource you’ve compiled there/here.

    I’m a photographer — part of the generation that grew up learning largely from Ansel Adams books, and trial and error… Do you have any advice or knowledge regarding self-publishing / POD of books composed not of text but almost entirely of photographs? Any special info would be most appreciated. THX, Chris.

  2. ballroomdancer Post author

    Hi, Chris – I’m so pleased you’re finding this website useful.
    I’m sorry that I don’t have any advice about publishing photographs. Kindle Direct Publishing is wonderful, but the quality of illustrations is spotty. The solution would be to investigate other print services. That means you would have to fill orders yourself. Do you know any organizations that specialize in photographers who publish? They might be your best resource. A librarian could help you get started. You could also talk to the head of a photography department in a college or university. Good luck! Being inspired by Ansel Adams and learning from his photographs has to be a great way to get started.

  3. Daniel Wright

    This is indeed an incredible article that you have shared with us, Thank you so much for the indept knowledge you have shared with us, this iwll surely help us in self publish our book without any further complications will surely share it with my friends and family as well.

  4. ballroomdancer Post author

    Daniel – thank you SO MUCH! It’s always wonderful to hear that information on my website is helping a real-world writer. Best wishes for success with your book!

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