How to Side Hustle Your Writing Career - #10: Self-publish Your Own Books

12 Steps to Hustle and Publish Your Own (e)Books

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We’ve come a long way, haven’t we? From making time for your writing Side Hustle, structuring your ideashoning your craftediting and monetization.


One of the ways to earn money from your writing is to publish (e)books. It’s also a great way to expand your reach as a writer.


Let’s assume that you’ve now written something you’d like to publish. This can be a novel, a collection of short stories, a non-fiction book, poetry, whatever.


I’ll share the steps you need to go through to successfully publish your book.


What’s in Your Toolbox? 

First things first. It’s safe to assume that you can write. But can you also write an exciting description for your book, design a book cover or format your book?


I would urge you to try to Do It Yourself. It may take you longer to publish, but these skills are very useful. In the future, you don’t have to rely on someone else. Plus, you’ll save money.


However, if you just want to focus on writing that’s fine too! There are even companies out there who can help you “self”-publish your book for you (please be wary though). Something like outsourcing book cover design makes sense. There are thousands of skillful designers offering their work online. Check out for reasonably priced design work.


1.    Set up your Amazon KDP account

I’ve published my ebooks and one paperback on Amazon. There are other options, but Amazon is the biggest and the most well-known.


Head over to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and set up an account. KDP offers a lot of resources which can help you in your publishing process. Please use them!


Another thing, if there’s something you don’t know how to do, head over to Youtube for how-to video’s or just ask Google.


2.    Kindle and/or Paperback

I would suggest you start with publishing an eBook. This is ideal to test the waters of KDP. Make some mistakes, ask for feedback, play around with all the settings.


One of my proudest moments this year has been holding a paperback copy of my own book. I view it as a business card of sorts. I bundled 13 of my short stories. 


Besides selling the book, I give it away to people. I send copies to reviewing sites or magazines or hand them to people who have literary connections. So make sure you order a batch of author copies. This is an option within KDP to buy your own book at printing cost.


It’s my first book, it still has flaws, but I could’ve spent months perfecting it and still be unhappy. I’d rather just publish it and make it “real”. Plus, with KDP you can always make changes!


3.    Follow the instructions from KDP

I already mentioned the resources KDP offers. 


First time publishing? Head over to this site and let KDP guide you.


You can find an overview of all the information structured in topics you may seek here.


4.    Design a book cover

By now you have an idea what you need to do in order for your book to appear in the Amazon store. 


One of the most important things you need to do is design a GOOD book cover. Whoever said “don’t judge a book by its cover” has it all wrong. I mean, don’t you do it when you go out shopping for books? What’s the first thing that grabs your attention?


Make some effort here. Again, if you can DIY that design, please do! If you have some photoshop skills, go for it. If not, head over to


You can also use KDP’s build in book cover software, although I must say, please don’t. Those designs have “amateur” written all over them. Plus they’re widely used so your cover would look a lot like others. But, it’s entirely up to you of course.


In terms of coming up with a book cover idea look at books you like. What do they look like? Go from there.


Last, ask for feedback! Ask your mom, your friends, post it in a Facebook group. Then edit and tweak. 


Save the definitive version and upload it to KDP.


5.    Set up your eBookin Kindle Create 

When you follow the steps in KDP, you have to download a program called Kindle Create to – you guessed it – create and format your book. 


The program is pretty self-explanatory. You need to upload your text and then you can work with copyright pages, indexes, chapter titles, headers etc. If you want to include images, please put them in your (word) document, then they automatically appear in Kindle Create.


Play around with the formatting and make sure you check the preview. The preview matches how readers will see your book on their Kindle.


Save the definitive version and upload it to KDP.


6.    Set up your Paperbackin word

Formatting your Paperback is trickier than formatting an eBook. A lot can go wrong.


The most important thing to consider is choosing the right trim size. Please use KDP’s guide for this. I chose 6” x 9” inch, which is the most common.


Make sure your book cover design matches your trim size too! KDP has some guidelines and tips. Beware that you take into account the number of pages you end up having.


The only thing I hated from formatting my paperback, was that I had to do it in a lousy word document according to the guidelines and the templates offered by KDP. As many of you know, when you have to edit, copy and paste a lot of text in a single word document, a lot can go wrong. I particularly had difficulty with formatting paragraphs correctly.


Beware that if you use images, that you choose either to have a print book with or without “bleed”. This means that your image can or can’t exceed the text borders.


Save the definitive version and upload it to KDP. Test, test, test! I’ve uploaded at least 10 versions before I was satisfied.


7.    Write a good description

Your book description is basically your sales pitch. Why do people need to buy your book? What can you offer them?


The approach to this varies between fiction and non-fiction. KDP offers some help, but I like the blog Creativindie a lot. Blogger Derek Murphy has some great resources available for everyone who wants to self-publish. Make sure to check out the free course he offers! Just sign up for his newsletter and you’ll get an invite at one point. Great content, with a LOT of resources. I had enough info using the free trainings, naturally a paid version is offered at the end. That’s up to you.


When you’ve written your book description, ask for feedback!


8.     Choose the right categories and keywords

The category you pick for your book resembles the category on the Amazon website where your book can be found. Pick the right one!


You’re also prompted to give 7 keywords for your book. Tips and tricks can be found here. Make sure you use phrases as well as single words. What phrases do people search for to which your book gives an answer?


9.    Upload and check

When you’ve uploaded your cover and text in the right format, KDP lets you review everything.


For your Kindle eBook, you can use the previewer. Same holds for the paperback version. Look for errors in formatting. 


KDP searches your files for spelling and grammar too. Make use of that feedback. 


Check, test and adjust until you’re satisfied. 


10.  Order proof copies

With your paperback, you have the option to order proof copies. PLEASE DO THAT BEFORE YOU PUBLISH YOUR BOOK.


I discovered a couple of mistakes when I got the paperback proof in my mail.


Adjust your files accordingly, you’re almost ready to show your work to the world!


11.  Set your price

This is difficult. What should you ask? Amazon offers some calculation tools. These are especially handy for the paperback book since you have print costs to take into account.


If your work is original and doesn’t appear anywhere else (online & offline), you can opt to publish your book for free. Say what now? Yup, it’s great to promote your book and move up in the Amazon ranks. Especially if you’re a first time writer with 0 fans, this makes sense. KDP can help you out here!


I would urge you not to ask too much for your eBook. Aim for $0,99-$2,99. You can ask more for your paperback of course. My short story collection is on sale for $14,99 in paperback and $2,99 for the eBook.


Check your royalties and possible returns and play around to see what you get to keep.


12.  Promote

You’ve done a lot. You’re done. Well, I hate to break it you, but it just starts now…


Without promotion, no one will find your work. Do you have an email list? Notify your subscribers. Are you on social media? Post about your book! Put it on your blog. Write about it on Medium. Put it in the bios of your social profiles. Share it on your personal social media accounts too. Use all the mic’s you have at your disposal.


Do you have friends in the blogosphere? Are you in any Facebook groups? Approach people. 


Send out your book to reviewing sites. Use Google to find the one that’s appropriate to your work.


You can also decide to advertise. Make sure you learn about how you must set that up. Learn more about that here. KDP offers advertising through Amazon but you can also use Facebook or Instagram.


Full disclosure: I haven’t tried this (yet).



Make no mistake, publishing your own book is a lot of work. It requires a lot of skills, mistakes, and adjustments. And most of all: time.


But when you see your book in the Amazon store, or hold your own paperback in your hands, you know it’s all worth it.


Then when you make a sale, you’ll be over the moon.


I hope these steps are of any help to you.

If you have any questions, let me know.

Do you have tips of your own? Let me know too :)