When authors choose to become publisher and distributor for their own work, they take responsibility and pay for the entire process of writing, publishing, and marketing their book. This means taking on numerous tasks and responsibilities but as a consequence the author/self-publisher owns all the rights to their own publication. Quality is paramount in self-publishing. Work needs to look professional. To be successful, make sure that your work is not just good – it has to be great!

Most commonly authors self-publish ebooks, also known as digital publishing. To read more about digital publishing visit the NZSA Digital Publishing page; information on ebooks can also be found at Amazon and Smashwords.

Some authors employ a publishing consultant to do this work for them. These are sometimes referred to as vanity publisher or co-publishers. If you choose to follow this route, make sure you do your research. There are legitimate co-publishing operations but there are also plenty of vanity publishers and scams. Check co-publishing agreements thoroughly and avoid fraudulent publishers.

The First Step

Whether you are publishing yourself or approaching a publisher or co-publisher, we recommend getting a professional assessment to assist you in taking your manuscript to a professional level. NZSA has contact details and information on assessors and editors.

Illustrations and photographs

Digital illustrations and photographs can be used for book layout. If you are planning on scanning hard copy illustrations and photographs ensure that they are of high quality. Poorly scanned photographs can detract from an otherwise professional-looking book.

Preparing a Brief

Your book designer will need a brief including the parameters for design, page layout, paper and use of colour. Most importantly, it should communicate what you want to get across to your readers.  Other considerations include who is your target audience?  Is there going to be copy on the back or inside cover? It pays to define your budget and get quotes before you start.

Typesetting and Design

When you submit your work, remember to send all of it, including dedications, acknowledgements, text files, index, and your biography and blurb. Be sure to include your imprint page. Details of normal page layout are in our Self-Publishing – A Writer’s Guide. Additionally, the Picture Licensing Universal System may prove useful during this process. You can use this system to find the copyright information for any image uploaded in PLUS. When deciding on a cover design, be sure to consider these ideas from your book: The theme or key image; The main character; A pivotal scene. Consider these questions: Should you use a dominant colour? Are there any visual cues that will identify your work? Is the book part of a series? Should it match any of your previous works? Is there a painting that you feel represents your book?

Important note: in both the print and digital markets, a strong cover is vital to success. People do judge books by their covers, so be sure that your work has a gripping, high quality image.

Printing and Binding

Your designer will send PDF files through to the printer formatted to their specifications. It is absolutely essential that you choose good quality paper and binding. Nothing can let down a self-published book more than poor publication quality. List of local printers can be found on the Publishing Page.

Marketing and Distribution

This is one of the toughest areas for self-published writers. Marketing Your Book has a section that will guide you through the process.

Marketing is about getting your book to your target audience. You can do this through booksellers, back of room sales, personal sales, direct mail, advertising, a book launch, databases, libraries, publicity through various mediums, and promotional materials. Booksellers will rarely buy books unless they are received from a mainstream publisher.

Try and get at least 50 copies into libraries, which enables you to register for the Public Lending Right.


Distribution is another difficult aspect of self-publishing. Registering your book with Nielsen BookData and BookScan will help prospective buyers find your book. While Bookmarket can be useful while attempting to sell your book.


Keeping track of sales and expenses is important. If you are GST registered, you will need to keep clear records for tax purposes.


ISBN – All books must have an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) unique to your book which allows it to be sold easily. Each format of your book needs a different ISBN (i.e. the ebook, paperback, hardcover, audiobook will all have different ISBN’s). Having an ISBN means your book can be easily found on Bookshop Management Systems, bookselling websites and library catalogues. Most systems will not be able to list your book if it doesn’t have a unique ISBN. Re-using an old ISBN will lead to unnecessary confusion and loss of sales.

If you are ONLY going to publish with Amazon you can use their identification number but note this is NOT an ISBN and will not be accepted by other sellers.

How to get for an ISBN for your book:

  • ISBNs can be obtained free of charge by applying online through the National Library of NZ website. You will be asked to provide copies of the final books to the National Library in return.
  • You can buy ISBN’s if needed from Bowker or Nielsen, though note these are expensive.
  • If you are setting up your book to print on demand you can go through IngramSpark, they provide free ISBN’s but this may be limited to certain territories. They have a handy video explaining more on their information page.

It is also a good idea to apply for a Cataloguing-in-Publication Record (CIP record).


Once you have your ISBN it needed to go on a barcode on the back of your book jacket. Booksellers will not stock your book unless it displays a barcode. Here are some links to help you get a barcode:

We suggest reading blogs written by people who have gone through this process before. Your research may lead you to other options: if you are a member and have used and recommend a barcode service please let us you.

Legal Deposit

After printing and binding, you are legally obliged to send two copies to the Legal Deposit Office.

Publishing Consultants offer various services ranging from editing and ghost-writing to the help through the publication process. See here for contacts.

Joan Druett had a go at ePublishing to Kindle herself. You can see her blog on how she did so (with seven tutorials) here.

Foner Books also has information for authors wishing to self-publish here.