Online tools to help you publish your own book

You don't need an agent - here's how to self-publish

Design a cover

If you're using a website then things are pretty straightforward, but the independent option is more complex. Let's start with getting the book cover sorted. Although the saying goes 'don't judge a book by its cover', nobody follows that advice, so it's crucial that your design is eye-catching and quickly sums up the content.

To make your book stand out from other self-published titles, invest in a professional designer. They'll do a much better job than you're capable of, understand the market you're aiming for and know what photography or illustration will work best.

They'll also take care of technical stuff like spine widths, merging the front and back cover into one design, producing high resolution imagery in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator and creating a final four-colour friendly, print-ready PDF.

I searched the internet for a while before I found book cover designer that I wanted to work with. He came up with four rough 'mockups' for me to pick from, I selected my favourite and together we developed the idea. A couple of months later, I ended up with a finished illustration and book cover which really reflected the content and tone of the book.

Typeset your work

Next it's time to typeset. It's possible do a fairly respectable (although basic) job of laying out your pages in Word and then outputting an reasonable quality PDF. But that's not ideal. Working in magazine publishing meant that I'm used to working with high-end desktop publishing (DTP) applications like Adobe InDesign. These apps are quick, powerful and mostly easy to use.

Designing multiple text pages, resizing fonts, styling up page numbers and positioning text accurately is much simpler with a comprehensive DTP package. InDesign also makes it very straightforward to produce the necessary press-quality Adobe PDF with helpfully embedded fonts. If you're not willing to pay for an expensive proprietary product, check out open-source alternative Scribus instead.

To appease your eventual printer, make sure your page count is an even number, and put in blank pages if necessary. Take care to include any blank pages that you want to appear at the start, between chapters and at the end.

Remember the 'prelims', too: reserve a page for your biography, and a page to include all the copyright information, publication date, ISBN number and printer information. You might also want to add a page for a dedication. Check out one of your favourite authors' books for examples of prelims.

As we've already discussed, font choice is paramount to making your product look good, so take your time over font selection – and choose wisely. Use a font you already own to avoid copyright infringement, and check with the printers beforehand if you're planning to use an unusual font that they may not have access to.