You know how to write a book. But new authors also sometimes need to develop their digital self-publishing skills.
When it comes time to publish your new book, you need some basic computer and technical ability.
You don’t need to be an expert. But self-publishing is an online process, so you need to be confident that you can do almost everything required to publish your book.
Luckily, most aspects are easy or relatively quick to learn.
I could write a long list of the self-publishing skills authors need to write, edit, market, promote and sell successfully.
However, experienced authors acquire these through accumulated knowledge, trial and error, and experimentation.
There’s a lot of advice to read online about every aspect of writing and self-publishing.
But this article is intended for writers who are considering self-publishing their first book.
It might seem a little daunting for some, but if you make sure you have or learn the basics, it’s a relatively straightforward process.
To help you on your way, here are what I consider the essential digital skills you need to publish and promote your new book.
1. File management, uploading, and sharing
Your finished manuscript is precious. Never rely on one copy because technology can always go wrong.
Good file management is essential for an author.
Always make sure you have backup copies of it stored in different places.
For example, you can use iCloud if you are an Apple user, Google Drive, or a USB key.
On a Mac, you can use the duplicate function to create copies. You can use “save as” on a PC to create a duplicate document.
When you are preparing to publish, create a new copy and name it to identify where you are publishing.
If you are publishing on Amazon KDP as well as Draft2 Digital, make two copies.
It is because you only need to include your front and back matter for KDP, but Draft2Digital only requires your manuscript body text.
When uploading your files, double-check that you are using the correct version.
You may need to share your manuscript with an editor, beta readers, or proofreader.
The safest way is with a secure file service.
Avoid using email if you can, as it might be possible for someone to steal or copy your new manuscript.
2. Ebook and print book formatting
When you publish an ebook with Amazon KDP, all you need is a Word document docx file.
But it’s always better to format an ebook to make it much more pleasant to read.
The easiest way is to use Kindle Create to format an ebook for Amazon.
For other publishing services, you may want to format and export your ebook in epub format.
The tool that most authors use is Calibre. It’s free software but can take a little while to learn how to use.
Styling and formatting a print book needs careful preparation. Your files need to be PDF and formatted to suit a specific page size.
There’s an excellent guide for formatting a print book in Word from ALLi.
3. Website or blog creation and maintenance
You don’t need to be a techie expert to set up a website or a blog.
But you will need to promote your book before and after you publish it.
You really should get your website or blog up and running well before you publish so you can build some interest.
There are plenty of free blogging and website platforms to choose from that are easy to set up and use.
You don’t need a lot of fancy features or functions. But it is a good idea to start building an email list.
You can add a subscribe button to your site to help you build your mailing list.
MailChimp is one of the most popular services to attract subscribers because it’s free for up to 2,000. That’s plenty for a new author.
If you don’t have a site already, make sure you create your new site well in advance of publishing your book.
4. Basic design skills for covers and websites
Don’t believe that the only skills you need for self-publishing are to do with writing.
There are plenty of other things you need to do to give your new book a chance of success.
You will need to create and use a lot of images for your site and on social media.
You might be considering using a professional book cover designer. But you might want to create mock-ups or design your own cover.
There are lots of ways to do it with Photoshop. However, it’s not an easy program to learn how to use.
If you don’t have design skills, you can still create ebook covers, feature images for blogs and social media headers.
All you need to do is open a free account with Canva, and you will have all the design tools an author could need.
5. Understanding SEO and metadata for books
What is metadata for books?
It is the text that search engines and Amazon use to identify your book when people search.
Your book title and author name are obvious.
But metadata is also your book description, identifying numbers such as ISBN and ASIN, categories, and keywords.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is about taking advantage of metadata.
It is critical for a book because you want people to find it when they are searching for a new book to buy.
There are free ways you can research the best metadata for your book.
But a lot of authors opt for using premium software to help find profitable choices.
Researching and selecting the best metadata, keywords, and categories is one of the most important self-publishing skills for a new author to learn.
You can only tell so many people about your new book.
With excellent metadata, you stand a much better chance of many, many more people finding your book.
So many new authors rush into self-publishing.
It’s always better to take your time and develop a few basic skills to help you publish and promote your book much better.
Some writers might think it’s easier to get someone else to do the work. But paying someone doesn’t always lead to better results.
On top of that, there are some publishers who have a bad reputation. It can be a trap for new authors who are unaware of the potential pitfalls.
You don’t need to know how to do everything.
But if you can master the five basic digital skills for self-publishing in this article, you will be more than able to successfully publish your book.
Related reading: The Best Free Publishing Tools For New Amazon Authors