A Self-Publishing Guide for First Time Authors


At last, the late nights and early mornings have paid off. You have your manuscript finished. A text file on your computer with your best work. But now what? There is the option of contacting an agent and going down the traditional route of publishing your book or you can go down the path of self-publishing. To get more of an idea of self-publishing vs traditional publishing, take a look at our blog self-publishing vs traditional publishing.

So you have decided to self-publish your book. Fantastic. Having full control over your book can be a great feeling for a first-time author. All the decision making comes down to you. But where to start? Well, this is going to be a quick guide on how you can get your book published and available in bookshops worldwide without having to hand your manuscript over to a publishing company.

Edit Your Manuscript

For a first time author, this can seem like quite a big deal. The majority of manuscripts get rewritten a number of times. The amount will depend on your goals and a reflection of who you are. Many authors are able to publish from their first draft while others will spend years perfecting their manuscript. Famous examples for rewriting include Leo Tolstoy, who rewrote the whole of War and Peace seven times, Robert Musil who worked on The Man Without Qualities for twenty-one years and left it unfinished when he died, and Ernest Hemingway, who wrote 47 different endings for A Farewell in Arms.


Now is a good time to contact friends and family that are interested in your writing and ask them to read your manuscript. Having a different pair of eyes read through your book can spot out potential errors in your writing that you have missed. If you go over the manuscript yourself, if you have been heavily editing it, you may not see the potential errors that others may. If you’re not ready to have your wor over to friend or family or you want a more professional touch on your book, you can pay for a proofreader. You should aim to find a proofreader in your particular genre and try and get some feedback from other clients and get some samples of their work. A professional proofreader can be in the region of £10 to £15 per 1000 so it is a good idea to do your homework on the individual or company you use.

Typesetting and page layout

After the proofreading has been completed your manuscript should be pretty much completed and ready to be typeset. This process involves getting your manuscript from your word processing document into a press-ready PDF file. Most modern word processing software will allow you to edit your document to the correct size for printing, adjust margins, add page numbers, add headers and footers and convert this file to a PDF file. However, the software that you use will have a big impact on how the final file will look.

Take a look at the image below;

The document on the left was created with Microsoft Word and the document on the right was created with Adobe InDesign. You can see how the Word file is unable to keep consistent spacing throughout the page. Indesign, on the right, keeps the text looking neat and professional with consistent spacing throughout.

Having your book professionally typeset can vary in price depending on how many images you have in your book and what type of genre it is. Novels tend to be the cheapest with only text ranging in price from £8 to £12 per 1000 words.

Cover Design

The majority of people do judge a book by its cover and your book will be no different. You need to think long and hard about what cover will represent your book the best. If you have some basic design experience you may be able to do this part yourself, if not then it would be best to get a professional design made. Thankfully through the sheer number of self-publishing authors, cover design services have fallen in price and it is not uncommon to get a lovely cover designed for as little as £99.  In order to get a cover designed, you will need to make sure you have your final book size, final page count and have an idea of what paper you would like your book printed on. With these three things, your cover designer will be able to create the perfect cover for your book. A great place to start looking for a cover design would be either Fiverr.com or 99Designs.co.uk.

Don’t forget the finished cover design should have a few very important pieces of information, the first being a title and subtitle, obviously, but also a well-written blurb and an ISBN and barcode. The ISBN can be purchased from Nielsen and then given to your designer to create the barcode.

Putting this all together you should now have a press-ready PDF file for the internal pages and a press-ready cover file. Both of these documents can now be passed onto your book printer. As with all things the work doesn’t stop there. If your aim for your book is to get it into the market and sell copies online or through a physical book store then there are further steps you need to complete. You can read more about this in part 2 – 6 Surefire ways to sell your book – Here.

All of this can seem like hard work, especially for a first-time author stepping into the world of book publishing. There are some companies that specifically help first-time authors who are classed as self-publishing companies. They are able to guide you through the whole process of publishing your book from start to finish. Self-publishing companies will normally charge you a set fee for producing your book but will not take any of the rights and more importantly not take any of the royalties that you are entitled to from any copies that are sold.


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Do you have a book printing project coming up? Why not head over to our instant price calculator to find out how much printing your book could cost?

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