How to Self-Publish a Novel: Uploading to Online Retailers

How to Self-Publish a Novel: Uploading to Online Retailers

Welcome to Part Two of my blog series, How to Self-Publish a Novel. I previously worked as the in-house editor for a boutique literary agency’s assisted self-publishing program. During my time there, I worked with hybrid authors on their independent projects from start to finish. In this series I’ll outline, step-by-step, how to self-publish your manuscript.

Even after you’ve prepared your manuscript, determined your metadata, and have an ISBN and copyright application ready to go, you’re not done yet. Part of self-publishing means deciding where you want to self-publish.

You may be thinking, I want to self-publish everywhere, of course! However, there are a lot of publishing platforms out there at your disposal, and it’s important to research each one and determine if it suits your needs.

In this installment of How to Self-Publish a Novel, we’ll discuss two key elements to keep in mind:

  1. Examples of Online Retailers
  2. Deciding Where to Sell

Familiarizing yourself with each publishing opportunity out there is a great first step to take toward deciding where you’d like to share your novel. Let’s get started!

1. Examples of Online Retailers

Once your manuscript files are ready to go and you’ve compiled all the necessary information about your book, it’s time to research the available online retailers. From Amazon to IngramSpark and everything in between, each platform offers its own benefits to publishing through them. It’s up to you to determine whether they will meet your needs.

Though there are many more options out there to consider, I’ll discuss five popular publishing platforms:

  • Amazon KDP
  • B&N Press
  • Apple Books
  • Kobo
  • IngramSpark

Amazon KDP

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) recently merged with Amazon Createspace so you can keep track of both your eBooks and print-on-demand books all in one place. When you upload to Amazon KDP, you’ll select a group of keywords and categories (so have that predetermined list handy!) and decide whether you want to enable Digital Rights Management (which prevents the unauthorized distribution of your Kindle files). You can also choose your distribution territories and the percentage of royalties you’d like from predetermined options. 

KDP also offers a program called KDP select, which, if you choose to enroll in it, means you must exclusively publish with KDP. In other words, you can’t publish through any other platforms. What’s the benefit? Your book will automatically be enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. You’ll also have a chance to earn higher royalties.

Finally, you can choose to put your book up for sale immediately or set up a preorder for a release date in the future.

B&N Press

B&N Press is another great self-publishing platform that will put your book up for sale on the Barnes & Noble website. You’ll want to ensure you have the following ready as you begin to upload your book:

  • Your book’s information (title, keywords, categories, description)
  • Your book’s ePub file (and print file, if applicable) and cover image
  • Your pricing information

Once you have all of this ready, you’ll be able to upload your book in a similar manner as to KDP.

Apple Books

Apple Books (formerly iBooks) is a bit different in that, in order to access the platform, you’ll need to download iTunes Producer. From there, you’ll be able to upload your ePub file and cover image, include a sample for the Apple Books store, and provide other information about your book.


Kobo is a popular eBook retailer in Canada, which also offers an e-reader device through which readers can download your book. While this may be the first time you’re hearing of Kobo, don’t miss out on those Canadian eBook sales and be sure to upload your ePub file to their platform.


IngramSpark offers you the opportunity to create high quality print books and eBooks. If you choose to publish through them, you’ll get the chance to be featured in their product catalog, which allows your book to be purchased by libraries, bookstores, and other retail outlets. Through their extensive distribution networks, you’ll also be able to publish on Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, and more. 

It’s worth noting, however, that IngramSpark does charge a setup fee for each book you upload onto their platform.

Having a basic understanding of what platforms are available sets up a great foundation for your next task: deciding where to sell your book.

2. Deciding Where to Sell

It’s okay to feel overwhelmed with the options available to you. In fact, it’s normal! That’s why you should do your homework and lay out your plan beforehand. Then, as you do your research, there are a few key questions you should ask yourself:

  • What is your goal? What is your goal for self-publishing? Do you want to reach as many distribution channels as possible, such as through IngramSpark? Or, do you want to take advantage of the KDP Select program and potentially reach more readers that way?
  • What features do you need? Do you want the ability to set a preorder date? Choose several categories and keywords rather than just two or three? Update your book file once it has already been published? Make sure the platforms you choose offer these capabilities.
  • How do you plan to market? Some self-publishing platforms offer a catalog, like IngramSpark, or entry into programs like Kindle Unlimited. If you’re planning to rely more on marketing opportunities like these, you’ll want to choose a platform that offers such a thing. However, if you plan to leverage your own marketing techniques to sell your book, these programs may not be as important to you.

Deciding where to sell your book takes a little digging and research, but there are great opportunities all over for you to get your book on readers’ radars. Just think about your goals, the features you want to take advantage of, and your marketing plan beforehand.

Taking the plunge and putting your book up for sale takes guts, and you should be proud of yourself for making it this far. Hopefully this guide helps as you finalize your plans to publish and see your original idea to fruition!