The final step in your journey to self-publication is to get the whole shebang uploaded and published.
At this point in the process, you should have a completely edited manuscript, your interior files, your cover images, your marketing copy, your initial prices, and you should know where you’re self-publishing.
There are just a few final steps to make your books available for sale.
Consider getting an ISBN
An ISBN is a 13-digit code that’s used by bookstores, libraries, and distributors to identify a book. ISBNs cost around $125 per book format in the United States (meaning: print and audio editions of the same book need separate ISBNs). You can purchase these through Bowker either individually or in a bulk batch at a discount.
If you’re self-publishing, getting an ISBN is actually an optional activity because many platforms like Amazon don’t require one, and other distributors will give you either an ISBN or a separate identification number for free or at a discount.
However, there are some advantages to purchasing your own ISBN. Retailers won’t sell books without an ISBN, and if you ever want to change distributors or if you have broader ambitions as a publisher, an ISBN can help keep your books unified under the same identification number and ensure that you are always listed as the publisher.
Also note: if you get a free identification from a distributor like IngramSpark, they will probably be listed as the publisher, not you.
I ultimately decided to purchase ISBNs for my self-published books, but if your ambitions are limited or you’re sticking to e-books, you may ultimately decide against it to save some cash.
Choose your categories and keywords
When you upload, you’ll likely need to choose some categories and keywords in order to help the bookseller know where to list your book.
For fiction, it’s usually pretty straightforward to hone in on your category or genre, but there are lots of different permutations for nonfiction, so you may want to spend some time researching books that are similar to yours on Amazon and Barnes & Noble to see how they are categorized.
For the keywords, put yourself in the shoes of someone who is searching for a book like yours. If you wrote a fantasy novel, you might choose “Dragons,” “Knights,” “Magic,” etc., while if you wrote a diet book, you might choose keywords like “Diet,” “Fitness,” “Health,” etc.
As David Gaughran pointed out in our recent interview, it pays to really hone in on the micro-niches so you can get on the right bestseller lists.
This may just be the easiest step out of this whole process.
You’ll need to upload your files and enter the marketing copy in all the different places that you’re planning to distribute. Be very careful to make sure you’re choosing the right options (be especially careful to choose the right option for Amazon exclusivity or nonexclusivity), but overall the sites are pretty self-explanatory and straightforward.
You can either set the publication date in the future or publish immediately. Your book will be under review for 24–72 hours, and then you’ll have a book that’s available for sale.
WHOA! YOUR BOOK IS PUBLISHED!
If you notice a typo in your book or want to make a change after it’s published, don’t sweat it, you can correct the error and upload new files. Down the line, if you ever decide you want to unpublish your book or create a new edition, you can remove your books for sale at any time.
Now get your copyright registered
There are lots of misconceptions around copyright and what it means. One important thing to understand: your work is copyrighted the minute you create it. You don’t need to put a copyright symbol on every page or do anything special.
However, there are additional legal advantages conferred by registering your copyright with the Library of Congress within three months of publication. It makes it easier to sue for damages if someone ends up infringing on your work.
To register, go to copyright.gov and follow the instructions.
Please note that I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice, so please consult with one if you are unsure.
See anything I missed? Any self-publishing pros with wisdom to add? Take to the comments!
Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and coaching!
For my best advice, check out my guide to writing a novel (now available in audio) and my guide to publishing a book.
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Art: Detail of Three Books by Vincent van Gogh