Five Things To Think About Now You're Self-Publishing

Five Things To Think About Now You're Self-Publishing, Guest Post by Kathleen Jowitt

Five Things To Think About Now You're Self-Publishing, Guest Post by Kathleen Jowitt

When I first started writing, I assumed that somewhere along the line I'd pick up a publisher.

When I decided to self-publish, I found that there were a whole lot of things that had suddenly become my responsibility, things that I'd once assumed a publisher would sort out for me. Here are five of them:
1. Editing

Nobody writes exactly what they meant to. No first draft is perfect. However experienced you are as a writer, you'll miss something: a plot hole that didn't get filled, a word that doesn't mean what you thought it did, a detail that's just wrong.

A publisher would employ an editor – perhaps more than one – to help you polish your text, smooth out any rough bits, and ensure that it's as good as it possibly can be. When you're self-publishing, the editing becomes your responsibility, too.

I don't mean that you are the one who has to do it. Indeed, I would very strongly recommend getting someone else in on the act.

If you don't know anyone who can help, there are plenty of freelance editors around. Editing is the one thing that makes a reasonable book into a brilliant book. It's well worth the effort of finding someone to help you.

2. Typesetting

So you have a finished manuscript. If you're anything like me, your manuscript will be a large pile of laser-printed A4 sheets, with paragraphs indicated by double returns and section breaks indicated by triple returns.

You'll have noticed that not many printed books look like that.

Now you're self-publishing, it's your job to make that 'finished manuscript' into something, well, finished.

You'll probably want to take out those double returns and use first-line indent to show where new paragraphs begin. You'll almost certainly need to compensate for a change in page size. You might want to change the typeface.

Then there are e-books. I use Lulu, which gets very fussy about how your mark the chapter headings and won't recognise page breaks or section breaks. All systems have their own quirks. You're the one who needs to get your head around them.

3. Proofreading

Proofreading is a bit like editing, but on a much closer scale. It's the checking for spelling mistakes and for use of the wrong word, for inconsistent use of single and double inverted commas. It's the search for errors that can't be explained away as 'artistic licence'.

Even if you have a good eye for that kind of thing, it's worth getting a second opinion. Somebody else will pick up the things that you miss, and it's much better for that to happen before you've sent it to print.

4. Cover

There are some great book covers out there. And there are some terrible book covers out there. Most authors can blame their publishers for the bad ones. If you're self-publishing, it's all on you.

This, I suspect, is the item that gets outsourced more often than any other on this list, and that's a good way to go. Whoever ends up designing it, though, there are some things you need to think about.

The obvious, of course: title, author. Then your distributor may have some requirements: ISBN, bar code, price.

On the back cover, you have the blurb – which has also become your responsibility. It needs to fit into the space available. Like the rest of your cover, it needs to be legible, and to make people want to read your book. (And, perhaps more importantly, not to feel misled when they do.)

5. Distribution

Or, getting the finished product to somewhere the reader can buy it. The internet has made this much easier than it used to be. My parents got into self-publishing in the early nineties, and my childhood home was hemmed in by stacks of yet-to-be sold books, and awash with packaging materials. From time to time an order would come in, which would mean great rejoicing and a trip to the post office. These days you can sell a copy of your book without ever seeing it. The same goes for e-books. All the same, if you want your book to be in bookshops, you're the one who has to get it there.

And, finally, here's one that you were always going to have to do...


These days, more and more of the responsibility for book publicity is falling on the author. Even if you were conventionally published, you would be expected to do a lot of the legwork.

Book signings, tours physical or virtual, wheedling and begging for reviews... at least you can content yourself with the thought that your colleague with a book deal is having to work just as hard at this bit as you are.

Kathleen Jowitt writes contemporary fiction about characters who come to terms with who and what they are.

Speak Its Name (2016) explores Christianity and sexual identity in the context of student life and politics, and was the first self-published novel ever shortlisted for the prestigious Betty Trask Prize, which is awarded to the best debut by an author under the age of 35. 

Her latest book, A Spoke in the Wheel, was published in May 2018 and looks at drugs in sport, physical capacity, disability, acceptance, redemption, and integrity.

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