The 3 Most Important Things I’ve Learned About Self-Publishing


“I’m going to write a book.”

Have you heard yourself saying this? Many have said these words but then haven’t taken the first step.

The first step up a long stairway.


Well, first you have to write your book. That sounds logical right? But you have to develop a schedule.

For some, they write best at night, for others, it’s the afternoon, others yet, early in the morning. It also depends on your day and responsibilities. But making it a priority to write daily is one of the best, although not the only, way to complete your manuscript.

Ok great, now you’ve set your schedule, stuck to it and written your book. Awesome!

So what’s next?

Ask a few people to read your book and give you feedback. Chances are they’ll make some great points and you may want to change a thing or two. I’m incredibly grateful for the feedback I received, and I changed some key things in my book to make it more reader-friendly.

The next step?

To decide if you want to self-publish or send query letters to publishers. Today many authors are deciding to self-publish. There are also hybrids, variations where an author has self-published and then worked out a deal with a publisher.

If you decide to self-publish, it’s important to understand you’ll be the one investing in your book, not a publisher. You’ll be either designing or paying a designer to design your Cover Art, you’ll be paying an editor to edit your manuscript and you’ll be deciding if you want to run Amazon Ads after it’s been published, among many other things. So it isn’t a light decision to make.

If you decide to self-publish the most important thing to do next is to get your own ISBN’s.

Companies like Amazon will offer to assign an ISBN to you, how nice of them right? But when Amazon assigns the ISBN, they keep the rights to that ISBN, which means you can’t transfer your book to another site, like Ingram Sparks.

When you attain your own ISBNs you retain the rights to your creative work. That means you can decide where and on how many sites you’d like to offer your book, i.e., Amazon, Kobo, Ingram Sparks, etc.

Wonderful, you now have your own ISBNs. It’s important to note you’ll need a different ISBN for the different formats of your book (i.e., eBook, paperback, hard cover, audiobook).

When I first self-published I signed up with Bookbaby because the quality of their book printing was fantastic. Later I learned that resellers, like Amazon, were purchasing my book from Bookbaby. That cuts into the author’s profits. So I moved my book (because I owned the ISBNs) over to Amazon directly.

Later I learned from other authors that Amazon’s POD (print on demand) quality was poor, and I also learned that usually book stores and libraries won’t purchase from Amazon as they receive better rates and discounts from Ingram Sparks.

So, because I own my ISBNs, I’m in the process of transferring my book to Ingram Sparks. This is called a “Title Transfer” and takes approximately thirty days.

What’s next?

Well the three most important things I’ve learned about self-publishing are avoid scrimping (in time or in funds) on: Cover Art, the Back of the Book Blurb, and getting your book edited.

I learned Cover Art is incredibly important. The Cover Art helps the reader determine what genre your book is at first glance, which helps them make the decision on whether to take the time to read the back of the book which then helps them to decide if they want to read your book, and hopefully leave a review.

Some disagree with me, but investing in paying a specialist who designs book Cover Art is a good way to go. Collaborating on your Cover Art is a great way to come up with something you’ll love that’ll also help potential readers make the decision to read your book.  

The Cover of my first book didn’t really capture the essence of the book which isn’t fair to a potential reader, because it’s my job to ensure the cover art accurately depicts the genre. I learned my Cover Art needed to be replaced when I experimented running a few Amazon Ads. More on that in another post.

Can you change your cover after you’ve self-published your book? Absolutely, and after working with various Book Cover Designers I found one I love collaborating with that, as a Freelance Editor, I refer clients to.

As an aside, here are the trim sizes based on the type of genre you’re writing. Can you change the trim size of your paperback and/or hardcover after you’ve self-published it? No, you can’t. Basically the industry standard is you can only change up to 30% of your book after you've self-published. A trim size is considered over 30%. Weird, I know, but that’s the rule. Not to worry, just get another ISBN and you can change the trim size.

I changed my paperback trim size from 6 X 9 to 5.5 X 8.5, so I needed to attain another ISBN for it.

Next, the Back of Book Blurb.

Super important. This is copywriting. Not all writers are copywriters.

The best guide I’ve found is this one “Mastering Amazon Descriptions: An Author’s Guide:  Copywriting for Authors”. You’ll pull your hair out writing your blurb, this is normal, but hopefully you keep at it until you have a great back of book blurb. If this is something that you’d like a specialist to write for you there are copywriters that will write blurbs for you, for a fee.

My first back of book blurb was awful, then I found Brian Meeks book and re-wrote it. Can you change your back of book blurb after self-publishing? Absolutely.

If you’re wondering if you should get your manuscript edited? Don’t wonder. Have it edited.

Again, some may disagree, but essentially if you self-publish a book full of spelling and/or grammar errors, or the pace is off, or anything else that pulls the reader out of your story (wrong tense, a sudden change from first person to third person, punctuation errors, etc.) you’re ensuring the reader won’t finish your book and will probably avoid reading anything you write in the future. They may even leave you a bad review.

A lot of writers will say, “But I’m a writer! I can catch all those types of errors…” No, you can’t. After writing a manuscript you’ll have read your manuscript thousands of times, and you aren’t a robot, you’ll have missed things. It’s okay. You’re human.

Tip: Before submitting your manuscript to an editor read it out loud. You’ll catch things you’ve missed. Not all of them, but you’ll catch a lot.

After you have it edited, the next step is to get some reviews. These are great for the back of your book and for your book listing on Amazon and other sites, like your website.

How do you get reviews? You can ask friends to give you a review (before publishing as you may want to include their reviews on your back of book blurb, and/or on your Goodreads and Amazon pages).

You can also submit your book to various reviewers who charge a fee to review your book, some on the expensive side.  There are also less expensive reviewers like Midwest Book Review and Donovan’s Literary Services.

Keep in mind, just because you’re paying for a review doesn’t mean you’ll receive a positive one.

Writing is no easy feat, but self-publishing is a great adventure that offers many opportunities to collaborate, have fun and learn. 

For me just writing a book was a big achievement, and I did have my manuscript professionally edited before self-publishing, but it wasn't until afterwards I learned the importance of Cover Art and copywriting. 

These are just some things I’ve learned along the way that’ll come in handy for my future books. Self-publishing is constantly changing so if you love learning and are open to exploring different ideas you’ll love the adventure.

How about you? Have you started writing your book yet?

Rayne DowellComment