The Self-Publishing To-Do List: Have You Considered These 3 Steps?

There are a lot of reasons to self-publish. You retain all the money from your book’s sales. You have final say over every edit and every illustration. You don’t have to wait for a publisher to tell you yea or nay. You can write it and print it whenever you want.

But really, it’s not that easy. There are a number of steps you’ll need to take once you’ve decided to go the self-publishing route, from making a budget to picking a publisher. Here are three steps on the self-publishing to-do list you may not have considered.

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Step 1: Make a budget.

Self-publishing can be incredibly expensive. Thousands of dollars expensive. Reedsy, a website that helps match writers to editors and other publishing professionals, has a fantastic infographic that goes through the major costs of publishing—everything from a developmental edit to the cover design to the interior design. They also have a pricing calculator toward the bottom of the page that can help you estimate how much your book will cost to publish on your own, based on genre and word count.

One interesting fact they’ve found in their research is nonfiction books can be up to 40 percent more expensive to publish, primarily because you’ll want to hire someone to fact-check your research and statistics. Romantic fiction is the least expensive genre.

When you set out to write a book, chances are your first thought won’t be “I should set aside some money.” In fact, practical thoughts like, “Damn, this is going to be expensive” really shouldn’t be on your mind at all, as they might demotivate you from pushing onward in your goals.

But if self-publishing has always been a dream of yours, it’s important you consider the cost, and eventually set some cash aside. Sure, you can always take your Word doc down to FedEx and have them print up a copy you can give to your mom, but if you want a beatiful, error-free product with a high-quality look, you’re going to have to cough up some change.

Step 2: Keep track of your research.

Speaking of nonfiction, if your book requires any research at all, whatever you do, don’t forget to write down your sources.

Remember writing research papers for school? You’d go to the library or onto EBSCO and find sources to make your case. The worst possible reality was realizing, in the middle of writing your paper, that you’d forgotten to write down the citation information for one of your sources. I can remember spending hours, once, just trying to re-find a source whose quote I’d built an entire paragraph around and neglected to cite.

In our last blog, 3 Tech Tools to Make Writing Your Book a Little Easier, we talked about Scrivener, a program that gives you room to store your research as you write. Of course, you don’t need a fancy program to record all your references (though it is nice to have). A Google doc on the cloud with titles, author names, and links would be sufficient. Or, for those who want something more tangible, a physical file with printed-out pages or hand-copied notes would also work.

The main points to consider are legibility, accuracy, and thoroughness. In other words, you have to be able to read and understand your notes when you look back later. What’s written down must be correctly summarized, or better yet, quoted (and attributed). And finally, the citation you’ve written down must include all the necessary relevant information—not only so you can locate the source later, but so a proofreader or reader can as well.

Step 3: Think about other formatting options.

Understandably, self-publishing a printed book isn’t for everyone. If cost is an issue for you, the thought of skipping the printer and sticking with digital copies only may be highly appealing. A 2014 study by found 61 percent of Amazon’s daily unit sales were e-books, as opposed to print books, which made up the remaining 39 percent.

But a digital version of your book, laid out like any traditional e-book, isn’t the only option to consider.

Did you know audio books make up the fastest growing segment of publishing? That’s according to this 2017 blog by As a self-published author, one perk of the process is being able to share your book in whatever format you choose, including as an audio book. Hire a voice actor (someone impressive if you’ve got the money) or record the reading yourself (like Neil Gaiman and Stardust).

Recording your novel as an audiobook will help you gain access to a whole new market of readers. Plenty of people prefer listening to sitting down with a physical copy. Creating an audiobook could potentially increase your profits, as it’ll help you stand out in a highly saturated market.

For an in-depth explanation of the different options for publishing an audiobook, check out this 2015 article from Publisher’s Weekly.

Another format you may not have considered, but should, is the interactive book—particularly if you’re putting together a children’s book or how-to guide. For instance, if you’re writing a book on meditation, you could insert audio files into your e-book to make the lessons more engaging. Better yet, record videos of the different poses or exercises you describe so the reader can better visualize what they should be doing.

Out of all the self-published books on meditation, yours will stand out as a high-value purchase, complete with audio and visual resources. Interactive books come with a higher price tag to create, but they have the potential to reap greater rewards as well. Websites like and can help.

Have any self-publishing tips you think others would want to know? Leave a comment below!