Self-publishing for Beginners by Patty Jansen


I get asked quite a lot of questions by people who want to self-publish but have no idea where to begin. Here is a list of some points to consider:

Self-publishing for Beginners

1. Educate yourself. No, don’t google “self-publishing” because you’ll come up with a lot of mis-information spread by people who want to make money off you. There is one major place where you find out the latest about self-publishing. It’s the Writers’ Cafe at the Kindleboards (membership free and open, members: about 60,000).

2. Put on your snark and distrust. Especially of people who come to you volunteering advice, and “yes of course we can do formatting, cover and marketing for you. It will cost you $8000. All you need to do is watch the money roll in”. Do not believe them. Better still, tell them to go perform an anatomically impossible act on themselves. You have decided to self-publish. Therefore you are now a milkable cow. They want your money, nothing else.

3. Put away your lazy. Self-publishing means SELF-publishing. It means a lot of hard work. It means you get to bat for your own work. And that’s not a bad thing, because no one will bat as hard for your work as you do. But you need to do it. No one else.

4. There are some things you can outsource, but do so for a fixed price for a fixed service, for example, to make a cover. Don’t know where to find these people? At the Kindleboards (see “Yellow Pages For Writers” sticky thread at the top of the page). You’ll also find freelance editors, formatters and designers there. Some ball-park figures:

4a. You can get a book cover custom-made from about $75. Pre-made covers will cost less, sometimes as little as $10. A cover is the best ad for your book. It needs to be appealing and convey the right genre.

4b. A decent editor may cost about $1000 for a novel. You won’t get a top-level editor for this money, and they won’t structurally edit your story. A structural edit will require many passes and will set you back as much as $6000. A bad editor will take your money and do some light editing. A good editor will let you know if the work is crap and needs much further development. If this is the case, listen to these people.

4c. Formatting costs about $75. You can do this yourself. There are guides on the various platforms, but it can be fiddly, and it’s a job I personally hate doing.

5. Is this the first-ever book you’ve ever finished? If so, congratulations, but you’re not done yet. Don’t press that publish button until you’ve shown your work to others, gotten their comments and fixed meandering plots, chronic overwriting, word overuse, stodgy style and wooden characters. Warning: this will probably take you a number of years. You don’t want to publish something that looks like it’s the work of a beginner because it IS, y’know, the work of a beginner. Believe me, you will thank yourself later.

6. Publicity: your best (and free) publicity is to write another book. Simple as that. No need to spam your FB friends to death.

To find out more, please go to Patty’s blog at:

MUST USE BIGGER ELEPHANTS (Patty Jansen on writing and other stuff)

Patty Jensen


16 thoughts on “Self-publishing for Beginners by Patty Jansen

  1. I’ve learned from many years in the game (since 1995 in fact), that if you choose ‘self-publishing’ over conventional, you have no friends except for other ‘Indies’.

    Why do I say this? Most conventionally published writers, not to mention their publishers, believe the current generalization that all ‘indies’ are guilty of delivering a fault strewn product. While that may be so for some who self-publish, it doesn’t apply to the seasoned ‘indie’.

    As for paying someone to edit, and or to produce a cover and the formatting, there is no better way to learn and immeasurably improve your product than to do it all yourself. If you paid $1000 to an editor, your book has to sell a lot of copies to recoup the monetary outlay before you begin to turn a profit… 😉


  2. Reblogged this on elainecanham Excellent advice. Especially about the editing. I’m a professional editor but I always get somebody to read my stuff before I send it off. You always make some mistakes (and they can be truly embarrassing) that you never notice.


  3. I published my first collection of short stories, The First Time using the services of a self-publishing company which set me back around £600. For this the company designed a book cover, did some (very basic formatting) and placed The First Time on a variety of e-book platforms. My subsequent collections have been published without the aid of self-publishing outfits and I don’t regret having gone it alone. I would, however consider using the services of an editor for my future projects.



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