How to Publish 101

There are a few different ways to publish a novel that has been written.

Traditional Publishing and Self Publishing are the two most common forms.

It’s important to know the pros and cons of each process in determining which is best for you and your project.

I’ll touch on the Traditional Publishing process before getting into the nit and gritty of the Indie road.
Traditional Publishing means having your work published by a company that is a publisher, commonly known as a publishing house. And these companies will usually handle all of the work involved to get the manuscript you wrote edited, printed, marketed, sold to readers.
Getting your work to a publishing house is often a difficult process and requires querying the publishing house or a literary agent.

*NOTE* An overwhelming majority of publishing houses will not accept queries directly from authors as they prefer to work with industry professionals, specifically literary agents.

The query process is arduous. And not for the feint of heart.  Every literary agent will have very specific ways they want their letter formatted. This is usually done to weed out those who do not follow submission rules as they really do get an insane amount of query submissions. It is essential to take your time adjusting your query letter to fit their requirements.

*NOTE* It is very common to not hear back from literary agents. Like, ever! If you do not hear back from them after several months (and some responses, if you do get them, really will take that long), you should assume a rejection. Be sure to make note of their stated deadlines and guidelines that will give you more information to what they expect on their end regarding communication.

The query process can take years to find success. It’s uncommon, rare really, for it to be a quick process, and I will say from a mentality standpoint, be ready for a roller coaster of emotions. Good and bad and dark, make sure you have an outlet to help you get out of the ruts when they happen.
Signing with an agent can be the greatest feeling in the world when it happens. Until you learn the harsh reality that it’s only a portion of the battle. All that hard work and constant rejection you endured in the query process will change you, and you’ll think it’s finally over. You’ve essentially won the lottery! Right? Well… you get to see it happen all over again!!!

Yes Really… 

What I mean by that heart attack inducing statement is that now your literary agent has to find a publishing house to sell your work to in the hopes they will pick it up. And it’s a process not unlike what you went through in reaching your agent. And it may not always end in a book deal. So be warned now, landing a literary agent deal is no small feat, but it is not the full battle.

If you embark on this path, I wish you all of the success in the world. Go for it, it is worth it!
It was my experience that my agent was unable to sell Hydra’s Wake, and the hard conversation came where I had to think about what the best paths forward are for the manuscript.

And I opted to try the Self-Publishing Road.

The Self-Publishing Road

It’s more accessible than ever!

Technology is amazing. And I can go on for far longer than I should over how that applies, but for now I’ll simply leave it at this:
Companies have found ways to make publishing simple and accessible to anyone with a computer. This is a huge win for those who have been unable to succeed in the traditional path, those who are in underrepresented demographics, and literally anyone who has ever pondered “I wonder how to publish my book.”

There are a lot of companies that will allow you to self-publish with ease.

Each Company has intuitive, easy to follow directions and the process is step by step. Some companies will provide more support for the process than others. But in general the process should look like this.

  • You finish your manuscript! Yay! This is a huge accomplishment all by itself and I am proud of your for doing this! No really, how many people can even finish writing a novel?
  • Next up you need to revise and edit the manuscript.
    • Revising should be done by you to close up plot holes and subplots.
    • Revisions can take a while depending on how you write. But that’s ok. The biggest advice I have for this is that you are your biggest critic. Write your book to please you! When you are happy with the book, that’s the point when it’s ready for the next step.
      • Do not try to make your work perfect. Weird advice but you will always find a way to improve everything, and improve it further and again and again and again and again and again… (you get the idea, you gotta have a stopping point!)
  • Use an editing service after the revisions are complete. 
    • This can be expensive, but in general you will get what you pay for. Do not DIY it because having a pair of fresh eyes on the manuscript will help catch many things that will go missed otherwise.
      • Professional editing services can be expensive. And if you can save up for it, it can be worth the input. Of all the novels that get published, there are none that financially succeed that are poorly edited.
        • Good editing will not sell your book, but it will prevent returns, which can devastate your royalties. And it will improve the reader’s experience, which is often reflected in positive reviews.
  • Get a cover designed
    • Understand that books are judged by covers. The cover art is what grabs a potential reader’s attention. It is the very first impression a reader has of your work.
      • If you can’t spend money on much of anything for publishing your book, then use what you can on the cover art. It is what generates the sales.
        • Think of art that can stop a social media scroll for that split second glance. THAT is what you want.
      • A good book cover WILL sell your book.
    • Unless you are a really good digital artist, DO NOT DO THIS ON YOUR OWN!
      • To be blunt… DO NOT HALF-ASS YOUR COVER!
        • Unless you’re cool with maybe 1 or 2 sales a month (yes really, and IF THAT)
          • I can’t stress this enough to any author looking to go down the Indie road.
            • You’re probably not as good at Canva as you think you are. (Sorry, but you needed to hear it).
              • There is a difference between, “this looks neat”, and “this looks epic”. When they sit next to each other on a store’s bookshelf, guess which one wins more attention.
      • AI art may be tempting, but using it will alter your copyright ownership in ways that will affect a few things from Self Publishing services regarding what your novel will be eligible for, as well as impact international distribution.
        • I will discuss the copyright impact of AI art for Amazon KDP further down. Every service has their own rules around this, but transparency and honesty about its use are key!
          • It should be noted that having an AI cover will not prevent you from publishing the novel.
            • The policies around this are actively evolving as new laws are introduced regarding AI.
              • It’s important to answer questions about use of generative AI materials truthfully. Take it seriously and honestly. If you are discovered to lie on these, your book will be removed from the publishing service and you could potentially be banned from using that service in the future. (No, really, that banhammer is well used)
              • Know the difference between AI Generated and AI Assisted.
                • AI Generated material is material that is created for you using a prompt on a Generative AI. Such as “Write me a fantasy story with the following details…”
                • AI Assisted material is human written material that is run through a program that checks for grammar errors, spellcheck, and other such tools.
              • AI Generated is what is of concern here. AI assisted has no impact on your work.
    • Some services like Amazon KDP have a free cover designer that can do a half-decent job.
      • Half-Decent is what I’ll stress there.
    • If you can afford it, I strongly suggest using a professional for your blurb. Someone who knows the industry and what to say to sell your book is nothing but added sales firepower.
      • Otherwise, let loose on social medias with your blurb, getting lots of eyes on it will quickly tell you outside opinions of what works, and what doesn’t.
  • Pick out the publishing service you want to use, if you haven’t already decided.
    • Set up your author profile and payment accounts with the publisher companies.
      • You will be required to fill out tax information as part of this process. As you will be paid royalties, which is income… which means… TAXES! (blah)
  • Get your ISBN, LCCN, and Copyright. All three of these must be started before your novel’s release date.
    • ISBN is International Standard Book Number, it’s a 13 digit number that is intended to be unique and is required to sell your printed books.
      • ISBN’s can be purchased from services like Bowker
        • 1 ISBN starts at $125 typically
        • Purchased ISBN’s can be used across all retailers.
      • ISBN’s can only be used one per version. This means if you intend to release a Paperback and a Hardcover, you will need 2 ISBN’s
      • Some self publishing companies like Amazon KDP and Barnes&Noble Press will give you a free ISBN
        • Caveat to these provided ISBN’s is that they can only be used within the companies that gives them to you. For example you cannot use the free ISBN from Amazon KDP and use it at Barnes&Noble Press.
    • LCCN is Library of Congress Control Number.
      • This is required for publishing in the United States. If reading this from outside the US, check for a local equivalent.
      • You can get your LCCN here
        • You will be required to mail a physical copy of your book to the Library of Congress (after it’s released) to finish this process.
        • LCCN’s are not assigned by publishing companies, this step is entirely on you to begin before your novel is published.
        • You will need the ISBN(s) before you get the LCCN.
        • The LCCN will apply to all versions (eBook, Paperback, Hardcover, Large print) of your book that you register in this process.
        • LCCN registration is free.
    • Copyrighting your book varies by country. In the United States, it’s done through the U.S. Copyright Office
      • There is a small fee for doing this! ($45 at the time of writing this)
      • Like the LCCN, the Copyright will apply to all versions of your manuscript.
      • You will also be required to send them a copy of your work.
        • The one you send for the LCCN will NOT count for this. You have to send a separate copy to this office.
      • Copyright and Generative AI.
        • In short, The US Copyright office has deemed AI Generated content to be considered public domain and cannot be copyrighted.
          • The fact that your work has sections that are considered public domain will not stop you from publishing your content.
          • A common example is having an AI Generated book cover with your manuscript.
            • The human written text/manuscript will still receive the copyright, while the book cover will not.
              • This results in a scenario where you do not own 100% of the copyright. This is important to know so you can answer to your publishing service accurately.
  • Use the ISBN, LCCN, and Copyright information to complete your copyright page! YAY!
  • Time to format the book!
    • Some publishers like Amazon have Kindle Create which can do this for you.
    • Otherwise, if you are super familiar with your word processing program, have fun.
      • If you’re not, there are services that can do this for you, and they aren’t usually expensive.
  • Ok, at this point, follow the steps through your publisher’s website to set up your novel’s listing and release date.
    • Note: Some publishers will only allow pre-orders for eBook formats. If you intend to release your eBook, Paperback, Hardcover all on the same day, you will have to take into account processing times and wait until the right day to finish the final steps. Though several will have set release day settings and will tell you when you need to have all of your manuscript and cover files uploaded by.
      • This varies wildly by publisher and publishing services!
  • Wait until Release day and Celebrate!!!!





If the above sounds like a lot, well that’s because it is. And it’s also everything the publishing houses from traditional publishing do.
We’re potentially paying for:
Professional Editing
Professional Cover Blurb
Professional Cover Art
Book Formatting

And that’s on top of writing the book and revising it.

The above is also only half the work.

When your novel is released, marketing becomes a wild new world of wonderful skills that you will have to pick up and learn.

Just because your book is available to buy, that doesn’t mean sales will happen. You will have to put in actual effort into making that happen.
But we’ll save marketing for later. Let’s take a deeper look at the process once you have the book ready to go.


Some notes on what to expect in Self-Publishing

Amazon KDP

Amazon takes a lot of heat for being the mega giant company that they are.
But in terms of self-publishing, they are king for a reason, and just became one of your most powerful allies.

The process they provide is really simple, easy to follow, and really is a click as you go and fill in the forms kind of deal.


After you fill out your author profile and get your payment method set up, you’ll be able to list your books onto their website, and I’ll shed some light on that process here.

For the manuscript formatting, they have the Kindle Create downloadable program, which does ALL of the formatting for you. And it can be used to automatically format your physical copies too (a handy thing!). Much more user friendly than trying to constantly revise a PDF to fit the bleeds correctly. 

They use a 3 step process

  1. Enter Book Details
    • Here you will put in the following:
      • Language (like english, spanish…)
      • Book Title
      • Author Name
      • Series?
      • Description for the book’s page
      • Appropriate reader’s age range
      • 7 Keywords that you want to have Amazon associate with your book (for readers to search with)
      • 3 categories for you to put your book in
      • Age range of your target audience
  2. Book Content
    • Here you will put in the following:
      • Trim size (for physical copies)
      • Paper type
      • Color or Black and White interior printing
      • Upload your Manuscript
      • Upload your cover (or use their designer)
      • Assign ISBN
      • (Physical) Preview the Book to make sure it’s formatted correctly with the cutting lines and trim size.
      • (eBook) Preview the book to make sure it’s formatted for the Kindle app correctly.
      • Does your book contain AI Generated Material
        • If you say Yes, it will ask you about 2 categories.
          • Text
          • Images
        • Both will have drop down boxes asking you how much of your content is AI generated. Including if you edited the content after it was AI generated.
    • After you review and approve the book, pricing will become available. 
      • If a physical copy, a print cost will appear on the bottom.

I will cut here to talk about pricing for a bit. Which is part 3.

With eBooks, they offer two pricing models.

35% and 70%

If you price your eBook under $2.99, or if you do not own 100% of the copyright to the book (due to AI Generated material being used in any capacity), they will only give you 35% of the sale as royalties to keep. So, if you price your book at the lowest setting of $0.99, your take home is $0.35 per copy sold.

If you price your eBook $2.99+ and you own 100% of the copyright to the book, they will give you 70% of the price. So, at $2.99, your take home will be $2.09 per copy sold.

Adding into the mix is Kindle Select.

Kindle Select allows you to have your book become part of the Kindle Unlimited Program. Readers pay a monthly subscription to Kindle Unlimited and get to read books for free in return.

This means you will get paid by pages read. The royalties are calculated based on how many subscribers there are, and the profit is split amongst the number of total pages read by everyone. Those numbers turn out to be enormous. millions of dollars and tens or hundreds of millions of pages read (it fluctuates) … but the break down is that it’s fairly common to see $0.01 per 2-3 pages read. So for a 300 page book, you’ll take $1-1.50 depending on the program’s performance for the month.

The caveat here is that your eBook becomes exclusive to Amazon. (Your Paperback/Hardcover will not be affected by the exclusivity of the eBook, it’s worth noting if you do decide to use KDP Select, you can still publish physical copies elsewhere like B&N Press)
But for some authors, that tradeoff really does pay off and really well too! That’s just a personal decision you’ll have to make when you get to it.


Paperback/Hardcover is different. Printing costs are now involved. They offer a 60/40 split on their books. This means you get 60%, and they keep 40%

They also take the cost of printing out of your cut. So this means you will see a minimum price that you can sell the book for. 
For example if your book costs $4.91 to print, the minimum price you can sell it for is $8.18 .
Because at $8.18, 60% of that is $4.91 and covers the cost of the book while still giving Amazon their 40%. But that also means you take home nothing at that price.
But you are the one who sets the sale price as long as it is that minimum amount or higher.
If we set the price of the book at $15.99, Amazon will get $6.39 because that’s their 40% cut. And you get $9.54, the $4.91 cost of printing the book then gets taken out, so your take home for that book is $4.69 per copy sold.
Math… Thankfully the third step, Pricing, will break this down for you in a wonderful and neat little chart.
It will also allow you to set the prices for different regions. Keep in mind your royalties earned will be in those currencies used by those regions.
Some Paperbacks can also be given Expanded Distribution, which allows 3rd party retailers to buy your book from Amazon to sell in their bookstores. It’s worth noting that the 60/40 split will flip by doing this. They’ll get 60% and you’ll get 40%. But given that it really can add to your sales, that’s not a bad deal.

Once you finish the pricing section, your Preorder (if you scheduled a date of release) page will go live after their review process, which can take up to 72 hours. Though it often happens far faster! If you did not schedule a release date, it will go live for sale and be published when it completes the review process.


This is the moment when it officially happens. YOU ARE PUBLISHED! 


Important note: If you own less than 100% of your copyright (due to AI generated content or other public domain content), you will not be eligible for the 70% royalties from your eBook, and there will be changes to international availability, limiting where your work can be sold to markets where it is legal to publish work that includes public domain content. KDP select and Expanded Distribution eligibility are also impacted by the degree of AI generated/public domain content. Amazon is obliged to follow all laws of all countries it operates in, which is why it takes this topic seriously via banhammer enforcement for those who fail to disclose use of AI generated material. So, if you use it, be honest about it.


Whew… Ok, so remember all that stuff we’re paying for?
The Book Cover, Editing, and so on… let’s for the sake of argument say you plunked $2,000 down on getting the book ready and take a look at the math here.

We’ll use an eBook at $3.99 (Take home $2.67)
Paperback at $12.99 (Cost $4.26, Take home $3.54)
Hardcover at $19.99 (Cost $8.56, Take home $3.43)

To break even, I would need to sell:
750 eBooks
565 Paperbacks
595 Hardcovers

The harsh reality:

Most Indie Authors (90%+) Don’t sell more than 100 copies a year! And a major reason for that is the level of professionalism that goes into the preparation process. And the marketing strategy. Ok, it’s mostly the marketing. Which is something I will have to make a whole separate page for, because even if you have a professional product and no one knows about it, it’ll be a pretty expensive experience.

It is a leap of faith and an investment that has no guarantee on its reception. Some books will do amazing, while others will do not so well. Only the readers can decide that.

But. all the same, even if you go the cheapest route to say, I PUBLISHED A BOOK FOR REAL! You certainly can.
It’s now more accessible than ever.



I hope you found this page to be useful in giving you some information you may not have already known or had.

I know this was a longer read, but too many resources seem to cherry pick topics instead of display it in a step by step process like this.



Amazon – Kindle Direct Publishing

Rakuten Kobo


Google Books

Apple Books

Barnes&Noble Press


Bowker ISBN

Library of Congress LCCN

U.S. Copyright Office


Creature Author Pages


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