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A Self-publisher's To-do List

My blog visitors range from unpublished to traditionally published, so I thought I'd list the major tasks on my to-do list for those who might be curious.

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
While you're waiting...

  • 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. 
(If you comment, Hey, Melissa, let me know when your book is published and I'll post about it, your name and contact info get put on my list. :P)
When you hear back from your betas...
  • 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. 
  • 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
The final lap...
  • 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.
Once your book is available for purchase and you have the links...
  • 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?


  1. Wow, that's a lot to do!
    I do know about the editing to the point you're sick of your book. I've never even looked at my books after they were published. Maybe someday.

    1. It is, although it's easier the second time, since the retailer accounts are already in place and the website(s), etc.

  2. That is a long, busy list. Is sleep anywhere on there? Because I don't know how you'd find time to do it if it wasn't.

    1. That's why it takes me over a year to get a book from plot to pub. I'm a working mom, for goodness sake. :)

  3. The more I read the more I am glad I am NOT an author. Most of us non writers think you write a book, send it to a publisher, make money. Since joining the blogging world, I have discovered how wrong this idea is. Even the authors who do make money like J.K. Rowling, still have to go through all the hard work you have listed. Wish you'd make lots of money Melissa, I could tap you for a loan then LOL

  4. Melissa, all of this is so true. I found that out on my first book but as you said, it gets easier. Thanks for posting.

    1. It was still work for book 2, but it was so much less stressful because I'd been through it before and already had all my accounts set up.

      Thanks for visiting. :)

  5. A lot of graphic designers have waiting lists, too. I'd book a cover at least 2-3 months ahead. :)

  6. A very thorough list! Whooboy! You inspire me to be more prepared next time. :)

    1. I'm a list person. I couldn't make it through life with out them. :)

  7. I love lists and I love them more when someone else does all the work!!!! Great job, Melissa.

  8. Hi Melissa - good list .. and I'm sure as you say - it gets easier once you've done one. Good luck with the journey .. and may it prove profitable to keep those kids in pennies at least!! Cheers Hilary

  9. Hehehe done twice at the same time. I'm thinking I'll give myself a break next time and publishing only one book. ;-)

  10. Replies
    1. Thank you.
      (I'm a list-maker. Can you tell?)

  11. Good list! I'm working my way through this process right now and I can relate to that "do I have to read this again?" feeling :)

  12. It's great to have it all put together in one easy to read list. Thanks, Melissa. On the other hand, it makes me a bit nervous to see all the stuff that I have left to do yet.

    1. The trick is ordering things so you use your downtime wisely. If you're sitting around, waiting on beta reader feedback, use that time to, say, open your retailer accounts. They can sit there until it's time to publish. ;)

  13. Simple as that! You have broken it down into manageable chunks, which is great. I do recommend everyone to have a go at doing some formatting. It's not that bad once you get the hang of it!

    1. I want to, I just haven't had time for that learning curve yet. ;)

  14. Awesome. I know why my promo and marketing suffers. Tons of stuff to do for each book.

    1. That takes up a lot of my time, too. I swear, some days hiring a publicist looks very tempting. LOL

  15. No joke, I've copied this link and emailed it to myself with the subject "Melissa's Publishing Tips"

    Let me tell you that you've got some good one's here! (But you knew that already :)

  16. I have to go lie down after reading this list! Oh my. What excellent advice. You left out paying your formatter, cover artist, etc.otherwise you really covered it all. Wishing you great success!!

    1. Well, um. They usually won't give you your finished files until you do. LOL I guess I considered it something I would get reminded of if I forgot. ;)

  17. It may not be an exhaustive list, but it's definitely an exhausting one. I can't believe I did all those things. Seeing it all laid out like that gives me an even bigger sense of accomplishment. Thanks! And thanks for creating such a great reference list!

  18. Hi Melissa,
    I had no idea how detail and exhausting self-publishing is. So, thanks, because I will think about it long and hard before I change my mind and decide to take up that challenge.


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