From the Reading Chair

Articles by Laurel Cohn

Self-publishing Steps to Publication

Date: 25 September 2019

The following is a guide for writers who want to self-publish in Australia. If you are seeking a trade publisher, you will need to consider the first three steps (Professional feedback, Editing and Permissions) before sending work to an agent or publisher.

A staircase going into a bookshelf

Self-publishing Steps to Publication

Date: 25 September 2019

The following is a guide for writers who want to self-publish in Australia. If you are seeking a trade publisher, you will need to consider the first three steps (Professional feedback, Editing and Permissions) before sending work to an agent or publisher.

A staircase going into a bookshelf
1. Professional Feedback

Feedback on your work from an industry professional will point out what is working well in the manuscript and what requires further development. It is a kind of ‘reality check’ on how ready your work is for publication. Constructive feedback in the form of an assessment or editorial consultation will help you develop the work to a publishable level.


2. Editing

Successful self-published writers get their manuscripts professionally edited. This can involve structural editing, copyediting and proofreading. Writers seeking a trade publisher should aim to present a manuscript with as few errors as possible. Some manuscripts may require copyediting before sending to an agent or publisher. Professional editors will correct inconsistencies, continuity problems or structural flaws in your manuscript, as well as grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors. They can also advise on legal issues that might arise. This can save embarrassment (and legal problems) after the book is published. Depending on the state and length of the manuscript, editing costs can be anywhere from $500 to $5000. The eyes of an editor are different to the eyes of a writer, even if you have extensively self-edited your manuscript. A professional outsider’s view is always worthwhile.


3. Permissions

Authors have an ethical and legal obligation to acknowledge material quoted from other sources. There is a ‘fair dealing’ provision of the Australian Copyright Act allowing for a short extract to be reproduced without permission from the copyright holder. For longer extracts, permission must be sought. This may involve the payment of a fee.
Australian Copyright Council.


4. Copyright

Original work is automatically protected by copyright under Australian law. There is no formal process to register copyright in Australia or in most other countries (the U.S. is an exception). The imprint page should include the copyright symbol with the name of the copyright holders (author/s, illustrator/s) and the year of publication. You may also wish to insert a paragraph reserving all reproduction rights.


5. Prepublication Data Service (formerly CiP)

This is a free service offered by the National Library of Australia for Australian publishers and self-publishing authors who want the details of their upcoming publications made available to Australian libraries, library suppliers, and other members of the book industry for acquisition purposes. It is not compulsory but it does help your book appear more promptly in national databases of forthcoming books, accessed by booksellers and libraries.
 Prepublication Data Service Australia.



ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. This number is used to track sales and is a requirement of bookstores both bricks and mortar and online. The cost of an ISBN depends on how many books you plan to publish and your country of origin. You will need an ISBN for a print edition and a separate ISBN for an ebook edition.
 ISBN Agency Australia.


7. Barcode

If your book is to be exclusively available as an ebook, you do not need to have a barcode. If, however your book is to be available in print and sold through a bricks and mortar bookshop, you will need a 13 digit barcode. These can be purchased at the same time as your ISBN, from the same agency.
Thorpe-Bowker Australia Identifier Services.


8. Design and Layout

For your self-published title to have the best chance of success in the competitive marketplace, it must look good, with a design that suits the content and a layout that facilitates ease of reading. Look for graphic designers who are familiar with book production, not just websites and posters.


9. Printing

Usually the most substantial costs to a self-publisher are the printing costs. The smaller the print-run (number of books you want printed) the more expensive the unit price (cost for each book). There are many print services available, and it is worth getting at least three quotes before committing to a printer. To get a quote, you will need certain information about your book: extent (how many pages), type of paper (weight, matt/gloss etc.), type of cover (hard or soft, weight, etc.), binding, colour or black and white. Some printers are able to help you work out your requirements.


10. Print-on-Demand (POD)

It is sometimes uneconomical for a self-publishing author to print less than 1000 copies of a book. That’s a major financial outlay, as well as a major storage issue! An option available to authors through some websites is Print-On-Demand (known as POD). This is where a book is printed only once it has been purchased. It is usually printed in the country where it is purchased and sent locally to the buyer (reducing shipping costs). Print quality is often as good as a traditionally published book. The author sets the retail price, so profit margin is up to the author.

The down side is that the unit price (cost per printed book) is quite high, but this model has the economic and environmental advantages of printing only those books that have a buyer and allowing an author to have a print version available without high up-front costs.


11. Distribution

One of the hardest tasks facing self-publishers is getting your book to bookshops, other appropriate outlets and libraries. Unless you have established networks of your own (for certain niche titles), or are engaged in a particular activity which will allow you to sell your book directly to your readership, it is worth considering the services of a distributor to get your book to the people who will sell it for you.

Distribution is not usually an upfront cost but is a percentage of your retail price that is deducted by the distributor when the book is sold to a shop. A bookseller also takes a cut of the recommended retail price. As you set your own retail price, the actual costs will vary. Distributors and shops, including online, charge between 15% and 60% of the retail price.

You can search online to find a distributor, bearing in mind that not all distributors will handle self-published titles.


12. Marketing

Having a product ready for sale and distributed to appropriate outlets is not the final step. You need to let people know about it and direct them to where they can buy it. Most authors have a website of their own. There are domain name and hosting costs involved, although there are many great deals around. If you are tech savvy, you may be able to build your own site (including an online shopping cart), write a blog and engage in social networking. If you are not that way inclined, you may need to pay someone to help you.

You will need to prepare promotional material – blurbs, articles, press releases – for publicity purposes. An editor can help craft this material. There are also specialist book publicists who use their knowledge and contacts to make your book known.

As a self-publisher, you will need to do the publicity and promotional work yourself, or employ someone to do it for you. There are many websites offering advice and books on how to go about marketing your product.

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