10 Last-Minute Publishing Tasks Every Author Should Know About

by Corina Koch MacLeod
Updated February 2014

Image by cumi&ciki (CC BY 2.0)

You’ve finished your book. Congratulations! Perhaps you’ve even had the foresight to hire or acquire a copyeditor to check your book for accuracy (grammatical and otherwise), consistency, clarity and typos. It’s time to hit Publish and uncork that bottle of champagne, right?

Um… maybe not yet. (Sorry).

If your manuscript still lives in Microsoft Word, there’s a lot you need to do to your manuscript and outside of your manuscript before you hit Publish. I know, right? No one ever tells you this. And like a really punishing fitness class with a sadistic instructor, when you think you have one more set to grunt your way through, you discover you actually have ten. (Kill me now.)

Because I’m not a sadistic sort of instructor, I’ll list for you the ten sets you need to complete before you hit Publish. Put that bottle of champagne back in the fridge (it’ll keep), grab some water and remember to breathe. Knowing what in you’re in for will help to alleviate the stress you will feel around those last-minute publishing tasks.

1. Decide how you’d like to publish your book. Do you know your publishing options? Will you produce an ebook? A print book? Both? You’ll need to know something about your potential readership to make this decision. If your readers are not likely to own an e-reader, you may consider using a print-on-demand (POD) service like CreateSpace so that you can make print books available to them.

You’ll also need to consider the kind of book you’ve written. Some kinds of books work better as print books, while others work nicely in print and ebook formats. 
Also, think about what you can do to help book sales. If you’re a healthcare professional who has just written a book on seasonal affective disorder, you might want to have print copies on hand to make available to people you interact with you on a daily basis.
2. Decide where you’d like to sell your book. If you’ve chosen to produce an ebook, you’ll need to decide if you’re going to make it available on one of the many ebook retail sites: Kindle, Kobo Writing Life, Nook Press (Barnes & Noble), Smashwords, Lulu, Bookbaby, and the list goes on. Each ebook distributor has specific ebook file requirements (epub, mobi, PDF), so it makes sense to decide who you’d like go with at the outset. Print options include CreateSpace, Lightning Source, and Lulu, among others.
3. Format your book for your distributor. Each ebook distributor and POD service has specific requirements for submitting files to their service (see our Amazon cheat sheet and the Lulu cheat sheet for details). You’ll need to format your Word file to those specifications. So, for example, if you’re submitting your book to CreateSpace for printing, you’ll need to submit a PDF, and if you’re submitting an ebook file to Kobo, you’ll need to figure out how to get your Word doc into the epub file format that Kobo accepts. 
I’ve written a few tutorials on how to get your book from Word to epup using Sigil, a free epub editor. Jutoh can help you create epubs and mobi files with relative ease. Joel Friedlander and Tracy R. Atkins have created book design templates that can help you create beautiful print and ebook interiors. If that’s too techy for you, you can hire an ebook serviceformatter or book designer to do some or all of the formatting for you.
4. Create a book cover. A good cover looks professional and is legible as a thumbnail. If you can manage to create a professional cover within these parameters on your own, go for it. If you need help, consider following Derek Murphy’s (Microsoft Word) or Aubrey Watt’s (GIMP) cover design tutorials, using cover templates from Creativindie, or hiring a cover designer to help you with this process.

5. Finalize your book title. There is a lot to consider in creating a good book title. In short, readers should be able to tell what your book is about by reading your title (and gleaning clues from your cover design) and your title ideally needs to contain keywords that will make your book discoverable by your readers.
6. Promote your book. That’s right  before you hit Publish, heck, two months before launch day, you need to promote your book. If you have an author platform, like a blog or a website, post your final cover (with your final book title) so your readers can begin to get excited about it. They’ll also know what they’re looking for when they go online to purchase a copy.  
Blog about topics related to your book to build anticipation. For example, if you’ve written a cookbook, blog about special ingredients you like to use in the recipes in your cookbook. Offer a sample recipe for prospective readers to try and comment on. Discuss special cooking techniques. If readers like what they see on your author platform, they will be more likely to buy your book.
7. Build your book page. If you’ve decided which book distributor you’re going to go with, you need to create a book page for each distributor’s website so readers can get a sense of what your book is about. By way of example, here’s our book page on Smashwords, and again on CreateSpace for one of our books. Building a book page requires you to write a book description. There are lots of opinions on how best to do this, but in the end, your goal is to write a book description that will match what your prospective readership is looking for. 
8. Build your author page. Distributors, like Amazon and Smashwords, will sometimes give you an opportunity to build an author page (here’s mine on Smashwords) that links to your book page. Consider putting some time into building your author page. Readers will sometimes buy a book because they like the author.
9. Upload and check your book. You’re nearly there when you upload your book to your chosen distributor. But before you hit Publish, be sure to proofread your book in its final environment (on an e-reader or in print). You can proofread your book using this proofreading checklist, or you can hire a proofreader (yup, that’s us!) to do it for you. Whatever you do, don’t skip the proofreading step. Your readers are worth that last push of effort.

10. Choose key words for your book. There is an art and a science to choosing keywords for your book so readers can find it with a Google search or on a distributor’s website. This post by David Woghan explains what you need to consider.

And *now* you can hit Publish  and grab that bottle of champagne. It should be nicely chilled by now.
What else should be on this last-minute task checklist? Feel free to comment.

2 thoughts on “10 Last-Minute Publishing Tasks Every Author Should Know About

  1. Great article, you guys!

    I would only add, from my wide experience editing self-published manuscripts, that most self-published material needs far more than copy editing. It need the full whammy of substantive, structural, stylistic, and copy editing. The importance of substantive editing can’t be emphasized enough. This kind of editing is equal to or more important to cover and interior page design.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Arlene. I couldn’t agree with you more. More often than not, authors think of editing in terms of proofreading (and sometimes copyediting), but they’re not aware of how to get their manuscript in shape for a copyedit or a proofread. I plan to address this issue in a future post.

      So point taken: there’s much more to address before the copyediting stage. This blog post addresses everything that comes after.

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