This is the second in the series, Should YOU Self Publish Your Book? If you missed the first part, you can find it here.
You don’t have to be a computer genius, but some technical skills are needed to self publish your book. Those skills include editing, interior formatting, cover design, uploading your files (actually the easiest part!) and, a skill that deserves its own post (and will get it), marketing and promoting your book online.
But first, a little story:
Way back in my early business consulting days, I had a client who wanted to do a series of webinars to advertise her business. “Great marketing strategy,” I thought. Until I sat with her at a computer and realized that she had no idea how to use a computer, how to type, how to create a PowerPoint presentation, how to upload files, how to use a webinar or email platform…
The same goes for self publishing. There are certain technical skills needed for self publishing (including writing, computer, and graphics), in addition to marketing and organizational skills. It also takes a certain disposition–you have to be willing to learn (and then keep learning as platforms make endless “improvements”).
Here’s a quick breakdown of each skill:
Even if you’re an experienced writer, it’s important to have a solid knowledge of the editing process when self-publishing. A strong grasp of spelling and grammar is just the starting point. You also need to be organized (many self-published books have entire sections—gasp!—that are repeated within the book), able to recognize when something needs revising (a blind spot for all of us), as well as how to work with a professional editor to polish your book to a high standard.
Editing is an essential part of the self-publishing process, as it helps to ensure that the book is of high quality and free of errors. There are several different types of editing that can be applied to a book, including developmental editing (overall structure and content of your book), copy editing (the mechanics of spelling, grammar, and punctuation), and proofreading—the last look after your book has been edited and formatted.
It’s important to have someone other than you edit the book for several reasons. First, it’s difficult for an author to objectively evaluate their own work, as they are too close to the material. An editor can bring fresh eyes to the book and provide a more objective perspective on its strengths and weaknesses. Second, an editor has expertise in the technical aspects of writing and can help the author improve the quality of their writing, as well as catch errors that may have been missed otherwise. Finally, having an editor helps to ensure that the book meets professional standards and is of high quality, which can help to improve the author’s reputation and increase their chances of success.
Once your manuscript is edited and finalized, you’ll need to format it for publication. Interior formatting is a skill in itself. This includes choosing the right font, spacing, and margins, as well as adding headings, subheadings, and other formatting elements that make the book easy to read and navigate. When I first started publishing eBooks, it was a matter of putting in page numbers, chapter titles, a table of contents, etc. and then just making a pdf file from the 8-1/2 x 11 Word document. Let’s just say that formatting has grown more sophisticated over the years.
Some writers set up their Word document using the Styles function in the Layout tab before they start writing. Self-publishing platforms like Amazon’s KDP or Draft2Digital provide formatting templates that you can use to create a pleasing, if basic, layout. Professional formatters use programs like Adobe’s Indesign or QuarkXPress. Writing programs like Scrivener provide formatting options for both print and eBooks. I have started using Atticus from Dave Chesson at Kindlepreneur. It works better for fiction books at this point, but it is constantly improving and I can see myself using it for my nonfiction books in the near future.
All of these have a learning curve but if you plan to publish more than one book, they are worth the extra effort. (Side Note: I send my book clients to a professional formatter. I am good enough for me; my clients are special.)
The cover of your book is the first thing potential readers will see, so it’s important to create an eye-catching and professional-looking design. This requires some design skills, such as choosing the right images and fonts, as well as understanding how to use design software like Adobe Photoshop or Canva. In addition, there’s a psychology behind cover design, genre tropes, and expectations, as well as technical aspects that can elevate or sink your book. If you’re not a cover designer or a graphic artist who can look at covers and see the necessary elements for your genre, then hire a pro. Covers sell the book.
Once your book is edited, formatted, and designed, you’ll need to upload it to a self-publishing platform like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, IngramSpark, or Lulu.
The Good News: If you can upload a file to your website or send an attachment in an email, you can do this yourself. It requires some technical knowledge, such as understanding how to use the platform’s interface, how to upload files correctly, and sometimes a little patience when something glitches in the process. You will run into things you don’t know, but there is almost always a helpful info button or you can Google for help.
The Bad News: It’s not just uploading the interior and cover files. First you have to set up your account with the platforms you will use. That’s a fairly straightforward process: user name and password, along with your banking and tax information (for royalties). You’ll also need to develop some skills on researching which categories to put your books in, keywords and SEO, writing a compelling book description, and how to set your pricing. I invested in Publisher Rocket, which helps me find the best categories for my books, gives me intel on the competition and keywords.
Marketing and Promoting:
Finally, once your book is live on your chosen self-publishing platform(s)—and really, before it goes live—you’ll need to promote it to potential readers. This requires some marketing skills, which I will address in the next post in this series. But marketing online and off also involves technical skills such as keyword research (some of which you will have done), writing ad copy and creating eye-catching graphics for those ads, and conducting online searches to determine how to best reach your audience.
While these technical skills can be learned, it’s important to assess your own comfort level and willingness to learn new skills before deciding to self-publish. Additionally, if you’re not confident in your ability to handle these tasks yourself, you may want to consider hiring professionals to help you with editing, cover design, formatting, and marketing. Not sure if self-publishing is the route for you? Take this quick assessment quiz to see if you have the technical skills needed to self publish.