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Publetariat Dispatch: How To Publish A Book 101

Publetariat: For People Who Publish!
In today’s Publetariat Dispatch, author and publishing consultant Joanna Penn covers the basics of publishing a book.

The rise and rise of self-publishing has meant an influx of writers into the market, and many established authors with back-lists are also joining the fun.

There is a LOT of information out there on how to publish your book, but I still get emails every day asking me how to do it.

I also get emails from people who have paid $20,000+, have been utterly ripped off and are devastated with the results. This happened to me once, although with a lesser financial impact, and I am passionate about making sure authors don’t fall into these traps.

With big name publishers like Penguin/Random House and Simon & Schuster signing up with Author Solutions to further exploit this kind of vanity publishing, you guys need to know there is a better and cheaper way.

I have a whole page on Publishing options here, but I thought a round-up post was called for. There are options below for publishing ebooks and print books, with DIY options and easy, paid services, so there’s something for everyone.

Before you publish

Yes, you need a great book, and I believe you need to go through an editing process, and also get a professional cover design.

If you have existing contracts for your books, and /or have been published in the past, check you have the rights before you publish. If you’re a new author, you have the rights and you can do what you like. You can publish in any or all of the following ways. There are no rules and you can sell globally! [woohoo!]

How to publish an ebook – the DIY option

(1) Format your book in Scrivener to create a .mobi (for Kindle), ePub for Kobo and Smashwords (very soon) or Word, PDF or loads of other formats.

Scrivener is only $45 and the compile function is just one part of the amazing writing software, which many authors (including me) swear by.

* Scrivener for Dummies – interview with Gwen Hernandez

(2) Publish on the ebook stores

For the best royalty rates, you want to go direct to the retailers if you can and the process is easy. There’s plenty of help on each of these sites.

Publish on Kindle at

Publish on Kobo at Kobo Writing Life. You can also watch/listen to this interview from Mark Lefebvre, Kobo’s Director of Self-Publishing here.

Publish on Barnes & Noble Nook at PubIt (still only for US citizens)

Publish on iBookstore, Nook, or any of the other retailers through Smashwords (free but not so easy to use) or BookBaby (costs but is much more user-friendly). Here’s a useful post on Bookbaby vs Smashwords so you can evaluate the services.

How to publish an ebook – the paid services option

I know that some people don’t want to mess around with ebook files. I used to feel like that too, but seriously, if you’re publishing a lot, then try Scrivener. It will save you loads of money. But if you definitely want help, there are lots of services that can do this, so you should shop around, check reviews and testimonials and ask other authors what they think.

I recommend BookBaby who offer packages to format and distribute your book. I use them myself and I am an affiliate. Here’s a short video chat with Brian Felsen from BookBaby about what they offer authors.

How to publish a print book

Most independent authors make more profit from ebooks, so you should only consider print if you really want it for personal reasons, or if you have a live platform to sell it (e.g. speakers). Then you should consider print-on-demand as the best option as you don’t have to pay upfront printing/storage or shipping costs. Only do a print run if you have the distribution sorted out – too many authors lose money this way (I certainly did!)

If you want a DIY option, and the best financial deal, then LightningSource is probably the best bet. However, you need print ready files for your cover and interior and you have to know what you’re doing.

If you want an easier DIY option, with wizards and extra help, then go with, Amazon’s own self-publishing company. They also have an option to make the ebook as well. If you have your own print-ready files, it is free to publish. Here’s a comparison post between Createspace and LightningSource.

If you want to do print properly, soak up everything you can from – one of the very best blogs for self-publishers.

In terms of premium services, there are more companies offering these every day, some of them at astronomical prices, so please be very careful.

Check out Amazon’s Createspace Premium prices here. Then compare what they offer to anything else you check out, since you know if you go with Createspace that you will be able to sell on Amazon.

If you like the look of a company, then check Preditors and Editors publishing guide for red flags, because a professional online site may still mean a rip-off.

Please note that Author Solutions, which is the service Random/Penguin & Simon & Schuster have chosen is marked: Not recommended. A company that owns or operates vanity imprints AuthorHouse, DellArte, iUniverse, Trafford Publishing, West Bow, and Xlibris. Here’s an article about their dishonest marketing tactics on Writer Beware,

What happens next?

Obviously once the book is available at all online book retailers, it won’t fly off the shelves without some help.

Read this post for starters: Help! My book isn’t selling. 10 questions to answer honestly if you aren’t making enough sales.

Then check out this page for more marketing ideas.

Need more help?

self publish a book

I teamed up with NY Times bestselling author CJ Lyons, who has now sold over 1 million self-published (indie) books, to create a multimedia course that gives you all the detailed help you need to successfully self-publish an ebook and a print book.

It includes behind the scenes videos of creating files using Scrivener and how we publish to all the various stores, as well as top tips for self-publishing, the worst mistakes authors make, how to evaluate print-on-demand companies, secrets of book cover design with Joel Friedlander from, pricing, piracy, maximizing your sales pages at the book retailers – and much more.

Read more about the course here (it’s just $99)

Recommended Books

If you want to read a book on the topic, then I recommend the following:

Let’s get digital: How to self-publish and why you should – David Gaughran

Self Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing – Catherine Ryan Howard

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – Guy Kawasaki

Scrivener for Dummies – Gwen Hernandez

Writing a novel with Scrivener – David Hewson

Want to join a community of active self-publishers who help each other out with information and advice? Check out the Alliance of Independent Authors. (I’m an active member and advisor). There’s also a great blog: How to successfully self-publish

Do you have any questions about publishing your book?

Please do leave questions or comments below. This is a community of LOTS of authors, new and experienced, so together we can likely answer everything! I’d also love people to recommend any services they have actually used and thought were good. (No posts from companies though – only authors!)


This is a reprint from Joanna Penn‘s The Creative Penn.


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