Fancy yourself as a bit of an author? Good for you. You've come up with a fantastic idea and now, finally, you're finishing writing your book.

It's now that the really hard work begins: getting your work of art published. Unfortunately, whether your book is fiction or non-fiction, it's never been tougher to become a published author.

The well-worn, rocky path to publishing usually begins with attempting to find a literary agent by sending them three perfectly crafted chapters and a clear synopsis. Sadly, agents usually prefer authors who have a proven track record.

It's likely that you'll just end up with a file full of rejection letters. But don't despair. If you still believe your book's good enough and you want to get it out there for people to read, you can take the instantly viable route of publishing your book yourself.

Once considered to be at the substandard end of the industry, self-publishing has now become a perfectly respectable route.

The good news is there have never been more online sites offering to help print and publish your work. Better still, it has never been more affordable to self publish in small amounts (100 or 1,000 copies, for example) either.

Register your book

Publishing is simply the process of printing your book and making it publicly available, whether this involves wholesale distribution to Waterstones or selling it from your own website. Essentially, self-publishing is like setting up a new business; it takes a lot of effort and a lot of work.

Once you realise that, you won't go far wrong. To help you avoid making a wrong turn at the first junction, here's where to begin. First you need to register your book with the ISBN Agency section of Nielsen's Book Data service. Do this as soon as you plan to self-publish, as it can take months for Nielsen to get the details to you.

It's only possible to buy banks of 10 (or more) ISBN numbers at a time, and each purchase costs £107. Once you've been provided with your unique ISBN number, your title will appear on Nielsen's PubWeb system and other publishing datafeeds, meaning that prospective book sellers can order your book if they wish.

The PubWeb system also automatically links to www.amazon.co.uk and other online book sellers, so you can sell your title to the world. Brilliant.

Neilsen pubweb

PUBWEB: No, not a list of pubs but a list of published books and their relevant ISBN numbers

You can then use the ISBN number to produce a barcode, which is crucial if you plan to try getting your title stocked in book shops – they'll need to scan it in order for your title to go through their internal payment system. There are plenty of websites offering free barcode creation software: check out www.barcodesinc.com and www.barcodegen.com for a couple of good examples.