Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Down the Self-Publishing Rabbit Hole: The Checklist

Every once in a while, someone or something comes along that makes everything seem easy.  As I gear up to self-publish The Vesuvius Isotope, I have run across the perfect blog post to initiate my quest: The Steps in Self-Publishing, by Emily Suess.

Please read it.  I think you need to become a member of She Writes, but you don't need to be a female (and don't worry, there are no feminine hygiene products or other such girly nonsense running around on the site...)

I am currently peering into the rabbit hole, taking a deep breath and preparing my swan dive.  So please allow me to recap the five simple steps to self-publishing from Suess' list.
  • Writing
  • Editing
  • Design
  • Details
  • Marketing and publicity
Doesn't that sound easy?  Writing...check!  Editing...*screeching halt*

I have before me two different mark-ups of my first chapter, from two editors.  The mark-ups are totally different from each other, and both are brilliant.  Frankly, I would love to hire both, but can't afford it.  So while I agonize over my first executive decision as a self-publisher, please see below the REAL checklist.  I list it here a) because I'm a checklist person, and b) to help any of you who may be following in my footsteps on this.  For those of you who have been here before me, please feel free to point out what I'm missing.

So here it is, The Self-Publishing Checklist by Kristen Elise:

Writing: Check.  Whew!

  • Substantive/developmental editing
  • Copy editing
  • Proofreading
  • Ownership:
    • Create your own imprint/publishing company:
    • Check availability of www.___.com
    • Check Small Press Record of Books, Publishers Directory
    • Register with Books in Print
    • Add a suite number to home address to sound important (this piece of advice kills me)
    • Purchase block of ISBNs
    • Register copyright
    • Obtain a Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN)
  • Cover art:
    • Find artist
    • Find examples of covers to show artists
    • Find royalty-free images, pay for them or create them 
    • http://www.thebookdesigner.com
    • Buy bar code (EAN Bookland), make sure it ends up on the cover (a cover artist should know this and how to do it)
  • Create front matter pages:
    • Title page
    • Copyright page
    • Acknowledgements/dedication page
  • Interior layout:
    • Help?
  • eBook formatting (God help me)
    • File conversion: Calibre (http://calibre-ebook.com/)
    • File validator: http://validator.idpf.org
  • Distribution:
    • Direct upload to B&N, Kobo
  • Print version
    • Createspace
    • Lightning Source -> access to Ingram (B&N) and Baker and Taylor (library distribution)
Marketing and publicity:
  • Before launch:
    • Find reviewers
    • Blogging
    • Speaking at conferences, other events
    • Social media with target audience
    • Build/promote author website and blog
    • Write guest posts
    • Set launch date
    • Release book trailer
  • At/after launch:
    • Take part in a blog tour
    • Schedule events and book signings
    • Request reviews
    • Host give-aways and contests


  1. I look through this list and think, "I did all this?" Yes, most of it, although it looks a lot more daunting when it's laid out like this.

    There are some things you can consider to make your first time out a bit less overwhelming.

    - You may not need to set up a formal publishing company yet. Figure out what you want to call it, stake out the Web real estate, but hold off on filing the papers with the county. If after you're done with this first book you decide to keep self-pubbing, then you go through the business license/DBA/tax ID and so on. If you decide to not continue self-pubbing (i.e. you get a six-figure three-book deal from one of the Big 5), you won't have to worry about winding down a going business.

    - Whatever you decide to do with the imprint, sooner or later your address is going to become public. Rather than mess with the suite number, pop for a PO box. I'd rather have the crazed stalkers and process servers show up at the post officer than at my front door.

    - Consider what you want an LCCN for. You need to be a "real publisher" to get one, but you don't need it in order to sell your book.

    - You can't really register for a copyright until your cover and text are finished, so that item should go further down the list.

    - When you hire an artist, he/she needs to deal with finding and buying/licensing any stock images or font sets, not you.

    - At the same time, a professional cover artist will be able to generate the EAN barcode as part of his/her services.

    - There are several examples of copyright pages on The Book Designer website (search for "front matter"), so you don't have to recreate the wheel for this.

    - Your title page should use the same graphic elements as your cover, so your artist will get that sorted.

    - If you don't hire a book designer, you can get a good education in text-block design through The Book Designer blog.

    - Don't forget Kindle Direct Publishing! They still own 60% of the ebook market.

    That's enough for now. Self-pub is incredibly time-consuming, but you'll never be able to list all the little things you end up having to deal with. Good luck!

    1. Lance, Regarding your LCCN comment - I just found out the hard way that I'm too late to get one anyway. Evidently timing is crucial and I messed up. You have to get the LCCN after obtaining your ISBN but before actually finalizing the book, because the LCCN has to be printed on the copyright page (I'm only assuming I'm not the only one dumb enough to have not clued in to this...)

      So, my book won't have an LCCN this time around.

      I'll do a blog post shortly that details lessons learned and some of the glitches I have encountered in checking the boxes on this list.

  2. My gosh, there's so much involved. Very daunting! It's a great list though, very helpful for those that want to know more about how much work goes in to the process.

  3. After reading this I wonder if it might be worthwhile for someone wanting to selfpublish to us the services of Amazon's selfpublishing branch or another entity.

    1. Bryan, I have found a number of "help" paths that made things dramatically easier for me than they otherwise would have been. I'll be sharing those shortly in separate blog posts. Stay tuned!

  4. Hii Kris
    I am a proofreading trainee in Docfixers company. I think you should add proofread separately. It is not included in editing. Editing and proofreading both are different steps. In editing an editor can add or remove something from you content in order to enhance your work but in proofreading only mistakes and typos are checked. So both things are different.

    1. Hi Jack,
      Yep, you're right that both editing and proofreading are critical. Thanks for letting us know about your company!

  5. How do you obtain the library of congress control number? I've been trying to find this out.

    1. Thanks for the question! Here's a great post offering step-by-step instructions for obtaining an LCCN: