In college, I started a small Etsy shop and blog from the storage closet in my sorority house. A few years later, and through a very non-linear journey, that small Etsy shop grew into an internationally recognized sweatshirt brand & that little blog led to bestselling books and a publishing career. Now, I'm obsessed about helping other women uncover what they're made to do and take steps to make it happen, too.
Every Wednesday, I send my insiders exclusive resources, ideas, and advice directly from me.
Did you know that one of the first ways I monetized my blog (after the Etsy shop and before I ever had a book deal with a Publisher) was by self publishing a book?
I self-published a few different devotionals, some of which are still available. One was called Wholehearted, a coloring book devotional. Beloved was a 14 day devotional on love and relationships and College was a devotional and conversation guide for college girls and small groups.
My husband and I also co-wrote dating devotionals that we launched in 2017. They were available for a couple years until we took them down to revise and rebrand them.
A large part of my income as a blogger was from these self-published devotionals, as well as a wedding photography side hustle until I was able to go full time as a writer.
In fact, self publishing is what helped me when it came to getting my first book deal from a traditional publisher a few years later because I was able to show publishers that I could sell books as a writer.
I turned my blog into a book business and you can, too.
I’ve included the steps in order of when to do them for you below.
Decide what you’re going to write about, determine the structure (is it long chapters, short daily reads like a devotional, or something else?), and develop a simple outline to guide your book writing process.
This doesn’t have to be fancy by any means. I usually write my outlines in Google Docs, whether it’s for my self published works or for my traditionally published books. My outline typically consists of three parts per section (whether that section is a daily entry or full chapter):
While self publishing is certainly a much faster process than traditional publishing, you don’t have to write the whole book in a week. Write it in small chunks! I also recommend keeping your first self published work simple. This doesn’t have to be your massive book. It can be as simple as a 14-30 day devotional, or gift book (shorter chapters/daily entry style).
I loved getting started with this kind of book because it was focused on a specific topic, served as a tool, and was easier to write and sell. It was almost like a stepping stone between writing 1,000 word blog posts and writing a big 50,000 word trade book, and I believe it helped make the transition a little smoother.
I think one of the major differences between traditional publishing and self publishing is that when you self publish, it’s on you to find and coordinate all the necessary pieces of publishing a book. From writing the draft, to having it edited, to cover design, to formatting, to marketing, it’s on you. When you publish with a Publisher, they provide the editing, help when it comes to cover design, distribution, etc.
However, finding the right resources does NOT need to be stressful. If you have friends in the writing community who have self-published, ask them which editors they recommend. If you don’t, there are a dozen or more freelance websites, such as Fiverr, where you can find freelance editors. Find an editor you like, at a rate you can afford, and have your first draft edited. Then, make changes based on those edits, and have them do another review. Take it from someone who has self-published books with typos, I recommend having a minimum of two rounds of edits but three rounds is ideal.
Once you’ve titled the book, there are two ways to go about designing its cover. You can do this on your own using Photoshop or Canva (I recommend Canva if you’re not a designer or are not familiar with the Adobe Platforms), or you can hire a designer much like you did an editor.
If you have the resources and choose to outsource this piece, which may be the best option for you so that you can focus on the messaging and marketing of the book, you can find a cover designer on freelance sites like Fivrr as well.
If the editor you chose has experience with Amazon’s self publishing service called Kindle Direct Publishing, they should be able to help you with the formatting piece of this, too. If they don’t, it’s not too much trouble to do yourself.
Amazon KDP provides guidelines when it comes to the dimensions and formatting for the internal pages, cover art, etc. Take some time to make sure all your pages, front, and back cover are formatted properly so that it prints how it should.
What day is your book going to come out? Make sure you look at your calendar, consider other major current events that may distract people from buying your book, and determine if there’s a better time of year for your type of book to come out, and set the date.
For example, if your book is about dating or marriage, then perhaps releasing around Valentine’s Day or during the summer months which is often considered wedding season, would be more strategic than releasing it around Halloween or Thanksgiving. Or if your book is about organization, it may be best to release it in the late winter or early spring (February or March) as people are getting into spring cleaning mode.
You may also want to pick this date based on your marketing plan! If you have a 30 day ramp up plan, consider how much time you’ll need to prepare for this. If you need to, complete step 8 and then come back to this step!
Once your draft is edited and formatted, you’ll want to set up an account with Amazon KDP. This is where you can upload and submit the formatted manuscript, cover, and back cover.
After you do that, you’ll be able to set the price for your book. It’ll show you royalty rate options, which you can use to decide how much you want the retail price to be. Make an informed decision based on how many you believe you’ll be able to sell and what you need to make, as well as by researching comps in the market. I wouldn’t recommend pricing solely based on how comps are priced because there can be several factors that determine that, such as if something is a traditional or self published work, or if Amazon has discounted it. That said, I only recommend using that as a baseline or to find a range that would keep the price fair.
You can either save this as a draft until launch day, or if you’re going to allow pre-sale in your marketing plan, you can set the publish date on the day you choose.
It’s time to think about how you’re going to get your book into the hands of readers! But more than just thinking about it, you’ll also need to plan it.
I recommend starting with a marketing budget and then determine what this campaign is going to look like from there. Are you going to pay for Facebook / social media ads? Will you use any influencer marketing campaigns? What about putting together a launch team? Pre-order gifts for those who pre-order?
I actually recommend all of the above if you can swing it (and if you have an assistant or friend who’s willing and able to help you execute)! Use a whiteboard to map out how each part of the marketing plan (ie. Influencer Campaign, ads, and launch team) will work and the timeline to execute it.
So, there you have it! Your complete step by step guide to self-publishing your first book or devotional! Of course, each step has a decent amount of work associated with it so don’t feel the pressure to make it happen overnight.
If you’re serious about it, you can make it happen!
Leave a comment and tell me what your book is going to be called, or drop a question below if you need clarification on any of the steps!
Cheering you on as you pursue your author dreams and build that book business of yours! You got this! If you’re feeling any self-doubt though, listen to this podcast and set your mind straight.