My Steps to Self-Publishing

Welcome Trish Milburn to the convertible!  I’ve asked Trish to tell us about a topic that has gained tremendous traction lately among published authors as well as those who hope to publish their workThe news this week that sales of digital books have now officially outstripped paper and hardcover combined at makes the issue timely as all get out.  So get in the car and chat with Trish!

Since I announced that I was going to try my hand at self-publishing one of my books that had never (sniff, sniff) found a home, lots of people have been asking me how I went about doing it. Well, first thing was to do my research, just like I’ve done for every other new step I’ve taken in my career. I didn’t just leap in when people first started talking about it. I waited and watched the conversations, learning from what other authors had done right and what they hadn’t. I read online discussions, blogs and Zoe Winters’ book Becoming an Indie Author, taking copious notes along the way.

Once I made the decision to make the leap, I picked a book that had missed its chance a few years ago because the line I was targeting it toward ceased to exist. But I still felt like it was a strong story that could find an audience. Even though I’d read it a million times, I went back through it with a fine-toothed comb, making sure I’d done everything I could to make sure it was a clean, strong story. After thinking about it a good bit, I decided to change the title to something I thought was more appropriate and commercial. Thus, the book became known as Living in Colorbecause one of the characters has lived a life devoid of happiness and exposure to the wider world – color – and her journey toward creating a new life rich with a variety of colors.

I also started researching cover artists because I knew that was one thing I couldn’t do myself. I’m a firm believer in having a strong, professional-looking cover. It is, after all, what gives potential readers their first impression of my book. I didn’t want it to look any different from a cover designed by a big New York publishing house. If I was going to self-publish a book, I wanted to take every step in a professional way to give the book the best shot at success.

Once the manuscript and cover were ready, I read through all of the pages related to the self-publishing programs on the Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords sites, including the terms of service (aka those things you often click “yes” to and never read). I wanted to make sure there was nothing I was overlooking that would make this a bad step.

After all of that was done, I set aside an entire Saturday for formatting the book for online distribution. I printed out the Smashwords Style Guide, which I’d read was very useful for formatting for e-publishing. That way I could have it at the ready as I went through my manuscript. It did take me all day to do the formatting and uploading, but I’m hopeful that I’ve undertaken the hardest part of the learning curve and if I decide to do this again, it’ll be easier next time. On that Saturday, I managed to get the book formatted and uploaded to Smashwords and Amazon. I also copyrighted the book with the U.S. Copyright Office at — using the Electronic Copyright Office link, and bought ISBNs from Bowker at are cheaper per ISBN the more you buy, so I bought more than one). As for the latter, I think once I use up the ISBNs that I have, I will just buy them one at a time through Smashwords because they’re cheaper and you don’t need an ISBN for Amazon or B&N. You really just need them to get into some of the outlets through which Smashwords distributes, like Apple. By the time I did all this, I was way tired and waited to upload to B&N until Sunday. That didn’t take very long at all, so then it was just waiting until the book cleared through the three systems and went on sale. Now I just try not to compulsively check my sales at each site. J

Though I know some authors have decided to go all self-published, that is not my intent. It’s just one prong of a multi-pronged business plan. I love writing for Harlequin and love my editor, so I plan to keep writing romances for them. That’s big company publishing. I’m in the midst of signing a contract with a small publisher for a paranormal young adult series. That’s small press publishing. I keep adding to my journalism credits by doing freelance writing and editing. That’s the nonfiction side of things. So, the self-publishing is just another basket of eggs for a gal who doesn’t like having all of her business eggs in one basket.

Living in Coloris now available for download at the following outlets: for Kindle: for Nook: for Apple devices, Kobo, Sony eReader, etc.:


About Kathleen Eagle

Kathleen Eagle is the award-winning, New York Times best-selling author of over forty novels.
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19 Responses to My Steps to Self-Publishing

  1. Amy Kennedy says:

    I think it’s an exciting decision to publish this book yourself — it’d be interesting to see what your numbers are compared with your trad. pubbed books. I have to say, this is my new obsession. Indie publishing. I love the way it seems to be exponentially growing — new authors, pubbed authors, reallyreally pubbed authors. It’s an exciting time in publishing.

  2. Michele says:

    Yay, for stepping into the wild and wacky world of self-pubbing, Trish! It’s an awesome learning experience, and I’ve found it gives me new appreciation for my own editor and the art dept., and everyone else associated with the creation of a book. Smashwords has an excellent guide to formatting that I’d highly recommend everyone who plans to self-pub read. It takes time to make the formatting right and to have all elements of the book look good, but if you don’t make the effort then you won’t have a quality product. Here’s to many more!

    • Hi, Michele. I agree, the Smashwords guide was really helpful. And you’re also right about appreciating all the people it normally takes to put out a good book. I’ve been very fortunate with all of my book covers so far, so I love the Harlequin and Penguin art departments. And all the many other talented people it takes to take my manuscripts and turn them into books on store shelves.

  3. cindygerard says:

    Wonderful info, Trish. These are changing times and it makes sense to see what options are out there.

  4. It is a fun, exciting experiment, Trish. Thanks for sharing how you went about it. I also love the fact that you have a multi-pronged business plan. Best wishes on all prongs!

    • Thanks, Michelle. You know what’s really interesting is that right after I made this decision to self-publish this book, I sold four books to traditional publishers. Not related at all, but I found it interesting timing. I went from worrying about having all my eggs in one basket to having four baskets. 🙂

  5. Tessa says:

    Very interesting to read your post. Best wishes to you!

  6. Trish, I think we’re all paying attention to this brave new world of publishing and especially to the brave authors who’ve been making their living in traditional publishing and are taking the plunge into digital. Will you come back in a few months and tell us what you’ve learned? We’re all at different stages of the process. Michele Hauf has some didital books out there. I’m still in the first paragraph stage–reading, listening, Googling. One of the things writers have in common is a willingness to stick our necks out. That’s what got us into this business. Well, that and a number two pencil.

  7. Leanne Banks says:

    Trish! Congrats! I’m so thrilled for you! I think there are many books that deserve to be offered to readers that have been lost!:) I hope your book will sell out the wazoo! And thank you for sharing your experience with the rest of us. Go you!;) xo, Leanne

  8. Great post, Trish. You really are an inspiration. Best of luck with ‘Living in Color’!

  9. Terry Odell says:

    I started with the indie/self publishing with two of my previously published books. I agree with Trish that the Smashwords guide is a very good starting point. From there, it was easy enough to format for Kindle and Barnes & Noble, and I discovered the free software program, Calibre, which let me convert my book to other formats for the All Romance eBook site. For these, my only expense was cover art. I was lucky my son put together the first one, but it’s not his “job” of choice, so I found a professional artist for my second.

    I’m getting ready to add a ‘never-before-published’ book in my Blackthorne, Inc. series, but although I have confidence in my writing, I knew I couldn’t be a reliable editor, so I hired a freelance editor, which I think is critical.

    It’s a brand new world.

    Terry’s Place
    Romance with a Twist–of Mystery

    • Terry, I agree whole-heartedly about the need for an editor for new material. I think many experienced editors–some we might have worked with–are looking for freelance work.

    • Terry, good luck with your new book. I agree with you that for things like covers and editing, it’s good to get outside help, particularly if the author is not very strong at those areas.

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