How to Self-Publish Your Work: The Publishing Process


Just finished your manuscript? Let’s publish it!

A lot of you aspiring authors do not know what to do right after finishing that conclusion or their prologue in their manuscripts. Some submit their works to their target publishers hoping to receive an e-mail from the acquisitions editor. That’s not bad, but what if you got the bad news? No worries, you can always self-publish it!

Here are the things you can do after months or even years of writing your manuscript and deciding to self-publish it instead. These processes will help you along in your journey as an indie author.

1. Copy editing — Hire a copy editor. Seriously, just do. You can thank me later. And when I say a copy editor, he/she shouldn’t be your brother, your sister, your mother, your neighbor, or your old classmate who is a frustrated writer and probably got his poems published in their school newspaper. He/she should be someone who is already practicing the profession of editing.

Your copy editor will help to improve your work. Those commas you missed; the ellipses; the en dashes em dashes; roman and italic characters; etc. A copy editor will also do fact checking of your work. Is Taiwan part of China? Is Hawaii in the South America? He/she will also check if you have written the write term. Weep or cry? Hungry or famished? Color or colour?

However, a copy editor can only do so much. If you want an intensive editing of your work, hire a line editor / developmental editor / substantive editor. Commissioning them can be expensive though. The good thing is they can help re-arrange your lines or paragraphs, suggest appropriate scenes for this and for that, and also do some things a copy editor would normally do.

2. Book designing — This is the process wherein you can finally see the outcome of your book. After the intensive copy editing process, the text will now be put in pages. Again, if you cannot do these things on your own. Hire a book designer.

Alternatively, if you are a little more in-the-know, you can play with Adobe InDesign or Quark Xpress. These are the programs being used by professionals to design a book.

However, you can also use Microsoft Publisher or even Word in doing the layout. Of course, using these will have limitations.

In my future posts, I will do an in-depth tutorial on book designing. I got you.

3. Cover designing — Since we are at it, it’s time to make decisions about your cover. Again, hire a cover artist. This process can be done simultaneously with the book designing process. Do not do it on your own unless of course you can. It’s the artistic matter of your book. Leave it to the artist.

4. Proofreading — You’ve got the texts already layed out (those beautiful dropcaps!) and your cover already undergone revision process, it’s time to hire again a proofreader. My advice, do not do it on your own. You, writer. That would be biased. Let others take care of it. You had enough. Just rest.

The purpose of proofreadering is to do a last pass of your material. There might be some punctuation marks missed by your copy editor; style consistencies that aren’t enforced; or spelling errors slipped. This is why proofreaders are your last savior. Please invest hiring one.

5. Proofing — Hep. Before sending it to your printer, you can print a dummy copy / blueprint of your book to see how it would look like. Bond papers will do. You just have to see if the design is good in print or if additional mistakes were committed.

6. E-book formatting and distributing — Of course, if you created a print version of your book, why not offer an e-book version also?

It will open up a new market.

This can be done if you are sure that your Cover and your Interior files are already final.

We have two best options in doing the e-book formatting:

1. Hire a professional e-book developer (such as me) — These e-book developers will handcode your e-book using HTML and CSS to perfection that there will be no formatting errors. Also, e-retailers like Amazon and Kobo will not accept your e-book if it has a lot of formatting errors. E-book developers will take care of them. They will provide you an ePub and MOBI file.

2. ‎Using Draft2Digital — If you are not techy enough, sign up an account on Draft2Digital and let them do the work. Just throw in your Word file and their system will automatically convert it. However, I can attest that the free formatting services offered by these sites (Smashwords and Draft2Digital) are not that much pleasant. It is because these services offer basic templates which you can use for conversion. Unlike the first option, your e-book designer/developer will format your e-book as close to your print book as possible.

Some Words on E-books

Your print and your e-book won’t have the same design as per font style, text size, and font size. This is because e-books (ePub and MOBI) are reflowable. Meaning, you can change the font style and font size according to your preferences or your device’s requirements. The text will reflow according to your liking.

In the part two of this post, we will continue with distribution to online storefronts like Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, etc.

If you think that self-publishing is not right for you, I will also be writing an in-depth post on how and where to submit your manuscripts. Let’s find them homes!


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How to Self-Publish Your Poetry or Any Other Work Like a Pro: An Introduction

No publisher? No problem.

Last week, I debuted my poetry collection Dystopia and Derelict Dreams. It appeared on several Amazon’s charts like Hot New Releases in Poetry and also became a best seller in some poetry categories. It was a good start at least. Now that it is creating a buzz among the community, people started asking how do they get a hard copy. I always point them to Amazon since there’s actually no hard copy available yet until now. The funniest part was when some even went as far as asking the Anvil Publishing booth at the 38th Manila International Book Fair for a copy!

As much I’m happy that people are getting interested on my work, I want you to know that my poetry collection is self-published.

Surprised? Yes, it is. There’s actually no market in poetry in the Philippines and as a poet, it is a letdown. Since I do work as an editor in a major publishing house, I took to creating the poetry collection myself. Because why not? It’s a second nature for me.

Before we start, there are some things you need to know about the industry you are about to enter:

  • If you are self-publisher, it is very likely that you cannot distribute your book to brick-and-mortar bookstores like National Book Store and Fully Booked. Why? These premier book stores do have Book Buyers who choose what kinds of titles are to be sold in their stores. If you can provide a minimum copy these bookstores require and if you have a strong market as a self-publisher, then you’re good to go.

In my future posts, I will share a tip how you can have your self-published book in a real book store.

  • As a self-publisher, you cannot be able to apply for an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) for your book. Therefore, you cannot also create a bar code to put on the back cover. This makes your book less professional-looking. This is one of the major drawbacks for us indies since book stores require bar codes for them to sell your book. The National Library of the Philippines is the government agency that issues ISBNs.

In my future posts, I will share how you can obtain a legit ISBN not from NLP.

  • As a self-publisher, you cannot also obtain a Cataloging-In-Publication (CIP) data block for your book. This CIP data block is also issued by the NLP. The purpose of this data block is for librarians to easily catalog your book. I know you are familiar with this. You can see it on a copyright page of a book.

Below is sample CIP data block:

  • There’s a stigma in self-publishing. The book publishing industry is divided into two: traditional publishing and self-publishing/independent publishing. Writers with agents or writers who submit manuscripts and get accepted by a publishing house fall into the first group. Those who do the work by themselves or hire freelancers to work on their book projects fall into the second group.

As for the second group, since the manuscripts are not being screened by a reputable editor of a publishing house, the projects suffer as a whole. That’s when the stigma arises. Indies are getting slammed by critics because of this. Because their projects do not undergo “traditional publishing,” some assume that their works are not worth it. Critics even say that the works of indies are of low-quality even though that’s not actually true (well, for some).

This happened to me once. When I announced that I am self-publishing my poetry collection, some people actually laughed. However, when I told them my affiliation, that shut them up.

  • You don’t earn much—or anything—by self-publishing your book. After doing all the hard work of writing your manuscript and formatting it, to having it off the press, there might not be an actual return on your investment. Printing the book is just half the battle.

Well, unless you have a responsive market—you can pass. However, if you are just a novice, don’t expect too much. Royalties will not befall upon us that easily, sadly.

In my next blog post, I will discuss the self-publishing process and will introduce the basics of formatting manuscript for print (assuming you already finished yours!).

Thank you for reading! If you have comments, suggestions, or questions, please feel free to drop them below.