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Self-Publisher's Checklist from the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors

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The Self-Publisher's Checklist

Janice Campbell

It's an incredibly satisfying feeling to hold your first book in your hands. For a self-publisher, the process of getting from idea to print can be long, but with the right help, it doesn't need to be unnecessarily complex. To achieve the best possible results for your project, it's often best to assemble a team of writing evaluators.

Although you may be tempted to proceed without professional help in editing and proofreading, it's not worth it if you want the best book possible. Even if you are an excellent writer, it's nearly impossible to copyedit your own work, as you tend to read what you think you wrote, which causes you to overlook errors that are obvious to an experienced copyeditor.

Here is a checklist of the basic steps it takes to guide a self-publishing project from concept to book-in-hand.

What to Do Before Your Self-Published Document Goes to Print

  1. Decide on a topic.
  2. Do market research to discover possible resources and potential competition.
  3. Plan your book, using a developmental editor or writing coach for structural help.
  4. Outline the text, chapter by chapter, backing up your files regularly to a flash drive.
  5. Draft each chapter using clear, vivid language. TIP: If you will be using a program such as InDesign or Quark to lay out the pages of the book, compose the text in a generic text editor such as TextEdit or TextPad. This will eliminate formatting-code problems in the page layout stage.
  6. Spell-check the entire document.
  7. Have your writing coach or developmental editor read through the completed manuscript draft and offer suggestions to enhance organization and clarity.
  8. Consider the coach or editor's suggestions, and make changes to the manuscript.
  9. Spell-check again.
  10. Repeat steps 7-9 until you have reached a satisfactory final draft.
  11. Turn over your final draft to a copyeditor for mark-up.
  12. Incorporate the copyeditor's corrections into the document.
  13. Flow text into your page layout software (or turn the book over to a book designer).
  14. Print hard copies of the manuscript and have a proofreader go over the completed, laid-out text.
  15. Make corrections, and proofread again, both onscreen and on a hard copy of the draft.
  16. Generate the bibliography and Table of Contents.
  17. Have an index created by a professional indexer or use your page layout software to create an index on your own. Be aware that a professional indexer can probably do the job much more quickly and efficiently than you can, and a good quality index can be a valuable asset to your book.
  18. Put the completed book aside for at least a week, then proofread it again and make final corrections.
  19. Have a sharp-eyed layperson read through the entire book. It's not likely, but they may spot an error that all the pros have overlooked!
  20. Send your completed manuscript to the printer of your choice.
  21. Rejoice!

Janice Campbell, Director of the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors, has worked as a freelance writer, editor, coach, and speaker since the late 1980's.