Fast Tips for First-Time Self-Publishers

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

So you’re writing a novel? Congratulations! You are knee-deep in the hardest part of the process… is what I wish I could say. Unfortunately, even after the last word is typed, there is still a lot of work to do.

Don’t fear, though. There are literally millions of self-published books available online, which means many first-time authors have done this before you and can show you the way, including yours truly.

I have published a handful of books, both in print and in e-book format, and I have sold quite a few as well. Don’t bother searching for me. I write under a pen name, but I do have a few tips to share with you under my own moniker.

  1. Edit AGAIN.
    Yes, I am aware that you’ve probably read through your book so many times you can’t see straight, but you’re going to have to read over it again and again… and again. And you’ll need to get more eyes on it too. If you can, hiring an editor is never a bad idea.
    I do realize that most self-published authors cannot afford editors, however. If you can’t afford an editor, I would highly recommend attending local writers’ group meetings. Pretty much every city has a writers’ group, and if your city doesn’t, start one!
    Writers’ groups usually allow you to share samples of your work with the group for feedback, which can be invaluable in crafting your story. They are also a great place to find good beta readers! Many writers are willing to do an exchange and read and edit your work if you do the same for theirs.
    Even inexperienced editors can help you find typos, missing words, misspellings, etc. I have also known authors to hire beta readers through Craigslist or other online advertisements, though I’ve never gone that route myself.

2. Invest in an attractive cover.
You’re never supposed to judge a book by its cover, but people do it all the time. I’ve been guilty of it myself. An attractive cover will help you sell more copies of your novel. It’s that simple. Producing a good cover, however, can be difficult.
I, personally, have my covers made for me by a professional artist. That professional artist happens to be my husband, though, so that part is easy for me. One popular option is to buy stock photos off sites like and create your own cover.
I wouldn’t choose that option unless you are comfortable with design, or at least comfortable with learning it. Some authors hire professional artists. The rates for cover artists vary widely. Whether you plan to make your cover yourself or hire someone to make it for you, do your research.
What’s popular in your genre? What fits the theme of your book? What are you trying to convey to the reader? You’ll want to be able to answer those questions whether you are mocking up a design yourself or asking an artist to make something for you.

3. Make sure your book is formatted well

Formatting is important. I’ve come across a lot of self-published books that aren’t formatted correctly, which makes them a pain to read. At that point, the quality of your story doesn’t matter, because I can’t digest it anyway. Take the time to make sure your book is formatted correctly before you sell it.
That means following the provided directions carefully, using the preview tool diligently, and ordering proofs before putting your book online. I like to order a proof and go through it with a red pen to do my final edits before finishing it up and putting it online.

4. Don’t self-publish merely to sell books.

I know this one doesn’t make sense to a lot of people, but when I’m writing, I’m not thinking about how many books I’m going to sell. I’m not pumping out vampire romance novels because that’s what’s hot. I’m not trying to game the system to get better rankings or more sales, and I’m not writing because I want to be famous. Far from it. I’m writing because I enjoy the journey, and I want to share it with someone else.
I think we’d have higher quality self-published books out there if authors cared a little more about the writing process of the novel and a little less about the dollars that will follow publication. In most cases, there aren’t many dollars that will follow anyway. If you’re writing to get rich… don’t.

5. Don’t write another vampire romance novel. PLEASE.

I mean, if you love vampire romance novels — if that’s your thing — go for it. But don’t copy a famous book to make money. Those markets are over-saturated and competitive, and you don’t want to waste your time chasing a fad that will fade before you can even get your book out there.
Make something that means something to you. If you care deeply about the theme in your novel, the characters, and the genre, other people are bound to as well. Be authentic.

Hopefully, if you’re a first-timer, these tips will help you on your self-publishing journey. I have more tips to come.

In the meantime, if you want to read some of my published stories, you can do so at

K.B. Bailey is a freelance writer, author, and professional blog writer who lives in Colorado. Visit or follow @kbwriter24 on social media.