A Guide on How to Self Publish an Ebook

Jessica Moore
Published: Mar 17, 2020
Last Updated:
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The thought of publishing a book can be a daunting one, especially if you’ve never published one before.

Traditional publishing involves entering a contract with a publisher, who prints and distributes your books to retailers. The publisher buys the rights to your book and you receive royalties from sales. Aspiring authors who want to go the route of traditional publishing may also require an agent. To get an agent, you need to write a proposal and sample chapters.

Increasingly, however, writers are diverging from this traditional path to publication and choosing to self publish.

With self publication, you have more control over the content you release, and the marketing of your book. What’s more, you can cut down on costs by publishing electronically in the form of an ebook, giving readers the ability to purchase and download your story direct to their digital devices.

While writing and publishing any book, including ebooks, can be a challenge, the right tools can make the process much easier. If you’ve been considering self publishing an ebook, here’s what you need to know.

1. Write an engaging story.

The first step to self-publishing an ebook is to write your story. No matter if you’re looking to publish a work of fiction or nonfiction, pick a topic that excites you. Create a writing schedule if it helps to keep you on track. Dedicate yourself to a certain number of hours a day or week.

Leave room for more.

One of the things that you have to consider is if you’re going to write a single book or if you want to break it up into a series of books. Leaving your readers wanting more. Plus, writing sequels or follow-ups to fill those wants is a great way to maximize your earning potential.

Don’t forget to edit.

Writing your story is just the first step. Once you’re done, it’s time to go back and edit. With self-publication, you don’t have an editor at a major publication house to do the work for you, so reread your book at least two or three times. Ask trusted friends and family members to read it, too, or even hire a freelance editor. Check for spelling and grammatical mistakes as well as possible issues with flow, tone, and consistency.

2. Create a cover.

The saying goes “never judge a book by its cover.” An eye-catching cover that’s in keeping with your genre is essential for grabbing the attention of potential readers as they’re scrolling through listings of ebooks.

Your cover should look just as good small as it does large. This is an important factor to keep in mind as the cover will appear as a thumbnail online. Even if your ebook is an outstanding read, a blurry or otherwise distorted thumbnail could keep potential readers from clicking on it and making a purchase.

Hire a professional designer.

If your budget allows, consider using a professional designer. A professional designer has the experience and inside knowledge regarding book and ebook covers. They can craft a custom cover rather than relying on stock images. A reputable designer will create a high-quality cover that you know will fit your genre and grab the attention of potential readers.

The first step when working with a professional designer for your ebook cover is to find and hire one. You can search specific sites such as Reedsy and Bespoke Book Covers. You should also be able to find freelancers with a quick Google search or by checking out sites like Fiverr and Upwork.

After finding your designer, you need to provide them with the information they need to create a cover you’ll love. To do this, you need to communicate what you’re looking for. Share your inspiration along with the core elements of your book is about. All of this information is crucial to allow the designer to bring your vision to life.

Create your own cover.

You can also design the cover yourself. If you do plan to create your cover yourself but aren’t sure where to start, take a look at the existing book covers in your genre. Browsing what’s already out there can spark some inspiration. You may also find inspiration on a site like Pinterest or by simply performing a Google search.

Stock photos offer a way to get pictures for your cover if you can’t have professional ones taken. Several free and paid stock photo sites offer a wide array of pictures.

In addition to the actual image you use for your cover, you also need to think about your font choices. Your font should coincide with the message and tone of the book. The font you use can completely change your book’s meaning and impact how potential readers view it.

Once you have your picture and your desired font, it’s time to create your cover. Online website services like Canva are designed to make the process simple. Using Canva, you can select a template, upload your own photos, and choose your text.

Get some feedback.

Instead of designing a single cover, create a minimum of three. If you’re working with a designer, don’t be afraid to ask for more than one cover design. Then get some feedback. Ask friends or family members for their opinions. You may also post your cover options to social media and ask for feedback from your followers. As the author, you’re incredibly close to your project. Asking others for their opinions can make a major difference in determining the best cover for your ebook.

3. Choose Your Publishing Platform

One of the most important things you’ll need to figure out when self-publishing your ebook is what publishing platform you want to use. You have several options available.

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)

Possibly one of the most well-known platforms for self-publishing an ebook is Kindle Direct Publishing. KDP offers step-by-step guidance, plenty of resources, and insider tips. It takes only a few minutes to set up your book and 24 to 48 hours for your book to appear in Kindle Stores around the world.

Using KDP, you maintain full rights to your book. You set your price and can make changes to your book whenever you want. You can earn up to 70% royalty on your sales and earn even more by enrolling in KDP Select.

Barnes & Noble Press

Much like KDP, Barnes & Noble Press is a fast, free, and easy-to-use system. It takes about 20 minutes to create an account and upload your ebook. The site offers a free tool that converts Word documents, HTML, or TXT files automatically to EPUB files.

Your book appears on the store’s site within 72 hours. While royalties aren’t as high as KDP, you can still earn up to 65%.


Smashwords is one of the biggest self-published ebook distributors. You upload your Word file and cover art to create your ebook in just a matter of minutes. The book can then be sold through Smashwords or distributed to other major ebook retailers such as Barnes and Noble’s eBookstore and Apple’s iBooks.

If you sell your book through Smashword’s store, you earn 85% of the net sale. For books distributed to other retailers, you earn 60% of the list price.


BookBaby is a bit different from other publishing platforms. The site charges a fee for publishing your book, but you get to keep 100% of the net sales. BookBaby doesn’t take a commission.

One of the greatest things about BookBaby is that it provides all manner of self-publishing tools. You get file conversion, formatting, expert cover design and so much more. You can also have your ebook distributed to other retailers like Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Apple iBooks, and more. Using your BookBaby account, you can even publish with KDP Select Publishing.

4. Format your ebook.

Proper formatting is crucial. Again, you can format the book yourself or outsource and hire a professional. Some publishing platforms offer tools that convert your file for you.

The biggest benefit of formatting your ebook yourself is that you have complete control over it. If changes need to be made, you can make them.

While formatting with just text is fairly straightforward, books that contain images are a bit more complicated. For image-heavy books, Amazon has several tools like Kindle Kids Book Creator, Kindle Edu, and Kindle Comics Creator. Apple also has iBooks Author, which can be used for children’s books and textbooks.

5. Set the price.

A major benefit of self-publishing an ebook is that there are significantly fewer production and distribution costs. This allows for a higher profit margin.

If you’re not sure how to price your new ebook, start by looking at others similar to yours. Keep in mind where you’re publishing your book as well. For instance, if you’re publishing your ebook on Amazon, you get 70% royalty if your book costs between $2.99 and $9.99. Selling books for more or less than this range reduces your royalties to 35%. Some platforms don’t take a cut, leaving you to earn 100% of the net sales.

Another important factor to keep in mind when determining the price is the length of your ebook. In most cases, the shorter the ebook, the lower the price. Your genre also plays a role. Romance and fantasy books typically sell for less than non-fiction or other fiction books.

6. Describe your ebook.

Search engines, including search bars within a website, scan for keywords to connect a potential reader with relevant books. To this end, the description of your ebook, or metadata, is critical.

To help ensure that search engines find your ebook, consider what search terms you would use to look for it if you were a customer. Once you have a list of keywords and phrases, incorporate them into the text you use to describe your ebook. You may even want to consider incorporating them into your author biography and even your title.

Weaving keywords into your description isn’t the only thing you need to be concerned about. The description itself needs to be captivating. If potential readers aren’t sucked in by the description, they’re less likely to make a purchase.

7. Promote your ebook.

If you want to sell your ebook, you need to spend time on marketing. Create a website for yourself. Use your site to develop your brand, create a mailing list, and provide links to your ebook.

Social media is another invaluable tool. Use your social media accounts to generate buzz about your book, even before you officially publish it. Post regular updates, respond to your followers, and share links so that your followers can easily locate and purchase your ebook when it comes out.


If you’ve been thinking about publishing a book, why not consider self-publishing your text as an ebook? With the right tools, self-publishing is a fairly simple process. Write a dynamic story, design an eye-catching cover, choose your publisher, and get your book listed for others to enjoy.

This article was written by Compose.ly writer Jessica Moore.


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