Yes, the cost to self-publish is free, but only for an ebook.
Free is the operative word on the Internet, so why shouldn’t free be applied to self-publishing a book?
However, before going any further, I must make it clear that although it is very easy to self-publish an ebook without spending a cent, writers who expect to make a lot of money by self-publishing a book for free may be disappointed.
Successfully promoting and selling self-published books and ebooks is very hard work, and requires a lot of time and effort.
But if your aim is to self-publish an ebook for free, and you hope to make a small income from sales, here is a 10 stage checklist in the publishing process for you to follow.
Stage 1. Writing and preparing your manuscript.
While you may be a talented writer, that doesn’t mean that you are a talented editor, line editor or proofreader.
You will definitely need help here, as it is impossible for any writer to find all the typos, spelling mistakes, grammar errors and plot holes in a long word count manuscript.
While a professional editor is usually out of financial reach for a new author, you still need to be meticulous.
You are too close to story to be analytical.
Find friends, friends of friends, or anyone in fact, who can help you at this stage.
Try to get at least three or four people to beta read your manuscript, and at least one or two more who can check for errors, line by line.
Perhaps it would be a very good time to get in touch with your English teacher from your school days.
If you go ahead and publish a manuscript that is full of errors, it will definitely not sell well and is more than likely going to attract very bad reviews that can kill sales.
If you can complete this stage and in the end, produce a relatively clean and pleasant to read manuscript, you are halfway there.
Stage 2. Research your book title.
Nothing to spend here apart from your time.
Before deciding on the title for your book, do a search on Amazon and Google to see if it has been used by other authors.
You could be surprised how difficult it is to find a unique book title.
If you research your book title well enough, you should end up with a title that is unique and keyword rich, which will help you in attracting potential book buyers after your book is published.
Stage 3. You book cover.
There are some publishing services that need a professional. I always recommend paying for a professional cover designer.
However, if you want to avoid paying for a book cover, there are a few traps you should avoid.
1. Never use Microsoft Word to create a book cover. It will result in a flat unattractive cover.
2. Never copy or steal images from the Internet to add to your book cover. For one, they are usually very common and have been used thousands of times. Secondly, you could get into copyright problems.
3. Do not create your cover in an odd dimension. A book cover should almost always have a height to width ratio of 1.6.
If you can’t steal or copy images, how can you create a book cover?
In fact, it is quite easy. You can use a free online image creator called Canva.
With Canva, you can design and create your ebook cover and produce a reasonably high resolution .png image. It even has a book cover template, so you can get started very quickly.
However, for a print book, you will need a professionally designed high-resolution book cover.
Stage 4. Write your book description.
Writing a book description might sound easy, but it is not. It takes a lot of effort, with the key focus being on hooking a potential reader.
It should be around 600 words and thoroughly proofread. Any typos in a book description will be fatal.
You should do a little research about writing your book description.
We published an article recently on how a copywriter would write a book description. Well worth reading before you begin.
Stage 5. Research your metadata.
It is all the data you will need to add to your book when you get to publishing.
On top of your book title, perhaps sub-title, author name or pen name and book description, you will need to decide on which categories (or genres) you wish to use, as well as make a list of search keywords for your book.
For Amazon, you will need two categories and seven keywords, while for other self-publishing platforms you may need up to four categories and ten or twelve keywords.
You can get a more detailed understanding of publishing categories and keywords from this article.
You can also search our site for keywords and category articles.
Stage 6. Upload and self-publish – for free
Once you have completed the first 5 stages, you are ready to self-publish on your choice of platforms.
Generally, most authors always publish on Amazon KPD (Kindle Direct Publishing) and then choose between Smashwords or Draft2 Digital as the aggregator to other ebook retailers. There is also an exclusive option with Amazon called KDP Select.
There is no publishing cost to use these self-publishing and ebook distribution services.
Find more details here about KDP Select, Smashwords and Draft2Digital.
Stage 7. You are published!
After uploading your files, and waiting around 24 hours, your book is available for sale, and you are a published author.
So far so good, and all for free.
But, now you need to get people to buy your book or ebook. You also need reviews, which will help a lot in getting future book sales.
Stage 8. Tell the world! Whoa, hold on.
Promoting a book and getting sales is not as simple as posting a few messages on Facebook and Twitter.
In fact, posting messages about your new book to your social media friends too often might mean that you will have far fewer friends quite quickly.
Slow down and don’t get over-excited. It can take a long time to gain traction with a new book.
However, if you selected your categories and keywords wisely, you could find that people who search on Amazon for new books might be your best channel for early sales.
Plan your book promotion and look for ways other than blasting social media. There are many ways you can promote a book for free.
Stage 9. Write another book
Instead of checking your book sales dashboard every hour, get to work on your next book. You stand a much better chance of selling books if you have at least a few titles published.
Stage 10. Get very excited!
When you get your first book sale, celebrate. Even if you only earn a few cents or a couple of dollars, remember that you self-published for free, so every cent and every dollar you earn is all profit.
Would I recommend self-publishing for free?
While I don’t usually recommend using a publishing company, I would always recommend paying for a high-quality book cover at a minimum. Also, you should at least pay for a competent proofreader and for some ongoing book promotion and advertising.
Self-publishing a print on demand paperback or hardcover version will always incur expenses, so expect to pay for your book cover as well as for the book cost of proof copies of your book.
Producing and promoting a book requires at least a modest investment to end up with a quality product, and to gain a chance of reasonable book sales.
But, it is possible to avoid paying a cent for anything, and use free self-publishing to publish an ebook?
Yes, it is, but I don’t recommend it as a means to succeed in publishing and selling a book or ebook.