How To Publish A Book 101

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.

how to publish a bookThere 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.

[Please note: this post is updated over time so the information is current]

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.

editing ARKANE

Some of my own editing

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

scrivener kindle kobo smashwords bookbaby(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. I also recommend (and use) the brilliant Learn Scrivener Fast video training program which includes formatting videos.

(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 NookPress (which opened up to UK and some European countries in March 2014)

Publish on iBooks through iTunes Connect

You can also publish to all these stores and more through Smashwords (free with % royalty per book sales) or BookBaby (costs upfront but 100% royalty paid to author, or paid option with % royalty) or Draft2Digital (free with % royalty). 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.

Here are some options:

How to publish a print book

lightningsource createspaceMost 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.

If you’re going to produce a print book, then also consider interior book design. You can get a Book Construction Blueprint and reasonably priced Word templates to DIY for Print on Demand services through Book Design Templates.

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?

help buttonObviously 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?

TheCreativePenn_Course Buttons2I 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

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

Choosing a self-publishing service – Edited by Orna Ross from the Alliance of Independent Authors

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!)

Top image: Big Stock Photo Ebook reader and books,  Bigstock Help button,

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  1. Brittany Deal says

    How do I find someone to do the interior layout of my (non-fiction) e-book?

    I am looking to find someone who can help me make the layout of my e-book beautiful. For example, I want the headings to be in color, I want to have arrows in the book, beautiful photos, tables, factoid boxes and margin copy.

    I’m assuming this will need to be done in Adobe InDeign, I just don’t know where to find a freelancer for this. Is is best to go with an author services company, post a job to Elance or Odesk, or are there other options? Also, any tips on appropriate rates for this type of service?

    Thanks for the help!

    P.S. Joanna, thanks for all that you do. Your website is amazing.

    • says

      Hi Brittany, there are several resources I recommend:

      1) – lots of tips and resources on this as well as pre-designed layouts you can buy and do yourself

      2) A couple of people I know who do this: and

      but yes, of course, you can check Elance etc. Formatting prices will differ depending on how complicated it is, so I can’t quote figures. All the best!

    • says

      Hi Brittany,
      I realize that it is a little bit late to answer since your comment was already posted a few month ago. Yet, I guess it’s never too late and other readers may profit from this as well. There is an alternative to Adobe’s InDesign, that is probably one of the most underrated software applications. I’m talking about Serif’s PagePlus–current version is PPX7– and you should have a look at it. Apart from its capability to do the same job ID does, its price tag is a fraction of what ID cost.

      I don’t know whether Joanna has rules about promoting set up for this site, so I need to be careful. I just came to this site today and I hope Joanna will have mercy with me. :-)

      However, I work with PP for many years already, and exclusively since its version 9. Why and how is a long story and really doesn’t belong here. If you, or anybody else want to know more about PagePlus, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.

      BTW, I’m not one of Serif’s employees. Just an editor and (now) freelance writer who published technical manuals in print and as PDF for years. In case you’re still looking for a solution for your book, I may be able to help you with it if you want to. I check the option for comments via email, so I can follow up on this.
      - Hans

  2. Abby says

    Hi Joanna,

    I understand the importance of print on demand, but I want a hardcover book (something that create space does not offer), who is the best option for this?

    Thank you in advance for your time in answering my question.

    • says

      Hi Alyscia, I haven’t heard of that site, but you can compare their prices and terms & conditions yourself to BookBaby.
      For a photography book, I always recommend as they have specific software for photobooks, or I think Lulu also does now.
      All the best with it, Joanna

    • Abbs says

      I know this is over a year later, so it might not apply anymore, but I have my eBooks published through First Edition Design Publishing, and I couldn’t be happier. For my print books, I go with CreateSpace. Getting back to First Edition, for only $149.00 they do everything for you. There is no formatting your manuscript prior to submitting to them, just some basic guidelines. They do everything for you. They also have the best distribution hands-down, as my books are everywhere! In regards to your book cover, I do mine myself, but you can find someone on Fiver to create a nice cover for your eBook, as well as your print book for about twenty bucks. Like I said, it may be way too late, but if you’re not happy with the eBook publisher you went with, next time try First Edition Design Publishing. Jessica, Karen, and Debra are fantastic to work with and don’t treat you like a number.
      My two cents worth…

  3. says

    Hi Joanna,

    I’m doing exactly what you said I should do “Only do a print run if you have the distribution sorted out”. I actually read this a few weeks ago, after I already started with printing. Do you recommend sending copies to a distribution company rather than having my books in a climate control storage facility? If so, what distribution company do you recommend?

    • says

      Hi Alyscia,
      Distribution is very expensive for independent authors, so I don’t recommend it – unless you have understand all the costs involved e.g. 50% discount for booksellers + distributor % + returns + shipping. It’s really only viable for publishers with larger print runs and existing relationships. Personally, I can’t recommend any as it is not a solution I would consider for my own books – BUT/ I would love to hear if it has worked for anyone in particular and what the financial return was. I would stick with print on demand.
      Best to talk to the printer about that, if you have already gone down that route.
      All the best with it.

  4. Christine says

    Hi Joanna,

    Your blog is so helpful to those of us who are new to the business. Thank you for all that you do to help us get started.

    I have a question. I have a couple of children’s books I want to publish. I have an illustrator lined up. But I need a resource for self-publishing children’s books. For example, how to incorporate the illustrations. Can you direct me?

    Many thanks,

  5. Melissa says

    I have been writing some children stories since I’ve been going through chemo therapy. Iam a stay at home mom. I also do my own illustrations. Im looking for a cheap easy way to get my stories/slash books out where I can make some money and not hurt my pocket

  6. Claire Gray says

    I have written a true story that involves a man who has been the victim of a sociopath within a marriage. I am afraid to self publish for libel reasons, although everything is true, the lady concerned could create many problems if she recognised herself. I have changed names and places, however some scenarios would be obvious to her if she ever discovered the book. I do not want the problems that could occur in order to defend the truth within the book. How do I get around this please Thanks Claire

  7. says

    Hi Joanna,

    Thanks for the info listed here, its looks very helpful. I am wanting to print my book of poems and a songbook.

    You have given me info to think about and research, much appreciated


    Perth Australia

  8. says

    I am looking to publish my book this year. It’s my first go. I am considering using Bookbaby for ebooks and Createspace for a print arrangement. Any tips, caveats, or considerations a first time self-publisher should consider? Thanks!
    Phillip Davis

  9. says

    Hi Phillip,

    I have only recently started publishing – just one book and one “booklet” so far. I have been using Amazon for both print and Kindle. If you start an Author’s page with them, the books you publish through them are shown, both print and digital. Also, when people find your book on Amazon, both editions are listed.
    Personally, I feel it might catch someone who is interested but doesn’t want print as well as one who wants print, not digital. Also, Kindle apps are available across several platforms.

    Whatever you decide, I hope it goes well for you.



    • says

      Hi Rosemary,

      DIY stands for Do It Yourself, and is not only used for self-publishing. It’s a generic term for anything that you do yourself instead of buying a related service or product.


  10. Jeff Bach says

    So I did a search on this entry and did not come up with my word. That word = Xinxii and it is another publishing route that I find quite intriguing. For those of us in the US, Xinxii is a route into many ebook stores “found” on the Euro continent. German, French, Spanish and more. Some of their agreements may require that your ebook have an ISBN. I have emailed Xinxii a couple different and have quickly received responses even though there is a six or seven hour difference, so I have to give a shout out to Matthias and Patricia for answering my questions so fast! I’m sure many of you on the Euro slab of granite already know about it, but for me here in the US it gives me a shot a being a “global” author!

    • Jeff Bach says

      To be clear, my ebook is in English only at this point. My goal is to reach the English reading population overseas. Would love to offer translated works, but so far my topic is a very narrow specialty (Making Bent Shaft Laminated Canoe Paddles) and I’m not seeing a large enough demographic to justify the expense of translation. Hopefully, English readers in the EU are interested though!

  11. says

    Jeff, you’re absolutely right about XinXii. It’s a pretty good chance for those who want to break in the European market with their books and not just depend on Amazon or Kobo. Amazon is great but XinXii is a good addition if people are not exclusively dealing with Amazon.

    Back in Germany, those authors who don’t speak enough English, use where everything is in German only. Just like Amazon with their sites offered in German or English. The majority of Germans like to read books in their own language.

    I created an account with XinXii to get familiar with their procedures for the German market. BTW, according to several different sources, the German book market is the third largest right now. Agreed, your book is very specific because it’s non-fiction, but fictions has a large opportunity there.
    It all started in my case, when I saw a grammar error on their English website, let them know about it and they corrected it within hours. Got me some nice ‘thank you’ email in German and the offer to be welcomed on their site at any time. It sometimes pays off to be bilingual. :-)

  12. Marcia Holah says

    Thanks for your email today about which tools you use as a writer. Great stuff!!! Brilliant and helpful suggestions. I am just about to purchase Scrivener and I am ploughing my way through all your links for more great ideas.
    Your site is a font of wonderful hints and tips for us newbies.
    I’m addicted. Keep up the good work!!!

  13. says

    A couple of basic but important questions. How do I find a good E book maketing person to help market my E. book on Amazon and Smashwords etc. How do I find a good editor for my next book which is romance fiction?
    Thanks so much. Your information is so useful.

  14. says

    I am the author of Um, Like…OM: A Girl Goddesses Guide to Yoga (Little, Brown & Co. 2005). The rights were recently reverted back to me, and since I still get requests for printed copies from yoga studios nationally and internationally, I’d like to do a re-print of the book (with some edits and updates). Print-on-demand seems like a great option, but I also do not have any of the files for the work (just hard copies). I’d like to keep the cover and inside artwork all the same. What is my best course of action to print more copies? Any advice is greatly appreciated!!
    Evan :)

    • says

      HI Evan, this is the site for converting hard copies into files:
      You’ll need to check whether you have the rights to the cover and interior artwork. It may be that the text rights reverted to you, but those may remain with the publisher. Recommend you check before trying to use them yourself.

  15. Mark Cundy says

    I have been drawing up a plan for publishing my thriller – which I am now revisiting after reading up on the excellent info on this site!!
    One query I had is about setting up as a sole trader/ltd company and all the tax stuff – especially as I still have a full-time job.
    Do I need to do this? Or can I just as a private individual start publishing e-books? I appreciate the odds on huge successes are slim, but am a stickler for ‘doings thing s properly’

    • says

      Hi Mark,
      You can just start publishing as yourself, and when you make some money, just declare that income on your tax return.
      If you want to make this your business, and intend to write a lot of books, and grow the income substantially, then yes, definitely look at how you want to do this in terms of structures. But it’s not a necessity.
      My own personal approach is to prepare for success, so I have a Limited Company, but I do this for my fulltime income and am in the minority :) all the best, Joanna


  1. [...] This will get you started. (You can also refer to my website; I have a page with a list of blog posts that may be of interest for writers.) For more detailed information on any of these processes, there are plenty of other people out there—Jane Friedman, the folks at Books & Such—who are also blogging really useful information. Joanna Penn has a practical post she calls “How to Publish a Book 101.” [...]

  2. […] This will get you started. (You can also refer to my website; I have a page with a list of blog posts that may be of interest for writers.) For more detailed information on any of these processes, there are plenty of other people out there—Jane Friedman, the folks at Books & Such—who are also blogging really useful information. Joanna Penn has a practical post she calls “How to Publish a Book 101.” […]

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