If you want to publish

I receive many requests for help with book design and self-publishing. Since I no longer work with independent authors in this way (other than informally assisting those I coach individually in writing), I have put together this page of resources. There is a lot of mis-information as well as scams on the internet around publishing, so please be careful. If you want to venture into self-publishing, educate yourself well — these are resources that I find trustworthy.


thebookdesigner.com: For anyone who wants to learn about self-publishing, this blog is my favorite source of information on the current situation in the brave new world of publishing. Includes a great digest every week on the best of the self-publishing blogs, and excellent information and resources on the actual making of books. He also regularly gives awards for book cover design, and so is a great place to find a graphic designer whose style you resonate with.

thecreativepenn.com: Joanna Penn is a fiction writer who has successfully self-published her books. She shares all she knows about this on her blog. Many excellent resources here on how to self-publish and market a book, from the author’s point of view.

sethgodin.com: Provocative, iconoclastic and often wise, Seth Godin was a best-selling author with a New York publisher who went rogue and started publishing his own work with great success. Champions the notion that we are all most likely to be successful if we let ourselves be completely who we are — however “weird.” Supposedly he writes about “marketing,” but I read him for his quirky wisdom and insights into the digital world. Very useful, cutting-edge perspective on marketing.


createspace.com: This is the place to use if you want to self-publish print-on-demand and e-books for no up-front costs. Yes, they are a big corporation, but they also have by far the best deal anywhere on the web, especially for those with limited resources. Just be sure and get your own ISBN number, which is an international system that is used by all bookstores and libraries for books and ebooks (not difficult to do — available online from Bowker). This will indicate that you are the publisher, rather than Createspace books. If there is any chance you may want to print elsewhere in the future, rather than use their templates for your book, you will also want to upload your own pdf files of the book design (hire a book designer to create the files for you). If you use their templates, Createspace owns them and you will have to re-create the book to print elsewhere. Your book will be distributed internationally through Amazon.com and to online bookstores, as well as by special order to regular bookstores through Ingram, a large distributor. Highest royalties of all the self-publishing options on the web. PLEASE be careful of any offers elsewhere on the web that require lots of money upfront and also require that you use their ISBN. Don’t be tempted by big promises about “marketing help.” Lots of people out there are taking advantage of first-time author/publishers.

bookbaby.com: The place to use if you want to make money on your print-on-demand/ebook, expect to sell a good number of them and don’t mind paying something upfront: They have a reasonable upfront fee, but take no cut once the book is published (except for the cost of production). They distribute to all the major retailers, and set up a basic ebook from a word file as part of the fee. They also have design services. Continued distribution costs are very reasonable.

chicagomanualofstyle.com: If you are going to publish a print-on-demand book and want professional results — especially if you want to design and edit it yourself — this is the bible of the book publishing world. Follow this carefully. We have a lot of subliminal conditioning around what a book should look like — the order of the pages, the consistency of the grammar, typography, etc. — and it’s very subtle. You have to know the rules extremely well to break them. For this reason, I recommend hiring a book editor to copyedit your book before publication. You will also want to hire a book designer — before you start making artwork for it (what works on paper and what works on a book cover or inside a book are two very different things). Books are not set up in word-processing software, but transferred into a layout program. There is a specific way you need to set up your manuscript to get it ready for a book designer. Guidelines can be found here.

copyright.gov: Your book is automatically copyrighted as soon as you write it, but in America you can also register it with the copyright office for a fee after it is published for extra assurance.


How to write your memoir: Many writers come to me with a story from their life to share. For those intent on publishing a memoir for a wider audience, the approach is a bit different than when writing a memoir with your own integration and soul-work as the first priority. Jerry Jenkins, a New York Times bestselling author, put together this excellent guide to help you look at your memoir idea the way a publisher would see it. Good to study this before beginning your book if you want it to be marketable to a wide audience.


Poets&Writers: This is a great magazine, and their free newsletter is a wonderful source of information as well as inspiration. Their website is full of excellent resources, including free, up-to-date listings of magazines, small presses and agents with links to their guidelines. Has a literary focus — poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction. Often people putting together anthologies advertise their calls for submissions here.

How to Write a Book Proposal: If you are working on a non-fiction book that you want to propose to a publisher, this book by Michael Larsen is hands-down the best guide to the process. Do exactly as he says — it works. I’ve helped numerous people land publishing contracts using this book as a guide. I used to be a “slush pile” editor, so trust me on this one — don’t cut corners. If you are considering self-publishing a book that you want to sell, this will help you understand exactly what publishers look for, and may help you refine your idea for your book before you get too far into writing it.


firstsiteguide.com: Starting a blog can be a great way to begin sharing your work, whether for the first time or in a new context. But for those new to online publishing it can be daunting to figure out how to get started. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the process with simple clarity and answer all your questions. You’ll be up and running in no time.