What Does it Take To Release A[n Indie] Book?

Besides the actual writing of the novel, there’s the publishing of it. The transformation from a manuscript to a book. Sometimes that can feel like it takes just as long as the creation of the manuscript (ms)! One of my friends and a reader told me she was amazed at what goes on in the background “just” to release a book—she told me she couldn’t believe everything that has to get done!

So, in honor of her (let’s call her “Edie”!)…this post. Below I’ve attached (as gracefully as I can in the ever-changing environment that is WordPress) my publishing checklist…but I’ll step though an overview of the process. For an overview of the overview, take a quick scan of how long this post is. Just sayin’.

In the traditional world, unless you’re releasing a book that begs immediate release for whatever reason (e.g., rich and famous and/or timely issue), it typical takes about a year (or so) to get all your loons in a row to release it. The steps I do are pretty much the same…I just don’t have the bankroll nor staff they (being “them”) have, so I make do with what I can and am lucky enough to have some stellar people who help out. I truly wish I could pay all of them for all their efforts (at the going rate), but that’s the reality of independent publishing: the kindness of friends and writing peers and the “poorness” of Indie authors.

But do be aware: it does cost.

Going Indie is a not a freebie enterprise. Sure, you can put out a cheap-looking, low quality effort, but you’re going to hurt yourself in the long run. And if you do finally gather your wits (and resources) about you and do end up putting out higher quality efforts…you’ll have that one (or three…) crappy effort out there unless you go back and redo what should have been done right in the first place.

Would you buy a poorly created book?

So, throttle back on the excitement and take a breath. Do it right.

Okay, you think you’re done with your ms. So now you need to take a break, right? Yes and no. Even before you’re done, it’s always good to keep your eyes and ears open for those you’ll be needing for the release of your work, and the earlier the better (and contacting those you’ll want to work with to see about fitting into their schedules is a must): you’ll need the following efforts “covered” (pardon the pun):

  • Cover
  • Interior formatting
  • Proofreading/copyediting
  • Blurbs (you don’t really need these)
  • Author photo (you don’t really need this)
  • Book reviews
  • Book creation: paperback/hardback/ebook
  • ISBNs
  • Library of Congress copyright copy
  • Book distribution
  • Promotion. Forever promotion….


For the cover I’ve used two different folks. I’ve used Karen Duvall, of Duvall Design, and Lon Kirschner, of Kirschner Caroff Design Inc. It just depends what kind of budget you have. Karen (and most cover artists, especially in the traditional world) doesn’t read your work and engages you from the very beginning. It’s very give and take from the get-go. I’ve known her for years and she’s a great person. Another great person to work with is Lon Kirschner. Lon reads your entire ms and comes up with the cover on his own. If there’s something about the cover that doesn’t quite work for you or needs tweaking, then he’s also more than willing to work with you until he gets it right. I love working with both these folks, they’re terrific people and do outstanding work! Contact them for their current rates and to get on their schedules. I know Lon’s been recently slammed with work.

Another note about cover: you need to present the most professional, high quality cover you can [afford]. People do judge a book by its cover. It’s usually the first thing anyone sees. The first thing one rejects. Compare what’s on the shelves and what’s professional quality against what you think you want on your cover. The harder it is for another to determine if your work came from a traditional publisher, the better.

Interior Formatting

Through a writing friend, I found Pam Headrick, of A Thirsty Mind Book Design. She formats your content (i.e., file) into the proper format to get it into that trade paperback or ebook. There’s a lot to do there, but it’s dealing with spaces and “code.” She works her internal wizardry so well and is also easy to work with! Sometimes we go back and forth for a couple weeks, depending on what the issues are—and they can be many and varied, especially Microsoft’s “overhead code” issues. On Voice we had a danged coding issue that literally kept rearranging words on a particular page—on its own. Oh, the Humanity! Pam finally had to delete the entire page and manually retype it! You definitely need to contact Pam early (however defined) and see what her schedule is and get on it—you can always shift schedules, but this woman is frigging busy.

Proofreading and Copyediting

Here’s where I rely on “the kindness of strangers.” If I were to pay the going rate of what these people do, it would run upwards of $3-$5K—at least that was the last going rate I’d research a couple years ago. I simply cannot afford that. Fortunately I’ve found people who love doing this kind of thing and wanted to help out. And if they were writers, I’d gladly return the favor. They’re readers and they love helping out “the cause,” and for that I’m eternally grateful! I just can’t thank them enough! So I pay in contributer’s copies: however many they need/want, I’ll send them (well, short of a truckload at at time, I only have so many resources you know…), and give them acknowledgements in my novels’ front matter (the front of a book before the actual story). So use those you find to their expertise: are they good readers? Good with grammar? Continuity and details? Do they read a lot? The important thing is to just get another set of eyes on your words. Some will give you in-depth detail and others will give you an overview. Both are great inputs. Edie is a huge reader and Mandy has written lots of proposals. Edie gives me an overall reader’s point of view, while Mandy gives me hell-on-each-sentence (okay, its not really that bad—but she knows her stuff)—which is as it should be! It’s up to you how you wanna run this part of things, but get others to read your efforts before going public.

Once you parse your work out to your readers, give a timeline…and allow for some slack. People are people and they have their own lives and issues do pop up. You don’t want to cut it so close that the rest of your release process suffers, you don’t want to overburden your proofreaders, and you don’t want to short-change yourself—or the work itself! The good part about all this is that is that you’re running it, so you create your own schedule. I’d say a month is too short, better two, depending on the length. It will probably end up being three. If it’s over 100K words, I’m betting it’ll take about three months for your in-depth redliner to “go deep”…and it gives that person or persons time to actually write this stuff up to send you. Reading is easy…communicating their comments to you takes time (and effort). Let them have it. If they’re helping you out, they want to do this.

One thing I’ve found in the creation process (while you’re still actively writing the story, way before sending it out for review and release) is to get to a point where your ms is in fairly decent shape, then read every word of it aloud. This is way before you think you’re “done.” I do that with all my mss. It’s usually around the third or fourth draft. There is so much you can catch, from pacing errors to misspelled words. You’d be surprised. Try it.

But, you’ll still miss stuff anyway and your readers will find them.


I feel you don’t really need these, but they don’t hurt. I was against them for a while because I’d discovered that many blurbers in the traditional world didn’t actually read the works they blurbed. Yeah, that floored me. I hope that isn’t the case anymore, but somehow I feel it probably hasn’t changed much. So, this is up to you. Those I’ve had blurb my work have actually read it. It doesn’t hurt, but last I read the jury’s out on who feel they’re legit and those who feel (as I did) that they’re B.S.

Author Photo

Do you want to include a photo of yourself on your book? I’m not big on that, but I’ve done it in two instances because it seemed “part” of the novel: on ERO I included a picture of me when I was a captain in the Air Force, because my novel was about an Air Force officer. It wasn’t a current shot, was over 20 years old, but it fit the story. I got the idea from a writer friend of mine who did it on one of his books. And in the ebook copy of Voice, I did it on the interior the back matter of the ebook, again with another near-thirty-year-old modeling shot of me when I was into modeling back in the 80s. It, too, fit the story, which deals with models and photography. I didn’t include it on the paperback hardcopy because I loved the clean look of the cover as Lon designed it. I didn’t want to mess with his simplicity of design. I probably could have included in on the interior back matter pages, but don’t think I thought of it until I was “done” with the paperback production and was into the ebook formatting later.

Book Reviews

This one should typically do some 4-6 months or so out.

Look, I’m just one guy…I simply don’t have the time to do all this stuff smartly. But this time I did manage to get two writers/reviewers to write a review of Voice, but it was only about a month out. I sent them electronic versions of the files. So, if you do find yourself in the position to do this, get someone (like a “Pam”) to do you up an “advance review copy” e-version and send it out to anyone you can find to give you a review. I’m not an expert in this area, so you’ll have to search the Internet for better information on this area of book release.

Book Creation

There are various way so of doing this, but I use CreateSpace for my trade paperbacks. Many “traditional” folk like to rail on against CreateSpace/Amazon…yet still use them for their own book sales. That’s hypocrisy. I like CreateSpace!

For now, I’m using them and I’m quite happy with them. And they had replaced a boxload of books that had been damaged and sent the replacements within days—yes, that same damned week!—and sent two more books that I had originally ordered. I have no beef with them whatsoever, so call them what you will, but I like them.

I use Smashwords for the ebook creation, with the exceptions of Amazon’s KDP (not KDP Select) and B&N’s Nook. I load these last two manually and do not use Smashwords for their distribution. I’ve been told that Smashwords lags behind in providing royalties on these last two distributors, though I do know Smashwords has modified its distro a bit (using Amazon’s KDP is about ebook creation).

It is still recommended that one not go with KDP Select. KDP and KDP Select are two different animals. Be careful when selecting these that you know what you’re selecting. I’m not going to get into all the reasons and have to not go KDP Select, I have to leave that up to you to research. This post is long enough!

I do recommend doing both a trade paperback and an ebook—if you can swing the finances (I’ve recently read that ebooks are beginning to lose traction). For a trade paperback you’ll not only need a front cover—but the entire wraparound cover. Cover rates should be different if you’re just doing a front cover.

Also, Nook requires a cover less than 2 MBs, so keep this in mind when ordering your files.

My checklist below has the steps and things to check out for in creating the actual books, paperback and ebook.

If you’re doing CreateSpace you’ll have the option of printing a “proof” copy. I highly recommend this…a couple copies. You’ll get a version of the book (you’ll have to pay for it, but it’s cheap) sent with “Proof” stamped on the last page, but you’ll actually see your book as it will be once released. You can always change things about your book after it’s published, but do it right the first time and get that proof copy. Review. Flip through it, checking for faded graphics, text placement, weird spacing, cover issues, et cetera, read it, if you haven’t recently or haven’t had others proof/copyedit it.

When you’ve entered all your ebook info, be careful it’s all correct, because once you hit that “Enter” a the end, that baby’s live!


ISBNs are different for ebooks and paperbacks.

At CreateSpace you have the option of different kinds if ISBN creation, and I always opt for the custom (see checklist below). For ebooks, the various ebook outlets have their own ways of doing business, so make sure you read the details and make sure you understand what it being said.

Again, you cannot use the same ISBNs for the paperback for the ebooks, and vice versa.

Library of Congress Copy

Always register the hardcover/paperback versions of your books with the Library of Congress. If you just have an ebook, you can register that, as well. The cost is minimal. Again, I’m letting their website do the talking, but if you get a copy of your book there within 30 days of release, you are afforded extra copyright protection.

Book Distribution

If you do CreateSpace, you don’t do traditional distributors, like Baker and Taylor. Your distro is Amazon.com. And though Amazon.com is not technically a distributor, they act like one.  If you do ebooks, like Smashwords, Nook, etc., you do all kinds of distribution. Check out their sites. So, if you want to get your physical books into bookstores, your best bets are indie bookstores or local used-bookstores…some are willing to take on local talent. Some Bigger Box/Indie stores will also take on local talent. I’m finding that the Bigger Box/Indie stores will consign your work, while the used books stores I’m dealing with usually buy your books outright. They’ve always been pretty easy to work with and will add a little to the buying price so you make some money.


You’re never done. Ever.

As I’ve wrapped up everything else in the creation process, I’m now actually trying to actively promote Voice. But this never ends. I suggest creating—at minimum—a Word file and just begin adding and copy-and-pasting ideas and possible avenues in there as you go about your life. Links to newspapers,  reporters, ideas for tweets, bookstores, events, anything and everything you have even the vaguest interest in checking out and/or pursuing. Nothing’s “stupid” at this point. You can weed out later.

I created a whole list of tweets, then, through this Future Tweets site, programmed in all these tweets for Labor Day weekend. There’s also a kinda cool “flip the tweet” function, where the tweet is actually flipped upside down—I love that!

Many of us do have day/night jobs and cannot spend all day on this kind of thing, so all we can do is what we can do. Don’t beat yourself up over it, don’t kill yourself. Sure, there are indignant authors out there who’ll dump on you (if not in words…in tone and attitude—and, yes, I’ve met them) and your seemingly puny efforts because they are writing full time, or have a significant other who supports them so they can write…but if you’re that one who is working and writing…all you can do is what you are doing. Feel good about it and don’t go killing yourself over “having” to do something every second or at the expense of ignoring your family/significant others/your own health. Do remember your quality of life. You’re YOU. You’re not “them.”

BE you.


When agreeing to book signings and the like, do make sure you both totally understand what is being proposed when setting up gigs…as in contacting local media and dates and times! Pay attention to detail and who’s supposed to do what.

And have FUN!

Okay, here is my checklist:

Prepping ms for Pam:

  • Convert to:
    1. TNR.
    2. Only single spaces, no double spaces.
    3. Single-spaced lines, no double spaces.
    4. No more than 4 lines of spaces (returns) at the tops of any e-book pages.
    5. For paperback books, make sure all the line returns to chapter starts are the same.
    6. E-book only: Add a space after all ellipses (3 and 4 dots), except w/in quotes, parens, punctuation (this may no longer be needed).
    7. Make sure abbreviated years are correct—use an apostrophe: “ ’78 .”
    8. Convert all dashes to M-dashes (N-, just be consistent).
    9. Check all sub-section spaces/#/***; standardize, check spacing, and center.
    10. Check all chapter and section numbers (1, 2, 3…) are correctly numbered.
  • Spell check—again!!!
  • Check for these words: http://sirragirl.blogspot.com/2014/04/collection-of-commonly-confused-misused.html?m=1
  • Ensure italicized text are properly italicized (including appropriate punctuation within itals).
  • Can’t have text “left/right-justified-at-bottom-of-page” kinda thing for ebooks (see ERO front matter for example).
  • Blurbs from other authors?
  • Add “Also by F. P. Dorchak” to front matter. See below.
  • Add family members to Notes/dedication?
  • Add others to Notes/dedication. Think.
  • Add cover graphic to title page.
  • Check any interior graphics for recto/verso placement.
  • Add websites and social media links to e-books.
  • Keep paperback clean with just “About” and website.
  • Bibliography?
  • When using Pam in formatting, it can take many iterations of PDFs to get formatting correct, because PDF keeps changing things we do not touch! It can take a week or two to iron out all the annoying shit PDF does.

Submitting ms to Smashwords:

Be sure you’re ready to do this, because once you’re done stepping through their upload dialogs, you’re published.

  • Select two categories of fiction.
  • Select all e-book formats.
  • Opt out of Amazon and Nook distribution on Channel Manager!
  • Assign ISBN! Do so before submitting to Smashwords!
    1. Impacts immediately getting into the Premium catalog.
  • Create any free Coupons.

Submitting ms to Amazon

  • Add self as contributor.
  • Try to add cover artist.
  • Try to add Pam for formatting.
  • Select 35% royalty.
  • Select price and set other country prices based on US price.
  • Consider Kindle Direct Publishing “Match Book” selection (readers buy a discounted version of your Kindle book, if they buy the paperback).
  • Consider KDP lending.
  • Keep Amazon description under 120 words so it’s all displayed and not truncated to “Read more” later….
  • Use Key Words: http://thefutureofink.com/sell-more-books-on-amazon/

Submitting ms to Nook

  • Get cover graphic less than 2 MB.
  • Add self as contributor.
  • Try to add cover artist.
  • Try to add Pam for formatting.
  • Nook automatically ties paperback versions to e-versions, but all titling and names, etc., have to be word-for-word, space-for-space perfectly matching. This presents a problem when using CreateSpace (CS), because CS does not like all-capital titles for their book accounts (e.g., ERO). In order to do all caps, you have to add periods between the letters (e.g., E.R.O.). This is not good, because when you release for publication, Amazon.com keeps those damned periods in the title for retail marketing! The actual title on the book remains your “ERO” title, but the displayed online title with your book, and any search engine hits only respond to the broken up title (i.e., E.R.O.), and not the actual title (i.e., ERO). So, effectively, there are two titles out there, and if people don’t know this, or don’t scroll down the Amazon search page, they won’t see the “E.R.O.” version of the book. I have contacted both CS and Nook about this. CS was nice enough to go in and link the two titles to each other, but you might have to actually contact them to get them to do this, but pointing out a loss of sales with the different titles, if people don’t know to scroll down the pages to find the related search of the other title. B&N/Nook also finally link the two formats together, but this took a long time.

When doing a CreateSpace copy:

  • Get paperback ISBN. Once ISBNs are assigned, they cannot be changed (but see “3,” below).
    1. “Custom” ISBNs can have a “fake” imprint name, like “Wailing Loon.”
    2. Custom ISBNs are also pushed to retailers versus libraries.
    3. If pick wrong one, delete entire “book” and restart that book’s account.
  • Choose “glossy” cover.
  • Interior Type: black and white
  • Paper Color: cream.
  • 6×9 format.
  • Interior Type: black and white
  • Paper color: cream.
  • When uploading book file, select that the “bleed” ends before the edge of the page.
  • Proofing: https://forums.createspace.com/en/community/docs/DOC-1481
  • Print proof copy:

If you do this you can’t approve your proofing until after book ships!

  1. Click on the title from the Member Dashboard
  2. Select “Order a Printed Proof” in the Review phase
  3. Update the quantity for the book
  4. Check your order; click “Check Out”
  5. Choose or enter a shipping address; click “Save and Continue”
  6. Select a shipping speed; click “Save and Continue”
  7. Choose or enter a billing address; click “Save and Continue”
  8. Enter the CVV code from the back of your credit card; click “Save and Continue”
  9. Review your order total, including shipping and tax; click “Confirm Order”

Your order is complete when you can see the order number on screen.

Once you approve this copy, it’s immediately available on CS, 3-5 days on Amazon, but usually is on Amazon the next day.

  • Titles: see #5, Submitting to Nook, above.
  • Revisions:
    1. It’s a little unnerving, cause you go back through all your other selections you made. You select either the cover or content, then proceed onward. You can just hit “Next” at the top screens, but you have options to change all your decisions. And now they have matte and glossy covers, so have to make sure you select the right one. Then you go through the same review process, with the review setup, send it back for the human review, and wait–the same process.
  • Add <your imprint, e.g., “Steffany”s Publishing Hut”> to:
    1. copyright page.
    2. spine/cover.
    3. Anywhere else needed.
  • Need any artwork on the interior of the book/front matter?
  • Add books to the front matter:

Also by F. P. Dorchak


Sleepwalkers (2001)

The Uninvited (2013)

ERO (2013)

Psychic (2014)

Voice (2015)


“Tail Gunner”:

The You Belong Collective—Writing and Illustrations by Longmont Area Residents (2012)

  • Add the following (updated) to the very back (check previous books):

About the Author

F. P. (Frank) Dorchak began writing at the age of six. He writes gritty, realistic paranormal fiction that delves into the realms of the supernatural, the unexplained, and the metaphysical to explore who we are and why we exist. Frank is published in the U.S., Canada, and the Czech Republic with short stories, non-fiction articles, five novels, Sleepwalkers, The Uninvited, ERO, Psychic, Voice, and the short story “Tail Gunner,” in The You Belong Collection – Writings And Illustrations By Longmont Area Residents regional anthology.


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About fpdorchak

Speculative and paranormal fiction author. Please check out my website: https://www.fpdorchak.com/. Thank you for stopping by!
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13 Responses to What Does it Take To Release A[n Indie] Book?

  1. Wow wow wow…. took a while to read it but how incredibly helpful.. so much to think about. Still have a book out with an agent so don’t know where I’m going from here yet, but I strongly suspect that I’ll be self publishing at least one of my 6 projects. So this was a very useful post for me! I’m going to book mark it!

    • fpdorchak says:

      Thanks, Karen! There’s a lot to get done! When I sent Mandy her contributor’s copy for Voice, it was interesting to hear her say how different it was to see it in printed form than the manuscript form she’d been electronically working on—especially how thick the book turned out to be (it’s 120,394 words, btw)! And Edie’s comment (that got this post going) about what goes into creating a book? Yeah, kinda exhausting reliving it, since I just went through it! :-]

      You really do need to get your work out there, Karen—and let me be the first to know! :-] I’ll give you whatever help you need! You think you’re busy now with your business…you’ll be getting all kinds of speaking gigs, with your background and contacts!

      As always, thanks for stopping by!

  2. Paul says:

    Quite a detailed checklist here, Frank! And a reminder of how much work it is to go indie. My hat’s off to you.

    • fpdorchak says:

      Thank you, Paul. It is a lot of work, but it’s cool to get the results in the mail and hold it in your hands in a way that is *leagues* different than a ms ream! When I hold my newest in my hands and think of all the anguish and effort I went through over some 18 years all told…how *I’ve* changed since I’d started it back in 1997…it’s mind-blowing….

  3. So why do you select the 35% option on Amazon? I’m curious.

  4. Pingback: Bite The Hand That Feeds Ya | Runnin Off at the Mouth....

  5. Whew! Great post, Frank. Really an eye-opener into your whole process – and why I am happy to be a small contributor instead (love that I give you hell-on-each-sentence)!

  6. Pingback: What NOT To Do in Publishing | Runnin Off at the Mouth....

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