Self Publishing Your Novel: A Guide for Screenwriters

If you’ve considered converting your screenplay to a novel, and you’re interested in self-publishing that novel, this article is for you.  With the growing interest in pre-existing intellectual property, many writers are publishing their own novels as a way to build awareness and a “fan base” for their characters and stories – with the goal of garnering attention from literary agents in Hollywood – who are starting to take self-published books more seriously as major franchises are discovered from self-published books that arose out of obscurity.

Self Publishing Is Not For The Faint of Heart

There’s a reason it’s called self-publishing. The work will fall squarely on you. Unless you have the budget to hire people, you will be the publisher, editor, copywriter, publicist, webmaster, and marketing department. You will decide everything: from the trim size of the finished product to the cover art; the copy on the back of the book all the way down to what the web site looks like and the list price. Exciting? Yes. Intimidating? Hell yeah. My thoughts:

  • Conventional wisdom is to exhaust traditional publishing options before striking out on your own. You’ll need to decide whether or not to pursue traditional publishing for your book.
  • This is going to be a lot of work. Most of it’s going to fall on you.
  • The average self-published book will sell fewer than 100 copies. The odds will be against you, but let’s be honest, if the odds bothered you, you wouldn’t be reading this.
  • Google self-publishing. Read about it in Writer’s Digest. Familiarize yourself with everything you can find about the process as soon as possible. You will make a number of key decisions, and I can’t stress this enough: do your homework.

Getting Started

There are numerous options for an independent author. Many companies like iUniverse offer packages providing assistance through the process, while others like CreateSpace or LuLu will let you go it alone (with the option of purchasing their services, of course). Which one you choose will depend on your comfort level, needs, and budget.

  • Some publishers have a minimum run for your book, while others offer print-on-demand (as people order the book, it’s printed and shipped). I didn’t want a garage full of books, so I leaned toward print-on-demand publishers.
  • Going fully digital and skipping print altogether is an option, but will limit your reach.

I chose CreateSpace because there was no up-front cost, I could choose to purchase additional services if I wanted (but was under no obligation to), the tight integration with (CreateSpace is owned by, and the ability to publish for Kindle and print simultaneously. A few things to keep in mind:

  • If at all possible, use a template provided by your publisher when writing your book. I wrote my novel in a plain Word file and converted to a CreateSpace template toward the end. Reformatting the book was a nightmare, resulting in additional work right as I wanted to launch.
  • How far can you get before spending money? In my experience, pretty far. Expect to spend something. If you invest in nothing else, a professional edit (at least a line edit for typos, grammar and punctuation) and a professional cover are critical. I got all the way to the cover before spending anything.
  • Don’t be afraid to call in favors from your friends and family. I was able to get feedback, a professional edit, and marketing advice for free by asking. Some people will be excited to work on a creative project. Case in point – my cover. I approached some comic book artist friends, offered them some money, and got exactly what I wanted. I also got 4 images for my book trailer and paid an actress to do a voiceover…all for less than what CreateSpace would have charged for the cover alone.
  • General advice is to target e-readers like the Kindle or Nook first. I went for both simultaneously. I’ve sold more Kindle copies but print books are significantly more profitable, and having physical copies for reviews and marketing is a good idea. (Not everyone has an e-reader)


In the next installment, I cover the marketing end of self-publishing: getting reviews, setting up a web site, book trailers, and basic SEO (search engine optimization).   Guest post by Tim Morgan, a New Hampshire based writer, independent filmmaker, and author of the self-published zombie novel THE TRIP. When he’s not writing, Tim earns a living as a web developer. You can find out more about Tim, what he’s up to, and what he’s done, at his web site:

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