Thursday, August 2, 2012

Self Publishing Tutorial

by Jan Rider Newman

I've never liked the word can’t. I prefer try. So I tried to publish on Amazon Kindle and found another word: succeed. I succeeded in publishing my short story collection. If you define success by number of sales, well, that remains to be seen. (See more about her publication here.)

How did I do it? How can you do it too? Start with the following:

Decide to publish.
Decide what to publish.
Proofread your manuscript.
Proof it again.

Research how to format your material, i.e., read the steps necessary to get your manuscript ready. See the end of the post for recommended reading.

Join Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace. You don't have to publish anything just by signing up, and there are a lot of articles under the "Help" sections once you join. If you decide to give it a shot, read the terms of use and make sure you understand them. Don’t agree to anything you don’t like or understand. If you want to publish on Kindle and CreateSpace, you do have to agree to the terms; if you don’t agree, move on or drop the whole idea. For what it's worth, I agreed.

Pick up a hard copy book that's been published by a print publisher. Look at the title page, copyright page, epigraph (if there is one), dedication page, and table of contents (if there is one). They're called front matter. You need these pages in your book in order to make it look professional.

Consider what font/fonts you want to use. I used Verdana 12-point for the body of the book because it’s clear and easy to read, something important to me and, I thought, my readers. I used something else for the title page itself, to make the print bigger, bolder, and attractive. There are a lot of choices. Experiment with different fonts until you're happy.

Select a cover for your book. Do you want a photo or some other kind of cover? Walk into a bookstore and look at covers, especially those on books of your genre to get ideas of what's possible and what looks good.

VERY IMPORTANT: If you plan to use a photo or work of art or graphic image for your cover, use something you own all the rights to—your own photo, drawing, painting, etc. Never just go to a website, find something you like, and decide to use it. Doing so leads to big, big copyright legal trouble.

If you don't own the right image for your cover, go to websites where you can download images that are in the public domain. Public domain is good. You can use those. See Recommended Reading.

You can also find things that aren't public domain, but that can be used by listing the owner of the photo and maybe linking to his/her website. Some photos can be purchased for a reasonable price. But make sure you understand what you have to do to use any photo on the cover of your published book, and then do it to the letter. Ask someone else to read the terms if you have any doubts. Don't use anything unless you understand how and whether you are allowed to do so.

There's more to it all than I wrote above, but you can find a lot of information yourself. And you should. If you're really interested in self-publishing—well, it's a do-it-yourself thing, after all. Search online at Google or Yahoo or, etc. Research, look, think, understand the rules. It's a little like Asian cooking: there are a lot of preparatory steps, but they're not hard.

Have fun, and let us know how your venture into self-publication turns out for you. Good luck!

Recommended Reading:

Formatting the Manuscript

"Building Your Book for Kindle," (if you work on a PC) Kindle Publishing Direct, Amazon Kindle store, $0

* "Building Your Book for Kindle for Mac," Kindle Publishing Direct, Amazon Kindle store, $0*

NOTE: The two ebooks above say you need to save your file in HTML format, but the KDP site says .doc and some other formats are okay too. I uploaded mine in .doc.

"eBook Formatting & Publishing Guide for the Broke and Stressed," Kindle Edition, Michael Lamendola, $2.99

"Simplified Formatting Guide," an online article which you'll find under "Help" once you've signed on to Kindle Direct Publishing at


"How Self-Published Authors Get Their Covers Right," Andrew Pantoja, Publishing Perspectives,


"Bloggers Beware: You CAN Get Sued for Using Pics on Your Blog," Roni Loren,

Public domain images:

"Where Can I Find Free Public Domain Images and Pictures?"

* If you succeed in making a Table of Contents in Microsoft Word for Mac with headers, hyperlinks, and/or bookmarks, please tell me how you did it. I had to go back to my old PC laptop. Otherwise, all the other instructions in this booklet were great. NOTE TO DAVID BROWN: I know we aren't supposed to criticize the Mac. It isn't a Mac problem; it's a Microsoft Word for Mac problem.