Self-Publishing For Dummies book cover

Self-Publishing For Dummies

By: Jason R. Rich Published: 09-05-2006

Thinking about self-publishing your book? This no-nonsense guide walks you through the entire process of going it alone  

If you have a great idea for a book or informative content to share with an audience or have written a book and want to bypass traditional publishing, you’re in the right place. Aspiring and experienced writers alike will benefit from this user-friendly and detailed guide with coverage on the self-publishing process from preparing your manuscript and creating the perfect title to selling the final product.  

Self-Publishing For Dummies lays out the pros and cons of self-publishing, helps you avoid the most common mistakes made by authors and self-publishers, and makes you aware of legal issues associated with book publishing. You’ll learn the basics of researching to include the right details, what the parts of a book are (from the copyright page to the index and bibliography), and when to edit your own work and when to hire a professional editor. 

When it comes to the business aspects of self-publishing your book and building your own publishing company, you’re in charge of each exciting step from naming your business, to writing the business plan, managing the finances and expenses, and who to call on for expert advice. It’s up to you to decide on a title for your book, as well as the layout and design. Once your book is complete, you’ll have it printed — through traditional, non-traditional, or on-demand means.  

You’ll discover how to 

  • Apply for and obtain an ISBN 

  • Copyright your work to protect it 

  • Negotiate with and manage vendors, including printers, designers, and copyeditors 

  • Secure a warehouse to store your book  

  • Work with distributors to get your book to your audience 

  • Set prices and monitor inventory 

  • Write a press release and other marketing materials to promote your book 

  • Collaborate with the media and publicists to build awareness for your book  

  • Build an online presence with a website, newsletters, blog, or podcast 

  • Create and sell additional products related to your book 

Additionally, you can read about ten common self-publishing mistakes – and how to avoid them – and the best resources for self-publishers. Get your copy of Self-Publishing For Dummies today. 

Articles From Self-Publishing For Dummies

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6 results
Self-Publishing For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 03-03-2022

Turning a great idea into a book through self-publishing is an ambitious project, so be sure to understand the principal steps involved in the process. If you need help with certain aspects of self-publishing, learn how to interview and hire a freelancer to make sure things are done efficiently and correctly.

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Earn More Royalties via Self-Publishing

Article / Updated 08-10-2021

Major publishers typically pay authors a recoupable advance, plus a pre-determined royalty on book sales as compensation. Writers who self-publish their books, however, must cover all of their project's development, printing, distribution, and marketing costs out-of-pocket. The profit potential, however, can be significantly greater. Instead of receiving a 25-cent, 50-cent, or even a dollar royalty for each copy of your book sold, a self-published author can earn 40 to 60 percent of the book's cover price and sometimes even more. So, if your book sells for $15 per copy and you sell just 1,000 copies, the profit is between $6,000 and $9,000. Conversely, if you're an author whose book is published by a major publishing house, you earn only a 25-cent royalty per book. If that book only sells 1,000 copies, your earnings are a mere $250. As initial sales are generated from your book, you potentially have to repay your outstanding advance to the publisher. (If the book doesn't sell, however, the advance doesn't need to be repaid.) Even if that's been done, your literary agent often takes between 15 and 20 percent of your earnings as their commission. If the major publishing house sells tens of thousands of copies of your book, as the author, you stand to earn a decent income. This, however, doesn't always happen. Another benefit to self-publishing is that you don't have to wait three to six months to receive royalty checks from the publisher. Authors who have their book published by a major publishing house often have to wait for the money they've earned, but self-published authors tend to be paid a lot faster, especially on copies of the book they sell directly to customers. Self-published authors also aren't subject to a withholding of royalties as a reserve against returns for up to six additional months. As a self-publisher you stand to earn more money per copy of your book sold, but it's also considerably harder, but not impossible, for self-publishers to get distribution in major bookstores.

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Choosing the Right Content for Your Self-Published Book

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

To ensure that your book targets the appropriate audience, provides information of interest, and stays on target in terms of the content, ask yourself these questions: Specifically, what am I trying to teach the reader? Am I writing something that my target audience may be interested in? Do my readers find the information useful and/or entertaining? Am I taking into account the information or knowledge the reader already has and then building on it? How does my target audience use the information? Is the information informative, well written, and entertaining? Have I explained key concepts in a way my readers can understand? Do the examples, artwork, charts, or graphics I plan to incorporate into the book help convey the information? If I'm writing fiction, does my reader relate to the characters, plot, and subplots? Does my story tap into the reader's imagination and entertainment them? After you become familiar with your audience, you're in a much better position to choose what content is most appropriate. When it comes to choosing content for your book, consider what the reader may already know, and then slowly build on that knowledge. As necessary, provide the background information your readers need to understand fully whatever it is you're writing about, even if it's a novel. Writing a full-length book is a process. Most writers create multiple drafts of their manuscript prior to getting it published. As you review each draft, follow these tips: Rewrite sections as needed. Delete unnecessary information. Fine-tune your approach to cover information. Carefully analyze each chapter to ensure that the entire manuscript flows smoothly and achieves its objectives. Being an expert in your field and performing research to develop the content of your book is important. You may have to write several drafts of your manuscript before you're confident that you've successfully found the best way to communicate the information that's in your head.

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Avoiding Self-Publishing Mistakes

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

If you're about to self-publish your first book, you can make a handful of mistakes that can mean the difference between a successful publishing venture and a total bomb. Careful planning and implementing your own common sense are two ingredients that can help guarantee your success. Not targeting your audience appropriately In addition to ensuring that the content within your book is appropriate for your intended readers, craft the language and vocabulary to appeal to your readers and to be easily understandable. A fun, upbeat book about how to create a scrapbook or plan a family vacation shouldn't read like a history textbook or scientific research paper. Know your audience and write specifically for those people. Inaccurate information, a lack of organization, and poor writing Providing inaccurate, incomplete, outdated, or misleading information to your reader damages your credibility and takes away value from your book. Avoid this mistake by doing proper research. Even if you're writing fiction, you want your plots and characters to be realistic or believable. Proper organization makes your book easier to read. The content flows in a more logical order and it's easier to understand by the reader. The trick to developing a well-organized book is to begin by developing an extremely detailed outline before you start writing. Just because you've decided to write a book doesn't automatically mean that you're a talented writer. Many authors spend years fine-tuning their craft. If you feel that you don't have the skills to create a well-written, full-length manuscript, seriously consider hiring a co-author who's a professional writer, a ghostwriter, and/or a really good editor to work with you. A lack of attention to detail and editing A well-written book contains absolutely no spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, inaccurate information, misprints, incorrect details (such as incorrect names, phone numbers, Web sites, statistics, chapter references, facts, or figures) or mislabeled figures and captions. In addition to proofreading your own work, hiring a professional editor to review your manuscript before it goes to press is crucial. Inefficiently using money and resources As a self-published author, all the expenses related to creating, editing, laying out, printing, distributing, advertising, marketing, and promoting your book come out of your pocket. Careful budgeting and knowing what expenses you may incur during each stage of the self-publishing process helps you best utilize the money that you have available when it comes to publishing your book. Implementing poor cover design and copy Having a well-written book with a poorly written and designed cover or a bad title has a negative impact on sales. Conversely, having an amazing cover and catchy title on an otherwise average book may dramatically improve sales. And hiring a professional graphic artist or experienced book cover designer to create your book's cover is an essential piece of your puzzle. Unless you have professional graphic design experience, hire someone who does! Choosing the wrong printing method For many self-published authors, Print-On-Demand (POD) publishing offers the perfect solution. It's inexpensive, relatively quick and allows virtually anyone with a good book idea to get published. POD has many benefits, but it's not the ideal publishing solution for everyone. Other traditional printing options, such as offset printing and eBook publishing opportunities, may be more appropriate based on your goals. A lack of comprehensive distribution In addition to writing an awesome book and heavily promoting it, the third key ingredient for success is making sure that your target audience can find and buy it. Based on how you're going to publish your book, figure out the best and most achievable distribution methods, and then make full use of them. Wasting the potential of online distribution Online sales, whether it's through your own Web site or the well-established online booksellers, such as and Barnes &, are extremely cost effective and powerful distribution channels that can't be ignored by self-publishers. These days, more and more people are Internet savvy and finding ordering books online convenient. Improperly planning the publicity and marketing campaign Writing what can potentially be a bestseller and publishing it is certainly important, but making sure that potential readers know about your book's existence is equally important when it comes to generating sales. Many self-published authors do an excellent job creating and publishing their book, but inadvertently they forget about marketing and advertising, or they don't realize the importance of these efforts. A comprehensive and well-timed advertising, marketing, and public relations campaign is crucial for a book's success. If you don't have the advertising, marketing, and PR savvy to create, launch and manage an effective, well-planned, and comprehensive campaign, hire experienced experts to help. Bad timing throughout the self-publishing process As you complete the various steps in the publishing process, pay careful attention to scheduling, lead times, and deadlines. Rushing steps, cutting corners, or taking shortcuts is a surefire way to failure and making costly mistakes. Timing also refers to when your book actually gets published and becomes available to readers online or at retail. Is there a specific date, season, holiday, or time of year when interest in your book may be stronger? Choosing the most appropriate release date is essential, especially if the book somehow ties into or relates to a specific date, holiday, or season. Most people aren't going to buy a Christmas cookbook in July.

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The Major Steps in the Self-Publishing Process

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

If you have a great idea for a book and good writing skills, you can have a book professionally published and made available to the general public. The process is called self-publishing and it’s an involved project. The following are the major steps involved with the self-publishing process. The type of book, your time and financial commitment, and the publishing process used will affect the order and time it takes for to you complete these main steps: Develop an awesome book idea. Research the idea to make sure that it’s viable as a full-length book. Define your target audience. Create a detailed outline for the book’s content. Research the book’s potential content. Write the manuscript. Establish your publishing company (if applicable). Have the manuscript edited. Choose a self-publishing option, such as offset printing or Print-On-Demand (POD), and then hire a printer and/or publisher. Apply for an ISBN, copyright, and other book-specific information, if necessary (this step may be handled for you, depending on the publishing process you choose and the company you work with). Set the cover price for your book. Select a publication date. Have the manuscript’s interior pages designed and laid out. Hire a graphic designer to create your book’s front and back covers. Develop press materials for your book. Plan and implement a comprehensive marketing, public relations, and advertising campaign. Develop a Web site to promote your book. Begin pre-selling your book (pre-selling includes sending out press materials, promoting the book to distributors, lining up booksellers to sell the book, taking out ads, and so on). Have your book listed with online retailers. Publish the book and ship it to consumers, booksellers, retailers, and distributors (as appropriate). Continue promoting and marketing your book as you take orders.

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Hiring Freelancers for Your Self-Publishing Project

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

You may not have the time or knowledge to cover all aspects of self-publishing a book, so interviewing and hiring a freelancer is a great option for ensuring that each step of the self-publishing process is handled correctly. Some freelancers you may need to hire include a ghostwriter, an editor, a graphic designer for layout and/or cover design, a proofreader, salespeople, a public relations/advertising specialist, and a Web site designer. Ask the following questions when interviewing the freelancers to ensure they have experience working on book projects similar to yours: What previous experience do you have? Have you worked on similar book projects in the past? What are your fees? How do you want to be paid (by the hour or at a pre-defined set rate)? Can you complete the necessary work in a timely manner (based on the author’s publication schedule)? Can you provide samples of your previous work or list projects you’ve worked on in the past and provide references? Here are some additional tips for hiring qualified freelancers: Make sure that the freelancer understands your book’s target audience and knows how to reach them appropriately. Review education, training, and past work experience. Check references. Review the freelancer’s portfolio of work. Negotiate the price or fees in advance. Payment can be based on a flat fee or by the hour. Get a written estimate from the freelancer about the time commitment necessary. Ensure that the freelancer has time in his schedule to work on your project that matches your time frame. Determine if you can work with the people you hire. Freelancers shouldn’t compromise your creative vision, so from a creative and personality standpoint, try to pick people you can mesh with.

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