Is It Hard To Self-Publish A Book? (And where to start)

A frustrated author is seated in front of her laptop at her desk, surrounded by crumpled paper, and holding her head in her hands.

Self-publishing can be daunting at the start. However, it has a number of advantages – you retain creative control, you can produce a higher quality product, and you keep more of the profits. But understanding self-publishing can be overwhelming for newbies.

Self-Publishing is difficult for beginners and has a steep learning curve. But once you understand a few key aspects, such as market research and self-publishing options, the process becomes simple, easy, and repeatable.

I’ve been self-publishing for more than a decade, and I want to make the process as easy for you as it has become for me.

In this article, you will learn:

  • Self Publishing – Where Do I Start?
  • Where Should I Publish My Book?
  • How long does it take to self-publish a book?
  • How Much Does It Cost To Self-Publish?

Self Publishing – Where Do I Start?

The best place to start when self-publishing is Market Research. Getting an overview of successful books in your niche, as well as understanding what your audience expects, is key to the long-term success of any book.

No matter where you are on your publishing journey, if you haven’t done any market research, now is the best time to start.

1. Find Similar Books

If you have already written your book, look for other books on the market which are similar.

Make a list of books in the same niche or that cover a similar topic, preferably ones which are also self-published and have a good sales rank.

Look at the table of contents and make a note of the topics they cover. If you are a fiction author, read the books and make a note of the tropes and story tools they use.

2. Look At The Reviews

Next, look at the reviews. What do the five-star reviews say? Can you deliver on those same expectations? What about the one-star reviews? Can you avoid the pitfalls the other authors fell into?

3. Examine The Book Description

Then, take a look at the book description, also known as the blurb.

Is it written in the main character’s voice? Does it have a bulleted list of benefits? Can you make your book’s blurb better?

4. Study The Book Covers

Finally, study the cover. What images has the author used? What kind of layout? Is it a sci-fi book with a giant starship on the front and a bold font?

Is it a romance with a woman dressed in an 18th-century ballgown, with curling font, and decorative swirls? Will you be able to make your book sit alongside these covers while standing out?

Once you have studied the market, you should have a good idea of how your book should look, and what your book should contain, in order to find the right audience.

Be prepared to change some aspects of your book in order to find the right audience, or you run the risk of finding no audience at all.

Where Should I Publish My Book?

There are many online retailers where you can publish your book online, and this can be confusing for new authors. Many experienced authors struggle to decide if they should make their book exclusive to Amazon, or publish their book on all available services.

Amazon KDP offers the best solution to new authors looking to self-publish for the first time. As well as offering a simple publishing interface, Amazon uses complex algorithms to find new readers for your work in a way no other digital publishing service can.

The best thing about being exclusive to Amazon is that each exclusive term only lasts three months.

If you change your mind, you can opt-out of exclusivity and experiment with alternative publishers when you are ready. And there is no penalty if you wish to opt back in.

How Long Does It Take To Self-Publish A Book?

Self-publishing can seem tedious, in-depth, and overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.

It took me one week to research, write, edit, format, create a cover for, and self-publish a short story. It can take just a few hours to complete a low-content book (in which the content comprises repeated sections, such as journals or log books).

The first time you self-publish, you might feel as though you have to take weeks or even months researching each stage until you feel confident enough to move on to the next. This is completely understandable and is how I learned at first. But I recommend that the best way to learn is to do, make mistakes, learn from them, and then do it better.

How Much Does It Cost To Self-Publish A Book?

It is possible to self-publish a book to a very high standard for free. However, as a general rule, you should budget between $3,000 to $7,000 in order to pay for the book cover, developmental editing, and proofreading at a professional level.

Other costs you should consider include:

  • Promotional advertising in email lists, which can cost from $0 to over $200 for one ad.
  • Amazon Advertising, which, if you choose to take on, you should set a budget for around $150 during launch week.
  • An online book tour, which you can organise yourself or hire a professional to do for around $100.

It is possible to hire a professional to take on any and every aspect of your self-publishing journey.

It is important to do your research and think carefully about which services you will need, which services you can accomplish yourself, and which services will add little or no value to your finished book.

In Summary

Self-publishing can seem daunting at first, but with a little of effort and some basic research, you can have your book ready to publish in no time. By studying the market and following these simple steps, you can ensure that your book will be published in a way that catches the reader’s attention and stands out from the competition.

Think carefully about the pros and cons of hiring freelancers and businesses to help you on your journey, and try to focus your budget on areas where it will be most effective. With a little bit of planning and organisation, you can self-publish your book on a shoestring budget and still end up with a high-quality product.

Alternatively, if you are willing to roll up your sleeves and learn about book formatting, cover design, and everything else that goes into making a book a great read, then you can publish your book without spending anything at all!

Good luck, and happy publishing!


Niamh Murphy is a bestselling author of YA adventure fiction, proudly publishing independently since 2013.

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