My Steps to Self-Publishing by Trish Milburn

Since I announced that I was going to try my hand at self-publishing one of my books that had never (sniff, sniff) found a home, lots of people have been asking me how I went about doing it. Well, first thing was to do my research, just like I’ve done for every other new step I’ve taken in my career. I didn’t just leap in when people first started talking about it. I waited and watched the conversations, learning from what other authors had done right and what they hadn’t. I read online discussions, blogs and Zoe Winters’ book Becoming an Indie Author, taking copious notes along the way.

Once I made the decision to make the leap, I picked a book that had missed its chance a few years ago because the line I was targeting it toward ceased to exist. But I still felt like it was a strong story that could find an audience. Even though I’d read it a million times, I went back through it with a fine-toothed comb, making sure I’d done everything I could to make sure it was a clean, strong story. After thinking about it a good bit, I decided to change the title to something I thought was more appropriate and commercial. Thus, the book became known as Living in Color because one of the characters has lived a life devoid of happiness and exposure to the wider world – color – and her journey toward creating a new life rich with a variety of colors.

I also started researching cover artists because I knew that was one thing I couldn’t do myself. I’m a firm believer in having a strong, professional-looking cover. It is, after all, what gives potential readers their first impression of my book. I didn’t want it to look any different from a cover designed by a big New York publishing house. If I was going to self-publish a book, I wanted to take every step in a professional way to give the book the best shot at success.

Once the manuscript and cover were ready, I read through all of the pages related to the self-publishing programs on the Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords sites, including the terms of service (aka those things you often click “yes” to and never read). I wanted to make sure there was nothing I was overlooking that would make this a bad step.

After all of that was done, I set aside an entire Saturday for formatting the book for online distribution. I printed out the Smashwords Style Guide, which I’d read was very useful for formatting for e-publishing. That way I could have it at the ready as I went through my manuscript. It did take me all day to do the formatting and uploading, but I’m hopeful that I’ve undertaken the hardest part of the learning curve and if I decide to do this again, it’ll be easier next time. On that Saturday, I managed to get the book formatted and uploaded to Smashwords and Amazon. I also copyrighted the book with the U.S. Copyright Office at — using the Electronic Copyright Office link, and bought ISBNs from Bowker at (they are cheaper per ISBN the more you buy, so I bought more than one). As for the latter, I think once I use up the ISBNs that I have, I will just buy them one at a time through Smashwords because they’re cheaper and you don’t need an ISBN for Amazon or B&N. You really just need them to get into some of the outlets through which Smashwords distributes, like Apple. By the time I did all this, I was way tired and waited to upload to B&N until Sunday. That didn’t take very long at all, so then it was just waiting until the book cleared through the three systems and went on sale. Now I just try not to compulsively check my sales at each site. J

Though I know some authors have decided to go all self-published, that is not my intent. It’s just one prong of a multi-pronged business plan. I love writing for Harlequin and love my editor, so I plan to keep writing romances for them. That’s big company publishing. I’m in the midst of signing a contract with a small publisher for a paranormal young adult series. That’s small press publishing. I keep adding to my journalism credits by doing freelance writing and editing. That’s the nonfiction side of things. So, the self-publishing is just another basket of eggs for a gal who doesn’t like having all of her business eggs in one basket. J

Living in Color is now available for download at the following outlets: for Kindle: for Nook: for Apple devices, Kobo, Sony eReader, etc.:


20 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Meankitty
    Apr 19, 2011 @ 08:52:25

    Nice summary! I only formatted that short story so far…I wonder if I have the guts to tackle a novel.


  2. Theresa Ragan
    Apr 19, 2011 @ 09:21:53

    Congratulations, Trish. It sounds like you made the perfect decision for you. I hope all of your books are a success, no matter what form of distribution you choose! I love your Living in Color cover! Sounds like a great story.


  3. Carey Corp
    Apr 19, 2011 @ 09:28:49

    Thanks for sharing Trish.The book sounds great and your cover is beautiful.


  4. Sylissa Franklin
    Apr 19, 2011 @ 09:41:05

    what a great cover! Thanks Trish for sharing your adventure into indie publishing. You offer great suggestions on what to do and how to make this happen. I agree that the research is important, but also, a writer needs to take the chance and jump in. I wish you great success!


  5. Debra Holland
    Apr 19, 2011 @ 10:21:03


    I’ve bought your book and can’t wait to read it!


  6. Esri Allbritten
    Apr 19, 2011 @ 13:56:44

    Thanks so much for charting this map, Trish. The cover is fantastic! I especially like the lovely yellow, which isn’t used much and so should make the book really pop onscreen. Well done!


  7. MaryC
    Apr 19, 2011 @ 17:34:30

    Trish, Thanks so much for sharing your process with us. I admire your dedication and willingness to branch out. I’m debating whether to buy through Apple for my iPad or for my nook. I have to laugh at my dilemma though because I’m just the kind of reader one would expect to stick solely to print boos. I surprise even myself with how much I love my eReaders.


    • Trish Milburn
      Apr 19, 2011 @ 19:05:07

      I’m the same way, Mary. I didn’t know how well I’d like a Kindle, but I really like it. And it definitely saves space in my house. I already have four stacked bookcases plus stacks of books in the floor.


  8. chanceofbooks
    Apr 19, 2011 @ 18:01:19

    Awesome post! Did you do your own editing for the book? One question I have as many authors release their own works is whether they are foregoing professional or 3rd party editing. I wonder if we will see a rise in experienced editors going rogue as more authors do so as well.


    • mjfredrick
      Apr 19, 2011 @ 18:03:57

      I know Trish did her own because she does third party editing and has a journalism background. That’s the thing that scares me most about doing self-publishing–no editor to catch my boo-boos!


    • Trish Milburn
      Apr 19, 2011 @ 19:08:06

      This book had been read and critiqued by other people before, and before I published I did another round of edits. Alas, my sister told me she found a typo that I’m going to have to go in and fix. Just one letter, but that will drive me batty. 🙂


  9. gillian
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 06:17:47

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us. I do think the cover is beautiful, and until I read the post I had thought it was a NY pub copy. I believe self-publishing is a wonderful avenue for those willing to put in the hard work, and you’ve certainly done so! I plan on getting my Mom a kindle for her birthday, and I’m so excited to know I can buy her your book as well. 🙂


  10. Debbie Pfeiffer
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 12:11:18

    Trish, thanks so much for this concise, yet thorough explanation of the steps you went through. Knowing you, I would expect nothing less! 🙂 And thanks to you and MJ for pointing out another step that’s near and dear to my heart (as one of those nitpicky editors in my day job)–the internal design of the book, including editing and copy editing and proofreading of the text. Another set of (hopefully professional) eyes is always needed. Congrats on this new venture, as well as your new contracts!


  11. Trackback: Carey Corp | Darkly Romantic, Lightly Enchanted: Smart Teen Fiction with a Twist

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