Is your book ready to be self-published?

Before making coffee in the morning, you’ve got to have grounds to put in the pot. Before grilling a steak for dinner, you need to have a thawed T-bone. Before self-publishing, you’ve got to have a completed manuscript.

If you haven’t yet finished writing your novel, anthology or nonfiction book, stop reading now. Bookmark this page and come back once you’ve completed writing it. We’ll see in a few days!

If you’ve finished writing your manuscript, congratulations (and welcome back all of you who stopped reading this book a few days ago and have just finished writing your book)! Now the bad news: A completed manuscript doesn’t just mean that you’ve got a book ready to be self-published. There’s a lot more to it than that.

First, the manuscript ought to be professionally proofread and edited. Even the best writers need someone looking over their work to find stray typos and to ensure that the sentences and the book’s organization makes sense (Full disclosure here: I run such an editing service.). Writers often get so close to their work that they don’t realize they’ve made some oversight or that they’re rambling in a section. A good editor will advise you of this and help you determine a solution to many other problems, from plotting to logically organizing your ideas.

Secondly, you must have ready all of the sections of the book that you need before uploading it to a self-publishing site. Among those often overlooked sections are:
• Cover page – Also known in the industry as the half title page, this is the page that readers first open to and see the book’s title in large letters as well as the author’s name and publisher.
• Title page – Turn a page and you’ll find in small print the book’s copyright, information about the publisher, the book’s ISBN and probably a notice saying parts of the book can’t be reproduced without permission or that the characters in it are wholly fictional.
• Acknowledgements and dedication – The next couple of pages probably give a list of people who the author is appreciative to for help in writing this book (aka “acknowledgements”) and a person or two who the book is written in honor of (aka “dedication”).
• Table of contents – A few more pages list all of the section and chapter titles in the book and on what pages they appear (or in the case of ebooks, links to those sections and chapters). A novel probably doesn’t need a table of contents, but a nonfiction book absolutely does.
• Index – After the book’s main text comes a few pages listing key words and concepts and what pages they appeared on in the book. As with the table of contents, an index isn’t needed in a novel, but a nonfiction book demands it.
• Author’s bio – While not necessary, many readers like to know a little about who wrote the book: what makes them an expert on the subject, if they’ve published other books, where they live, etc.

Finally, your manuscript needs to be formatted. That means it appears on your computer screen exactly as it will be printed. That involves fitting the text within the margins of the book’s trim size (the book’s dimensions), that the text is in the correct typeface and point size, and that the page numbers are included, and more. We’ll also discuss formatting the book in upcoming entries.

Completing all of this is essential before starting to upload your manuscript to a self-publishing house. If it’s not done, your book either will look unprofessional or you run the risk of spending money to resubmit your manuscript because you must go back and complete all of this work.

As novelist Steven S. Sharp, author of “Life’s Hurdles & The True Winner,” advises, “Get your story written, and have fun with it before you delve too far into the business side of things. It can be distracting.”