self publishing

I’ve had a few questions recently about how to start self publishing, so I thought I’d make a page for it. The following is an email I sent someone a little while ago, and I’ve added a few links after it that I’ve found since. I’ll keep updating this with things I find useful. I hope it helps.


Amazon is the big dog, obviously, though Apple is starting to catch up a bit. I publish at Amazon with their self publishing portal, Kindle Direct Publishing. (That will put it in all the various Amazon stores all over the world, but if you make an author page through Amazon’s Author Central, you will have to add pictures and your bio, etc., to each country’s Amazon store individually.)

To publish everywhere else, I use Draft2Digital – they take a cut, but they distribute it for you to basically everywhere and it’s worth it not to do it yourself. Also note that if you want to write under a pen name on the Apple store, going through D2D or Smashwords or another distributor is the only way to do it. If you go direct, they will use your real name. I use D2D because they let you pick the sellers you want to send your books to; with Smashwords, it’s all or nothing.


I use Guido Henkel’s ebook formatting guide. He also has a book called The Zen of Ebook Formatting, which I’ve bought but not yet read. I’ll try to remember to report back here when I’m done.

The guide is designed for people with no knowledge of HTML and CSS, but it will still probably come off as a bit intimidating if you have no familiarity with them. I do it that way because I like the control and I like knowing exactly what’s going into my ebook. Even if you don’t go this way, I’d suggest you read it so that you have some idea of the issues involved.

Most places will also let you upload a Word doc and convert it to ebook format for you. If you do this, I would check the ebook they produce VERY CAREFULLY, especially for things like backwards smart quotes and weird line breaks and accent marks.

Scrivener will also make ebooks for you, and a lot of people go that way, though there are some issues you should be aware of. I write in Scrivener, but I don’t use its ebook compile feature because frankly I found it super complicated. I seem to be the only one having a problem with it though.

Whatever method you use, check it to make sure it looks right, and not just on your computer.

You also need a cover, obviously. You can make it yourself if you’ve got the skills. If you want to pay someone (and if you have the money, you probably should), there’s 99Designs and Covertopia which I have not used, but have heard good things about.

Once you have the ebook and cover, the actual uploading is quite simple – you just fill out a form and hit submit, basically, and then they ask for you how you want to be paid and all that.


  • ​The Self Publishing Podcast is a good source of info. If, like me, you tend to want to listen to ALL of a podcast, don’t take the advice they give in the early episodes. They’re worth listening to for the evolution of their business strategy, but they say themselves that they would give vastly different advice now. They’ve recently (as of August 2015) archived their older episodes and I think are planning to launch a new site for the revamped podcast. I’ll put that link here when they get it up.
  • The Author Strong Podcast is pretty good also, both for craft and publishing, but particularly for goal setting. ETA: And this 3 part series on Amazon keywords.
  • Writing Excuses is the best podcast I’ve found for craft, and they’re doing season 10 as a sort of masterclass on how to write a book from beginning to end.
  • A Business Plan for Self-published Authors [part 1 | part 2 | part 3]
  •  Mailchimp lets you set up a mailing list for free. Put a sign up link at the back of your book, and people will be able to get notified when you have a new one out.