REPLAY 2011: How Much Work is Self-Publishing?

Between now and the end of the year I’m going to be using Tuesdays and Thursdays to replay some popular posts from 2011, in case some of the people who’ve discovered my blog in the meantime missed it first time round. Think of it as a “year in review” kind of thing. This post first appeared in September as part of Backpacked launch week and what’s hilarious is that despite everyone’s “I never realized how much work was involved!” reaction, this is only a fraction of what’s really involved in self-publishing when you’re starting from scratch. I wasn’t, because Backpacked was my third book and the sequel to a book that had done really well, and I didn’t do much publicity for its launch at all. So this is how much work self-publishing is when you don’t have to do that much work…

Today I’m going to talk about how much work self-publishing is.

I think people get the wrong idea because we – self-publishers – tell them things like, “You can publish a book on CreateSpace in half an hour” and “It only takes a few minutes to upload an e-book.” I’m as guilty of this as anyone, because I like to encourage people to self-publish (good books). I want people to understand that it’s achievable. But self-publishing – even self-publishing like this, just POD paperbacks and e-books – is a whole hell of hard work if you do it properly, or try to.

This time around and to help demonstrate this, I decided to keep a list of everything I had to do to self-publish Backpacked in POD paperback with CreateSpace and e-books with Amazon KDP and Smashwords, or to get to the point I am with it today.

So what have I had to do to get Backpacked out into the world?

  1. (February 2011) Decide to write and release the book
  2. Decide on a release month (not enough information for release date yet)
  3. Register a new free WordPress blog to act as Backpacked‘s dedicated book site
  4. Upgrade free blog URL to “”
  5. Set site to “private” while it’s under construction
  6. Take “scrapbook” picture to go on the cover
  7. Start new “scrapbox” for Backpacked; I use one of these for each book
  8. Mock up front cover design in MS Word
  9. E-mail cover designer mock up and ask for quote
  10. E-mail copyeditor and ask for quote
  11. Blog about decision to write and self-publish it
  12. Update Twitter profile, etc. with news of Backpacked
  13. Write a synopsis
  14. Blog the synopsis
  15. Get e-book (front) cover from designer to use for promotion
  16. Construct and set it to public
  17. Rearrange to make room for links, etc. about Backpacked
  18. Share cover design with blog readers and Facebook fans
  19. Write the book (Um yeah, that only comes now…)
  20. Edit first draft
  21. Send book to Sarah, my copyeditor
  22. Send book to Sheelagh, my best friend who’s in the book, so she can okay it
  23. Mock-up rough interior to get page count
  24. With page count, determine manufacturing cost using CreateSpace’s calculators
  25. Use manufacturing costs to determine list price
  26. Get cover designer to build an online bookstore* so readers can pre-order signed copies
  27. Mock-up design, liaise with designer to perfect online bookstore
  28. Set online bookstore to live and start to advertise it
  29. Download full cover template from CreateSpace
  30. Send template to cover designer along with instructions for back cover
  31. Send update to Mousetrapped page Facebook fans re: pre-ordering Backpacked
  32. … and to everyone in my e-mail contacts list…
  33. … and to everyone who ordered a copy of Mousetrapped from me…
  34. … and to everyone the More Mousetrapped mailing list…
  35. … and blog a reminder too, just for good measure.
  36. Answer interview questions for Alyssa Martino’s blog.
  37. Close online bookstore.
  38. Make a list of books ordered and print out receipts from PayPal.
  39. Upload 70+ photos to to make slideshow and…
  40. … write captions for every single one of them while watching Outnumbered.
  41. Ok Backpacked‘s paperback cover design.
  42. Work out remaining timeline and set release date.
  43. Set up new title on CreateSpace.
  44. Upload finished PDF cover file to CreateSpace.
  45. Work through copyeditor’s suggestions, accepting/rejecting changes.
  46. Create two copies of MS – one destined to be e-book, one a paperback.
  47. Download CreateSpace interior MS Word template.
  48. Copy and paste in edited text and format interior.
  49. Insert free ISBN provided by CS onto copyright page.
  50. Go through interior again, fixing errors.
  51. Upload interior file to CreateSpace and submit for review.
  52. Order a proof copy so I can see for first time what cover, font, etc. looks like.
  53. Create a PDF version of Backpacked to send to blogger friends.
  54. Make this video about editing.
  55. Go through proof copy looking for errors and adjust interior file with corrections.
  56. Send interior file to copyeditor for proofreading.
  57. Buy envelopes for sending pre-orders.
  58. Take e-book MS and prepare it for upload – one for Kindle, one for Smashwords.
  59. Smashwords version won’t convert properly; try again.
  60. Smashwords version won’t convert properly; try again.
  61. Figure out only way to make it work is to “go nuclear”, i.e. strip out all formatting then go back and put it in.
  62. Upload/publish this new file to Smashwords.
  63. Upload/publish this new file to Amazon KDP too, so they match.
  64. Upload proofread interior file to CreateSpace.
  65. Order proof copies of this final version.
  66. Download .mobi version from Smashwords and send to friends/reviewers.
  67. Purchase royalty free music for book trailer.
  68. Use JING to record video for book trailer.
  69. Make book trailer using iMovie.
  70. Upload book trailer to YouTube and Vimeo.
  71. Check second – and final – proof copy.
  72. Click “Approve Proof” on CreateSpace (i.e. publish).
  73. Pay for ProPlan upgrade on CreateSpace.
  74. Order enough stock to cover pre-orders.
  75. Send “Out now!” message to everyone on my mailing list and the More Mousetrapped mailing list with MailChimp.
  76. Post “Out now!” status updates on Mousetrapped‘s Facebook page.
  77. Add book trailer to Smashwords listing.
  78. Add book trailer to Goodreads Author Profile.
  79. Set up new Google Alert for “Backpacked” + my name
  80. Add new section for Backpacked to my sales data spreadsheet
  81. Add Backpacked to bibliography in Amazon Author Central.
  82. E-mail Amazon to get them to link paperback to Kindle edition.
  83. Update Mousetrapped e-books with links to Backpacked’s e-book.
  84. Update Mousetrapped paperback interior with Backpacked in the “Also By…”
  85. Update Self-Printed e-books with links to Backpacked’s e-book.
  86. Update Self-Printed paperback interior with Backpacked in the “Also By…”
  87. Update blog, booksite etc. changing “Coming soon” to “Out now!” and links to buy.
  88. Update Goodreads author profile.
  89. Write 5 x launch day blog posts (including this one); schedule them for posting
  90. (Today) Keel over.

And as the stock to cover the pre-orders is somewhere between North Carolina and here right now, I have yet to:

  • Sign and pack stock orders; send them out.
  • Print out all invoices and update cost/profit spreadsheet
  • Sell stock to family and friends.

And by the way, I haven’t really done a major publicity push with this book. If I had, we’d have to add things like finding reviewers, e-mailing them, creating and printed an information sheet, sending review copies, etc. and maybe try to organize a blog tour and a giveaway. The book trailer and blogging about it are all I’m doing. Nor have I had a launch, which would mean organizing a venue, ordering in stock, creating and ordering printed materials (posters, bookmarks, etc.) and contacting the local press in the hope they’d cover it. The list above, in other words, is the least amount of work I could possibly do for one of my self-published books.

It’s self-publishing on a quiet day.

*You can’t conduct commerce of any kind from free WordPress blogs, so I had to “hide” another self-hosted site inside my free one to act as the bookstore. 

Visit to find out more.

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