Digital Self-Publishing Checklist

August 13, 2012 | Writing Business, Indie Publishing | 2 comments

The first step is having a manuscript that you feel good about – good enough that you would send it off to agents or editors.

self-publishing checklist

Self-Publishing Checklist:

1.) Hire an editor.

I know you just went through multiple rounds of critiques. Trust me. It isn’t enough. You still need to hire someone who is unbiased and finds errors for a living. Even after you do this, my guess is, mistakes will sneak through, but as a professional writer you are going to do your darndest to catch every error you can.

To decide what kind of editor you need, ask yourself a few questions. When you went through all of those critiques, what kind of feedback did you get? Were there big-picture issues? Not enough conflict? Motivation that readers didn’t understand or sympathize with? Characters no one liked? If this is the case, you need a big picture editor. Big picture editors will charge more, because they have to spend more time on your book, but if you have never been edited before (by a professional editor) you need to start here – at least for your first few books.

If you have been edited before and know that your work holds up structure/big picture wise you can skip to someone who will work more as a copy editor – someone who checks for typos, comma placement, consistency, etc.

And you may need to hire both of these – one person to give the big picture edit and then another to go back through when you are done with that and flag all those silly typos, etc. that we all make.

2.) Hire a cover designer or acquire your own royalty-free art and start designing.

You can actually do this before your book is complete, but you might want to wait – just in case things really go south with this story. I said hire or do yourself. Which you choose is going to depend on your personal skill and taste level. Unless you work as a graphic artist though, I really recommend hiring someone who knows what they are doing.

Covers are the most important piece of marketing your book will have. They deserve some $$ to get your book its best start.

Also, I hate to say it, but many authors do not think like marketers and get WAY too caught up in making the book look exactly like some scene or another rather than designing something that sells. Forget the minutia. Get a cover that sells.

3.) Register Your Copyright.

Technically your work is copyrighted as soon as you complete it. However, if you register your copyright with the Copyright Office within 5 years of publication it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law and registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in successful litigation. In other words, it will be easier for you to defend your copyright and you may get some of the lawsuit costs returned to you.

Plus registering doesn’t cost much and you can do it online.  (You do want your manuscript complete before you do this.)

4.) Gather/Create Marketing Materials for Formatting and Uploading.

These include back cover copy, keywords, author bio, bibliography, title, and anything else you might want to include in your ebook file such as links to websites or other books.

5.) Hire a Formatter or Format Your eBook.

Formatting a basic ebook without a lot of images, tables, etc. is (in my opinion) easy. If you hire a formatter, be prepared to send them most of the information you got together in step 4, your clean (ready to publish) manuscript and your cover.

6.) Get a Tax ID/Employer Identification Number. (optional)

I like to do this because it keeps me from having my social security number entered all over the web. It’s easy to get a Tax ID number online. (Unless you have employees, etc. this is not necessary. Check the IRS for requirements.)

7.) Set up Accounts at Various Online Retailers.

The list of places where you can upload and sell your books yourself continues to grow. A few places you may want to consider are:


Barnes & Noble


Kobo/Writing Life

As you do this, remember that you are entering sensitive data into these sites AND will hopefully be receiving money from these sites either as direct deposits into your checking accounts or via PayPal. Use a SECURE password. Do not use something like “writer” or “password” or anything that is all lower case levels with no special characters. Check out these tips on creating secure passwords. You also might try a phrase that means something to you while substituting special characters for letters. Example: Iwriteforbucks becomes 1Wr1t34Buck5 Secure and something you can remember is the key.

8.) Upload Your Completed Files.

Each site is different, but I have faith in you – you can figure out. Do remember to have all of that marketing information that you created at step 4 ready. Also decide ahead of time on PRICE and DRM.

9.) Start Plotting Your Next Book!


Self-Publishing Checklist, Other questions to consider:

Do you need/want an ISBN?

You do not need an ISBN to publish at most online retailers. And, if you upload/distribute through Smashwords, you can get a free ISBN through them for the few places you do, or buy one through them for an affordable $10. Aside from getting one for those couple of places, the only other reason to have an ISBN for an ebook is that it gives you one identification number to tie your sales number together for places like the NY Times and USA Today. If making one of these lists is important to you, you may want to invest in an ISBN.

What about reviewers? How do I get reviews?

It can be hard to get reviews for indie books. I have had good luck contacting readers directly. One way to do this is through Facebook, Twitter and Linked in. Realize though that you are not guaranteed a GOOD review. If you would like reviews on blogs, do some research at these same places and places like the Kindle Boards to find reviewers who may agree to review your book. Again, remember they do not have to review your book. Be polite!

What will hiring an editor cost?

This depends on the type of edit and the particular editor. $1 to $1.50 a page is reasonable (and what I have paid) for a good copy edit. You may find someone cheaper you are happier with or someone who charges more.




  1. Chris

    You make it sound so easy, Lori! ;-) I’m sure it’s not, but thanks for giving me a good checklist to go by.

  2. Lori

    It IS easy! :) But first time you will have questions. Feel free to come back and post them.


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