Self-Publishing Toolkit: 4 Essentials for Authors

One of the questions I get asked most often is:

How can I self-publish my manuscript? What do I need? How do I turn my pile of ideas into a polished book?

(Okay, that's three questions.)

Self-publishing is not for everyone. If you're looking to get rich quick without a lot of work . . . well, look elsewhere.

But! If you're a writer who puts in the time and effort to make her work as strong and polished as possible, who cares deeply about his reader, then I've got my top recommended tools to turn you from writerly hopeful into published author.

Are you ready? Okay, let's go.

1. Something to write on, digitally speaking

The first must-have every self-publishing author needs is something to create your manuscript with. This can be as simple as your basic word processor -- Open Office Writer is a great free option available for both PC and Mac.

If you'd like to save yourself some time and sanity and make your manuscript look much more professional with much less effort, you may want to upgrade to Scrivener. I wrote and published my novel, The Light Between Us, with Open Office, and then used Scrivener for my next book, Night Cycles. I will never go back to Open Office for work I'm going to publish to Kindle. Nope nope nope. If you have the extra cash, I'd recommend trying out Scrivener for a free test drive to see what you think.

You don't need Scrivener, of course. Open Office and Microsoft Word will do just fine. But you need some kind of word processor. If you don't have one, you need to get one ASAP. I'll wait.

2. Be Your Own Publisher from Lucy Pearce

Okay, so you've got your word processor of choice downloaded. But now you're looking at your manuscript and wondering how in the world you're going to be able to turn it into a professional looking book, much less defeat the frustrating + tricksy wiles of Kindle.

In between publishing The Light Between Us and Night Cycles, I purchased Lucy Pearce's e-course, Be Your Own Publisher.

This course was hands-down the best investment I have ever made in my writer career. Seriously, ever.

In Be Your Own Publisher, Lucy covers everything -- e v e r y t h i n g -- from writing your first draft to editing to cover design to navigating CreateSpace to formatting for print and Kindle to self-care.

I cannot begin to tell you the amount of tooth-gnashing and hair-rending Be Your Own Publisher saved me. But you can go look at the innards of The Light Between Us and Night Cycles in Amazon's free "look inside" feature to see just how much Lucy's course taught me. My books went from looking super n00b-ish to polished and professional solely because of Be Your Own Publisher.

Do yourself a favor. Get this course.

3. A Good Proofreader

Another asset that you cannot do without as you seek to self-publish your book is a good proofreader. This might be your mom, or your writing accountability buddy that you're swapping critiques with, or someone that you hire.

Whatever you choose, you absolutely need someone else's eyes on your manuscript to help catch copy errors. Because you will miss your own errors. I learned this the hard way. Don't be like me.

4. A Professional Cover Designer

With free + low-cost options like Canva available, it's really tempting to try to create our own book covers. I mean, that's money saved!

Except that a good professional cover designer can elevate the professional look of your book in a way that you probably can't on your own, because they've got loads more experience at graphic design than we writers do. And a more professional looking cover means that more new readers are likely to take a chance on your work.

I've written and published three books. I designed the cover for two of them, and hired a designer for the other. I bet you can guess just by looking at them which one I made.

My favorite cover designer? Paper and Sage Design. You can choose from her cache of pre-made covers, or spend a little more to get a custom design. Both options are very reasonably priced, and she can create some social media banners to match your book's cover as well.

Some Nice Extras . . .

If you're looking to go the extra mile with your self-published book, you might also want to purchase your own ISBN to help support bookstores who sell your work and/or invest in some Facebook ads when your book is available. But if this is your first time out, the above four essentials are what I recommend you focus your energy and assets on. You've got this!

Whew! Are you still with me? That might sound like a lot, but getting your book out on your terms is not as difficult as you might think. (And I'm serious on checking out Lucy's e-course. It will eliminate SO. MUCH. overwhelm.)

And! I have a lovely freebie that will be of huge benefit to you if you're looking to publish a poetry manuscript soon, but need a little help putting the darn thing together. It's a 13 page e-book called How To Assemble Your Poetry Book, and it's available for immediate download -- for FREE (I know, right?!).

In How To Assemble Your Poetry Book, I walk you through how to take that pile of poems you've written and turn it into a cohesive, enjoyable text.

Ready to download it? Enter your info below and I'll email your copy of How To Assemble Your Poetry Book right away:

Get Your Free Copy!


In How To Assemble Your Poetry Book, I walk you through how to take that pile of poems you've written and turn it into a cohesive, enjoyable text. Huzzah!

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Portals of Water and Wine by R.L. Haas {Cover Reveal!}

So. It's been a little while hasn't it, dear blog reader? And perhaps it seems to return (maybe?) from my writing sojourn with a post about someone else's book. But I don't think it's lame at all, because this book is one I've been watching gestating many months now, growing at the fingertips of a dear, dear friend.  

Let me introduce a fairytale -- no, fairy epic: Portals of Water and Wine by R.L. Haas.  I have had the opportunity to beta reader this story, and it is just yummy, stuffed with myth, adventure, war, love, allegory, and a helluva lot of beauty.  Absolutely fantastic for an author's debut!  Portals will release December 1, and today, it is available for preorder on Amazon, and is just $0.99 for Kindle Eeee!!!  

Want to know more?  Read on for an exclusive synopsis and the dish on its kick-ass author, not to mention how to get in on the Portals online release party . . .

The war had waged for nineteen years. Alonthiel had been overrun with the Fledgling Armies, the children of Ash and Iron. They were the sons and daughters born once to Alonthiel, now so twisted and dark that their former Fae heritage was barely a drop flowing through their veins.

There had been a treaty, but it had been broken…somehow…no one could even remember the reason anymore. They had come in the night, with their feathered manes and glowing eyes the color of boiling blood and their fingernails set with iron. They had no need for swords, save the ones that grew from the ends of their hands. They were a deadly force, led into battle by their captain Flail, the son of the Fledgling King.
The sounds of children laughing had been replaced with widow’s wailing. The smashing and splashing of men’s glasses and bar-house celebrations had turned into the sound of metal on metal, metal on flesh.

The music was gone.

King Aboras had been crowned for only six days, a rushed ceremony without much pomp or fanfare. He was the fourth King since the war had begun. There was no separation of monarch from common man in the eye of the sword. He crouched in his tent, eyes fixed on the maps splayed on the table in front of him, but there was no focus or direction there.

He knew that this would be the last night. His armies were exhausted, running on little sleep and handfuls of food they gathered from the nearby woods. The supplies were sapped, and their powers were dwindling down to sparks. This was the end.

And so, in the darkness of the night with only the stars to provide light, Aboras gathered his people together, every last one that still lived. They circled around their king, loyal to the end. He could not lie to them. He told them of the losses, of the depletion of stores and the draining of magic. The end was coming; they should gather their families and run to the mountains, over the river that the Fledglings could not, would not, cross.

No one moved. Not one child tried to run, not one husband left his family. They all stood. None would leave their king.

R. L. Haas is one of the wild ones, writing Faerie stories from her little self-declared cottage surrounded by Midwestern cornfields and never enough coffee. Her nonfiction work has appeared in such online publications as SheLoves Magazine and Literary Orphans. She lives with her beloved husband and equally wild daughter, along with their oversized Great Dane. They are ruled over by two fluffy cats. She blogs about her faith, her heart and her ever-growing literary obsessions at

Portals of Water and Wine releases Dec. 1. Preorder it now on Amazon, and add it to your "want to read" list on Goodreads. And don't forget to RSVP to the book release party!

Photo credit: Cover design by Megan Mahen of Megan Mahen Illustrations. Author photo by Jennifer Upton of Photography by Jennifer Upton.