How To Self-Publish (simple instructions not trying to sell anything)

Note: this article won’t give you all the details about every step, but it’s a good overview of a simple self-publishing process

First, write a book, all the way to the end, then edit it until it’s as good and polished as you can make it. If you haven’t written a book yet, don’t waste your time reading this article. Seriously, this has to be done first. Please stop daydreaming about how you’ll publish a book you haven’t written and get to writing.

Next, get the book edited. There are three basic types of editing to consider, two of which are optional (though highly advised for new writers), one of which isn’t:

  • Developmental editing/beta reading: You can pay someone (or sometimes swap with another author ) to read your book and give you feedback about major plot, character, and pacing issues. The person should be familiar with your genre and not be your mother. You can hire people on sites like Fiverr and Upwork or get recommendations from other authors. Don’t proceed to any other round of editing until the developmental editing is done. Good developmental editing will result in making significant changes. Trying to do line or copy editing at the same time as developmental editing is like putting salt on a chicken you haven’t plucked yet
  • Line editing: A line editor (you should be paying this person) will identify grammatical mistakes, awkward phrasing, wrong word usage, repetitive language, etc. This is the step experienced writers are most likely to skip, but if you’re a newbie author, chances are your writing would benefit from line editing
  • Copy editing/proofing: This step should not be skipped and must be done by someone who knows what they’re doing, which means you’re probably paying them. You can hire someone from sites like Fiverr or gets recs from author friends. Software like Grammerly and ProWritingAid can be good adjuncts to human editing for people who know what they’re doing, but they’re not a substitute for human editing and can do as much harm as good in the hands of someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing

When the book has been fully edited and proofed, it needs to be formatted and made into an epub. You can hire someone to do this, but it’s not necessary, especially if you’re only making an ebook and you’re going to be exclusive to Amazon (more on both those subjects later). With KDP, Amazon’s self publishing portal, you can upload a Word doc and it will convert to epub for you. Then you can preview it online and make sure it’s what you want. Click here for an article on simple ebook formatting. If you pay for formatting, it should be cheap and should result in an epub.

The other thing you need is a cover. A professional cover. Not one your significant other made in MS-Paint. You can get covers made pretty cheaply on places like Fiverr or You can also browse premade cover sites (just search “premade cozy mystery covers” or whatever your genre is) for something that matches your vision. Or you can hire a designer to make a cover specifically for you. The options are listed in order of cost and also in order of quality. This step can take a while (especially if you’re having a custom cover made), so you should probably start working on it during the editing process.

Now you have everything you need to self publish. Where will you self publish? On Amazon, using their portal, which is called KDP. You’ll sign into KDP with your existing Amazon account, which should be registered to your real name and address. Don’t worry about your pen name yet. Amazon must have your true details so they can pay you. You’ll need to do some one-time setup, giving Amazon your tax and banking info.

Once initial setup is done, list the book by clicking the big Create button and follow the screens to create an ebook, which will guide you through uploading your doc (either Word or epub) and your cover (jpg or png). You’ll be asked for the author name (this is where your pen name goes), the book description (blurb), some keywords, the category (genre), and pricing info. An important box you want to check is the “enroll in KDP Select” box. This will put the book into what’s called Kindle Unlimited, which gives Amazon the exclusive rights to sell the ebook.

But what about Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Google Play, etc.? You can do some research on this, but I’m going to make it simple: as a new, unheard-of author, at least 75% of your income will come from Kindle Unlimited. And all the other retailers combined won’t match the other 25% you’ll get from Amazon for sales. Enrolling in KDP Select and being exclusive to Amazon is both the simplest and most lucrative option out there.

What about paperbacks? Here’s another truth-bomb: they don’t pay. Paperbacks are more expensive and time-consuming to produce and you’ll make very little from them. Most of us only do paperback editions because we want a copy for our own bookshelves. Is holding a copy of your book worth the extra $150 or so you’ll pay for formatting and cover design? Your call. But maybe start with the basics and add on from there. You can add a paperback edition at any time.

If you want to do a paperback, you need what’s called a “wrap” from your cover designer and to pay extra for the doc to be formatted as a paperback. Both of these files will be in pdf format, which a professional should know. You’ll publish the paperback separately from the ebook but linked to it in KDP. You can order a proof copy prior to publishing, but be warned it will say PROOF in giant letters across the front cover so if what you want is a copy for your bookshelf or to sell at conferences etc., you should publish it first and then order author copies through the menu option in KDP.

When you publish your paperback through KDP, you’ll have the option to sell it on non-Amazon sites. Choosing that option is the easiest way to get your book (paperback version only) on websites like, but you won’t be able to get the book into bricks & mortar stores or libraries. To do that, you need to use a service like Ingram Sparks and there will be additional costs. Even if you’re using Ingram Sparks to sell on other retail sites, it’s still recommended that you use KDP to list the paperback on Amazon.

Once you’ve entered all the book’s details into KDP, hit publish. One to three days later, your book will be live. Now on to the marketing, which is so not my strength that I’m not even going to try.