The life-cylce of a self-published book manuscriptDraw a diagram of the traditional publishing process and it’ll probably look something like a model of a complex molecule undergoing chemical change.

What might be involved in the traditional publishing process? Pitching your book to agents, shopping the manuscript to acquisitions editors, conference calls between the marketing and editorial departments, changing the ending to give your book broader “appeal,” letting someone in New York decide on the title and design, and a hundred other things that are outside of your control.

When you self-publish, on the other hand, the road is straight. The process unfolds like a linear narrative, and YOU are in the driver’s seat. Of course talent, hard work, and luck are as important as ever to your success — but when you find your loyal readership, YOU reap more of the rewards, and you’ll have done so without compromising the thing that matters most: your writing!

How a self-published book moves from your imagination into the hands of readers

The idea! It’s a beaut. Truly inspired. Now set a schedule and start writing.

Write, write, write. Don’t be overly critical. Just get it into words.

Get feedback. Let beta-readers, a writing group, or a workshop critique your manuscript.

Revise, revise, revise. Put that feedback to good use as you improve your book.

Editing. Work with a professional editor to polish your manuscript for publication.

Proofreading. Check your grammar and spelling. Dot your i’s and cross your t’s.

Design. It’s time to create a striking look for your book and book cover. Or better yet, hire someone who will create a pro design on a DIY budget.

Pre-publication file preparation. Stumped? BookBaby can help!

Manufacturing. Print bookstore-quality books in the quantity that’s right for you.

ePUB and .mobi conversion. Turn your manuscript files into an elegant eBook.

Distribution. Make your print books available for purchase in stores, at readings, book fairs, and online. Make your eBook available in over 60+ stores (including Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Nook, etc.)in more than 170 countries.

Promote and sell. Try these 20 thrifty ways to spread the word about your writing without breaking the bank.

Wow your readers. Your book is in their hands. Time for your writing to work its magic upon the world.

Well, we’ve gotten to the end, which means it must be time for you to finish writing that next book!


Did I miss any steps along the way (not counting reprints or special editions)? Let me know in the comments section below.

 How To Guide for Authors

Chris Robley

About Chris Robley

Chris Robley has written 563 posts in this blog.

is an award-winning poet, songwriter, performer, and music producer who now lives in Portland, Maine after more than a decade in Portland, Oregon. His music has been praised by NPR, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and others. Skyscraper Magazine said he is “one of the best short-story musicians to come along in quite some time.” Robley’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Beloit Poetry Journal, RHINO, Magma Poetry, and more. He is the 2013 winner of Boulevard's Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers and the 2014 recipient of a Maine Literary Award in the category of "Short Works Poetry."

3 thoughts on “The life cycle of a self-published book manuscript

  1. Superb! Just exactly what I needed.

  2. Yrma says:

    Really cool! Thank you for such a good blog!

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