Man in bookChristopher Kimball Bigelow—a talented writer and entrepreneur who founded Zarahemla books—shared the following tips for self-publishing. It covers not only the basics about getting your book ready but gives helpful insight into the professional end of things, including publicity and promotion. Below are excerpts from Chris’s article, which originally appeared at

Self-publishing—if you are worried about seeing any financial return on your time and monetary investment—is the same as starting a small business. Having realistic expectations about the work required, the multiple hats you’ll don, and the learning curve you may face will help you stay on target with your goals and not become disheartened. The information below will map out those steps so you can get a realistic sense of what you’ll need to do and how long it might take.

Reader Reviews

Once you’ve completed your manuscript, get some good readers to review it. Think of readers who have experience with your genre and can intelligently point out major problems; writers who have successfully published in your genre are another good option. Not only can they help you improve your book as needed, but they can provide cover blurbs, future Amazon reviews, and so on. At this point, you may also want to hire a professional developmental editor to help you really hone the content and maximize its marketability.

Book with butterfliesProfessional Page Layout and Copyediting

When your words are ready to be placed into actual book format, you should use good typesetting software (preferably InDesign) or hire someone who knows how. After all, you want your book to look professional, not homemade. Also, you will definitely need to arrange for quality copyediting and proofreading! Mistakes will annoy your readers and reduce your credibility. If you put out a book with errors or rookie mistakes, people will point that out in online reviews. 

Cover Design

While your interior layout is underway, you’ll also want to arrange for the best, most professional-looking, marketable cover possible. Unless you happen to be a skilled graphic designer, plan on hiring a designer for your cover. Readers can instantly sense an amateur cover, and you’ll lose sales.

Letters on wallArrange Printing and Distribution

Today’s print-on-demand (POD) industry is fantastic—the books look totally legit, and yet they can be printed literally one at a time. To use print-on-demand, you’ll need to provide the company you use with files of your book’s interior and cover in the correct format, which can be tricky if you’re new to publishing. You’ll also need to set up your ISBN and establish yourself as a business, which might include registering your business name with the state, getting a federal tax ID number and state sales tax account, and getting a business license. You’ll also need to manage your print-on-demand account(s). Also, be aware that any income you receive from publishing will likely need to be reported to the IRS as self-employment income.

You can master this learning curve on your own, as many authors have, but for very reasonable costs, there are also a good number of experienced professionals out there who can do all of it for you or show you how—saving you time, stress, and helping you avoid potentially costly errors.

eBook and Audiobook

You should absolutely do an eBook edition of your book for all major formats, including Amazon’s Kindle, Apple’s iBook, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, and others (some people do their Kindle version first in order to take advantage of Kindle promotions, which don’t allow you to have the book in other formats during the promotion). Again, you can go online and learn how to do the eBook formatting and file submissions on your own, or you can hire someone to do this for you (this service is also reasonably priced with most vendors).

As far as audiobooks, these can be a little pricey to produce, but if you’ve got the budget, it can be quite satisfying and potentially expand your audience to make a professional audiobook available on Amazon, iTunes, and

PublicityAdvance Publicity

While you’re getting your book ready, you’ll want to think about how much platform development and advance publicity you want to do. If you want to do real national marketing for your book, the timeline can be tricky—the process kicks into gear after  your book is mostly prepared for release (edited, designed, and cover ready) but at least four months before  your book actually comes out. This allows time for you to mail out advance copies for reviews, contact the media for potential coverage, and so on. If you feel your book has a large potential audience and you want to execute a professionally effective campaign, you may want to hire a book publicist. 

Ongoing Promotion

Once your book is actually released, promoting it is one of the hardest aspects of publishing. More books than ever are being published, and people have more entertainment options than ever, so the challenge is to stand out. But it can be done! Many authors are being successful with a little effort and realistic expectations. Plan for a learning curve and to invest some time in the process (or to invest in professional help). You’ll need to be patient, and focus on a few key things:

  • Writing more books—and some shorter freebies—to draw in an audience and have something to offer them after their first exposure to your work. For a fiction series, you should ideally have the entire series written and ready to be published simultaneously.
  • Learning about keyword optimization and pricing strategies.
  • Learning about email lists/book promotion sites
  • Learning options for effectively marketing your genre/topicand slowly building on those foundations over time.

Chris Bigelow

Christopher Kimball Bigelow runs Zarahemla Books—a small, traditional indie press—and also provides publishing services to independent authors. He is the author of seven books and has served as an editor of several periodicals, including the Ensign, Irreantum, and The Sugar Beet. He earned a BFA in writing, literature, and publishing from Emerson College and an MA in creative writing from Brigham Young University.

You can access his website at

(Photos: man in book, Christine Ellger; book with butterflies,; letters on wall,; publicity, PR Daily; Christopher Kimball Bigelow,


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