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How to self-publish a book: complete step-by-step instructions.

shelf of self-published books
Image © Julie R. Neidlinger. All rights reserved.

Everyone has a different process, based on their own reasons, wariness, and experiences. If it works for you, do it. But I wanted to share my process of how to self-publish your book from start to finish to help anyone who might need some help or who has questions about one of many potential processes.


I have published my books on Blurb for years. There weren't as many options back when I started self-publishing, Blurb puts out an excellent product, and I just accepted that they were more expensive and that to have big full-color paperback books, I would not make a big profit.


Last year I started a children's mystery series, used Blurb, liked the first book result, went back to upload the second and...surprise. They no longer offered the economy black-and-white interior paper. That instantly doubled the cost of my book and Blurb is now off my option list. Much searching later, I settled on Draft2Digital (whose print books are printed through Ingram/Lightning and have the same quality).


How To Self-Publish A Book


For those looking at how to self-publish a book, this is now the process I use.


1. Write your self-published book in Google Docs.


Since I've used Google Docs (GD) for decades as a freelancer, it's what I'm most used to. It's easy to manage your document in there with the sidebar clickable table of contents. Many other writers prefer to use other cloud software or something based on their computer.


I do backup my Google Drive with my computer so that if there is no internet I could theoretically work offline. The trick is to make sure that your internet browser has the offline Google Docs extension installed before that happens.


I also use OneNote for story management, i.e. the place where I drop ideas for plots, track characters and locations, save photos that might be a future location, etc. The triple layer of Notebook/Section/Page gives me three levels of organization that I very much like.


2. Export your book file in Rich Text Format (RTF).


Before using Draft2Digital's system, I exported a "chapters only" rich text format (RTF) file from GD so I didn't have any front matter, making sure the first line of every chapter wasn't indented. I had to make sure any comments I made in that GD file were removed as well, as they sometimes show up as footnotes depending on the software you use to create an eBook.


GD exports a really clean RTF. I know many like to work in Word but I'm not as great in that software and my RTFs were wonky when they emerged from Word. GD is really easy.


3. Create your self-published book cover.


I illustrate my own book covers, so I use my own artwork. D2D does have some basic cover layout options for you.


Please be very careful about the images you use. Never grab an image from an internet search, and even if you're using an image you think you paid to use (purchased stock image, paid Canva account, image from your website design program) be aware that there are limitations on how those images can be used. Some cannot be used indefinitely, only while you have a subscription, not in print, etc.


I have been building my own stock photo imagery for years, and even with all that, I still got hit with copyright trolls.


4. Create the ebook version of your self-published book.


Prior to using Draft2Digitals ebook creation system, this was my literal list of making the ebook.


  • Import RTF into Kindle Create to generate EPUB and KDF (use classic theme)

  • Import EPUB (or RTF) into Calibre to generate MOBI


With Draft2Digital, though, I simply upload my RTF file and create everything in their web-based system. It is incredibly simple, and they create all the necessary ebook files you need, making it easy to download them and save the files to your own computer. Plus, amazingly, you can also have them automatically list your ebook everywhere an ebook could be listed. (Note: Amazon requires special permissions, but D2D walks you through it.)


You can manage your ebook so simply, despite it being listed everywhere, through D2D's system. It's almost unreal.


5. Create the print version of your self-published book.


Blurb allowed for economy B&W as well as color interior. D2D only has B&W. For art books, it will still be Blurb.


For most of my books with Blurb, I've used InDesign with their plugin that sets up the template so easily, and then, when you're done, it generates a cover based on page count to make sure the spine fits the thickness of the book. They also have free Blurb Bookwright software you can use, though it is not always easy for text heavy books.


So the old process looked like this:


  • Import RTF (chapters only, no front content) into Blurb Bookwright to create the book OR

  • Import RTF (chapters only, no front content) into Adobe InDesign


However, with D2D, here's what I did:


  • Used the Blurb InDesign plugin to generate a template for the size book I wanted.

  • Add front page matter, etc.

  • Imported the RTF file, and flowed it through the pages, adding titles, page numbers, etc.

  • Used the Blurb InDesign plugin to generate the cover because it does the spine thickness calculation for you. Tip: D2D places their ISBN to the right bottom on the back cover, while Blurb does the middle, so you will need to do some experimenting to get it right.

  • Exported both PDFs (the interior page files and the cover files) and used those in D2D.


Now, with D2D...you don't have to use InDesign or Bookwright or anything else. You can literally create the interior of your print book in their system just like you did the ebook (cover, too). But I wanted more layout control. For the most part, Blurb's generated layout for both interior and cover fit D2D well (I used the 5x8 trade size).


D2D has the ability to list your book globally and you can order author copies, too.


Again, this is just one of many ways to self-publish your book, but it's what I use in case you wanted some specific step-by-step instructions.

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