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9 Practical Tips on How to Self-Publish a Book for Free

By Donna Davis September 24, 2022 Managing Money

My friend Tom managed to self-publish his book for free. I, unfortunately, did not. In this article, I’ll reveal how he did it as well as how much I spent to arrive at the same destination – published author.

Self-publishing has opened up a new world for writers. Anybody can publish a book for free with or without experience. Tom and I each used CreateSpace for our print books and Kindle Direct Publishing for the e-books.

Both sites allow you to publish your book free of charge on Amazon. You can also make it available to other sales channels.

These were first books for both Tom and I. Neither of us had any publishing experience or were computer savvy whatsoever. If you have good computer skills, you will have a much easier time of it.

Choose an Editing Style

Tom edited his book himself with the help of his family and friends. I wasn’t that confident and needed to find an editor. I contacted the Aspen Writer’s Foundation. They pair local authors with genre-appropriate editors. The cost was $25 per page. Yikes!

I then approached a former teacher from The New School in New York City. She charged $150 per hour but had no idea how long it would take to edit my book. That was too risky.

CreateSpace has an editing service. It’s $470 for the first 10,000 words and $.047 per word after that for line editing. I did a quick calculation in my head. My book was about 100 pages and roughly 30,000 words. That would be at least $1,400.

Fortunately, a local author and friend offered to do my editing for a flat fee of $1,000. As you can see, editing can be very costly.

Set Up an Account with CreateSpace

After editing, your next step will be to open accounts on CreateSpace and Amazon KDP. CreateSpace has a simple setup that walks you through the entire process. You’ll need to choose the size of your book so that you can properly format the interior design.

There is also a help desk that will assist with any problems. Both Tom and I felt the service was excellent and the support invaluable. I often called several times a day.

Pay Attention to Interior Design

One would think that content would be the most significant part of a book. But as I found out, there are other critical elements necessary for a book’s successful completion. I admit, I have never paid much attention to the layout or interior design of any book.

It never seemed important, but formatting the interior would turn out to be the most time consuming and challenging part of the self-publishing process. Both Tom and I did this ourselves, with enormous frustration. If you have some money, spend it here.

Choose a Template

There are free templates for interior design available on CreateSpace and other online sites. You can also purchase one from various vendors. The templates are set and didn’t seem to fit my manuscript.

I had four lines of copy for each chapter heading. I had chosen song lyrics that reflected the contents of each chapter. I enjoyed doing it and thought they were fun. I didn’t want to leave them out. This meant I was creating original formatting on my own.

Select a Design Option

There are other options for solving the design issue – CreateSpace offers a service that will design the interior of your book for $149-$349, professional design services charge between $5 and $7 per page and can create attractive, eye-catching interiors. There is also software that can do this, but these are all at an additional expense.

Each of us had typed our books in Word and had no experience with formatting or design. There are many choices for the layout, but few hard and fast rules. It seems I chose the hard anyway. I wanted my book to look professional, so I went the traditional route.

There should be small Roman numerals for the page numbers for front matter. The first page of each chapter and any blank page should not show a number at all, but must be included in the consecutive count.

Decide on a Book Title and Table of Contents

The name of the book should go on the top left side of the page, and the name of the chapter goes on the top right. The Table of Contents must be linked to the page numbers through headings and should you edit and accidently add a page, all of that should neatly roll over and adjust to the change. It’s been two years, and I’m embarrassed to admit, I’m not quite over it.

Tom’s layout was simpler than mine. He had no Introduction or Table of Contents. He had numbers on the first page of his chapters. He had the title of the book on the top of both the right and left sides of the page. Amazing but true, he was not struck dead. He had one big Roman numeral for each chapter title and still this was the hardest part of the process for him. It is not for the faint-hearted.

Create a Cover Design

For his book cover, Tom used the CreateSpace Cover Creator. There are detailed instructions, and it’s fairly easy to use. It produces nice covers and generates them according to the required specifications for uploading.

Tom’s book, It’s All About The Timing, is a romance about two baby boomers falling in love in Aspen. It’s a touching story written from an age-appropriate man’s perspective. I loved it. Check out his cover and interior design here.

For my cover, I first hired a local graphic artist. He was recommended by my editor and had designed a distinctive cover for his novel. Things didn’t work out that well for me. He missed deadlines and never actually produced anything usable.

I wasted a lot of time and money chasing him down. My lesson learned? Hire a person that specializes in what you want done and always get a contract.

Choose Professional Help

My next step was to hire a professional cover designer. After the frustrations of formatting the interior and the flaky graphic artist, finding Cathi at BookCoverExpress.com was like finding a savior. She was a professional.

There was a contract. Her cost was a flat fee of $700 and included three initial designs to choose from and three revisions if needed. She worked patiently with me, a novice, to create a cover I was proud of. She provided both the e-book and print formats, and she did it all within the agreed upon timeframe. Hallelujah!

Press the Publish Button

To complete the process, CreateSpace and KDP both have internal viewers. You can upload your cover and manuscript and see exactly how it will lay out on the page. You can make any necessary changes and upload it again as many times as your anxiety requires. I think I uploaded mine 24 times. There is no limit.

Once you are ready, you can hit the “Publish” button. Your book will be reviewed by Amazon and returned for your approval. Once you approve the final copy, you will be a published author.

Is Self-Publishing Costly?

Self-publishing doesn’t have to be costly. You can navigate this entire process without spending anything if you are willing to put in the time. If you have friends and family that can edit, you’re in luck.

If you have good computer skills, that’s a huge asset. For me, this enterprise was an exciting, annoying, wonderful, learning adventure into an area I never dreamed I would be.

I have now published two books, Retirement Basics and The New Retirement Basics, and am working on a third. It’s a good feeling, a nice accomplishment, and perhaps an encore career.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you ever wanted to write a book? Have you thought about self-publishing, but didn’t know how? What questions when answered would help you be more confident? Please leave your comments below and share your self-publishing experiences or plans!

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The Author

Donna Davis addresses the most important and timely issues facing retirees today, including Social Security, Medicare, boomer health, and the best places to live. She brings you up-to-date information in a straightforward, uncomplicated way.

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