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.
1. Map Out Your Book Content
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):
- What the chapter is about / the story that will be used to illustrate my point
- The key pain points that will be addressed
- The key takeaways for the reader
2. Develop Your Plan to Write Your Next 5,000-10,000 Words
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.
3. Hire an Editor
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.
4. Give it a Title and Create Your Cover Art
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 Fiverr as well.
5. Format the Book
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.
6. Decide Your Book’s Birthday
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!
7. Get Your Book on Amazon and Set the Price
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.
8. Develop Your Marketing Plan
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.
This is so helpful and perfect time. I am in the process of writing a children’s picture book called : In Search of Her, which is the name of my podcast. I will tie in a memoir of myself on a journey of grief, self-discovery, and finding ourselves through mindfulness. When I was 16 years old I lost my father unexpectedly. One month after graduating (at 24) I lost my step-father. I felt defeated, confused and questioned God wondering why two great men were taken from me. Over the years, I would do things that weren’t myself or in alignment to my purpose and calling. I would pursue college majors, jobs and some life decisions based on what ‘I thought they would want me to do’ but not what I truly wanted. At 25 years old, I did something for myself. I always wanted to travel, so I moved to Taiwan where I took a teaching job knowing nobody or leaving America. I thought by moving I would find myself and heal from the loss of my two fathers. would keep going to different places thinking: ‘This is it.’ Only to be more disappointed not feeling any different or having some sort of revelation or spiritual awakening. I would go to temples close my eyes, pray, meditate, and cry. Until one day, I realized that all of the answers I have been trying to find are within myself. I stopped searching for the next destination. Now it is my mission to teach others (especially women and young girls), the importance of mindfulness, listening to your inner child and voice, healing and that they don’t need to go far to find the answer, because it is within.
If you know any information in writing a picture book that will be great!
Hey girl! Thanks so much for sharing all of this! I’m planning to self-publish a book called Redefining Joy on Amazon in April! Just working on final steps!
Thank you for this! Are these all e-books?
This guide applies to both paperback and ebooks!
NEEDED THIS!! Thank you so much, I love this!!
I self-published a book called /Love Lasts/ last year in October, and I wish I’d read this beforehand. I definitely wish I’d waited to publish around February or this summer because like you said, it’s the more romantic months. And I wish I’d known how to market! I guess it’s never too late to start marketing. I could implement some marketing during this time somehow. Thanks for the tips! I’ll use them for my next book for sure.
I am self-publishing my first devotional on May 17th called “Finding Yourself Again”! It is an 8-Week Devotional that is aimed to get the reader from a place or hurt to a place of healing.
It is inspired through my own healing journey from when I lost my father and had to get through a tough relationship. I’m so excited for it to release.
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You helped me so much as a writer’s conference newbie with the same advice you just wrote. And when I was a college journalism major, our prof told us the same for newspaper writing. Thanks!
I am almost finished with a 12 section Devotional/Scripture Study Journal – Legacy by Design: Designed in Love to Live a Life of Love. It is laid out in the format of a fashion magazine. There are six pages per section: a devotional, 4 scripture study journal pages and 1 inspiration page – a beautiful page packed full of content for further study. It could be done in 12 weeks or 12 months. I have a few English major friends editing it then I am ready to go to print. Since it is magazine style, I am just going with a local printer. I am trying to determine how many to print and the marketing plan. Do you suggest pre orders? Is Amazon the best platform to get it out? Any other suggestions? Also, my hope is that this will also serve as a fundraiser for a nonprofit organization I founded called The Little Black Dress Event where we inspire women to outfit themselves in God’s love.
I have been writing devotionals for about 5 years now. I send them to about 80 friends daily. Sometimes I only send 5 a week and sometimes 7. I am a Christian woman and my devotionals are based on insight that God has blessed me with time and again. I generally start with scripture. It has been suggested several times that I publish my devotionals, but I am almost 60 years old, so I am not sure what to do.
Wow thank you so much for sharing this! You have just releived a pin point for me. This is an answered prayer. Thank you so much!