How to self-publish

I’ve written a short guide that I hope will be helpful to people – like me – who want their novel to be available in paperback and on Kindle, looking as much like a professionally published book as possible. The process has been much more complicated and confusing than I thought possible, as well as being a fair bit more expensive than I expected. But I set out to do this properly, and I’ve tried to stick to that.

This isn’t an all-purpose guide. I’ve just explained what I did, when, why, and what caused me problems along the way. By covering the whole process, I hope to save people from the endless web trawling that I had to do. I also hope that if you find this useful, you might buy a copy of my book, The Perpetual Astonishment of Jonathon Fairfax.


1. Choosing the printing company

2. Setting up an account with Lightning Source

3. Buying ISBNs

4. Getting layout software

5. Pagesetting

6. Designing the cover

7. Finishing it off


8. Adapting your InDesign files for the Kindle


Christopher Shevlin

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 12 comments
Christopher Shevlin - 25 May 2012

Damn it. I clicked ‘like’ by mistake while testing. I know you’re not supposed to like your own posts.

Sarah Dale - 25 May 2012

Good guide – it’s exactly what I did but I used a designer to help me with the cover and layout – but the whole process was truly amazing in terms of what can be achieved. And I have had very good experience with Lightning Source.

(the book’s called Keeping Your Spirits Up)

Christopher Shevlin - 25 May 2012

Thanks, Sarah. Yes, Lightning Source are good – but they don’t make anything easy for you. Good luck with the book. I’ll have a look at it.

Review of a funny book which reminds us all why we should all be more astonished « Other Opinions Are Available - 25 May 2012

[…] self-published as well, and Chris explains how he did it on his blog here .  The rest of the blog is blimmin’ brilliant as well. Like this:LikeBe the first to like […]

Yasmin Selena Butt - 9 June 2012

So pleased you like the Jeff Buckley post : ) Thanks for sharing the knowledge of your experience, Christopher. Was there anything in hindsight you wished you’d done differently?

    Christopher Shevlin - 9 June 2012

    Thanks, Yasmin. I think that with hindsight I’d just do everything much more quickly and with less agonising over the different options. That’s really why I wrote the guide – to save other people from all the worry. And I’ve been updating it when I find that there’s a better way to do something – like setting the Kindle price. Now I’m onto the really difficult bit, which is letting people know that the book exists.

      Yasmin Selena Butt - 10 June 2012

      This is my thank you to you. I hope this helps? I’ve literally only just seen it myself! I’m intimidated by formatting my novel but when the time is right will refer back to you wee guide. See how you get on here?

        Christopher Shevlin - 10 June 2012

        Wow, thanks Yasmin. That’s an amazing list of book bloggers. If you have any formatting problems, just ask me.

          Yasmin Selena Butt - 10 June 2012

          I know! I had a pinch myself moment on seeing it. But I wanted to Pay It Forward so to speak. I believe in rewarding kindness with kindness when possible. Some of them will be a fit for you I am sure. I’ll give you a shout if I’m not coping on the formatting front. Gunshot Glitter is at final proof stage at the mo’ : )

Guardian review - 2 October 2012

[…] industry may be run by a small group of corporate-minded killjoys will applaud the DIY-ethic of Shevlin, who has published this quirky comic novel himself. The perpetually astonished hero finds himself in a conspiracy involving murder and the theft of […]

ethancrane - 9 October 2012

thanks very much for this guide, very useful… I got half way through the process myself with Lightning Source and discovered they wanted to think of me as a publisher so sort of gave up… but I’m now going to disguise myself as one and go back again. Oh, and perhaps finish writing the book before doing so…

I’ve published one book with Lulu before but as you say Lightning Source seems much cheaper…


Christopher Shevlin - 9 October 2012

Thanks for your thanks, Ethan. It is a bit daunting dealing with Lightning Source, because they seem to expect you to be a major publishing house. The easiest thing, as you say, is just to pretend to be one. Lulu knows you aren’t a publisher, but uses that as an excuse to charge more for worse-quality books. I was always determined not to charge people more than the price of a book from a corporate publisher.

Despite your thanks, I’ll probably have to take this guide down soon. I’m running a Guardian Masterclass on self-publishing, and I’ll be giving participants an expanded, book-form version of it, so it’s probably best if I don’t also give it away. What do you think?


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