4 Giant Steps to Self-Publishing

Nancy J. Cohen

Recently I have released my first nonfiction title. This came about because numerous aspiring authors kept asking me how to write a mystery. So I compiled my teachings into an easy-to-read booklet with concise instructions on Writing the Cozy Mystery. Here is a distillation of the steps I followed to produce this work.


Please note that today I am en route to Orlando for SleuthFest, and I may not be able to reply to comments in a prompt manner. I will look at them later and do my best to respond in a timely fashion.

Hire a story development editor and a copy editor. Polish your work to perfection.
Insert front and back material into manuscript.
Write back cover copy.

Create a publisher name and register with your State as “Doing Business As” title. Or create an LLC if you prefer. Check with your accountant for more info.
Put a Legal Notice in your local newspaper if required by the State.
Apply for a county business license/tax receipt. Note: if you’re 65, you may be exempt from fees but you still have to apply. Renewal is annual.
Open a business bank account under DBA title. As sole proprietor, you don’t need an EIN number. Use your own SS number.
Order checks for new account.
Buy ten ISBNs from Bowker.com.

Hire a cover designer for ebook cover and trade paperback cover.
Determine book price for digital edition.
Assign an ISBN number to the digital edition at MyIdentifier.com (if you’ve bought them from Bowker). You will need to upload the cover and give the price.
Hire a formatter after inserting the ISBN into your copyright page. Note that the print edition will have a separate ISBN from the ebook edition so you’ll need to send the formatter two different files or pay for a correction later.
Upload your e-book to Amazon, Apple, BN, Kobo, Smashwords, AllRomanceEbooks/OmniLit. It may be easier to hire your formatter to upload to iBooks since I believe you need to own an Apple device to do this step.
*File for copyright now so you don’t have to send two print books to the copyright office.
Upload to Createspace for a print edition. If you use their ISBN, you can sell your CS book to libraries. If not, librarians will have to get your book through another source or buy it through normal channels. Consider Lightning Source and Espresso Machine as other print options.
Consider an audio edition via ACX with another ISBN assignment and a cover resized to this format.

Order print materials to promote your work, i.e. bookmarks, postcards, etc.
Consider doing a virtual blog tour.
If you set a particular release date, hold an online launch party.
Post your release news and book cover on all your sites.
Solicit Customer Reviews.
Run a Rafflecopter Contest.
Consider if you want to give away free copies or promote a bargain/sale price.
Join indie author forums online for more tips.

Obviously, marketing could be a whole other topic as could each one of these sections. I do plan to blog about this process in more detail at a later date on my personal blog. Meanwhile, these steps will get you started in the right direction. Those of you who have been through this journey might have more to add.


Writing the Cozy Mystery is a valuable guide on how to write a traditional whodunit. This concise tool will show you step-by-step how to develop your characters, establish the setting, plot the story, add suspense, plant clues and sustain your series. You’ll find everything you need to know in an easy-to-read, clear manner to write your own whodunit. http://nancyjcohen.com/books/nonfiction/


16 thoughts on “4 Giant Steps to Self-Publishing

  1. Nancy,
    Interesting advice, especially for the DIY self-pubber. I’m wary of many of the tasks listed here, though–especially the legal end–I assume I’ll make a mess of doing that much DIY. Ergo, I contract some of this stuff out. While the writing end of things–even marketing blurbs–I can manage, formatting, proof-reading, and cover art I leave in the capable hands of people better prepared for those tasks. This also spreads the pain around and allows me to concentrate on my writing. I suspect lawyers don’t come that cheap, however.
    Marketing is another issue. I’ve learned a lot (a new term yesterday–permission marketing) and do my best, but limited financial resources keep this modest.
    Nevertheless, your book seems interesting. I have an author friend who seems to do well with cozy mysteries. I never understood the distinction, so I hope you define what they are. I can “get cozy” with anything I can put on my Kindle now, as long as I have my recliner and twelve-year-old Jameson’s. 🙂
    All the best,

    • Definition of the cozy mystery is included in my book. Legal costs were minimal for my DBA. I filled out a form online and then did the required legal notice in the newspaper, also a form online. I did not require a lawyer. And I contracted out for the book cover and formatting. Once you go through the process, it’s easier the next time. The legalities are done, and I need only write the book and then hire the same people to get it ready to go online. The upload process is relatively simple, except for Apple.

    • I was told (in Illinois) that you can be a sole proprietorship for basically no cost, if you use your own name. As soon as you use a different name, you have to file the notice in a newspaper and file a form with the county clerk’s office (or recorder of deeds or something – don’t remember exactly). If your publishing company is your name, you are okay with most anything.

  2. I am teaching a workshop on opening chapters tomorrow at SleuthFest…I plan to direct everyone to our First Page archives. But am also going to tell them to read your post, Nancy. I don’t think a lot of folks really understand what is takes to self-pub the right way. Congrats on the book.

    • Thanks, PJ Parrish! Good idea to direct SF folks to our site here. And you’re right. A lot of people think you just stick your book up on Amazon. That’s not the way to indie publish for the long term.

  3. One more piece of advice I would add. You have to get your book on iTunes/Apple in your own name, but once that is done, you can email them with your DBA or LLC and they will change the seller to your company name.

  4. I think if I’d read this before I published my first back-list title as an Indie author, I might have been frightened away. You do lay everything out, although I publish as myself, do 90% of my own formatting, and only hire out the tricky parts. I use free ISBNs — there are ways around some of the steps you’ve outlined that can save an author some money. Granted, it might not be quite as “professional” but it’s worked for me for 14 books. I may not have done it “right” but I got the job done. I would definitely agree you need professional cover art and editing no matter what.

    • These steps are meant as guidelines. No one has to do them all except I would not advise skipping the editorial or professional book design. Your success has been my inspiration, Terry. Now I’m hoping to learn from your excellent blog again how to put a book into audio.

  5. Thanks for sharing the steps you followed in producing your work. It has been very helpful. This can also serve as guidelines for new writers when they publish their own work particularly on the marketing part. Also, congratulations for the release of your first non-fiction title!


  6. Hi Nancy, It was nice to see you again at SleuthFest.
    Just reading this post. It is very informative. Thank you for your openness. My question is in regards to the ISBN. Why buy your own? Smashwords & CreateSpace both offer them free. What is the benefit of doing it via Bowkers? Thanks in advance for your honesty and help.

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