What does it take to become a self-published author?

It has been on my heart for some time to share all of the things I’ve learned as a black self-published author.

Why do I distinguish myself as a black self-published author versus just a self-published author. Well for one, I am black. For two, as long as publishing is disproportionately white, black self-published authors aren’t going anywhere. We are only going to increase in numbers. And, it can be a rocky road when you are learning a new industry as you go, which is why it brings me great joy when I can help other authors bring their dreams of publishing to reality.

What does it take to become a self-published author?

  • Research
  • Content! A story, poem, pictures, something
  • A layout designer 
  • An illustrator 
  • An editor
  • Time
  • A good reason to self-publish that will keep you going
  • A place to sell your books online
  • A book marketing plan
  • A book business model
  • An ISBN
  • Money

Here’s my self-publishing story

– I started with a completed poem that I believed could become a children’s picture book and resonate with girls everywhere. I think it was important that the content was complete because the writing process is sometimes the most challenging part.

– I contacted a friend who happens to be a former design professor who introduced me to an illustrator. The first illustrator did not work out and from that I learned that direction, sketches and a contract are all very important when working with an illustrator. I created a Pinterest board to guide the illustrator on the look I wanted. You can find layout designers and illustrators on, or

– I told him how many illustrations I wanted, and I got sketches before he was completely done so that I could approve of the direction. 

– I worked with both the illustrator and designer on the title page, dedication page, back cover text, about the author page, the book size and the number of spreads. A children’s book picture book on average has 36 pages and no more than 1000 words.

– Once the illustrations were completed, my layout designer put the words and the images together. I then reviewed the draft, made sure there were no typos or rogue punctuation marks and then I asked her to prepare the PDF. There are many book printing sites. I used I got ONE copy first to review and I really liked the quality. 

– Once the file was uploaded I started to spread the message about my book on Facebook using the cover. I shared it with family and friends about why I wrote the book in the first place and they were all prepared to support. Encourage your family and friends to share your messages on social media. The reality is though, your circle will only take you so far in terms of book sales. You also need to have a plan to sell to people you don’t know.

– To continue the momentum I posted again when the link to purchase was available. Now, thebookpatch will give you a space in their online store and send you royalties if you want them to, but the shipping for buyers is often higher that way. This site will also give you a Buy Now button to put on a website if you have one designed. My designer friend is also a website-builder and she gave me a simple landing page with a Paypal link so that I could sell the books myself (and sign them). That part is completely up to you and how much time you want to spend fulfilling orders etc. 

– I really wanted to also get my book into a local bookstore so I requested (via a website form) for my local store to carry my book and they told me that I had to go through a distributor. Bookstores don’t want to work with 1000 indie authors. There are two main book distributors: Baker & Taylor and IngramSpark. I decided to use IngramSpark. The setup was approximately $249 with the ISBN but doing this gave bookstores and libraries the opportunity to purchase my books on-demand without me being in the middle of it. Once I did this, my local store, Joseph-Beth booksellers was happy to pick it up! 

So in summary what is the process?

  1. Write something dope.
  2. Get your content edited by an editor. 
  3. Get illustrations if necessary.
  4. Work with a layout designer to make pages.
  5. Make sure the cover, title page, dedication page, back cover and author page are all taken care of.
  6. Build momentum and kick-off marketing efforts using the cover. 
  7. Proofread before production.
  8. Print and prepare to sell online.
  9. Work with a distributor if you want to sell in stores.
  10. Hustle.

This is just the start of more articles on this topic. IMO there is so much to cover within the process and I am happy to share. I don’t really believe it should be a secret.