What You Need To Do Before You Self-Publish Your First Book

Before You Self-Publish

Before you self-publish your new book, make sure you are ready

Too often, new authors get carried away with all the excitement of becoming a published author and rush way too fast into self-publishing.

When this is done, without working on building the necessary marketing and promotional tools beforehand, it is then a never-ending game of catch up.

What should have been an exciting book launch, ends up being a total fizzle, because few people apart from the author knew about the new release.

The process of uploading a Word file and a cover image and self-publishing the two as an ebook is extremely easy.

But without the necessary work before hitting the publish button, it is like throwing a bottle into the ocean and hoping someone will find the note inside.

The far better way to successfully self-publish is to get the basics in place first, well before publishing.

Here is a must do seven-point checklist to help first-time authors avoid making the classic mistakes that are difficult to correct after publishing.

1. Make sure your manuscript is perfect.


All too often, inexperienced authors believe that close enough is good enough.

After a couple of quick reads and a run through an online grammar and spell checker, many think this is the end of the process. Far from it.

Getting a manuscript ready for publishing takes much more human work, because errors, typos and especially inconsistencies are rarely spotted by the author or software.

It is a given that the cost of an editor and professional proofreading is often beyond the budget of a new author. But that doesn’t mean that it is a reason to be careless.

A manuscript needs to be read, and indeed, carefully proofread by a bare minimum of three people apart from the author. Read here, more is better.

Ask friends, relatives, social media contacts or even reach out to proofreaders who offer their services online. Many of these are quite affordable.

From the feedback and noted corrections, you can gradually get your manuscript close to an acceptable standard for publishing and avoid the embarrassment of rushing to self-publish a book that is full of errors and typos.

A poor manuscript is a certain recipe for terrible reviews and very few sales as a result.

Time to allow: 3 months

2. Do not create your own book cover

book cover

Any article I read about self-publishing mentions purchasing a quality book cover. Don’t even think about designing your book cover yourself, unless you are an expert in Photoshop and graphic design.

Even if your book is brilliant, a poor low-resolution book cover will be an instant sales turn off.

If you spend on nothing else, spend wisely and pay for a professionally designed book cover.

Time to allow: 1 month

3. Get your website ready

author website

Racing to update, or worse, building a new website when or after you publish a new book is going to waste a lot of promotional traction.

It is vital to have your website up and running well before publishing so it can be used to promote the forthcoming release of your book.

In particular, is your website responsive, and able to be viewed correctly on phones and tablets?

The same applies to a blog. Even though it may be years old, get your blog updated and refreshed, and post new articles about the new book release well in advance. Build some pre-sales hype!

If you plan to offer your new book on pre-order, which is always a very, very good idea, your blog and website will help in gaining pre-orders.

If you can gain a good number of pre-order sales, they will really help in giving your book launch day a huge boost, and result in a much better first-day book sales ranking.

A good sales ranking sells books, so don’t miss this opportunity.

Time to allow: 3 months

4. Align your social media accounts

social media

You are going to be an author, so make sure your social media accounts reflect your new status. This might mean starting new accounts, or at the very least modifying your existing accounts.

Check your usernames and decide if they reflect what you do. If not, change them, or create new accounts.

Check all your profile descriptions and re-write them to note that you write books.

Social media now plays a huge part in promoting books, so make sure your accounts are fine-tuned and ready to inform the world about your new book, well before it is released.

Time to allow: 2 months

5. Your book launch plan

book launch

Do you have a book launch plan?

You need to consider every possible way you can promote your book, before launch, at launch and after launch.

Make a list of what you plan to do, when you plan to do it, and how you plan to do it.

Make plans for your website, new blog articles, social media posts, local newspapers and always ask friends and family if they will help you promote your book on their social media accounts.

At the very least, ask them to Like your Facebook Page, share your posts and retweet your tweets.

Use every single resource you have, and also investigate what you can do to spread the word even further. If your budget allows, look at book promotion services that can give your book a promotional boost.

Time to allow: 2 months

6. Write your book description.

book description

Authors hate this task. So don’t think you can do it at the last minute.

A good book description will take hours, days or even weeks to get right. Ideally, it should be around 600 words, and be written with aim of hooking a potential book buyer.

Don’t simply summarize your book.

A great book description excites, builds expectation and tells a reader why they should buy your book.

Your book description is second only to your great book cover in attracting book buyers, so make sure it’s a winner.

Time to allow: 1 month

7. Categories and keywords

amazon keywords

When you self-publish on any publishing service, you will need at least two categories (genres) and a minimum of seven keywords.

Many new authors don’t know about categories and add keywords until they are in the actual process of publishing, and at that stage, it is far, far too late. Most will click categories and add keywords without any thought whatsoever.

This is fatal.

It takes time to investigate which two main categories will help promote your book, and even more research is needed to find seven keywords or keyword phrases that will help readers find your book by Search.

A vast majority of book sales result from book buyers searching Amazon, Apple, B&N and other book retailers, so making your book discoverable is absolutely vital to your chances of success.

Take the time to research your categories and keywords well in advance of publishing.

Time to allow: 1 month


There are many elements involved in getting ready to release a self-published book or ebook.

Where many new authors so often go wrong is in not understanding that the act of pushing the publish button is at the very end of the process, and not at the beginning.

Rushing to publish without having everything as perfect as you can beforehand so often results in disappointment.

It’s a fact that very few new books sell well, so to have a chance, you need to prepare, plan and execute as best you possibly can.

If you have a manuscript ready and are planning on self-publishing, stop for a moment, and go over the checklist above before you do. If you can’t tick every box, take the time to get them right, which could take you up to three months.

But, these three months could well make the difference between the success or failure of your new book.

Slow down, don’t get carried away with the excitement, and get things right, first before you self-publish.

Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.

One thought on “What You Need To Do Before You Self-Publish Your First Book

  • I e-published my first book ‘The Hartnetts’ six months ago and it has sold reasonably well. I announced it in local papers and I had no idea about this being the case. The only thing that I don’t have at the moment is a website but I am contributing to a lot of blogs. I am also endeavouring to create one. Is there any way I can rectify this problem as I understand that it can make things awkward if you don’t?

    The problem that I am having is that the computer I use does not have Internet access. However apart from that I have been using Twitter and Facebook a lot to promote it. Is there anything else that I could be doing?


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