Here it is. The sum total of my knowledge of self-publishing. One thing you should understand is that I take it very literally, and I really do everything myself. Everything that follows is my opinion, and if you don’t like it, do it your own way. I don’t care.

If you find that you can’t or don’t want to do any of these steps yourself, then you may want to hire someone. I don’t hire people, but if I did, I would probably find them on the kboards yellow pages.

Step One: Write a book

If you’re having trouble with this step, I suggest checking out Holly Lisle or Morgan Hawke, both of whom have helped me with my craft. You could also read On Writing by Stephen King or Orson Scott Card’s book on writing sci fi and fantasy.

Step Two: Edit your book

Phase One: Content editing.

Okay, basically, first of all you want everything to make sense and match. Don’t change character’s hair color or last name or that kind of stuff.

Any scene in which nothing changes, progresses, or regresses doesn’t belong in the book. And all progressions and regressions must eventually pay off with a change.

There should be some sort of problem in your story, and it should get worse before it gets better. Your main characters should solve the problem, not someone else.

Phase Two: Usage and Spelling Editing

Some people hire someone for this step. Should you? Well, I can guarantee that you either should hire someone or else you should spend a lot of time learning what errors you make. I used to teach high school English, but when I first started self-publishing I made a lot of mistakes.

1-Use a style guide. (I used Chicago. You can find this info free on the web.)
2-Look up everything. Whenever you have a niggling doubt, look it up in the style guide.
3-Expect that you will still screw up, and be prepared to re-edit your first five books because you just figured out you’re supposed to hyphenate heads-up when it’s a noun.

Want an idea of whether you’ll be any good at editing your own stuff? Find the errors in the following sentences:

1-The day to day activities were mundane and repetitive.
2- Hiking the trail, the birds chirped loudly.
3-1,001 insects were crawling all over me.
4-Her eyes darted across the room, looking for clues.

See ‘em? If you do, then I say go for it. If not, then you may want to either hire someone or spend some time learning.

Answers:
1-Hypenate day-to-day because it is all one adjective modifying activities.
2-In this sentence, the birds are hiking the trail.
3-When a number begins a sentence, always spell in out, no matter how long it is.
4-Her eyes can’t dart across the room. (They’d fall out of her skull.) Use gaze instead.

Finally, your biggest hurdle will be missing words. You need to have your manuscript read aloud to you. Use Natural Reader. It is free. (although it really wants you to buy it and reminds you of this constantly.)

YOU MUST HAVE THE BOOK READ ALOUD TO YOU IF YOU WANT TO EDIT IT YOURSELF. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.

Step Three: Covers

Buy a stock image. Put words on it using either Photoshop or Gimp.

If you have no artistic abilities, then follow these guidelines:
-When looking for a stock image, buy the one that stands out to you on the page.
-When adding text, stick to serif fonts and put everything in all caps. This will make you look classy.
-Play with shadowing and outer glow to make your text readable.
-One font per book title. (Okay, two if you really have to. But ONLY two.)
-Make your text big because your ebook has to look good at thumbnail.

I buy my images from istockphoto.com

Paperback covers?
-download the template on Createspace
-Drag your ebook cover over.
-Make a big matchy rectangle to cover the rest of the book.
-Put the title on the spine
-If you want, you can put your blurb on the back.

Step Four: The blurb

Get some people to tear your blurb to shreds, please.

I recommend the squirrels at Absolute Write’s Query Letter Hell, but it’s probably best if you lie to them and say you’re querying the book, because indies are less than welcome there.

Also, you may have to do some posting before they’ll let you post for critique, because they want a give-and-take community.

If there’s no one to rip it up, then remember these questions:
-Who is your main character?
-What does she want?
-What is the way of getting what she wants?
-What will happen if she doesn’t get it?

Step Five: Formatting

Ebooks:
-For simplicity’s sake, simply use the guidelines at the Smashwords Style Guide. That should get your MS word doc accepted everywhere.
-Want to get complicated? Guido Henkel’s html guide is awesome.
I’m just starting to use Scrivener. I hear it’s wonderful.

Paperbacks:
-Use the Createspace Templates, of course! That’s why they’re there.

The end.