Self Publishing for the Beginner: Part 1

Getting Your Manuscript Ready

I remember when I first considered self- publishing as an option for me. I spent days researching, which only accomplished me becoming even more over whelmed. I also got a huge migraine. In the hopes of helping others I’ve decided to share my findings in a three parts series.

  • Part One: Getting the Manuscript ready
  • Part Two: Publishing with a retailer
  • Part Three: Our Two Best Marketing Tools

Now let me share with you some of what I found. This article is meant to be a guideline to point you in the right direction.


Step One: Write your manuscript. I believe every author has their own style when it comes to manuscript progression. Some authors start with an outline, while others just sit down and write. I’ve read articles by authors who write their endings first then go back and write their beginnings. I’ve come to believe this is a matter of preference, not every style works for every author. Remember to always do what feels comfortable for you.

I don’t believe in the term “aspiring author” you’re either an author or you’re not. Let’s look at the word author. The dictionary defines an author as: the writer of a book, article or other literary text. You can aspire to be a bestselling author, a well known author, or even a good author. The point is, if you write, you are an author.

As the days and months wind down and your MS is finished then what? It’s done shouldn’t I be able to upload it to my favorite retailer? The truth is you can and some actually do, but should you?


Step Two: Proof read. The idea of this step is to examine your text for typographical errors as well as mistakes in grammar, style and spelling. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail on this subject other than to say if you care about your readers at all proof read. This article from The Writer’s Handbook gives some helpful suggestions.


Step Three: Find a beta reader. There are many loose definitions of a beta reader. It is this author’s opinion that they are your test audience. Their job isn’t to rewrite your story and yes there are those that will try I’ve personally met them. The idea is to critique, help with flow, continuity issues and plot holes.

I suggest finding several people for this job, but ultimately it’s up to you. I used 4 beta readers for my last book the one before that only 1. A family or friend will work for this, but make sure they are willing to give you honest input.

The ideal candidate typically enjoys the genre of the book you have written and are volunteering to be your first reader. As I said earlier, this is your test audience. It’s also a completely free service, but in most cases the author will provide a finished copy of the book as a show of appreciation. I would avoid anyone that asks to be paid to do this. Remember, while a beta reader might do some proofreading it’s typically not their job. Content and flow is. Be kind to them, check for errors before you send them a copy.

Two well established beta reader forums can be found here: Absolute Write and Goodreads. If you have a strong media following you can also use this to your advantage by putting feelers out for volunteers. Don’t spam just ask interested parties to DM you for details.


Step Four: Fixes and rewrites. After my work comes back from the beta reader I typically comb through their notes and do some rewriting. I take all their suggestions into consideration, but that doesn’t mean I use them all.


Step Five:  Editing.  This is the stage where you say I’m done let’s get this baby out there for the public to read. If you can afford it, pay for an editor. It’s well worth the money just to have another set of eyes looking at your work.


A writer may be skilled at explaining a procedure or verbally depicting a scene, but the editor is the one who makes sure the manuscript’s syntax is smooth, that the writing adheres to the conventions of grammar, that the wording is proper and precise and punctuation is appropriate and correctly placed. An editor may also do or suggest some reorganizing, recommend changes to chapter titles and subheadings, and call out lapses in logic or sequential slip-ups.


Like a beta reader and possibly proofreader if you have both, an editor only recommends changes and does not implement them. When there are errors it is an author’s job to correct their own mistakes.


Step Six: Rewrites and fixes. Taking the editors notes you again go into rewrite mode, tweaking your story here and there as you see fit. Remember these are recommendations; ultimately it’s your work.


Join me next week for part two as I discuss the process of publishing with a retailer.