You had a great book idea, you wrote a fine book, and now you think you're ready to self-publish it. Before you take that leap of faith, however, there are several things you should consider in order to publish like a professional.
1. Finish the Writing and Have It Professionally Edited
Finish the writing (sometimes easier said than done) and that includes the rewriting. Until you reach a point in your rewrites where the edits are no longer substantive, your book is not finished. When you find yourself simply changing characters' names or altering inconsequential details, that's when you're done self-editing.
Your next step is to hire a professional editor. You may not enjoy being told to cut a section of writing you really like, but if Chapter 7 is truly overkill, a professional editor can help you understand why. You might not be able to specifically quantify the benefits of a formal editing process, but it will help you sell more books. Hiring a professional to edit your book can make you a better writer, provide you with industry knowledge you wouldn't otherwise have, broaden your exposure, and ultimately increase your sales.
2. Hire a Book Designer
Unless you are one yourself, you should hire a professional to design your book cover and book interior. The book you've worked so hard on deserves the best possible physical representation, including typeface, page numbers, opening chapter pages, running headers, and other elements you might not think of but a professional book designer will. The cover design is perhaps the most important element of design as it provides the first impression of your book to potential readers/buyers.
If you're offering an electronic version of your book, those design specs will be different. A professional can help you maintain design continuity while ensuring your work will be esthetically pleasing and readable, whether it's read in print or electronically.
3. Build Relationships Before You Publish
You should be building your author platform before you publish and, if it's not too late, as you write your book. Create your online platform through your own author website and build on that through social media outlets like Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Facebook, Google+, etc. You don't have to be everywhere; consistency and frequency are the keys to developing a solid base of followers. Expand that base by commenting on other relevant blogs and websites. Contribute comments and questions to book review blogs like the New York Times and Washington Post, as well as to smaller and local sites.
Start a mailing list. It can be electronic, snail mail, or both. Join writers' groups and associations, both online and local. Host or participate in a webcast or podcast. Attend book launches and other publishing events, including writing and publishing conferences. Make friends with your local booksellers and librarians, and never miss your book club meeting. The point is to get your name out there before you publish, not after.
4. Pay Attention
Become familiar with the existing book market. Find out what's currently on bookstore shelves, which books are being checked out most frequently at the library, which books are making news, why your friends and family are buzzing about certain titles, and what is happening in the literary world in general. Knowledge of the current publishing environment will help you publish like a professional.
5. Offer Your Book in Multiple Formats
You never know how readers will want to consume your content, so don't exclude potential buyers by limiting yourself to either ebooks or print books. The BBC recently reported that 50 percent of American adults own e-readers, but research shows that most people are still reading more print books than ebooks. Don't let potential readers (and sales) get away from you by not offering multiple formats of your book.
6. Use Your Resources
Once you have built an author platform, immersed yourself in the literary world, solidified industry-related relationships, and joined appropriate associations, don't stop there. You can maintain your place in the industry by staying active in it. Keep up with your network and be aware of industry news that can perfect your book marketing plan, use the resources you've gathered at conferences or writing retreats, continue to attend publishing events and learning sessions, keep reading writers' blogs and guides, and never stop learning.
The publishing process doesn't have to be overwhelming. Plan ahead, take it step-by-step, and take advantage of available resources.