Publishing Checklist: Making Books

When I started Queen of Swords Press in 2017, one of the things that I knew I wanted was a checklist of the steps to publishing a book in multiple formats and getting it out the door. None of the ones I ran across met all my needs for running through a series of steps to publication in both ebook and print format. I figured it out as I went, but never got around to putting it in a document until now. This is my current process, which should hopefully make for a good jumping off point.

Things to prep before release:


  • Cover art planning – what do other books in your genre look like? You don’t want to reuse stock photos or art that everyone else is using, but you do want the book to have a look that is recognizable to your potential readers.
  • Get your manuscript edited and sort out your cover art and print book design.
  • Get an ebook formatting program if you’re doing your own.


  • Decide what platforms you want your books to be on and what formats you want to publish in.
  • Buy ISBNs: you can get these from Bowker or in some cases, from your distributors – you need them if you want your print book to show up for libraries and bookstores.
  • Pricing research – what do books in your book’s genre/subgenre cost, on average? What’s your cost for producing your book?
  • Account setup for distribution platforms, whichever ones you’re using – Amazon, Ingram, Smashwords/Draft2Digital, etc.
  • Build a website and set up social media accounts, if you don’t have them already.
  • Announcements – how are people going to find out about your book? Where do you plan to send these and when do you need to send them? Many venues, forthcoming book lists, etc., require lead time. Getting your book listed in the Library of Congress’s catalogue, big review sites like Publishers Weekly, etc., require more lead time. You need cover art, book description, ISBN, etc. ready to go 3-4 (sometimes more) months in order to get considered by these venues. Plan ahead.
  • Compile a list of review sites to send the book to when you have ARCs.
  • Request any blurbs or early reviews that you are hoping to get.

Things to do shortly before your book comes out:

  • Create a press kit, which includes:
    • A small image of the cover art in 300 dpi
    • Relevant ISBNs and cover prices for each format
    • Number of pages
    • Release Date
    • The name and contact for the publisher 
    • Buy Links
    • Review clips (2-3 lines and the name of the reviewer)
    • A short description of the book (less than 400 words).
    • A tagline – this can be a short description of the book or the mood of the book. For instance, our forthcoming title has this one: “One week to save the child, bargain with Death and get the girl…” Another is: “Dapper. Lesbian. Capybara. Pirate.” This attracts attention and will often get people to pick up the book for a closer look.
    • A longer description of the book, generally 2-3 paragraphs. This can also double  as your book blurb; you’ll need it for both the back cover (print) and distribution websites.
    • An excerpt clearly flagged as an excerpt – generally about 500 words. I try to pick a point that isn’t very far into the book to avoid spoilers but is reasonably fast-paced and compelling.
  • Create a press release, which is used for media outlets and other locations that require them. This is shorter and punchier than a press kit and also can be added as a downloadable document on your website for press contacts.
  • Set up some release events. This can be anything from a reading to a book signing to a blog tour or an online reading. Preferably a mix of online and in person events spread out over a couple of months, if you can manage it.
  • Load up your files and your cover art and get those preorders out there.
  • Tell people about it on your website and social media and convention panels and other appropriate venues (but not in places to which you have not been invited to promote your books).

And you’re set! I don’t have a process for audiobooks yet, but imagine it will be similar, apart from the production portion of it. Now get out there and sell some books!

Catherine Lundoff

Catherine Lundoff is a Minneapolis-based award-winning writer and editor. Her recent articles and essays have appeared in such venues as Library JournalNightmare Magazine, the SFWA BlogThe World Remains Mysterious and Queer Voices: Poetry, Prose and Pride. She is the publisher at Queen of Swords Press.