Caveat: This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it necessarily in the best order. Each person's experience is different, and his/her needs are unique.
A Self-publisher's to-do list:
- Plot and write the story (that's a whole list of its own. LOL)
- Search stock images and hire a graphic artist or buy a pre-made cover
- Choose a formatter and make contact (some are busy and have a waiting list)
- Choose an editor and make contact (they have even longer waiting lists)
- Make editing passes and polish manuscript
- Send it out to CPs and beta readers
- Part II of that is: and give them a deadline
- Finalize book cover plans
- Write / finalize the blurb, tagline, etc. Don't wait until it's time to publish and suddenly realize you need these. They should be the most well-thought-out and polished parts of all.
- Hopefully you already have a website and an author bio, headshot, etc. If not, make those.
- Open retailer seller accounts if you don't have them already (KDP, B&N, Createspace...)
- Open an Amazon Author Central account if you don't have one. This allows you to create an author page where you can group all your publications in one place - a huge help for shoppers.
- Buy ISBN(s) if you're publishing a paperback and not using one the POD provides
- Look into marketing / promo options and schedule ads, release announcements, and guest posts as desired
- Make a list of people who are willing to promo for you and add to it as you go. Trust me. You'll be glad you did later.
- Evaluate feedback, make changes, and polish the manuscript again
- Send the manuscript to a professional content editor if your CPs aren't skilled enough to function in that capacity (luckily, mine are - whew), make changes, and polish again.
- If you didn't get a content edit, at least get a proofread. I get one, and I freelance edit. Doesn't matter; my proofer still finds stuff.
YOU CAN'T PROOF YOUR OWN WORK.
- Make corrections after the proof
- If you buy your own, choose an ISBN and begin filling out the info you have so you'll have the number to add to the paperback's copyright page, then save it as draft for now (I don't know what people who use Createspace's ISBNs do... maybe they don't include it in the front matter). I also like to put it on my bookmarks, but that's not obligatory.
- Add front and back matter and get your files (e-book and paperback - they're different) ready and send them to the formatter
- Important! Make one file for all your final documents (cover images, final files from formatter, a document containing the official blurb and tagline, etc.) and back this up--a flash drive, Dropbox, something. Do this for every book.
- Order swag as needed and decide on giveaway gifts
- Organize blog tour / guest posts, etc. If you plan to hire a tour service, you should have already done it weeks or months in advance.
- Decide on a price for your e-book version.
- Once you have the final e-book cover, add your book to Goodreads and get control of the page (anyone can add books to Goodreads)
- You can also create projects in your retailer accounts and save them as draft. This saves time later, when you're ready to publish.
- Do a cover reveal
- Pre-schedule tweets and blog posts, or at least write them up in a document to save time later
- Choose a few good excerpts for promo. If you did this before the final proof, swap them out with the corrected version! Hint: put each excerpt's word count and rating (G, PG) in the document name so you can see at a glance what it is without opening it up.
Ex: Precious Atonement - first kiss, 430, PG
(I made that up.)
- Tell the cover artist the page count of the paperback as soon as you get it from the formatter. (It determines spine width for the paperback cover image. It also affects price.)
- Determine the paperback's retail price and make a barcode image with the ISBN and that price. Give that to the cover artist, too.
- Proofread files from formatter on the different devices and make a list of problems / corrections that need to be made.
- While you wait, apply for your copyright and update the ISBN information on Bowker
- Proof the files again after corrections. (You'll be sick of your book by now.)
- Upload the paperback and order a proof (via mail), then check that, too.
- When you're sure you're ready, upload the files to the retailer accounts / approve the paperback and hit publish.
- As the links begin to go live, save them to a document and give them to any ad services that are waiting for them for new release ads.
- Do a happy dance while your dog looks at you funny, then...
- Add the books to author page on Amazon and plan to nudge the big A to merge Kindle and paperback versions, 'cause they probably won't have done it by the 48-hour mark (Goodreads updates itself, thank goodness).
- Send out promo info and buy links to that list of peeps I told you to make
- Update website (in my case, two of them)
- Update 'published works' page on blog
- Update Authorgraph page
- Update email signature
- Update Facebook and Google+ cover images
- Blog about it
- Tweet about it
- Facebook about it
- Google+ about it
- Announce it via newsletter
- Shout it from the rooftop!
- Check for reviews and refresh sales stats every five minutes :)
So... You still think you want to self-publish?