What is Self-Publishing?

Self-publishing is the process of publication done by the author of the work without the involvement of a third-party publisher and is often done at the expense of the author.

The author is expected to handle the costs of publication, marketing, distribution and storage. Generally, it is up to the author to choose whether to use a print-on-demand publishing service or handle the entire project themselves. Every aspect of the project can be put up to bid therefore self-publishing can be much more cost effective and can result in a higher-quality product than vanity publishing. Where vanity publishing is not highly regarded in the literary industry, self-publishing can lead to various levels of success for an author. In this form of publishing the author retains all rights to their work, owns the ISBN and keeps all the proceeds from sales.

General steps to self-publishing

  1. Prepare your manuscript. You cannot publish a book without a polished, finished product. Complete your manuscript and then begin the editing process. Read through your own work looking for inconsistencies, spelling errors, and grammatical mistakes. Asking a friend or family member to read over your work may also be beneficial.
  2. Decide what your goal for the work will be. Outline your expectations for the work such as whether you are looking to publish a best seller or just want your work to be published and distributed for a small reading audience. Decide what you want to come from publishing your manuscript.
  3. Make a business plan. Be reasonable. Outlining upfront how much money you are willing to spend and how much time you can devote to the project, will help you later when you begin to explore various options for self-publishing. Your business plan should include a detailed list of all the services you may need in order to have your project completed.
    • Do some research on the possible markets that would best fit your book.
    • Consider how you will promote your book. Doing some preliminary research will help you later on.
    • Look into grant programs for writers. There are opportunities for writers to gain different forms of financial assistance, as a writer you will have to do some research here or contact a writers’ association (such as the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild)
    • Expect to pay on average about 1$/book for a minimum print run of several thousand copies. You may also be charged for layout help, editing, design, and for photographs and use of copyrighted material.
  4. Search for a way to have your work published. Check all avenues that you may possibly use to self-publish your work. Talk to printers and binders, asking about price, quality and what other works they may have done recently. Seek information on print-on-demand publishers and electronic publishers, some of these companies offer package deals which include a variety of services including editing, printing and binding. Keep track of the estimated costs for each possible avenue you explore, and from there decide which route will best suit your business plan and set goals.
  5. Get all permissions and copyrights. If you are using any photographs, art, or quotes you will most likely need to get some form of permission. Use a contract for this process (see “Business of Writing” for sample/template permissions). If you are unsure whether you need to get permissions check out the Government of Canada website or see Access Copyright for details. Remember, when you use someone else’s words, their image or photographs/art you will need permission
  6. Consider hiring a professional book designer and editor. The professional book designer can help you with layout, in order to avoid sloppiness. An editor is an important tool. They are professionals and can read your manuscript looking for a variety of problematic areas, making sure that your work is the best that it can possibly be.
  7. Decide on the layout. For this you will have to consider a variety of aspects including:
    • Internal design: font, paper weight, and dimensions.
    • Cover Design
    • Binding Style
    • Design Software
    • Books Price and Book Runs
  8. Get an ISBN. ISBNs do not indicate who owns the final product; rather they indicate the publisher of record and are the means retailers, wholesalers, and other book buyers find books. (See information below.)
  9. Get a barcode if you plan on selling your book through retailers. This is basically a barcode with your ISBN number. (See further information below.)
  10. Cataloguing in Publishing (CIP) data is crucial to include in your book for proper cataloguing in libraries. It enables the cataloguing of books in the Canadian library system, and makes those books more discoverable in the Canadian market
  11. Production. There are various steps to the book production process and as a self-publisher you will be in charge of overseeing each step (unless you have paid someone to do specific services). Book production includes:
    • Copy editing
    • Galley
    • Proofing
    • Printing
  12. Contact bookstores and distributors. As the self-publisher it will most likely be up to you to establish contacts and take care of the actual distribution.
  13.  Marketing and Promotional Campaigns. As a self-publisher you will have to market and promote both your work and yourself. There are multiple steps you may consider taking in order to successfully promote your book.
    • Book launch- this will introduce you as an author as well as your new book and may include a short book reading.
    • Advertisement production
    • Go through your contact list, asking local bookstores to set up readings and book signings
    • Set up an author’s website, post on Facebook and twitter. Social networking on the internet is a good way to stir up interest. You may be surprised by the interest in your work.
  14. Remember contracts. Each step that you take in hiring or paying for services requires a written contract. This includes contracts with printers, binders, print-on-demand publishers, editors, designers and any other business arrangements. Contracts are meant to protect you and those who are involved in the process and can be as simple as a single sheet of paper outlining the price, timeline and services to be rendered.

Self-publishing terms 

  • Copy Editing: The work that an editor does to improve the formatting, style and accuracy of your text. Generally, this process does not involve changing the substance of the text. At this point your text should be nearly ready for typesetting and printing.
  • Galley: A preliminary version of publication meant for review and final proofreading. These proofs may not be bound or cut and can be used for proofreading purposes or for promotions and reviews.
  • Proofing: The read through of the typeset material, ensuring that the content matches the manuscript in terms of spelling or usage, grammar and punctuation.
  • Printing: The actual process of producing the finished book, prior to binding. It is the process of reproducing text and image.
  • Binding: The physical process of assembling a book. There are multiple types of binding processes. The process involves bringing together the pages of the book within the cover.

What is an ISBN?

An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a 13-digit number that uniquely identifies each specific edition of a book or book-like product, including books, pamphlets, educational kits, CD-roms and other digital/electronic publications. The ISBN (changed in 2007 from 10 digits to 13) allows for the efficient identification, distribution, control of inventory and handling. This 13-digit number is divided into five parts of variable length; each part is separated by a hyphen or a space.

The five parts of an ISBN, in order, are:

  • the EAN (European article number) product code: the first three digits of the EAN bar code number;
  • the group identifier: a single digit following the EAN product code that specifies the country or language in which the book is published;
  • the publisher prefix: a number that identifies a particular publisher within the preceding group;
  • the title identifier: a number that identifies a particular title or edition of a title issued by the preceding publisher; and
  • the check digit: a single digit at the end of the ISBN that validates the accuracy of the ISBN.

How to get an ISBN

  1. Visit the Canadian ISBN Service System (CISS) for English-language publishers and for French-language publishers.
  2. Follow the online instructions for registration.
  3. There is no cost for registering and receiving your ISBN number

What is an EAN Barcode?

An EAN bar code is simply a unique series of digital numbers that allows retailers to easily track sales of your product within their inventory system. Also known as a UPC (Universal Product Code), the barcode contains the ISBN number which has been transferred into an OCR (Optical character Readable) scannable image. 

How to Get a Barcode

Any reputable printing company will be able to supply you with a barcode. This is usually done as part of the printing services, though it may cost you a small amount. A barcode can only be generated once you have an ISBN number.

The bar code must be placed on the back cover and printed in black ink on a white background.

For more information, visit:

What is Cataloguing in Publication?

It enables the cataloguing of books in the Canadian library system, and makes those books more discoverable in the Canadian market. Through the legal deposit program, Library and Archives Canada collects books published in Canada intended for sale and increases their discoverability in the Canadian market. (


Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing: Offers writers a means to self-publish their work. It provides a variety of services for Prairie writers, helping them to self-publish and have their stories told.

Blitz Print: An online print on demand publisher that offers both package deals and stand-alone services. The site also answers some basic questions concerning the printing process.

Benchmark Press: This company provides a variety of services to help writers get their works published.

Driver Works Inc: Helps writers to self-publish.

WEBook: A website that provides both publishing services and social networking.

Kindle Direct Publishing: Self-publish eBooks and paperbacks for free with Kindle Direct Publishing, and reach millions of readers on Amazon.

Amazon Publishing: A leading trade publisher of fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books with a mission to empower outstanding storytellers and connect them with readers worldwide. 

SWG Thanks Our Funders