This page provides basic information on self-publishing. Some aspects of the process are standard, but there is no one way to do it. The links below are suggestions, not mandates, to help in deciding whether and how to self-publish. While many links are to commercial entities, we do not endorse one over another. Research the information and tailor it to your own needs.
Self-published authors assume the entire burden of publishing a book and retain all rights to it. Some companies that provide services to authors assume the copyright and/or provide ISBN numbers, thereby becoming the official publisher of the book. In order to be truly self-published, authors must establish their own company and possibly buy their ISBNS.
Self-publishing a book is not for everyone. Setting up a company and being in business for yourself, particularly in publishing, where making a profit is difficult, are not easy decisions. The purpose of this page is to present authors with options that will help them make informed decisions.
Links Resource Sections
Writing, Editing and Formatting
Search at the links below for Queens Library books to help with the craft of writing. http://www.queenslibrary.org/search/apachesolr_search/storytelling
Queens Library has writing groups that meet regularly. Find your local branch or search for programs here:
An MFA program in creative writing can help with the craft and perhaps lead to an academic job while writing. This list of MFA programs includes individual websites and application procedures:
Companies that provide development, editorial and design assistance for a fee are
Cover designers and eBook formatters are here:
Instructions for designing and formatting your own Kindle book are at:
Free software to convert html files to EPUB, the format accepted by Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Apple i-Store and others, can be found at the link below. In general, make sure the software will convert the book to the current version of accepted EPUB files.
Book covers can be created using programs such as Photoshop. There are several websites with information on creating a quality book cover, which can be located through an Internet search.
Creating a Business and Acquiring ISBN Numbers
The following New York State website on creating a business explains the different types of business structures, their advantages and disadvantages, and procedures for forming them:
An ISBN number is a unique identifier for an edition of a book. It is not required if publishing on Amazon, which gives books ASIN numbers through its own book identification system. However, when publishing with multiple vendors and formats, an ISBN for each format can be useful. Bowker, the ISBN agency in the United States, has money-saving deals for the purchase of multiple ISBNs at once.
Print-on-Demand vs. eBook Vendors
Two basic formats for self-publishing exist today: print-on-demand and eBooks.
The best-known print-on-demand companies are Createspace, Lulu and Ingram’s Lightning Source. An author creates an account; uploads a manuscript and cover, properly formatted; enters certain business and personal information; selects where and how the book will be made available; sets a price, which can be changed and then makes the book available on the vendor’s platform. The vendor may offer an author the option of buying a physical copy of the book to check for errors. When a customer buys a copy of a book, the company usually retains some printing costs and a percentage of the sale. As of this writing, all print-on-demand companies have non-exclusive contracts, so authors may use multiple services. Some produce only paperbacks, while others have options for hardcovers. Be sure to read the fine print of any contract.
An eBook can be published directly through a vendor, or by an aggregator. Most eBook vendors, like print-on-demand companies, have non-exclusive contracts. Read the fine print and terms, and know exactly what kind of file is required and how to format it. Here are some eBook vendors:
An eBook aggregator will publish a book with most vendors and take a percentage of a book sale. Smashwords is one aggregator.
Mandatory Deposit and Copyright Registration
Any work published in the United States must be deposited with the Library of Congress. Submission rules differ based on whether the book is published solely as an eBook, as a print book, or both.
It is optional, before publication, to register copyright on a work. By law, copyright creation and protection is automatic from the time a work is created, but registration is useful to have proof for later copyright challenges. There is a fee to register a work, as explained here:
Marketing before publication should start between three and seven months before publication. Pre-publication procedures usually include promoting yourself, your book and your ideas and experiences on social media, holding book events, sending the book out for reviews and setting up interview profiles in magazines. A publicist will send out books for review, try to set you up interviews, book events, direct social media for an author and much more; their fees differ but they are not cheap. Some publicity companies do offer free newsletters that include advice and the latest information on self-publishing. Here is a link to one:
“Buzz” for a book can initially be created by giving it away. Amazon’s eBook give-away option is limited to those offered through their KDP Select Program; authors cannot sell that eBooks at stores such as Barnes and Noble or Kobo while in the program. Participation is for a three-month period, during which a book can be offered for free on five days of the author’s choice. Another option is the Kindle Countdown Deal. Details are below:
Print books can also be given away on Amazon.
Giveaways are available through Goodreads’ Author Program as well.
Bookbub is one of several websites that highlight free eBooks to readers, for a fee.
Book Fairs, Readings and Events
Some of the best-known book fairs are Book Expo America, ALA Conference and AWP Conference. Most charge a substantial fee for a table or booth at which an author can promote a book to industry professionals, readers and other writers. This can be a good way for unknown authors to promote themselves, but is rarely cost-effective. Here are some links to organizations holding book fairs:
Many reading series are held in New York City; since they are usually free, they are more cost-effective than book fairs. Authors should contact the series curator to ask about reading at an. A list of some reading series can be found at:
If you sell books at an event you will probably have to obtain a sales tax license from the state where the event is held. It may be a temporary or permanent license, depending on circumstances. Here are links for the New York State sales tax authority:
One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to obtain a following is through social media: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Reddit, Goodreads and others:
For a fee, Hootsuite publicizes information on many social media platforms simultaneously:
Bookfuel and BookBaby are two self-publishing companies that offer blogs with information on using social media to your benefit.
An author website allows readers to find out more about a authors and link to their social media platforms and vendor websites. Weebly is one of several free web-hosting sites. There are also numerous services that charge for web-hosting. Here is a list of both types:
Google’s free Google Analytics service is useful with free hosting sites or those that do not include analytics and page-view statistics.
A website domain referencing an author’s name, company or brand can be bought cheaply through web hosting companies or at http://godaddy.com. Authors can create simple blogs on websites such as Wordpress or Tumblr, and Wordpress can be implanted into an author website, permitting direct access from website to blog:
Amazon provides authors the opportunity to create an author page that includes a biography, pictures, list of events and direct links to their books and reviews, and well as a feed for tweets and blog posts.
Another way to keep in touch with followers and subscribers is through email newsletters, with email addresses obtained through the author website. Mailchimp is one email marketing companies that can offers free tutorials and helps set up the newsletter for a fee:
Reviews and Blurbs
Beta readers give feedback and analysis prior to a book’s publication. They can be found on social media and through online writer forums and often specialize in a particular genre. Several reputable magazines review books for a fee, but there is no guarantee it will be a positive review. Publishers Weekly will list a book in its PW Select issue, also called Booklife, for a fee, but there is no guarantee of a review, positive or negative. Other publications that review books for a fee include Kirkus Reviews, Foreword Reviews and San Francisco Book Review. Through its SELF-e program, Library Journal reviews books sent in three to four months prior to publication.
Many independent bloggers will review books, often for free. As with beta readers, they frequently specialize in particular types of books. General web sites for finding bloggers are:
Reviews on Amazon and other vendor sites can be submitted by anyone. Some top reviewers, such as “Hall of Fame” and “Vine,” can be approached directly for a review by locating their email address on their Amazon profile. Blurbs for the book jacket should be obtained before publication from other authors of that genre or type of book; self-published authors are the best bet and can be approached personally through email, social media and on writer forums.
eBooks are distributed through their vendors. Print books can be sold through print-on-demand companies or by hand at events. Reputable book distributors generally will not buy, sell or distribute the book of an author without a strong following and record of sales.
A book can be submitted directly to a library that accepts self-published books; many do not, and if they do, have strict guidelines for acceptability. Authors should carefully read a library’s collection development policy for self-published books, an example of which is
Library Journal/Biblioboard’s SELF-e platform permits authors to submit a work free of charge for review by Library Journal. If selected, the eBook will be available at libraries that subscribe to it and the public will able to download it as an open access file. If not selected, the eBook will be accessible through a special statewide database. For more information, click on the link and read through the terms.
Authors who self-publish eBooks through Smashwords can distribute to library patrons through Overdrive; see the Smashwords link above for terms and specifics. Printer-on-demand Createspace provides an “expanded distribution”option that lists a title on Ingram, where libraries can find and buy it; authors choosing to use Createspace’s ISBN number, which lists Createspace as publisher, can have their work make available on Baker and Taylor. Printer-on-demand Lulu offers its own options. Libraries mainly purchase through Ingram or Baker and Taylor.
Distribution to bookstores is even more difficult than to libraries, unless a book is of local interest. Booksellers also purchase through Ingram and Baker and Taylor so it is a good idea to have them available on those platforms. The usual arrangement between self-published authors and bookstores is a consignment deal whereby the author provides books for free and splits a percentage of the profits with the bookstore upon sale.
Post-Publication Marketing and Advertising
Authors can act as their own publicists by trying to publish articles about their work in online and print magazines. The submissions guidelines of magazines and journals will give specifics. Authors can also contact radio and TV shows about the possibility of an interview or a book review. This site offers tips:
Major literary prizes are not accessible to self-published authors, but some self-publishing awards are listed here:
Metadata are data that describe other data. Entering accurate metadata and keywords can help customers find a book more easily. Keywords can include genres or descriptives such as “thriller” or “adventure.” Most vendors also have authors assign one or more BISAC subject headings for a book. Advertising can provide exposure but rarely leads to sales. Social media are the easiest and most cost-effective way to advertise. Image-sharing site Imgur, which permits authors to post a book cover for free, have led to sales. Amazon offers an ad campaign as part of its KDP Select program. Magazines such as Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews accept paid advertisements. Placing a book trailer on websites such as Youtube and Vimeo tend to be costly and time consuming.
Money-Raising and Author Collectives
It is possible to raise funds to hire a publicist and market a self-published book through crowd-funding. Crowd-funding websites each have their own rules. Here are some possibilities:
Another option is to connect with other independent authors and form an author collective. There is no one way to accomplish this or outline for how it will work. An example of an author collective is
Further Information on Self-Publishing and Marketing
Many books are available with information on self-publishing. Information gets outdated fast and should be taken with a grain of salt. Book conferences are also a source of information on self-publishing. Book Expo’s UPublishU component offers many knowledgeable of speakers. Here are links for more information about it and others:
Other Avenues for Publication
More conventional methods of publication are through major publishers and independent publishers. The best way to get a book published by a major publishing house is to obtain a literary agent who will represent your manuscript. The following sites list agents and give information on how to write a query and submit a manuscript, as well as on general etiquette and approximate time lags.
Writer’s Market and Literary Marketplace contain lists of agents and publishers are can be found here:
Agents reject the vast majority of authors who solicit them, so getting one is unlikely. However, there are agents who help writers self-publish too, so that might be an avenue to consider. Another way to get published is through an independent press. Most of these presses accept submissions from authors directly. Here is a site that lists many of them:
As with agents, their acceptance rates are very low. Some independent publishers run contests to which authors can submit manuscripts in hopes of being awarded a small advance and publication. Most of these contests have entry fees used primarily to publish and promote the winner’s book, the chance of winning is low and winners are usually published at least two years later. Some contests are at:
These are the basics of self-publishing. Think long and hard about whether to go this route, do further research to see whether this is the right avenue for you, and good luck!
About the Author
This page was written and revised by Tejas Desai, a librarian at Queens Library and a self-published author of two books, The Brotherhood (2012) and Good Americans (2013). He has also published articles and given presentations on literature and publishing. Learn more about him at http://tejas-desai.com/about.html.