Self-publishing offers a path to seeing your work in print and making it available to people regardless of perceived commercial viability by agents and publishing houses. Self-publishing can even be highly profitable for those who succeed at it. With the availability of inexpensive print-on-demand technology, you can easily self-publish on a shoestring budget and deliver your work to any market, whether it’s just one reader or millions.

If you choose to self-publish, however, you will be overseeing the process yourself whether or not you decide to bring on partners and freelancers to help you with different parts of the process.


Corey Wainwright of Hubspot refers to editing as making deeper changes to the content of your work – such as revisions, rewrites, and structural changes – while he says copy editing is concerned with formatting, typing, spelling, and other errors that can be identified by proof reading.

Before making your book available to others, your manuscript should be free of typos, grammatical errors, and other copy editing (or line editing) problems. Your manuscript could also benefit from a deeper edit to help with structure, plot and pacing (for fiction books), and other structural or thematic issues.

There’s no doubt that an edit by a professional editor or a manuscript assessor at the NSW Writers’ Centre is the easiest way to make your book ready for publication, and in the traditional publishing process, this step is usually overseen by publishing houses. If you work with a professional editor, he or she will address both editing and copy editing issues to make sure your work is both structurally and thematically sound, as well as formatting correctly. Nevertheless, editing can be an expensive service, especially if your book is lengthy. Having someone edit a 80,000 word manuscript, for example, can cost upwards of several thousand dollars.

There are other options to consider if you would like improve your draft without hiring an editor:

  • Family and friends - Reach out to friends and family and get the opinion of someone you trust. Even if they’re not writers or editors, your friends and family can give you a valuable outsider’s opinion and find things you might have missed. At the same time, keep in mind reading a book is a subjective experience and one person not fully appreciating your work doesn’t mean everyone else will have the same reaction.
  • Online communities - Online writing communities such as the Australian Writer’s Guild and the Australian Society of Authors can be excellent support groups for not only getting feedback on your drafts, but also throughout the entire writing and self-publishing process. With the support of your community members, you can stay motivated as you write, test your ideas, get expertise on the self-publishing process. You can even use online communities build your readership before you’ve published the work. There are hundreds of online forums and communities for writers to join and you could even set up your own community. Connect with other writers and offer to review their work in exchange for them reviewing yours.
  • Writing groups - If you prefer to meet in person, look up some local writing groups and build your support group from there. As with online communities, you can offer to edit their work in exchange, get valuable feedback, and access expertise from others.


An appealing, eye-catching cover attract readers by publicising your book and communicate the theme or content. You can also include an author photo on the back cover or inside your book. You will need a cover even if you decide to publish only in eBook format, and even if you have a text-only cover. Your options for cover design and author photos include the following:

  • Full professional design - There’s the option of working with a freelance designer to oversee everything from text and formatting to cover art and the inclusion of an author photo and short biography. The cost of having it professionally designed can vary greatly. For a full print cover – which includes the front, back, and the spine – it could cost $500 or more, while eBook-online packages might cost around $200. A professional design company might charge more or less, so shop around and obtain quotes if you are choosing this option.
  • DIY book design - You can design your own book cover from scratch by using the software of your choice, or by using a self-publishing platform such as Amazon’s CreateSpace, Lulu, or Thorpe-Bowker. These services can cost a few hundred dollars or more to use, so you could consider other platforms such as Canvas, which is free to use and user friendly. You can purchase your own background images for the cover from photo stock sites such as like Shutterstock, iStockPhoto, GettyImages and Corbis, while sites like MyFonts and FontSquirrel allows you to buy fonts that you can use for commercial purposes. You can also check out our list of services that will let you use images and fonts for free here.
  • Mixed - You can work with a designer to have a part of the design process outsourced and do the rest yourself.

Note that the approaches taken for eBook cover design and print book design are different according to Make Use Of, mainly because the thumbnail-based display and marketing for eBooks require them to be optimised for the digital screen. However, you can ask your designer about a single design that takes into account the needs for online display as well as print display. If you’re working with a designer, don’t forget to use a contract or some sort of formal agreement that gives you the full right for you to use the cover design.


If you are planning to have print books published and distributed through traditional retail and/or mainstream online retailers, you will need an ISBN (International Standard Book Number). Each country has its own ISBN identifier service through which you register your unique number, and in Australia the relevant agency is Thorpe-Bowker.

There’s a nominal fee for registration. You might decide to register an ISBN for a book even if you’re going to be distributing it through non-mainstream channels, simply because having an ISBN makes your book easier to find in some cases. Major online publishers such as Amazon Kindle Direct, however, do not require an ISBN.


As the writer of the book, you own the copyright to your work the moment you write it and you don’t need to apply for copyright protection or recognition under Australian copyright law. It's not necessary to put a copyright notice in your book according to Flying Solo, but it’s a good idea to do so just to remind readers that you are the owner. A standard copyright notice goes in the first few of pages of your book and can be in the following format as specified under the Federal Government’s guide to copyright:

This work is copyright. Apart from any use permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process, nor may any other exclusive right be exercised, without the permission of name and address of copyright owner and the year in which the work was made.

If you plan to distribute to or sell to readers overseas, keep in mind your work is protected by copyright in many other countries through international agreements.


Some self-published authors distribute only eBooks; others make printed books available to their readers. Many authors offer their books in both formats. Studies in the UK have shown that 76% of children prefer print books to eBooks so offering print books could make your book more appealing to readers.

Printed books

For hardcopy printing, you can organise everything from typesetting and the book cover yourself and only work with a printer to have the books printed. Alternatively, you can work with a partner to have the entire process taken care of on your behalf. The latter options will cost much more than the former, so consider what would work best for you in the context of your budget.

If you decide to make print copies available, you have the choice of print on demand or traditional offset printing. Print-on-demand technologies have made it possible (and commercially viable) to print just a few copies at a time. Unit costs can be higher than if you had a print run of hundreds or thousands of copies, but there’s less risk as you won’t have too much stock on hand. Additionally, there are little to no upfront costs and you can supply your book to traditional and online retailers such as Amazon and local bookstores – if you can manage to convince them to stock your book.

Print runs make sense if you have established channels for distribution. They can also be a great idea if you want to distribute the book yourself, such as through seminars or events, or through your own website.

Note that if you want to distribute through a print-on-demand model, you should have printer-ready PDF copies of your book available, so you can share this with your printer for on-demand printing. You can work with a designer to create a printer-ready copy, or you can use inexpensive templates such as Joel Friedlander’s or PressBooks to get your book printer ready.


eBooks are another way to reach your target audience, and it’s inexpensive to distribute eBooks through online channels such as Amazon Kindle, iBook, and Nook. You can use these platforms to convert your book and make it eBook-distribution ready, or you can use a paid or commission-based service such as Smashwords to aggregate and distribute your eBook through these major online distributors (Kindle, iBook, and Nook).

Note that these publisher-distributors can have different terms and conditions, so always read the fine print to make sure you understand what you are agree to by signing on for their platform. For example, Amazon’s CreateSpace requires you to have an US employee number or be charged 30 percent of the price of the book, while Smashwords won’t charge you for publishing and distribution - rather they’re a commission-based structure and only take a 10% commission on book sales.


Unless you already have a strong online presence and social media channels through which you can sell your book, Sarah Juckes of Completely Novel recommends preparing a marketing campaign and establishing distribution channels to sell your book. Ideally, you will have outlined a marketing plan and thought about your distribution channels before self-publishing.

Fortunately, when it comes to promoting your book and getting the word out there, there is a plethora of resources at your disposal, as well as partners you can work with to maximise the impact of your campaign. Some great ways to promote your book include:

  • Crowdfund your book - You’ve heard about crowdfunded apps, gadgets, and tools, but what about crowdfunding your book? Crowdfunding a book through resources like Completely Novels’ Publush allows you to take pre-orders for your book to fund the self-publishing process, even while you’re building up an audience for your book as you finish writing it. You’ll also get the opportunity to understand your audience and interact with your target market before you publish.
  • Blogging and mailing lists - Blogging is an easy and inexpensive way to establish your online presence and market your book. Cross promote with other bloggers in a related field, and make sure your blog and website are designed to feature or highlight your book. Blog on a regular basis so that you don’t lose the connection, and start a mailing list so you have a ready target audience to reach out to each time you publish a new book.
  • Social media - Social media is an indispensable market channel that lets you interact with audiences and promote your book in a cost-effective way. From Twitter and Facebook to Instagram and LinkedIn, you can share useful content, make product offers, and highlight why your book is of interest. There are many tricks of the trade when it comes to social media marketing, so spend some time researching how the experts do it so you can successfully promote your book through social media channels.
  • Online ads - If you have a generous marketing budget, don’t discount using online ads such as Facebook advertising and Google AdWords. Experiment with these to find out how you can best reach your niche audience and promote your book online.
  • Traditional channels - Complement your online marketing efforts with traditional channels such as print media where possible, as these reach a significant audience. For example, if you have an interesting story to your book (such as unique experience or a special achievement), you could pitch your story as a news article to newspapers.
  • Local events - Use local events to promote your book where appropriate. For example, if there are local festivals, tradeshows, or other events that are related to your subject area, find out how you can participate or be featured at the event. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the organisers to make a pitch about how you can contribute.
  • Free seminars and talks - If you’ve written a nonfiction book, you can market your book and sell your it at the same time. How? By setting yourself up as an expert in your particular field, giving free seminars and talks, and selling your book at post-seminar signings. Network with clubs, schools, institutes, or any groups that you think will be interested in your area of expertise, and offer to give a free talk. It’s the perfect opportunity to connect and build your audience.
  • Bookstores - Getting your book into bookstores requires some effort, but it’s well worth looking into as it can massively increase your sales if you’re accepted by the bookseller. Practice your pitch and review your emails before approaching your local bookstores with your offer. Before you do, find out about their terms and conditions. For example, it’s not uncommon for booksellers to require a 40 percent discount on books.
  • Libraries - Libraries are another way to increase buzz around your book, if perhaps not sales. Each library will have its own guidelines for stocking, so find out about these terms and conditions before you approach the library with a suitable pitch.

Self-publishing can be a cost-effective and even profitable path to take. There are ways to keep costs down if you are planning to self-publish, and there are many great tools and resources available, regardless of your budget and goals. Take time to research the cost-effective tools that are out there, find a printer with competitive pricing, and explore your options.