Self-Publishing In A Nut Shell

[img_assist|nid=684|title=Passin’|desc=|link=url|url=|align=right|width=150|height=221]Conducted by Karen E. Quinones Miller

So you’ve poured your heart out on paper, and now you’re ready to get it published. Congratulations! But if you think spending months, or years, on a manuscript is hard, well, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Get ready for the really hard work. Publishing, and then SELLING your book.

Before you consider self-publishing, I strongly urge you to consider having someone do the publishing. There are two main options – large publishers (Simon & Schuster, Random House, Doubleday, etc.) small presses (Third World Press, Running Press, Camino, etc.). Do you need an agent to get into a mainstream publishing? You don’t need one, but it sure is helpful. How do you get an agent? Ask other published writers for their agent’s information. Go to bookstores and read the acknowledgement pages of books in the genre you’re writing. Most thank their agents. Contact those agents. Go to literary events where literary agents and editors are featured. And there’s also a book printed every year by Jeff Herman called “A Writer’s Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents.” Buy it, or check it out in your local library. They all have it. And don’t forget the Internet. There are countless websites which have a list of literary agents.

Now if you’re going to go the mainstream publishing route, make sure you’re ready. DON’T contact an agent or editor until your manuscript is finished. When it is, you have to write a query letter and a synopsis and send it out with a cover letter. If the agent/editor is interested, they’ll contact you and ask for the first three chapters, or maybe even your entire manuscript. Then, hopefully, you’re on your way.


But if you decide to self-publish there are quite a number of steps you’ll have to take, and you should start readying yourself months before your desired publishing date.

First thing you should do when your manuscript is finished is get it edited. And I mean really edited. Get a professional editor to go over your book for structure, continuity, and character and storyline development. Your best friend, Laura, may have may have a Masters Degree in English, but it DOESN’T make her qualified to edit a book. Editors look for continuity, structure, character development and clarity, not just misspellings and bad grammar. Don’t skip this step, even the most experienced writers will benefit from good editing. I personally recommend Andrea Mullins, my former editor at Simon & Schuster who started freelance editing in 2001. Her email address is: She’s good, fast, reasonable, and very supportive of self-published authors. I also recommend Marcela Landres, another S&S former editor. Her email addy is Both of these editors are a bit pricey, but I think Andrea’s fees might be a little less expensive. On very, very, very rare occasions I also edit . . . remember, though, only very rarely. When I do agree to edit (and I do so only very rarely!) I charge between $2.25 and $2.75 per double-spaced page.

After your manuscript is edited, get it copyedited, or proof-read. That’s where someone reads the manuscript for typos, grammar, etc. I recommend you go through the process a minimum of twice, but three times would be even better. The most common complaint about self-published books is poor copyediting.

While your manuscript is being copyedited, get your ISBN. The cost is $250.00 for ten sets of numbers (their minimum) and you can obtain it online at You HAVE to have an ISBN if you want your book listed in Books In Print (and you really MUST get your book listed in Books In Print) and if you want it sold at bookstores, and I assume you all do. Which brings me to another issue . . . set your price for the book. You’ll need it when you go to get your EAN Barcode. The cost is nominal, usually under $30.00. I recommend using Bar Code Graphics, at 1540 Broadway in New York City. Their number is (800) 932-7801

Then get your cover illustrator. Very important, because once you have your ISBN and your cover done, you can start getting your promotional materials together.

Okay, now your manuscript is edited and copyedited. So now you have to have it typeset. You can do it yourself if you’re computer proficient, or you can pay for the service. I did mine using Microsoft Word.

Only after your manuscript is typeset can you really start shopping around for book printers, because it’s not until then that you have a hard and fast page count for your book. DON’T settle on the first printer you call. Prices vary wildly in the industry. Don’t put yourself in a position in which time becomes an urgent factor in choosing a printer. You’ll pay dearly for that mistake! Your printer should be able to get your book back to you in four to five weeks, but allow yourself six to seven weeks to be sure. Oh, and be sure when you shop for printing prices, that you get an estimate from them for delivery. Personally, I recommend two printers. Webcom in Canada . . . their web address is and Hignell Printing also in Canada . Hignell can be found online at

Okay, while your book is at the printer, you should start getting your promotional material together. PUT TOGETHER AN IMPRESSIVE PRESS KIT. This will be the media and bookstores first introduction to your book. At minimum, your press kit should consist of a press release, a flyer with your book cover, an excerpt from the book, a synopsis, your bio, and your picture (5×7). If you have other promotional materials, such as bookmarks or post cards, include them also.

Then start your promotional machine running! Get a list of bookstores nationwide and send out your press kit. Go to local bookstores, personally, and introduce yourself to the managers, and see if you can set up book signing. Be shameless and thick-skinned. You’ll get a lot of rejections, but you’ll also get some acceptances.

You should also be trying to line up book distributors. Okay, for those who don’t know, book distributors are the ones who get our books out nationally, but they do so at a high cost. Ingram, the country’s biggest book distributor charges 60 percent of your cover price. Ouch! You weren’t expecting that? Even if you were to send the book out yourself nationally, you’d still have to give the bookstores 40 percent.

Book Distributors:

 Ingram Book Company
One Ingram Blvd.
La Vergne , TN 37086
(615) 213-5000
Actually, Ingram is only accepting titles from publishers with 10 titles or more at the moment. They will try and pawn you off to one of the smaller companies, and that’s cool – but only if you don’t have to sign an exclusivity contract!

Baker and Taylor Books
1120 Route 22 East
Bridgewater , NJ 08807
(908) 541-7000

Koen Book Distributors, Inc.
10 Twosome Drive
Box 600 Moorestown , NJ 08057

Culture Plus Book Distributors
(specializes in African-American books)
291 Livingston Street
Brooklyn , NY 11217
(718) 222-9307

A & B Distributors
(specializes in African-American books)
1000 Atlantic Avenue
Brooklyn , NY 11238
(718) 783-7808

Amazon Advantage Program

Barnes and Noble Online

Also, while your book at the printer, go to Kinkos and make up some book galleys, because when you send your press kit to the media, you’re hoping for book reviews, right? You don’t want to wait until your book is printed, because media wants to do reviews BEFORE the publishing date.


Now . . . you should have your books back from the printer, and you’re ready to get out there and get noticed, and sell a whole lot of books! Good luck!

Karen E. Quinones Miller’s latest novel is Passin’

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