How to Start Publishing

Where did I start? A summary of my road to publishing.

I started writing non-fiction about 10 years ago due to bouts of insomnia. I published my first book in 2010. It was about coffee and its uses as a spice. Then I wrote about tea and its use as an herb. What followed? I created a company to continue my passion for publishing.

Why did I name my company CTG Publishing?

It comes from the two-part series mentioned above which I called Coffee Tea Gastronomy so CTG Publishing. I originally conceptualized the two books as one. On the advice of my mother, I decided to split it into two books.

What have I published?

I have published over 55 books and serials which cover a broad range of subjects.

How do I decide what to publish?

Usually this is driven by curiosity or my desire to share interesting facts and publications that were originally published in French. Although my French is somewhat rusty, I can still read and translate fairly well.

I have mainly published non-fiction but I am writing a few fiction stories at the moment and hope to publish them in the near future. I am currently writing the character descriptions and outlines.

What programs do I use to publish?

Layout: InDesign and a Notepad. This is how I learned to use InDesign. I am self-taught.

Publishing: Notepad for HMTL and InDesign for HTML and ePubs. I originally learned to code HTML while getting my MBA at California State University Long Beach (CSULB) and have most of a web coding certificate from the University of Washington.

Graphics: Photoshop and Illustrator. I am an avid photographer and have been using Photoshop for over 10 years and originally started with Corel Draw. I have been using Illustrator since 2017. I am self-taught on both programs.

From print to digital.

I originally self-published books and serials through CreateSpace which enables authors to create and distribute print publications. It is now owned by Amazon. This allowed you to sell printed books on Amazon as well as through booksellers and universities. I have had mixed success with CreateSpace due to their quality which has not always been consistent.

There are many publishers today to choose from and the pricing has come down considerably for color books. In fact, now you can even submit and publish a mix of black and white and color pages which was unheard of in 2010.

While creating the print editions, I also decided to publish the books as digital versions through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing and Barnes and Noble Press. In 2010, I didn't think much of this platform but decided I wanted to learn how to publish through these channels. This, however, has turned out to be the channels on which I sell the most of my publications.

The difference between publishing digital and print publications.

It is all in the format. When you  submit your manuscript for print, you need to submit a properly formatted PDF for the interior and a PDF for the cover. The images should be at least 300 dpi. For digital, at the time, text was the easiest to publish, images were more difficult, and HTML was the format of choice for the most predictable results. You also have to submit the file, if in HTML, as a zip file.

What are the publishing standards and formats?

In 2010, the guidelines consisted of one FAQ page on Amazon. This has expanded considerably. Today, you can also refer to the Amazon Kindle Publishing Guidelines: How to make books available for Kindle devices and applications PDF. The industry standards have also matured and what was originally the International Digital Publishing Forum has now been absorbed by the World Wide Web Consortium W3C.

What and where have I sold my publications.

Since 2010, I have mainly sold the digital editions of my publications, which now equate to about 55 books and serials. The main channel has been Amazon. I sell these on a consistent basis and have a top 10 almost every month. The top publications have been botanical and zoological prints.

Does this mean that I publish interesting things? It could be and you do get to see feedback. The great thing about Amazon is not only the feedback you get for your publications on the site which, for me, has mostly been positive, but you also can see who is interested in your publications through another property owned by Amazon, goodreads. It is really interesting to see the who is interested!

How you start is with a manuscript and a plan.

If you are interested in writing, are a photographer, or an artist, you can assemble your manuscript and/or images. Although you really only need a Word doc for Amazon, you may also want to consider hiring someone who will layout and create your book with InDesign.

You will also need a publisher account on Amazon and other channels such as Barnes and Noble.

Partnering with a publisher has its benefits and disadvantages. Your revenue will most likely include a revenue split between you and the publisher. You also take on the risk of the reputation and solvency of the publisher. The advantage some publishers provide is the marketing of your book.

How do you determine the price of your book?

Amazon's can help you determine the printing costs (for print) and the royalties and delivery costs for both print and digital. Barnes and Noble also provides some information related to costs.

Keep in mind that the more images you include in your book, the more the delivery costs. You might be wise to also consider the cost of any marketing and the price point for other books in your genre and for each channel.

How do you promote your book?

There are many resources to help with marketing your book. Sellers like Amazon provides some advertising programs.

Other ways to help promote your book for either exposure or for social proof  include:

  • Readings
  • Sending copies to media, groups, and social influencers
  • Your own site or guest blog posts on other relevant sites
  • Associations
  • Trade shows and book fairs
  • Libraries

I plan to expand this section in a blog post with the help of a few authors and publishers.

Questions? Contact

Melanie Widmann

About the Author

Hi! I am Melanie Widmann. I am a Canadian and SoCal Ex-Pat who currently resides in Pittsburgh, PA. I have been writing since I was a child. I was encouraged by my mother but only started to consider this as a career when I entered the field of marketing. I take great pride in my ability to write for B2B companies as well as some come consumer articles to support CTG publications. This is, in part, because I like to take research and then present information in a way that helps to shape a brand and industries. In my spare time, I enjoy working on projects with other passionate people, taking photographs, going on road trips, and learning about the world. You can reach me at