Self Publishing

Self-publishing Timeline

Are you a new author with a completed manuscript and you’re not sure what to do next?

Photo Credit: Jonny Wikins on Flickr
Photo Credit: Jonny Wikins on Flickr

That was me last spring after I’d completed my first novel.

My solution was to ask my developmental editor, Leah Campbell, for advice. Leah is a published author, so she was able to fill me in on what I needed to do.

  •  Create a cover, or hire a cover designer.
  •  Hire a line editor.
  •  Read through my book. Again. For the 80 billionth time.
  •  Figure out which print-on-demand service I wanted to use. (She suggested CreateSpace.)
  •  Format my book for paperback publication.
  •  Format my book for e-publication. (Or hire someone to do it.)

So I did everything she suggested, and shortly after uploading my book to CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing, voila. My book became a best seller within a few weeks.

Just kidding.

In reality, it took about four months to complete all of the above, and my work was still far from complete. Plus, I hadn’t even gotten to the most difficult aspect of self-publishing: marketing.

Slowly but surely, I learned new promotion strategies and came to realize that marketing a book is an ongoing job. I also realized something crucial. Marketing should begin months prior to publication. In light of this fact, I’ve done a lot more in preparation for my upcoming novel.

My Self-Publishing Timeline for Don’t Call Me Kit Kat

Summer 2014

  • Completed an outline of chapters and a descriptive list of characters.
  • Booked Okay Creations to design the cover in February.

*I booked the cover designer extra-early to take advantage of a promotion she was running. Otherwise, I would have waited until November/December to make the appointment.

September 2014

  • Started writing the first draft.

November 2014

  • Set up my website/blog. (This should have been done much sooner!)
  • Sent the first 30 percent to Leah.

December 2014

  • First blog post about Don’t Call Me Kit Kat.
  • Re-named the book. (It was originally The Me I See, but people thought it sounded too self-helpish.)

January 2014

  • Added a Don’t Call Me Kit Kat page to my website.
  • Sent the completed first draft to Leah.

February 2014

  • Revisions, revisions, revisions.
  • Blurb was written.
  • Set up my author Facebook page. (Up until then, I only had a page for CDR.)
  • Cover design began.
  • Found beta readers.

March 2014

  • Sent revisions to Leah.
  • Added book to Goodreads.
  • Scheduled cover reveal.
  • Sent book to beta readers.
  • Cover completed.
  • Find ARC reviewers.

April 2014

  • Cover reveal.
  • Post cover to all of my social media sites.
  • Set up ARC giveaway on Goodreads.
  • Set up a book blitz and review query through Xpresso Book Tours.
  • Make changes based on beta reader feedback.
  • Upload final draft to CreateSpace.
  • Order ARCs and get them out to reviewers.
  • Schedule a Facebook party for release day, and collect giveaway items.

May 2014

  • Make any final changes.
  • Format for KDP upload.
  • Upload to KDP.
  • May 15 – Release Day!

Post Publication

  • Continue to market, market, market! (Specifics to follow in another post.)

For more information about preparing a book for publication, check out the following posts from Jo Michaels and Cynthia over at Goodreads. Jo is extremely knowledgeable about self-publishing, so I also recommend that you subscribe to her blog if you’re a new author.

Marketing Plans
How to: Make Sure the Timing Is Right
Ask KJ, Self Publishing

Smashwords vs BookBaby vs Draft2Digital

Converting a manuscript for eBook publication is more complex than simply uploading it to various digital sales channels. This makes choosing a conversion/distribution service an important decision for many self-published authors. At this point, I have narrowed the options down to three: Smashwords, BookBaby and Draft2Digital.

Before I get into comparing the three platforms, I should disclose that my books are currently enrolled in KDP Select, which makes them exclusive to Amazon. For now, this makes sense to me because I’m a newer, relatively unknown author. But in the future, say after I publish my next two books, I plan to branch out into other markets. It never hurts to do your homework early, right?


One advantage to being enrolled in KDP Select is that it makes my books available to Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime subscribers. Without the exposure, a lot of Amazon customers would never come across my books or my name. Furthermore, when a subscriber borrows one of my books, I get paid per page read based on the size of the KDP Select Global Fund which varies from month to month. Sounds good, right? Well, yes and no. While I currently make more on borrows than on sales, there is definitely a downside. KDP Select books can be sold only on Amazon. So, readers who purchase eBooks from Barnes & Noble, Kobo or Apple (to name just a few other eBook retailers), don’t have immediate access to the e-versions of my books. Sure, they could download a Kindle app, but some readers simply prefer other platforms and some may not have access to the Kindle store period. This is why I plan to opt out of KDP Select in the future.

Now, back to comparing Smashwords, BookBaby and Draft2Digital.


Upfront Cost: $0

Royalty per sale: 15%

Input formats accepted: Word .doc, professionally designed epub

Formatting: Must be done by author (unless a fee is paid)

Distributes to: Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, OverDrive, Scribd, Oyster, Baker & Taylor (operates Blio, a popular e-reading app, and also operates Axis360 which distributes ebooks to public libraries), txtr, mobile phone app vendors (Aldiko on Android; Kobo on all mobile platforms) and other online venues (must upload to KDP yourself)

Extras: Coupon generator, adjustable royalty splits with distributors

What I’ve heard: easy-to-use formatting guide, classy output, excellent dashboard interface


Upfront Cost: $299

Royalty per sale: 0%

Input formats accepted: Word, PDF

Formatting: Included

Distributes to: KDP, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Copia, Gardners Books, Baker & Taylor, eSentral, Scribd, Flipkart, Oyster, Ciando, EBSCO, ePubDirect,

Extras: Print-on-demand services available, converts up to 50 graphic elements, premium listings on Goodreads, Noisetrade, BookDaily, and Bublish, step-by-step guide to choosing keywords, free social media guide, free reviews

What I’ve heard: good cover illustrators


Upfront Cost: $0

Royalty per sale: 10%

Input formats accepted: Word .doc or .docx, RTF

Formatting: Included

Distributes to: Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Scribd, Tolino, Page Foundry (must upload to KDP yourself)

Extras: Can set up a preorder with most vendors, free ISBNs

What I’ve heard: very user friendly, excellent (human) customer service

At this point, I’ve ruled out Bookbaby due to the upfront cost. Between Smashwords and D2D, I’m leaning toward SW because of the wider distribution and the coupon generator, which allows authors to offer books at discounted rates, or even for free, without changing prices on sales channels.

Do you currently use one of these services? If so, what are your thoughts?