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.


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. says

    Creative Penn you are the BEST! I’ve visited this website for all kinds of info and it’s never let me down. Many thanks, I’ve already linked you into my new blog.

    One note on cover design, I found a great illustrator and a wonderful cover designer on Fiverr – it took a lot of shopping around but it was well worth it!

    P.S. I wonder what the Creative Penn’s stance is on Kindle Select demanding exclusivity..?

  2. says

    Just had some trouble posing so hope this isn’t a duplicate! Anyway, thanks Creative Penn for all your wonderful (free) advice! – I’ve linked you into my new blog as a thank you hehe.

    Also, I’d like to recommend shopping around on Fiverr for an illustrator and a cover designer (don’t ask someone to do both for the same price – it’s never as good) – it took some shopping around but was WELL worth it!

    I’d like to ask C.Penn what she thinks about Smashwords asking Kindle to drop the exclusivity clause on their ‘Select’ programme.

  3. Shauna Raiger says

    There is a self-publishing site called I was wondering if anyone on this site had heard of it and what their opinions on it was. I am a new author looking to publish my own books, and I am not quite sure how to go about it.

  4. Inês says

    Hi. I’m Portuguese and I’ve just written a book the problem is I wrote it in english. So what should I do? Translate it?

  5. says

    Are you able to self publish through Amazon, Nook, iBooks, and Kobo all at once if you’re a new author? You keep your rights to the book when you self publish, correct?

      • says

        Thanks, Joanna. That blows up one of my fears/assumptions. I was under the impression that if I published on CreateSpace that I transfer all rights to Amazon for that work (and all characters in it).

        Or is there something special you have to tick to assure that does not happen?

        Anyway, it takes a load off the decision if I can simply pursue multiple routes.

        Time to keep sorting through your treasure trove. 😉

  6. says

    Hi, I teach at the college level and am interested in turning extensive notes already in Word or Publisher into a text……..Is it my fate that I might have to retype this material into a program such as Scrivner> And if so, how sophisticated is this program? Just thinking of the learning curve. Any other suggestions for my field would be appreciated….

  7. says

    Congratulations Joanna for your job.
    I am reading your book “How to Market a Book” and I am loving it! When I finish I’ll post a review.
    I’m a writer and a kind of TI consultant (Data base and Web developer). I have a paperback book published in Brazil (written in Brazilian Portuguese) and now starting the digital journey.
    Thank you for your tips and advices.
    Markus Thayer


  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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