So you’ve written a novel, congratulations! Will you now turn your attention to getting said novel to one of the established publishing houses, be it big or small, or will you strike out on your own and self-publish your work? It’s actually a tricky question these days, with success stories to the left and right from self-publishing authors. The most recent, and perhaps most impressive one, is The Martian by Andy Weir, which subsequently was made into a critically acclaimed movie with the same name, starring Matt Damon. There are several more examples, ranging from huge successes like Twilight, to JA Konrath’s gritty thrillers.

Where, in this industry so very much in transition, does you and your work fit in? Maybe you’ll find a traditional publisher that offers you a decent advance, and abolish the hopes of being the next self-publishing sensation. Chances are that you’ll publish yourself, though. With that in mind, before hitting that Publish button for Amazon’s Kindle store, you should try and complete the following checklist.

Things to do with your manuscript before putting it up for sale, in any form

  • Make sure you’ve gone through and through and through your manuscript. First drafts generally don’t make good books, are full of plot holes, and bad pacing, although obviously your mileage will wary. Make your book as good as can be, by yourself.
  • Get someone else to read your manuscript, preferably several people. These shouldn’t be too close to you, like spouses or siblings or parents, because to them your work might always be great (or worse: horrible). Get beta readers that can keep an open mind, pick their brains, and then decide if you should tweak your manuscript.
  • Don’t just proof-read yourself, get a (professional) proof-reader. Most writers become blind to their own words, especially if you’ve worked and reworked your manuscript several times.
  • Consider getting an editor to help you work through the manuscript. The editor will make sure there aren’t any plot holes left, and otherwise help your manuscript shine.
  • A good cover is key to sales. A good cover artist will make sure your cover stands out, and that it works both big and small. Remember, when people are browsing whichever ebook (and physical online) store they prefer, they’ll see thumbnail versions of your cover. Sadly, that means cutting the clever little details, because they won’t be visible, but on the other hand, the prospective buyer and reader might actually see what’s on your cover.
  • Inline formatting is also important. Epub and Mobi (for Kindle) don’t offer a lot of options, but you should definitely make sure that your ebook is easy to read and properly formatted. If you have a printed version of the book, this is even more important. Consider getting professional help for this as well.
  • Write a compelling sales pitch for your book. This might go on the jacket of your printed version, but more importantly, it’s the product description on Amazon and so forth.
  • Get your files in order. “Files?”, you ask. Yes, files - epub, mobi, cover images in all the various sizes preferred by different stores, PDF for the print version and the jacket files, and so forth. Make sure you check them off, one by one, against what the service or retailer wants, because that’s important.

All done with that? Then make sure you check it again, because if any of these things fail, your piece of art will suffer. Don’t release something you’re not happy with, and don’t rush it, because it’s very hard (and sad) to pull something off the shelves because you found critical problems or errors with it.

Now, press Publish. Congratulations! Your book’s out, and you’ll have to start promoting it. That, however, is a topic for a different day.