There are two options available to you if you are considering self-publishing for the first time. Pay someone a lot of money to do it for you, or do it yourself for (mostly) free.
The second option for most indie authors who are publishing a book for the first time will be far more attractive, of course.
If you consider paying someone, remember that the tools and services they will use will be the same as those you can use if you do it on your own.
So consider carefully before you agree to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for something you can easily learn to do yourself.
Where do you start when self-publishing for the first time?
You have finished writing, editing, and proofreading during the process of preparing your manuscript.
Now it’s time to drop your pen.
Or perhaps today, leave your keyboard and start doing a few days of reading, research, and learning.
Self-publishing is very easy, especially for ebooks.
You only need your manuscript in Word docx format and your book cover in jpeg.
There’s a little more work involved for a print book due to the formatting.
But once that is done, you only need to save or export your manuscript to pdf.
Three principal self-publishing services provide their services for free.
Then once your ebook or book is published, it will be available worldwide via most major online book retailers.
Here are the starting points for you to publish your first title.
Kindle Direct Publishing. Amazon’s publishing service for Amazon’s Kindle ebooks and KDP print book publishing.
Smashwords. A publisher and distributor of ebooks to Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Scribd, and many others.
Draft2Digital. Like Smashwords, Draft2Digital is an ebook distributor to Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Scribd.
However, it also can publish in paperback. There is a review of Draft2Digital available here.
These three service providers have well-written help sections and guides that are a must-read.
But in particular, a free ebook, the Smashwords Style Guide, is now almost a bible on how to prepare a Word file for ebook self-publishing.
It’s a must to read if you are new to electronic publishing.
For Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords, and Draft2Digital, the advice and preparation steps in this Style Guide will ensure your file is ready for all ebook publishing platforms.
Should you wish to publish in paperback, only KDP offers a totally free service to publish in paper form.
However, you will have to pay for proof and author copies.
It’s around $3.85 per copy, plus postage for a 250-page book.
As mentioned earlier, Draft2Digital also offers print publishing.
Learning how to format the interior and cover for a paperback is a little more work than required for an ebook.
A good starting point is the help section on Amazon KDP print books.
Paperback covers need to be of very high resolution and exact dimensions.
This is one part of the self-publishing process that I always believe is worth spending a little money on.
I wrote earlier about Book and Ebook Covers For Self-Publishing.
I would recommend reading it if you wish to publish in paperback.
You might also find How To Prepare Your Word Manuscript For Self-Publishing another useful starting point in getting your manuscript ready for publishing.
Or, if you prefer, a video tutorial on How To Format An Ebook using Microsoft Word.
You can also read our list of How-To Articles. You will find helpful advice on many aspects of self-publishing.
There are thousands of published authors who, like you, started with little or no knowledge about self-publishing.
But they are now published and earning sales royalties without paying anyone to do the work.
If you are prepared to take the time to read, learn, ask questions on community forums, and subscribe to self-publishing advice blogs, you will have all the expertise you need to self-publish your writing in a very short time.
So good luck, and fingers crossed that you self-publish a bestseller!
Related Reading: How To Publish A Book The Right Way To Reach More Readers