A step by step guide to self publishing


Self publishing for academics What is self publishing?  A short history of self publishing Some sample academic titles

How to prepare a book for self publication - simply explained

From writing to publishing - ten easy stages

Please note that this guide relates to the publication of books or monographs in book format (and by association in e-book format), using the most popular platforms, which are Kindle's KDP and Ingram's Ingram Spark platform. It is not about "self publication" of academic research on  Internet document-sharing sites like Researchgate or Google Scholar.

Question: How do you actually go about self publishing your own book? Is it easy, and what does it involve?
Answer: Whether it is an academic book or a general public book, the process is the same, is basically fairly easy to follow, and can be simply described in ten  stages.

Though specifically concerning publication on Kindle's KDP platform, much of the information on this page - notably stages 1 to 3 and stage 10  - also applies to publishing a paperback or e-book on other platforms such as Lulu, IngramSpark, etc..

Note: copyright. Anybody can publish their own original work as long as it does not contain significant extracts which have already been published and copyrighted by another publisher. Copyright restrictions may even cover extracts from an author's own previously-published work, if the copyright  belongs to the publisher, which is often the case, particularly with academic publishers. International copyright laws permit the quotation of reasonable extracts  from other works.


The fairly obvious first stage in the self-publishing process is to write the book, using a standard word-processing programme, such as MS Word or the  free open-source suite LibreOffice writer. With fiction, the whole book must be the writer's own work. An exception exists for the republication of fiction that is in the public domain, i.e. in most cases works whose author died over 70 years ago. Academics may wish to republish  a work of fiction (even of a work of non-fiction) that is no longer covered by copyright, in a new annotated or critical edition. As long as the work is effectively in the public domain, a new edition of a historic book is perfectly legitimate.
  With non-fiction, i.e. the bulk of academic writing, the book must be the author's own original work.
   Unless the platform you are using offers a free ISBN (KDP does for anyone, IngramSpark does for US residents only... but check this out as things can change), you'll now need to order an ISBN from the ISBN authority in your country of residence . For instance an Indian national writing in Spanish but living in Germany and publishing with IngramSpark in the USA, will need to order an ISBN from the German authority. Depending on where you live, ISBNs may take some time to come through, so this is the best point in your publishing process at which to get the ISBN if you need one.
   Note that e-books do not need to have an ISBN.

    As for how to write, that is a different question. See Academic writing style guide.
   It is highly recommended that authors complete stage 1 before moving on to stage 2


Most word-processing software formats text in the standard page format used in the part of the world where the user is located. This means A4 format throughout the world, except in the United States and Canada, which still use the old LS (Letter) format, which is slightly smaller. However neither A4 nor Letter are standard formats for book publishing. Books are generally smaller, and the most common paperback dimensions ( called trim size) are 6 inches by 9 inches, which means 15.24 x 22.86 cm., or the slightly larger  6.14 x 9.21 inches (15.6 x 23.39 cm) commonly used for non-fiction titles. For more voluminous works the recommended trim size is  6.69 x 9.61 inches (16.99 x 24.41 cm). Other trim sizes, including square formats, are available. For details on formats and recommended margin sizes, see  Print options in KDP's online help manual or on IngramSpark's information pages.
   To prepare your document for self-publishing, open a new copy of the text in your word processing programme, and reformat it using the page dimensions that you intend to use. With LibreOffice Writer, click Format then choose Page from the dropdown menu. Then select User, and put in the right dimensions for page size and margins. Experienced users may wish to use different margin settings for the outside and inside pages; otherwise keep things simple and choose the same margins for left and right pages.
  Take care to include page numbers sufficiently far from the foot or top of the page that they do not fall outside the printable zone once you upload your pges  for publishing.  Any text, including page numbers, that is outside the printable zone will generate an error when a book is uploaded to the publishing platform, and publishing cannot continue until the error is fixed.


Once your book has been correctly formatted in your word-processing package, it must be thoroughly reread, spell-checked, and carefully scrutinised to avoid and remove any errors. It is recommended to have any academic title proof-read by at least three people. Pay particular attention to spelling, grammar, numbering, footnotes and - if you have an index - the accuracy of the page references.  
   If you have correctly used the section and page numbering functions of your word-processing package, then the page numbers that appear in your word-processed document will not change.
   Once you are satisfied that your book is flawless (which is actually highly unlikely... typos have a nasty habit of slipping past even the most careful of rereaders, and even do so in the most reputed publishing houses), your book is ready to be published.  
But before publishing it there is one highly recommended step to complete, which is to save your book as a .pdf file. Both MS Word and LibreOffice Writer allow documents to be saved as or exported as .pdf files. Different PDF standards are available, so choose a format like Archive PDF/A-1a (ISO 19005/1), which meets ISO standards.  Saving to .pdf is very simple. It is important to note that this .pdf file must not include either the front cover or the back cover of you book. These will be uploaded or created separately.

STAGE 4 - OPEN  a publisher account

To publish on KDP or on IngramSpark, you will first need to open a  publisher account. For KDP the easiest way to do this is to log in to KDP using your Amazon account (if you have one), and follow the instructions from there. You will need to provide full and accurate personal details, including details of how you want to be paid and how you want to pay for any advertising you may do. You do not need to do any paid advertising, but KDP will want your details so that they can charge your account if you do. For IngramSpark the process is similar though you will not use your Amazon credentials.


The first stage towards the actual publication of your book is to upload the book's details. These include the language in which you are publishing, names of authors and contributors, a brief description of the book (important!), keywords, and the categories in which you want your title to appear. Note that at this stage KDP only allows you to set two categories. Once published, you can list a book in up to 9 categories... but that is another story.


Here - with KDP - you will  get a free ISBN if you want one, select the page format (called trim size) that you already converted your manuscript to  in stage 2 above, then choose the paper and the printing options (color throughout or b&w). Next you will upload the .pdf version of your book, which may take a while depending on your internet connection.
The process is similar for IngramSpark, except that they only provide free ISBNs for writers resident in the USA. Writers from other countries will need to first purchase an ISBN from the national ISBN agency in the country in which they live. Note that ISBNs are attached to the country of a writer's residence, not to their nationality.


 KDP and IngramSpark provide a free cover creating tool which will produce a cover that exactly fits your book's dimensions. For most academic publications, a cover creator will provide a perfectly adequate cover, for which you can even upload your own cover image. If you upload your own cover image, make sure that it is sufficiently high resolution, and is also saved in the right dimensions. For anything more sophisticated, you will need to create your complete cover to the right size specification. This single pdf file will include front cover, spine, and back cover . both KDP and IngramSpark provide information on how to do this, but KDP's tools are clearer and easier to follow.


    KDP. At the foot of the Book content upload page you will find the preview tool. You must preview your book before continuing.... though you do not have to preview the whole book. You just need to have opened the previewer and click accept. However – specially if uploading a new book – it is highly recommended to preview your whole book.
   Note that your preview will show page numbers that do not necessarily match those that you see on pages in the preview window. This is no problem. You may have begun your numbering from the page after the inside title page, or the page after your introduction or table of contents. These are the numbers that will show in your printed book; however previews number pages in a single sequence starting from the very first page of your book.
    With IngramSpark, you will need to download an e-proof which is a sort of first proof. Once you have accepted this, you then submit your pook for final approval, after which you will be sent an email with a proper proof, including the cover. This may take a few days. Your title can be published once you've approved this final proof.  


With KDP, after approving the preview, you will then reach the third and last publishing screen, called rights and pricing. Here you can fix your cover price (sale price) and choose what territories you wish to make your book available in. For most academic titles written in English, authors will select all the global marketplaces offered by Amazon.  By default, KDP will fix the same selling price, converted into local currencies, for all markets. You can however override this, and fix different prices in different areas, though this is only useful if you want your book to have rounded prices, such as 22.00 €uros rather then 22.17 €uros, for example.  Varying prices makes more sense if you also choose to publish an e-book version of your title (start again from stage 5, having selected publish an e-book rather than publish a paperback. For this you will also need to download and use the free KindleCreate programme, as e-books must be uploaded as .kpf files, not .pdf files). For e-books, Amazon has several more marketplaces, including countries like Brazil and India, where you may want to sell your e-book at a lower price than in more affluent western markets.
   Note that Amazon offers Kindle KDP authors two selling options for the USA and the UK; the normal option, which provides the author with royalties of 70% of the profit margin, and "Extended distribution" which provides authors with 35%. Extended distribution is essential if you want your title to be distributed through bookshops, not just on Amazon. However in order to gain any royalties on copies sold through bookstores, it may be necessary to increase the cover price. The advantage is then that the author gets royalties from books sold in bookstores; the disadvantage is that the book becomes more expensive, so may sell less well. On the other hand, the royalties on sales through Amazon will increase if the book's price is increased. It is not possible to fix two different cover prices for normal distribution and extended distribution.(see below).
   As regards bookstore sales, IngramSpark is a better option than KDP, since IngramSpark is primarily geared to bookstore sales, so there is no such thing as "extended distribution". All IngramSpark distribution is "extended" in Amazon terms, meaning that cover prices can be lower. However it is strongly recommended that writers of academic books make their titles "non returnable" in all markets if publishing with IngramSpark. This stops bookstores ordering copies on spec, then, when nobody buys them, sending them back to the publisher (which is standard practice in the book trade). The cost of returning one book, or even of destroying it, is the printing price, which is normally considerably greater than the royalties paid... and this cost is passed on to the author. So if a bookstore chain ordered 100 copies of a title (which is quite possible), but then only sold 5.... it might return/destroy 95 of them at a cost of, say, $4 per book for a 100-page book.


Once you have completed your pricing, click the button "Publish your paperback book", and there you are. Within 72 hours, and often much more quickly, your KDP book will be published and available on Amazon in all the markets that you have indicated. That's it.
IngramSpark titles take a bit longer to reach amazon, but they get there too.
  You may now order author copies at cost price + postage, and have them sent to yourself or to anyone else you want, such as reviewers, libraries, influencers, etc. who will promote your book.  If you buy author copies for yourself, you may be able to get your local bookshops, or even your university department, to sell them; this depends on how friendly your local bookshop is, and whether they agree to buy books directly from self-publishing authors, Some do, others don't, so it's all a matter of where you are, and how your local bookshop operates. If you are going to recommend your book to your students, and have 100 students lined up for your course, then your local university bookstore will probably be happy to buy copies off you, if they can then sell them with a good markup. But at this stage of the publication and distribution process there are no rules. It depends on you and your local bookshop(s).

Important note - Libraries

List your self-published academic title

In order to illustrate the range of academic titles now being self published by their authors or academic institutions, Academic-self-publishing.com  is happy to list a selection of representative titles in the discipliary fields of arts and humanities, economic and social sciences, and  the sciences.  To submit a title for listing, please use the contact information indicated below.

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