There are things in self-publishing you can and should do on your own. There are also things you could do on your own, but should probably pay a professional to do for you. And then there are some you should not do alone under any circumstances.
Things you will probably need help with are things that a publisher would do for you: editing, cover design, and formatting. As all of these are already discussed on their own pages, I won’t repeat the information here. By this point, you should know what book production entails, your own strengths and weaknesses with them, and how to find the right professionals for the job.
Here are some other things you will need to do before publishing your book:
Website and Social Media
The best form of marketing is word of mouth, and the best way to get that is online. First step: build your author website. And before you ask, yes, you do need one. Even a free hosted blog site is better than nothing in an age when the first thing people do is Google your name. Your website should be the first thing they find. It should be clean, neat, and have some basic information about you, your current releases and/or works in progress. You should have a book list (if applicable) and links to where people can buy your books.
Next, you’ll want to start networking and building your platform. You do that with social media. A lot of times, authors try to do too much at once, and end up with an account on every possible social network, and most of them never get updated. The better option is to stick to one or two you are comfortable with where you can post regularly, interact with people, and be social. There are systems that allow you to automate your social media posts. Use those for your promotional messages so you stay “active” even when you sometimes don’t have the time to devote to it. But you should not rely on automation only. It does not allow you to interact with people, and that is a crucial part of this whole system.
By the time you get to the publishing part, you should already have an established online presence, and people eagerly awaiting any news of your book.
Bank and PayPal Accounts
Finances. Ugh. I know, not the most exciting topic to talk about, but a necessary one. Because you want to actually get paid for your hard work, and even though you will accrue royalties regardless, you will not be able to receive them unless you have your payment information set up. Having researched your chosen platforms (you have, haven’t you?) you should now know what their method of payment is. If they pay through PayPal, and you don’t have an account, make one. If they need a checking account, bank routing numbers, etc., make sure you have them on hand when you set up your publisher accounts. Speaking of which…
Publisher Accounts and Profiles
You will need to do this for each individual place where you upload your book. If you use a distributor, you only need to do it once. If you are uploading to stores directly, you’ll need to do it for each one. You’ll need to provide your pen name (if you use one) as well as your legal name or your business name (if you actually got a small business license). You’ll also need to provide your SSN or equivalent, all your payment and tax information, your mailing address, date of birth, etc. None of this information, except your author name, will be made public. It’s only required so they can eventually pay you and send you tax return documents when the time comes.
Something else you might be asked to do is set up your author profile. This will include your author bio and picture (if you want to include one), website and social media links, other photos or videos, etc. Some platforms allow you to import your social media feeds and blog posts. These are great things to have, as they give people another path to finding you. And you really want them to find you.
If you have more than one book already published, you may be asked to link those to your author profile. In some cases, this is done automatically, but in others, like on Amazon’s Author Central, it’s done manually, because it needs to feed in from multiple platforms. In the case of Amazon, you may also need to do this on each of their international sites as well.
Assuming your book is now properly edited, formatted, and you have a cover to specs ready to go, there are still things you’ll need. You’ll need the back copy blurb, a shorter tagline, maybe even a note from you as the author about the book. These can often be harder to write than the book itself, so, to avoid last minute stress, it’s better to get them done before you start the publishing process. Beyond that, you’ll need to make some decisions on which category and subcategory you will publish under, because you will be limited to just two, so choose the ones that fit best. Tags are another thing you’ll need. Tags are search words and phrases related to your book which help narrow down readers’ search results. For example, a tag could be “small town romance” or “alien abduction erotica.” It should relate to the main premise of your book and help readers find it.
Lastly, you’ll have to assign the book a price, and that can be a tricky thing to do. But, having done your research into comparable books in your chosen category (you have, haven’t you?) you should have a pretty good idea of what you want to charge for your book, or whether you want to charge anything at all. You should also know whether your chosen platforms allow you to set a $0.00 price (hint: Amazon will not). The unit price will then determine your royalties.
The most recent development in self-publishing is that you are now allowed to set a future date of publication and make your book available for pre-order. Having done your research on this (of course) you should now know how far in advance is enough time for a good pre-order, and what you need to do to make it happen. Namely, some platforms allow you to set up the book without uploading the interior file until one week before the date it goes live. Others require you to upload at least a temporary file right away, which you will later need to replace with the final copy.
This is discussed in more detail on its own page. Here, it’s enough to note that most distributors and stores give you an option to assign a free ISBN number or equivalent, which essentially designates that distributor as the publisher. If you want a unique one that designates you as the publisher, you will need to purchase an ISBN number separately, and you will need one for each version of your book: eBook, paperback, hardcover, audio, etc.