What’s involved in self-publishing a book?

Joanna Vander Vlugt

Have you decided to self-publish? Do you know what’s involved? This author walks us through the steps you’ll need to take to see that book sitting proudly on the shelf.

by Joanna Vander Vlugt

You love to write. Folders on your laptop are bursting with manuscripts. Now, the challenging work begins, prepping that manuscript for publication. You’ve decided to self-publish. What does that entail? A lot.

Self-publishing is a great avenue for writers. The self-published author makes all the decisions: book cover, interior book design, editor, e-book, audiobook, publicity, and the book launch. These are costs the writer will pay up front, and they can add up.

If you are like me when I published my first book, The Unravelling, I didn’t have a lot of money. I will discuss options and approaches below based on my experience self-publishing two thriller novels and my soon-to-be third.

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Book cover and interior book design

An author can easily spend a $500 or more for a book designer to design the cover. This is a worthy expense. A book designer has a specific skill set. Now, the first cover of The Unravelling was my design. However, I have since had a book designer redesign the covers of both books, and she has designed the cover for my upcoming third novel. I have received many compliments about my book covers. Some book designers will also create the e-book. If you can’t afford a book designer, the online application Bookbrush, for a small monthly fee, will provide you with the tools and book cover templates to create your cover. Amazon KDP also provides book cover templates as well as templates for your book’s interior design, which may be a more economical route.


I strongly recommend hiring an editor to complete a structural edit of your novel. The services of an editor start around $1,000 and go up. The analysis of an editor is worth it. However, if an editor does not fit your budget, a few published authors provide, for a fee, a manuscript evaluation. ARC (advance reader copies) readers are crucial in the publishing road map. ARC readers, for free, will catch little errors in your manuscript, such as misplaced commas and repeated words. An ARC reader could be a friend, co-worker, or another author. I have purchased my ARC readers a box of chocolates, or a bottle of wine, to show my appreciation for them taking time out of their schedules to read my novel. You want your novel to be as perfect as possible before clicking “Publish.”

You’ve decided to self-publish. What does that entail? A lot.


As a first-time author you may not feel you need a publicist. Before I signed a contract with my publicist, I spent hours researching avenues to promote my novel. My publicist does that work for me, which frees my time to write, and it is one less thing for me to think about. I found my publicist through an author referral. If you don’t know which publicist to choose, check the acknowledgement page of an author’s book.


It has been four years since the publication of The Unravelling. I am a podcaster, and I am now researching how to produce my own audiobooks. I can’t afford another organization to produce my audiobook. My experience as a podcaster, combined with my research about the technical requirements for a good audiobook, has now made audiobooks an affordable product for me as a self-published author.


I am aware of what I can and cannot afford. I have taken it upon myself to see what I can learn, and what I have other professionals do. During my journey, I have also offered an exchange of services with other service providers. This can be as simple as cross-promoting newsletters with another author.

Writing Groups

There is an excess of information on the internet for a self-published author to weave through, and it can be overwhelming. Joining a writer’s group is a great investment. Not only will you receive moral support from your colleagues, but you’ll also learn from their experiences.

This article, I hope, provides insight into the complexity of self-publishing. I have found being a self-published author rewarding. I wish I knew about some of the expenses involved when I first started, so I could have budgeted accordingly. Also, take heart in knowing that what you can’t afford with the first novel, you may be able to afford with future novels.

Note: Joanna Vander Vlugt has no affiliations with any of the service provides mentioned in this article.

Joanna Vander Vlugt is an author and illustrator. The Unravelling, her debut novel, featuring the sister duo Jade and Sage, was a Canadian Book Club Awards finalist, as was its sequel, Dealer’s Child. Joanna draws upon her thirteen years’ experience working in the prosecutor’s office and ten years working in the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner for inspiration for her novels. She is currently working on book three in the series Spy Girls. Joanna’s novels, art, and podcast can be found at www.joannavandervlugt.com or Amazon.

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