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Writing and Publishing

The Indie Book Publishing Checklist

Here are the key steps to write and indie publish a book.

  1. Develop your initial concept and vision. This step includes market research into competitive titles to gauge the book’s marketability. 
  2. Write the first draft for the entire book.
  3. Do your first edits. Continue to fine-tune until you feel you’re ready for feedback.
  4. Run spell and grammar check.
  5. Get feedback from beta readers or critique groups and fine-tune your book, though this step can also happen after step eight.
  6. Run spell and grammar check, again.
  7. Get a developmental edit. Some people call this edit a book critique, while others call it a substantial edit. But these labels can also refer to different services. What you want is big-picture feedback. At this stage, you need someone to give you an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of your book. They should address how it flows, its overall arc, and identify anything that’s out of place, missing, or not needed. You also want someone to point out shortcomings in your writing style—we all have them, but we can’t see them until someone tells us.
  8. Incorporate the feedback of your developmental edit, as appropriate, into your book. Evaluate every recommendation, but don’t feel you need to accept each one. When you feel you’ve implemented all the relevant changes, proceed to the next step.
  9. Run spell and grammar check, a third time.
  10. Have someone copy edit your book. This edit looks at writing at the sentence level.
  11. Again, discerning what advice to follow and what to dismiss, make the needed changes.
  12. Do a fourth spell and grammar check.
  13. Have someone proofread your book. This edit addresses grammar and punctuation. It focuses on details. Though many authors separate copy editing and proofreading into two steps, most of the editors I work with do both at the same time. This saves money and shaves weeks off the publishing timeline.
  14. Make a final read through the book yourself and do a final spell and grammar check. Since you’ve already had professionals review your book, make changes with great care at this point. If in doubt, leave it as is.
  15. Format your book for mobi and epub (the formats needed for e-books). I do this formatting myself using a free online tool from Draft2Digital. If you use Scrivener, it can also format e-books. 
  16. Once you’ve formatted your e-book, verify that everything looks the way you want it to.
  17. Concurrent to the copy edit and proofread phases, design your book cover. Unless you have graphic software and the skill to produce a cover equal to or better than traditional publishers, hire a cover designer.
  18. Upload your e-book to your publisher or publishing aggregator or both. Though an incomplete list, these are the publishing outlets I use:
    • Amazon, to reach the US audience, you must be on Amazon
    • Kobo, which is great for other countries, such as Canada
    • Draft2Digital, a publishing aggregator, which can also do Amazon
    • Publish Drive, a publishing aggregator, which can also do Amazon
    • StreetLib, a newer publishing aggregator, with a wide reach
  19. If you want to also do a paperback version, which I recommend, hire someone to do the interior layout. Yes, you can do this step yourself, but it’s tedious and frustrating. (I have spent over twenty hours trying to do the internal formatting myself. So now I pay someone else to do it.) They will provide a PDF file of your book. Note that Amazon and IngramSpark have different file expectations, so you need two files, one for each publisher.
  20. Verify that everything in your PDF is correct.
  21. Upload your paperback version to your publisher or publishers.
    • Amazon
    • IngramSpark
  22. Now it’s time to launch and market your book. Marketing gives us a whole new topic to deal with.

Since I’ve written and published many books, I made my own checklist (on which the above list is based) to make sure I cover everything and don’t miss a step. As more options become available and I learn more about the writing and publishing process, I will continue to fine-tune my list. If you plan on being a multi-book author, I suggest you make your own checklist too.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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