The Write Stuff: Tips for Self-Publishing a Book


Cindy Kibbe, writing under her pseudonym CK Donnelly, is the author of “The Kinderra Series”, an award-winning series of young adult fantasy novels. Like many authors, she self-publishes her work – in her case after receiving more than 100 rejections from mainstream publishers.

It is increasingly common for authors to publish their own work, thanks to technology that allows them to print as few as a single copy only after receiving an order and payment. Sales of self-published books have grown 264% over the past five years to average 300 million copies a year, generating $1.25 billion in revenue, according to recent statistics from WordsRated, an analytics group non-commercial data.

There are upfront costs associated with self-publishing; the adage “you have to spend money to make money” applies to the self-publishing industry.

Navigating the world of self-publishing isn’t easy for novices, but some authors who have made it through are willing to offer advice, much of which they’ve learned the hard way.

“I think having one hundred percent control over the cover and overall content of the book is a benefit.”

“I didn’t choose to self-publish initially,” Kibbe says. “I wanted to be replaced by a literary agent and be published in the traditional way… Unfortunately, after interviewing for a year – and over 100 rejections – that was just not going to happen. If I wanted ‘Trine Rising’ and its sequels to be read, I had to self-edit.”

“I am very, very proud to have achieved this goal and to have three books available to readers,” she adds. “It was a tough road.”

The benefits of self-publishing

Author Scott Hanson self-published his two books, “Who is Gym?” and “What’s your number?” after failing to pitch the books to mainstream publishers in his home state of Arizona. (His two books are very Arizona-centric, so he thought a local publisher would be his best bet.) Although the publishers’ rejection letters were hard to swallow, there were benefits to being self- published.

“I think having one hundred percent control over the cover and overall content of the book is a benefit,” says Hanson. “Having books to give away has also been a benefit of self-publishing. Writing and publishing a non-fiction book gives the author automatic expert status. In my case, I was recognized as an Arizona high school sports expert, having conducted dozens of interviews across the state.”

Gaila Kline-Hobson has released “The Chosen’s Calling,” a trio of books for young adults, on Amazon. A former teacher, Kline-Hobson always wanted to be an author and continued her creative endeavors after retirement.

“You retain complete control over your book,” she says of the benefits of self-publishing. “Amazon is getting the book out quickly, both electronically and in print. The print quality is great. You keep a lot more royalties. I’ve published three times myself. If I write another book, I’ll use Amazon .”

Alternatives to Amazon and their benefits

There are options for Amazon. Self-published authors can use resources such as, which is what Hanson used, or IngramSpark.

A woman with short hair smiling.  Next Avenue, how to self-publish a book.
Gaila Hobson | Credit: Gaila Hobson

“I produce and distribute my books on both IngramSpark and KDP Amazon – and strongly recommend that all self-published authors do the same,” says Kibbe. “First, Ingram is the only house that will create and widely distribute a hardcover dust jacket as a print-on-demand (or POD). Amazon currently offers a hardcover POD option, but it doesn’t have a dust jacket.”

“Also, bookstores buy their stock from Ingram, not Amazon,” she adds. “So if you want to be on the shelves at Barnes & Noble or your local bookstore, you have to be available through Ingram.”

Self-publishing challenges

Kibbe goes on to note that there are upfront costs associated with self-publishing; the adage “you have to spend money to make money” applies to the self-publishing industry as well as most others.

Lin Hawthorne is the self-published author of “Mom’s Not Wipin’ Your Bum,” the first in what should be a series of humorous “Mom’s Not…” children’s books. Besides dealing with the financial pressure of raising money to publish a book — she did a Kickstarter fundraiser — she says self-published authors wear a lot of hats.

“Being a self-published author means a lot of business management, self-promotion, and hands-on marketing.”

“Being a self-published author means a lot of business management, self-promotion, and hands-on marketing,” says Hawthorne. “That means building your own online following using traditional marketing methods and social media. For anyone considering becoming a self-publisher, I would suggest the following exercise: examine your goals. Do you just want to publish a book and sell a few copies on Amazon? , or do you want to make it a profitable business? Use that goal to guide all of your decisions.”

“If you want to make a business out of it, hiring a book marketing coach is a great decision,” she continues. “They will push you to get that audience and appear online, although that might not be the most comfortable for those of us who are older. And if being a self-published author proves everything simply too much, you can always take that audience and online presence you’ve cultivated and use it as leverage to interview traditional publishers.You just can’t lose the experience you gain by diving into self-publishing .

Lessons learned and shared

Kline-Hobson says learning about the business side of the industry has been the biggest challenge for her when it comes to self-publishing. “Learning how to get copyright, ISBN numbers, formatting the draft for publication, uploading the manuscript, creating a website and deciding on publicity and social media coverage were the biggest challenges for me with my first book,” she says.

Encouragingly, she adds, “It was easier for the second and third books.”

Charlie Brian Golding, a self-published children’s book author, says he likes having control over the book’s creative process, but looking back, he would have made different choices. “I would have waited a little longer for the book to be finished to start the self-publishing process [and] before hiring a publicist,” he says.

A man sitting outside smiling.  Next Avenue, how to self-publish a book.
Charlie Brian Golding | Credit: Charlie Brian Golding

But, on the other hand, he notes that hiring a publicist who works in the self-publishing industry helped him navigate the process.

“Read a lot about self-publishing and educate yourself about the process before diving in,” Kline-Hobson advises those looking to publish their own work. “Unless you are extremely tech-savvy, expect your learning curve to be steep as you go through all the necessary steps before final publication. Be sure to carefully keep a copy of your manuscript just in case. the cyberworld would decide to make a copy disappear.”

Kibbe acknowledges that she still hopes to one day connect with a traditional publishing house, as she thinks it could help her find a wider audience. “Still, I’m grateful for everything I’ve learned, both the good and the bad,” she says. “It made me a much stronger person.”

The growth of alternative distribution channels has leveled this part of the playing field for self-publishers, but she says they still face some drawbacks.

“It’s name and brand recognition that’s far behind for self-publishers,” says Kibbe. “Millions of titles are published every year and you have to find a way to get to the top so readers find you.”

Michelle Talsma Everson
Michelle Talsma Everson is a writer and editor from Phoenix, Arizona. She has written for various media and believes in the power of storytelling to shine a light on important topics that impact people’s lives. You can see his work at Read more

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