Wondering about how to get a book published for free? With traditional publishing, you’d have to be okay with committing at least a couple of years to pitch and wait for editorial teams to get back to you. Plus, it’s not guaranteed that your book will get picked up. With self-publishing, the indie route ensures you get published – 100% guaranteed.
If you’re new to all this, here’s your step-by-step overview on self-publishing a book and how you can do it for free (or under a tight budget). You’ll also get a feel for how self-publishing is about your rights, your creative direction, and owning the majority of your royalties.
Real Quick: Differences Between Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing
Keep all the rights.
The publisher has the rights to your book. Exact conditions depend on the publisher.
Get around 60-70%, depending on the store. (With PublishDrive, get 100%)
Get around 10%, depending on the publisher and country.
Make all the decisions, from your cover design to promotional tactics. 💪
The managing team makes most of the decisions.
Your book can be on the shelves within months. And you can publish soon after whenever you want.
Publishing a book can take up to two years. You may have to wait for even more years to publish the next one.
Anyone can get published. Your success depends on how well you reach your market.
It’s harder to get published. Publishers have limited funds, met with countless book proposals.
Writers have found success in both traditional and self-publishing routes. If you’re looking to speed up the publishing process, however, definitely opt for doing it yourself. Who knows, maybe a bigger publishing house will sign you later down the road (like E.L. James’ 50 Shades of Grey!) Without further ado –
Steps on How to Get a Book Published for Free
1. Write Your Book
Writing your manuscript can be cost-free, easily. There are plenty of free writing software such as Google Docs, OpenOffice, and Reedsy Write. When you need a break from typing, use free dictation apps like Google Voice Typing and Apple’s Dictation app. Really, the only thing the writing process costs is your time.
If this is your first draft ever, there are a bunch of free resources out there on writing tips and best practices:
- Seasoned author Brandon Sanderson has free video courses about general writing.
- Practice with Reedsy’s writing prompts.
- Check out online writer groups like PublishDrive’s Facebook Group or Reddit’s Writer’s Group to exchange feedback and support.
2. Edit Your Book
Then, get someone else to read your book. This is the step where I’d strongly suggest hiring a professional editor to review your work (costs start at $10 per 1,000 words). If you’re not able to, you’re still okay. Consider these free avenues:
- Find critique partners, usually other writers who can look at your manuscript with the eyes of a writer. Try the free platform Scribophile, a place where writers can upload stories and exchange reviews. Or post in online forums like Reddit’s Writer’s Group to find writers willing to exchange critiques.
- Find beta readers, essentially anyone who can read and give a review of your book. Ask your friends and family. Try to prioritize finding readers with diverse backgrounds too.
With your gathered inputs, rewrite and edit some more until your manuscript is as close to perfect.
3. Design Book Cover
Whether you want to create a print or ebook, you will need a cover design. With such a competitive landscape, a solid book cover will help your title stand out. Investing in a professional designer can do wonders, but it’s not a requirement.
With the free tool Canva built for people with no design skills, I created this mock cover design (not bad, right?):
4. Format Your Book (Print, Ebook, Audiobook)
When you have your final cover file and manuscript handy, the next step involves putting everything together.
For print, prepare two PDF files. The first should include the front cover, back cover, spine, and bleed area. The second file should include your manuscript. See here for detailed print requirements.
For ebook, format your manuscript so that it’s ready for conversion into the right file type (epub or mobi). This requires opening your Word or Google document and removing or adding certain styling formats.
See here for how to format a manuscript for ebook conversion. When you’re ready to convert, use this free ebook converter.
For audiobook, you need MP3 audio files of your book narrated out loud along with the cover file. The files should be separated by chapters and each chapter should not go over 120 minutes. See here for how to prepare your audiobook.
5. Publish and Distribute to Stores
By this point, you have your book files ready to upload and self-publish online. Where to go? There are several free publishing options to choose from.
Most first-timers go with Amazon’s KDP Select (Kindle Direct Publishing), where there’s a fairly straightforward dashboard for uploading and setting up your book. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to self-publish on Amazon KDP.
Important note: although Amazon is a fantastic place to sell, KDP requires you to sell only through them and no one else for the first 90 days. That means you’d be missing out on around 60% of the online book market.
You see, there are literally thousands and thousands of channels where you can distribute your book. And these stores are booming from every corner of the world. In 2020 (despite the pandemic), indies made 85% more book sales distributing in multiple channels. These spaces included niche apps like Dreame, libraries like Bibliotheca, and gigantic book markets like China.
Crazy growth rates, right?
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How to publish and distribute in these spaces? You could go through each one and handle the best self-publishing platforms yourself. Or you can go through an aggregation publishing company that helps manage distribution to multiple places in one place.
PublishDrive is a trusted aggregator for published authors. All you have to do is upload your files for publishing and switch on the stores you’d like to sell in. PublishDrive distributes to not only Amazon, but other major retailers like Google, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and thousands of other channels.
PublishDrive gets you access to:
🏛️240K+ digital libraries
🌎30M+ global readers