Introduction: How to Self-Publish (Without Really Trying)

DISCLAIMER: I'm not a professional writer. I've self-published a few books that I've written in my spare time. This is how I've been publishing, and it works for me. Your mileage may vary.

It's a fairly simple way to self-publish a book on a near-zero budget. Can't guarantee it's the best way, but it works for me.

This Instructable will walk you through getting your book published as both a paperback and an ebook, and distributed via Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Ingram, Google Play and Kobo.

Step 1: Materials

  • Open Office - word processor
  • GIMP - graphics editor
  • Calibre - text file converter
  • An actual story or two

Again, you don't need to use these particular tools. It's just what works for me, and they're free.

The ODT files attached to this step are the templates I use to develop my books. You don't have to use them, but they might help give you an idea of the general structure needed.

Step 2: Write Some Stuff

Seriously, this is probably the hardest part of the process. The only guidelines I can give you are:

  1. Write in Open Office
  2. Use Heading 1 for chapter titles and Text Body for the actual stories
  3. Triple-check spelling and grammar before moving to the next step

Step 3: Create Lulu and KDP Accounts

I use Lulu and Amazon for my publishing. Haven't had any trouble with them so far.

Lulu will distribute to just about every ebook platform. They also print and distribute paperbacks. Amazon KDP, on the other hand, is much quicker about getting your ebook on the Kindle market, so I tend to publish there separately. Amazon has recently started printing paperbacks, but I haven't tried that yet.

Step 4: Create the Ebook Document

Once you've got your text, paste it into the ebook-template.odt document, overwriting just the chapters (everything from Foreword to Afterword).

Update the title page with the title of your book, author, etc. Fill in the About the author section.

Step 5: Create the Paperback Document

  1. Paste the same text into the paperback-template.odt document, again overwriting just the chapters.
  2. Update the title page with the title, author, etc.
  3. Add a nice B&W graphic to the title page, and the last page of the book. (optional)
  4. Don't worry about the ISBN yet. We'll get to that later.
  5. Fill in the About the Author section, this time adding a B&W headshot. (optional)
  6. Go through the entire document, start to finish, looking for page breaks in the middle of paragraphs, and inserting manual breaks to improve readability. This isn't strictly necessary, but I think it makes the text flow better.
  7. Refresh the table of contents so that it has the correct page numbers.
  8. Note the total number of pages.You'll need this for the dimensions of the paperback cover.

Step 6: Start a Paperback in Lulu

  1. Choose Create->Print Book
  2. Select Premium Paperback, US Trade, Perfect Bound, Black & White on Cream
  3. Enter the number of pages from the previous step
  4. Click on Spine Measurements and make a note of all the measurements listed. You'll need them for making your cover art.
  5. Hit Make This Book Fill in the title, author, etc.
  6. Hit Save & Continue Copy the ISBN and download the barcode image.
  7. STOP THERE. Don't continue.

Step 7: Finish Your Paperback Document

  1. Paste the ISBN into your title page.
  2. Save the document, then export to PDF.

Step 8: Create Your Paperback Cover Art

  1. Using the measurements from the "Start a Paperback" step, create an image in GIMP of that size, at 300dpi.
  2. Save and export to PDF or PNG (not JPG).
  3. Select the front cover, paste as new image, and export to JPG.
  4. Make sure the title is placed correctly on the cover and spine.
  5. Import the barcode image, size it to 2.4" wide x 1" high (300dpi), and paste it onto the back cover, in the bottom right, about 0.5" from both the spine and bottom edge

Note: The 1/8" border around the edge is overspill to allow for printing errors. Don't put anything critical in there.

Step 9: Finish Your Paperback

  1. Get back on Lulu
  2. Continue creating your paperback project
  3. Upload your manuscript
  4. Upload your cover art
  5. Set up distribution
  6. Order a proof copy

Step 10: Convert Your Ebook

  1. Open Calibre
  2. Drag and drop your ebook ODT document into Calibre
  3. Export to epub
  4. Export to mobi

Step 11: Publish Your Ebook on Lulu

  1. Go to Lulu and Start an ebook
  2. Upload the epub document
  3. Add the cover art (I just use the front cover of the paperback image)
  4. Set pricing and distribution - everything except Kindle

Step 12: Publish Your Ebook on KDP

  1. Start a new ebook
  2. Fill in the details and description
  3. Upload the mobi file
  4. Upload the cover art

Step 13: Finish Lulu Paperback Distribution

  1. Wait for the paperback to arrive
  2. Check it over
  3. Go to Lulu and approve distribution (Lulu will not allow distribution of your paperback until you've bought a proof)

Seriously, this is the best part. I mean, ebooks are OK and all, and honestly most of your sales will probably be on Kindle, but having an actual, physical book in your hands is the best thing ever.

Step 14: Additional Info

OK, I glossed over a few details here and there, but it's mostly because they're up to your own discretion.

  • How much to charge for each book...
  • The exact layout of the cover...
  • Internal formatting of the text...

These are all things you can experiment with. I'm in no position to dictate how you make your book. Try a few things, see what works for you.