Ramblings About Stuff

Self-Publishing, Step by Step, Part Two


Self-Publishing, Step by Step

Part Two: Making Things Pretty

Last week, we talked about writing the fucking book that you have been half-assed dreaming about writing. This week, I’ll throw you a few links to help you format your book, make (or hire) cover art, and clean up typos.

L.M. Bennett’s List of Low- and No-Cost Resources to Publish Your Book

Book Covers (Make Your Own)



  • It’s free

  • You are allowed an unlimited amount of digital copies of things you create.

  • You don’t need a great deal of graphic design knowledge to use; you can tweak any pre-made design to fit your project. See below. Took about three minutes, start to finish.

  • You can quite literally build a marketing campaign around this site.


  • You’re limited to 2,000 of prints for any project. After you exceed that number, you owe Canva money.

  • No photoshop-level image editing; no shadows on text without being creative, gradiation, limited filtering. You would have to piggyback Canva’s tools with a real image editor.

  • Highly addictive.

  • You may only upload custom fonts with the paid option.




  • Free to use!

  • More image editing options than Canva. You can embed fonts to use.

    (A note on custom fonts used in cover art: if you are going to charge people to download your books, make sure you purchase a commercial licence, or you use a font which allows commercial use without a fee.)


  • Complicated interface. Even as a Photoshop user, I find the interface a little intimidating.

Free Stock Image Sites

Pexels and Unsplash has a ton of royalty-free images, which are even free when you use them commercially as book covers. Just to CYA, you should credit the photographer, and if you intend to charge for the books, shooting them a donation would be appreciated. Everybody has to eat, not just you.


I got you. Take a gander on over to Bewitching Book Stock. The images are not free, but they are especially useful for POC writers who like to write paranormal, sci-fi or urban fantasy characters that look like them. Neo-Stock and The Stock Alchemist has great options as well, as well as more POC character variants.

Cover Design Tool


  • Good, basic photo editor to make book covers. The decorative text options make text pop against even a simple background photo with one click. You can vary your text effects by messing with hue and saturation options. Unlike Canva, you can add shadow effects to your text.

  • It has book sizes already built in.


  • Freezes up and destroys work, especially when it has more than two layers. This has happened to me twice already.

  • Large photos can be a pain to resize to fit the box.

  • There’s no selection tool, only an eraser tool, so removing a person or object from one background and putting them on another is challenging.



  • It’s free!

  • It’s a robust image editor.

  • You can use fonts you have downloaded/own.


  • You can’t use custom Photoshop filters or brushes.

  • You have to know the exact specifications of the image you wish to create.

Book Covers (Buy Them Premade)

The Book Designer seems to be reputable in that each book cover is sold one time and one time only.

Book Covers (Have Them Made)

You can go to fiverr and find an artist for a variety of budgets to make your cover. Just take care to scroll through images and make sure that what you’re seeing is an accurate representation of the artists work. I got burned here once like that. Never again.

Olivia Pro Design comes highly recommended by my Voices of Color colleague, Victoria Wilder.

Book Formatting Links

Derek Murphy, who is pretty much the Grand Poobah of self-publishing (and the creator of the aforementioned Book Design Tool) has some pre-made templates to help you make your book look good and uniform on the inside, too. This is a service that people actually pay good money for. Sign up for the templates, stay for the vast wealth of knowledge he holds about self-publishing and profit.

Book Editing Software

Book editing software like grammarly and white smoke have an advantage in that they are programs. The “eyes” of a computer do not miss things the same way human eyes do after hours and hours of reading. This makes it the perfect line editor. The bad part is that some of the most helpful and robust (sorry, love that word) features are hidden behind a paywall. The downside is that they are programs, and they can only suggest changes. It’s still up for the human to look over the changes and approve or discard them.


White Smoke

Book Editors

If you created your own covers, you probably now have a bit more money in your budget to spend on editing services. Polish up your book as best as you can, line by line with software. Then, enlist a few writers and readers willing to beta-read your work and give feedback to catch any problems with flow, characterization and plot. Then, if you wish, you can take the next step by sending your baby off to a developmental editor. Reedsy matched me with Jay Blotcher, who edited my debut book, The Accidental Tsundere, and our creative synergy and blunt sense of humor were a perfect fit.

And, part two is done! Next week, we will finish out our series with tips and tricks to help you market your book.

L.M. Bennett is a contributing author to the Voices of Color Podcast, and the author of B-Sides and Other Misheard Lyrics: Short Stories and Flash Fiction.