How To Write A Book
So you want to be an author, eh?
Maybe writing a book has always been a dream of yours.
Maybe you saw other people succeeding in self publishing and said to yourself, “Why not me?”
Or you realized the truth that becoming an author will boost your credibility, audience, business leads, and income to a new level so you desire all of that.
The reasons to write a book are long and obvious. But learning how to write a book is the trickier part, especially if you’re new to this thing.
The good news is you can get there no matter where you’re starting from.
A few summers ago I went from complete darkness to teach myself the ropes of writing a book, and then published my first book in September 2015.
This process produced so many personal and professional results that I actually gained the freedom to quit my job after becoming an author and then wrote a second book in March.
Ok, enough about me. The point is that you don’t need to teach yourself like I did and if you stick with it then you’re going to be an author—I have no doubt about it.
Alright, back to you and writing your book. The logical first move is to obviously come up with your book idea.
If you already have your book idea in mind or want to check the quality of yours, make sure you drill it down until you identify your book’s specific audience and specific benefits to the reader.
Once you complete this, you’re on your way to writing your first book. Let’s move on to step 1.
Step 1: Planning For Success
You’re probably all amped up feeling a mix of nerves and excitement as you’re getting ready to start writing your book. But sorry to burst your bubble. We can’t get started writing yet.
Supposedly Benjamin Franklin coined the saying, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” This phrase applies accurately to life, and even more so to drafting a book.
Too many aspiring authors are stuck in the aspiring stage and never become an author because they get stuck at a certain point.
They miss a few days in a row, which turns into weeks and months, and then they stop writing altogether and put their book on the backburner for someday. Someday could mean next year, in five years, or a decade from now, but they don’t accomplish what they wanted to. And they don’t get the rewards and feeling of satisfaction because of it.
I don’t want that to be you and neither do you. So first we need to make a plan and schedule deadlines to ensure your book gets written. And this makes sense if you think about it.
For example, NASA does not send astronauts to space without a plan and without a return date. That would be a death sentence if the astronauts spent too many months in space because the spaceship would eventually run out of fuel, they would have no food left, or they would die by some other means.
Instead, the entire mission is calculated for the course direction, oxygen levels, time spent in space, the amount of food, and thousands of tiny details. These missions work because of the work upfront and the astronauts executing because their life depends on it.
Now your life doesn’t depend on your work upfront and sticking to your writing deadlines, but your book’s life does.
Realize that the more work you do upfront, the easier the book writing process will go. So let’s set up a foolproof plan to ensure your book gets written.
1. Decide what time you’re going to write.
I find that waking up early before the day starts to get writing out of the way is the only time I can guarantee I’ll get it done.
When I drafted my first book while working during the day at my former sales job, I’d wake up at 6am and write until 7am. No matter what unplanned events happened during the day or night, I knew this hour was mine to write.
While some writers are most productive in the morning, that doesn’t limit you to only writing before the sun rises.
If you struggle to wake up early but you’re allowed to take long lunch breaks at work, draft your book then. If you have a long commute to work on the subway, write during this time. And parents often have too much going on during the morning and day that they get their writing in after their kids go to bed.
My only warning about writing at night is your energy level and focus will be lower after a long day. This can cause you to not get as much done as you hoped.
But only you know your schedule and what time you do your best writing. So as long as you commit to a set time to write each day you can move on.
2. Decide where you’re going to write.
This is not often thought about, but where you write affects your focus and productivity. A distracting environment can throw off your train of thought and waste an entire day of writing.
For example, if you’re a parent is it the best idea to write at home when the kids will be asking for you every five minutes? Probably not.
Or if you work best in silence, is it a good idea to write in the crowded, loud Starbucks? No, because a small, quiet cafe would work better.
So experiment writing at different places—a coffee shop, a local library, or somewhere else—and find what works for you. I personally love to write at a big bookstore like Barnes & Noble because seeing all the books on the shelves inspires me.
Whatever you do, don’t write on your bed—it’s a trap. And once you find your productive spot, stick to it until you finish your book.
3. Set a deadline to finish your book.
Projecting the completion date for your book before you start writing may seem odd, but there’s a reason for it.
In my opinion, the best way to accomplish any goal is to start with the end in mind and then work backward on how you’re going to reach it. When there’s a clear vision and math behind it, it’s easier to execute.
This method also applies to drafting a book. Say your goal is to finish your first draft in 30 days (that’s certainly enough time if you’re writing for an hour, or less, each day).
Since today is February 5, you would set a deadline to finish your first draft by March 5 at 20,000 words. The way you’re going to get there is to write 667 words each day for 30 days straight, which would get you to 20,010 words. (Or you could write 1,000 words a day and get to 30,000 words.)
The main point is that you write in your allotted time each day—or five days a week at the minimum—and reach your daily word count.
Step 2: The Writing Process
The plan is in place, so now it’s time to start writing. Follow these steps to have productive writing sessions.
1. Create an outline.
No matter what type of writing process you use, an outline will be the foundation that you build your book on. So you first want to create an outline by jotting down everything you want to cover in the book.
This is the time to do some research and work smarter by reading books similar to your idea and seeing how they go about constructing their content.
This research can help you form new ideas you want to cover, learn other elements you may not have considered, and improve your knowledge on the subject.
Once you brainstorm enough—don’t overdo it and risk never writing your book—narrow these ideas further so you can organize your book into specific chapters with a logical order.
Then use the writing processes below to fill in the outline and complete your first draft.
2. Hold yourself accountable to write under deadlines.
One way to hold yourself accountable already came up—a daily deadline to write for a certain amount of time or a specific word count. Deadlines will help you stick to your goals.
So commit to writing for 60 minutes straight or drafting 1,000 words each day. If you can fit two hours in to write, then more power to you!
But it’s better to write for one hour each day instead of writing two hours on one day and missing the next two days. One of the key habits of successful writers is daily writing.
Then give yourself weekly deadlines like 7,000 words or something like finishing three chapters. When you break your book into sections, it helps you focus on the task at hand and ignore the overwhelming size of the project.
You also realize how each day plays a part in progressing to the weekly goal and first draft completion date.
And then make your goals public by telling your friends and family, “I’m writing a book,” to give yourself social pressure to do what you say. Tell them to set a reminder in their phone to ask you about your book a week from now.
Plus, tell them your deadline date for your first draft and ask them to call you on that day. Having others hold you accountable can help you get over the hump.
Another writing option.
You’ll still need to create an outline and give yourself deadlines, but after doing that you can write your book by not writing it. That’s right, you can speak it into existence!
If you’re a better speaker or communicator than writer, use a software like Dragon Dictate to dictate your book in real-time. If you can pull this off for draft one, you’ll save yourself hours of time—as it’s much quicker to speak than write.
Or you can use an iPhone app like Voice Memos (pre-downloaded on your phone) to record your voice as you talk through each chapter of your book. Voice Memos doesn’t dictate the words though, so you would need to type your spoken words yourself onto your computer.
While this isn’t as convenient, the advantage is you get to pick and choose what you want transcribed and what you’ll leave out.
Do you need to eat every day? Yes. Do you eat every day? Yes.
So put your book in the same mental framework and tell yourself you need to write every day. It’s easier said than done, but the solutions above work if you stick with them.
Step 3: Staying Motivated To Finish Your Book
You’ve planned out your writing and begun to dig in and write. But how do you stay motivated to finish? These tips help me.
1. Remember why you decided to write this book.
There’s no way you set out to write a book for the heck of it. As I mentioned in the introduction, common reasons to write a book include building an audience, gaining credibility, making money, or sharing a message. Many people write a book for multiple reasons.
So it helps to imagine the future rewards after publishing your book.
When I’m writing I always think about the people I’m going to influence with my message. Even if it’s only one person, the idea that my book is going to change someone’s life empowers me to finish strong. Use this same mindset when you’re writing.
Also, it’s inspiring to know that after all this hard work that you’re going to have the title author next to your name, which no one can take away.
I’m positive your parents, siblings, and friends will be extremely proud of you.
Most importantly is the personal satisfaction you’ll feel from setting a big goal and climbing the mountain to achieve it.
Lastly, becoming an author isn’t all about the money. But remember the sooner you finish, the earlier you can reap the profits from your book.
2. Use the fact that writing inspires more writing.
If you’re struggling to write, it’s likely that you’re self-editing and rewriting too much so you’re getting in your own way. Instead, give yourself the leeway to write whatever comes to mind, knowing in the back of your head that it can always be rewritten later.
Once you get in a rhythm with this relaxed mindset, allow the momentum to carry the entire time. Since writing inspires more writing, the only thing you need to do is get started.
3. Maintain the mindset that you’re finishing this book through hell or high water.
Don’t give an inch to the soft side of you who doubts your ability to finish the book or doubts the final product.
Take ownership that you’re going to finish this book and no one, including yourself, is going to stop you. Kick that doubt out of your mind and look back at all your progress from the beginning to stay positive.
An attitude like that won’t fall to procrastination. It does whatever it needs to finish.
I’d be lying if I said everything will go perfect during this period. Because writing a book is a difficult task even if you plan ahead, use a solid writing process, hold yourself accountable, and stay motivated.
However, if you know what’s coming and have information to overcome it, you’ll find your writing production and quality will help you finish your first draft.
Roadblock 1: Thinking you don’t have time.
This shouldn’t be an issue if you did the work upfront to plan ahead and set aside a time to write each day. But you may be busier than you thought and can’t find enough time to get your writing in. If this is the case, you have to make some small sacrifices to get your first draft completed.
Wake up an hour early each day or write before bed and go to sleep an hour later. Other changes could include cutting out Netflix or tv until your draft is finished. Or write for two hours on Saturday and Sunday.
I know there are far busier people than you who have written a book in their spare time. So it’s not that you don’t have time, but you’re choosing not to make time.
Roadblock 2: Thinking it has to be perfect.
Your first draft is designed to be a big dump of information from your brain to the computer. The main goal is to come up with the content.
There can be holes in your book, bad transitions, and unfocused sections. That’s expected for a first draft!
So there’s no reason to get discouraged that your document isn’t perfect. You’re going to edit this book yourself to sharpen it up, you’ll get feedback from your peers, and then an editor will offer suggestions to improve your book.
Your first draft won’t look much like your finished version that goes out to the public. And sticking to the goal of perfection will derail any plans of publishing a book in this lifetime.
Roadblock 3: Falling into apathy.
“I’ll do it tomorrow,” is the most dangerous statement for aspiring authors. Not that missing a day of writing is so bad in itself, but the potential cascade effect of this statement leading to no writing for weeks, months, and years is lethal.
While we all think we’re going to live to 100, or at least 80, that may not be the case. Life is fragile. So don’t risk leaving your dreams unaccomplished. Go after them now with urgency.
It’s for this reason that I recommend writing every single day. This habit gives you a sense of urgency and also strengthens your writing muscle. If your schedule only allows five days, then that’s understandable.
But even then I’d try to write for 15 minutes on the two “off days.” Apathy is a dangerous plague for many people, so don’t give it the chance to infect you.
After writing a book, the next step is editing your book, learning how to self publish a book, and marketing it.
Once you complete this, you can publish your book and officially become an author. The confidence and the lessons learned from this experience will help you write another book and do it better the next time.
And unless you’re a famous self published author who makes it big after one book—like E.L. James did with Fifty Shades of Grey—the way you polish your craft and get paid high royalties is through publishing multiple books.
Those who make progress in any field do it with focus and consistency for years.
So continue to meet your daily writing goals and continue to write books, then you’ll get all that you wanted and more out of your author career.
How To Edit A Book
Congrats, hurrah, and well-done! You’ve learned how to write a book and finished the first draft.
If this is your first rodeo, then this is a big step and you should be proud. Truly take your achievement to heart and feel good about your toughness to research, outline, and write enough to get your first draft completed.
This process can feel similar to running a marathon if you’ve never done it before. So I think making it to this point deserves a small celebration, especially because most people never get this far!
However, don’t celebrate for too long because experienced authors know the journey has just begun and to expect more hurdles on the horizon.
The next obstacle in the way of getting your book published is proper editing. You may think using your Microsoft Word or Google Doc’s spell check tool will be enough, but you’re very mistaken.
How you edit a book is not the same as how you would edit your completion grade college paper. There is a lot more to editing than dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.
And an unpolished book can shine negatively on you, your business, and your future work. Virtually destroying all the gains you desire for publishing your book in the first place.
Plus, if you spend so much energy writing your book, you want to finish the job right so everything you say is clearly communicated to the reader and your message reaches as many people as possible.
So let’s finish strong. You’ll be grateful when you get rewarded for it.
Here are four steps to polish your book into a masterpiece.
Step 1: Read With The Big Picture In Mind
With your first draft complete, it’s time to read through your entire book with the big idea in mind. The key here is to analyze your book’s organization, structure, and flow.
Ask yourself these questions when doing the big idea read through:
- Does my book deliver the message I intended?
- Are there any holes that would leave the reader confused?
- What sections or chapters need to be reconstructed?
- Is my voice and interest in the subject obvious?
- Are the transitions smooth from the introduction to the last chapter?
- Would my book be clearer if I deleted certain paragraphs or entire chapters?
We’re looking for the big ideas here and how they’re communicated. Essentially, look at your book in this step the same way you would look at the forest and not the trees.
And when you see something you want to change, make comments or scribble notes to come back to it.
Assuming you’re writing your book on Google Docs (I prefer Google Docs because it automatically saves your work), here’s how you make a comment:
- Highlight the text you need to come back to.
- Scroll to the header and click ‘Insert.’
- Click ‘Comment’ on the drop down menu.
- Type in a note to yourself for when it’s time rewrite it
But, it’s important that you don’t go past making comments to actually edit your book in this step. If this happens, you will waste too much time in the weeds and lose the big idea perspective—the whole point of this step.
In the same way that it doesn’t make sense to decorate the outside of a house before the foundation is established, it doesn’t make sense to try to change awkward wording before your book’s structure is completed.
You’re going to revise your book in the next step based off of the observations you came up with in this read through. Be patient and trust the process.
Step 2: Rewrite The Content
With all the comments you made on your document in Step 1, now is the time to rewrite those sections.
If you did Step 1 correctly, you’ll have an easy roadmap that marks where you need to spend your time.
Use the mental framework of rewriting with your target audience in mind. That will help you get away from your personal bias to write a better book for the public.
Here are some questions to think about as you edit your book’s content:
- Based on your audience’s understanding of the subject matter, is your text too simple or too technical for them?
- What ideas need to be clearer?
- Do parts of your book need to be rearranged so your book flows better?
- What sections are boring and could use a story or more passionate writing style?
The way you answer these questions with your revisions is a vital step in the editing process. An editor can only help you so much later, but they aren’t inside your mind so you need to lead them.
Again, only focus on fixing the content here and the structure of your book. In the next step we will look at the grammar and spelling, but that’s a tiny priority compared to content.
Above all else, I can’t stress the importance of keeping the ball moving in this process so you can publish your book. And focusing on one thing at a time is designed to help you do just that so you don’t get stuck, or even worse, give up.
Step 3: Read Out Loud For Grammar And Spelling
Now it’s time to polish your book’s grammar and spelling before an editor takes it.
The best way to edit your book for grammar and spelling isn’t some automatic online tool or software program. Instead, you’ll find the most errors and confusing wording by simply reading your book out loud.
When you speak and hear your words, you force your mind to slow down and take every word into account. And this helps you catch typos, awkward phrases, and unclear language that could turn off your readers.
(I’ve also found that reading out loud can help you find more structure issues and gaps in your book. So if you do find a few of those, be sure to make content edits in this step, too.)
The problem with reading in your head is you’re prone to go too fast and you don’t get the true idea of how a sentence sounds. So make sure to speak what you wrote from start to finish.
And if you want to go all in, I recommend printing your book off before you read it out loud to yourself. Many people find more mistakes when they read a physical page compared to a digital screen. It’s up to you though.
In the moments you do stumble over your words while reading, you need to stop right there and either write it a different way or cut that portion. In my experience, many of the places where I’m forced to pause are too wordy so I rewrite the same message in a more concise manner.
Once you’ve edited the section that tripped you up, go back a sentence or two and read your new text out loud to make sure it sounds smooth.
If this activity starts to feel uncomfortably tedious, just remember the more time and effort you put into this step means the less your editor and you will have to cover in the next step.
Step 4: Hire An Editor
Now that you’ve gotten your book ready to be passed on, here’s how to find an editor and ensure your book is finished off the right way.
There are two different options.
Because I have familiarity with her writing and editing ability, I felt comfortable working with her. Plus, we already had built up trust together so it was a great fit and I continue to have her edit my books.
If you don’t know any editors or a peer good for the job, then option two is to hire a stranger to edit your book from a service site like Upwork.com.
This could be unfamiliar territory if you haven’t worked with someone digitally, but I assure you it’s low risk. The freelancer who you hire is going to do quality work because they want to get paid, receive a nice review from you, and get future jobs on this site.
Assuming you work through Upwork.com, here’s what to do:
- Create an account.
- Click the heading ‘Post a Job.’ Select the category ‘Writing’ and then narrow it down to ‘Editing & Proofreading.’
- Title the job “Need an editor for my book.”
- Describe the details of your book and what you want done including: your book’s subject; how many words; the voice you’re going for; that you need content editing and copyediting; when you need the editing completed by (I recommend two weeks); and explain that you’re going to attach a couple pages for them to test edit with track changes on and return to you.
- Remember to attach two sample pages from your book for them to test edit.
- Select ‘One-time project’ and ‘I want to hire one freelancer.’ Select ‘Pay a fixed price.’
- Set the budget to be around $75 for every 10,000 words of text (or $0.0075 per word). So if your book is 20,000 words, then set your budget at $150. A higher budget is likely to attract better editors, so keep that in mind.
- Click ‘Post Job’ and see the responses you get.
When it comes to picking one editor, you can narrow your decision by looking at their previous job ratings and customer comments. But, the most important tool in your evaluation is going to be the test edits returned to you.
Pick the one who is best able to capture your voice and make content and copy edits that you agree need to be fixed.
Then give him or her instructions to do the entire content edit for the first four days. Then have them send the document back to you where you will accept or reject (or add to) their track changes for the next three days. That’s week one.
On week two, tell them to proofread your book for grammar, awkward wording, and typos for the next four days. Then you will accept or reject their track changes to finish out this week and the entire editing process.
If you have your editor use Google Docs with you during this process, make sure you click the ‘Editing’ pencil icon on the top right and change the mode to ‘Suggesting’ to track each other’s changes and accept or reject their edits.
While the editing process can be a beast at times and you might get sick of reading what you wrote after awhile, it’s certainly worth it. Putting your book through this will make the difference from a bunch of scrambled ideas to a fine tuned masterpiece.
And if you complete these four steps and edit a book properly, you won’t have to worry about getting a negative review on Amazon for poor editing.
Once your book is edited, then you can start selling it.
How To Self Publish A Book
I have good news: After you learn how to write a book, figuring out how to self publish a book is certainly the easier step.
For one, it’s not a marathon like writing a book is, because the self publishing steps are broken down into manageable tasks. Secondly, you will hire people to do the majority of the work.
By using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, you don’t need a book deal and a publishing house to get your masterpiece published. You can publish your book and send it out to the masses.
So relax and follow the rest of this guide. You’re so close to realizing your dream of becoming an author!
Why Self Publish Your Book
The traditional publishers are getting crushed by Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Even famous self published authors like H.M. Ward have turned down huge traditional publishing deals (worth $1,000,000-plus) to self publish.
This shows there are huge advantages to self publishing. These are four big ones:
Keep your vision
Often authors send their draft to a publishing company and get a demoralizing list of 100 content suggestions that ultimately change the entire vision of the book. Publishing houses like control, and they have no problem changing your book’s meaning. However, I’m not saying your book doesn’t need editing. But there’s a difference between rewriting YOUR book, and writing a book that’s turned into something else you wouldn’t call yours anymore.
Although you don’t get a book advance for self publishing like you would in traditional publishing, you’ll make more money in self publishing. Because not having to share your book sales with a publisher and keeping all the rights to your book (including international) is where self publishing is better for your bank account.
There are billions of dollars in this self-publishing industry and even if you get a few bread crumbs, you’ll be able to make thousands of dollars a month. Of course this assumes you write a quality book and market it like a beast. But the opportunity is there.
Decide the design
Another way publishing companies desire control is with the design of your book. You could have a great cover in mind that pops for readers, but the publishing company vetoes it and goes with their design. Sure you can complain, but there’s really nothing you can do about it since it’s their product.
Publishing companies usually take forever to push a book through—we’re talking around a year. The opposite is true with self publishing. Once you take the necessary steps to write, edit, and get your book ready (outlined below) for the public, you can click “Publish” whenever you want.
Think of the publishing companies as a giant elephant herd taking their time, and you’re a quick cheetah racing by them to publish your book and become an author. And the earlier you publish, the quicker you get paid royalties for your hard work.
How To Self Publish A Book In 10 Steps
Now that you know why to self publish your book, here’s how to self publish. Follow this step-by-step approach and your book will go from an audience of one on your computer, to an audience of millions on the Amazon Kindle store where it’s available to purchase.
1. Seek out feedback
Getting a few different people to review your book before you send it off to the editor will improve the quality of your book and save you time during the editing process.
A mastermind group or a select few of your email subscribers (if you have them) give some of the most honest and helpful feedback. You can honestly have one of your parents, friends, or former professors check it out, too.
Don’t worry that they’re not editors because their main purpose is to look at the book’s content and flow. You can leave grammar and spelling to the editor in the next step.
Ideally your feedback is positive or at least coated in constructive criticism. But there are times when people don’t know how to communicate their thoughts and so they only criticize your book.
Having your book get kind of torn apart can be tough, but if you have a positive attitude with the perspective that this is only constructive criticism, your attitude and your book will improve. And in this situation you get to practice one of the habits of successful writers: digging in when things get tough.
2. Hire an editor
If only you could put your manuscript through a spell check and call it a day. However, you don’t want to go cheap and skip this step, because editing is crucial to your book’s quality.
So after you get feedback and personally rewrite parts of your book, now it’s time to hire a real editor. A professional editor will know how to fix your book’s structure, content, and flow. And after the content is great, then your editor and you can focus on the grammar and spelling.
Option 1 is hire someone in your personal network that you know and trust. Do you know any great editors who work for magazines, newspapers, or publishers? Are any of your friends English professors or former English majors who work in writing? If you can get creative and find someone you know to edit your book, that’s the most convenient option (and usually the cheapest).
You’re not down and out if you don’t know anyone with editing chops. Option 2 is to hire a professional editor. You can find expensive editors, but if you’re on a budget then I recommend using a site like Upwork.com or Fiverr.com. (Both of these sites will be mentioned multiple times throughout this article.)
Some things to communicate to your editor include how many words your book currently is, the budget for their service, and the deadline to finish editing. I wouldn’t spend less than two weeks or more than a month working with an editor.
If you want to be sure they’re editing ability is going to work for you, give them two sample pages to edit before you officially hire them. If it works, you got your man or woman. If it doesn’t, then move on and find someone else.
The editing phase is the last phase requiring writing and revisions. So be sure to finish strong by staying motivated and setting editing deadlines with your editor and yourself (just like you did with your own writing deadlines).
You’ll notice a huge difference between your first version and what comes of it after you get feedback and work with an editor.
3. Finalize a book title
Deciding on your book’s title is a big deal because I’ve found that when it comes to book sales, title matters more than anything else for customers.
Yes, you heard that right. Title matters more than the book cover, author name (unless you’re Stephen King or have similar name recognition), price, table of contents, etc. So it’s crucial you get yours right!
The four ingredients for a quality book title: 1) unique/memorable, 2) promising benefits, 3) intriguing, and 4) content summary. Your book doesn’t need all of these ingredients, just make sure it has at least one so it’s appealing to the potential buyers and you sell a lot of books.
But before you strikeout picking a title you think potential buyers will love but they actually aren’t a fan of it, you can minimize your risk by simply asking them. If you have an email list, shoot out an email with a poll that asks your readers to choose between three titles. Not only do you verify your idea, your subscribers will appreciate their involvement in your major project and be more likely to buy it when it comes out.
Another outlet for you to get information before you make your title official is through social media. Set up a Facebook poll and ask your friends and family to decide on a few book titles. When I did this for my first book, someone commented that the grammar in the subtitle could be misleading, so I tweaked it a bit. This activity also builds buzz around your book and helps your marketing effort when it’s time to go live.
4. Get a book cover
I bet 95% (or more) of aspiring authors don’t double as expert graphic designers. If you’re the rare breed who does, then you can design your book cover and ignore the following information.
For the rest of us, including me, we’ll need to hire someone to get our book cover. But that’s no problem because it’s actually easy. And if you hired an editor then you already have practice doing this.
But before we tackle the hiring part. I find it’s best to have a vision or idea for your book cover to pass on to the designer. The more you do upfront, the less expensive it is and the less times you have to go back and forth with a designer. Answering these questions will be beneficial:
- What are some bestselling books on Amazon in your category that you want your cover to emulate?
- What kind of color scheme do you imagine? (I would stick to two or three colors.)
- What type of words describe your book?
- Do you have any initial themes or ideas to go off of?
Of course, you could have your designer take a stab in the dark and pray that you like it. But I find that covers turn out better when the author has somewhat of a vision for them. So no matter what option you choose below, be sure to write the answers to the questions above and include it in your instructions when you hire a designer.
To hire a graphic designer, you have a couple of different options. If you know someone who does this kind of work then start with them, but make sure they’ve done book covers before.
For my second self published book, I hired a photographer who doubled as a graphic designer. I found him through my personal network after asking around. Although he charged a much higher rate than Fiverr, I liked his work with the cover and I consider the money spent well worth it.
If you want an extremely inexpensive option, then use the site Fiverr.com. Put your cursor over the “Graphics & Design” tab then a scroll down bar will show “Book Covers & Packaging” for you to click. Or you can type in “book cover” on the Fiverr search bar. After this, pick a highly rated designer who has experience designing Amazon book covers. I used Fiverr.com for my first self published book and it turned out pretty well, especially for the value.
Another option (that’s more expensive but maybe better quality) is to hire a book cover designer on Upwork.com.
5. Book formatting
Here’s another step that’s out of your hands once you make a hire. You can pay someone to format your book through Upwork.com or Fiverr.com—be sure they have experience coverting to Kindle and that you want the conversion done manually. Some people use automatic conversion and it causes mistakes.
Ask them if they want a PDF or Word Document to convert, and then they should return you a .mobi or .epub file when they’re finished.
If you want more expensive and higher quality option, consider using LiberWriter.com.
If you’re really tight on cash and have the time (and patience) for it, you can format the book yourself for free. Amazon provides a Simplified Formatting Guide to design your ebooks in Microsoft Word. And you can get information on formatting from Amazon’s KDP forum.
I don’t know much about formatting it yourself because I always pay people to format my book. I believe my time is better spent preparing for book launch and setting up marketing channels. To each his own.
Whether you hire someone or do it yourself, it’s wise to check out how your ebook looks on different devices through the Kindle Previewer tool. Make sure the formatting is perfect and there aren’t any errors. This is how your book is going to look when readers buy it.
6. Prepare for launch day
I’m going to be honest, if you don’t have a blog then your book’s fighting at a disadvantage to get the attention and sales it serves.
For example, sure The 4-Hour Body is a huge success thanks to Tim Ferriss’ savvy marketing skills. But arguably the biggest reason it did so well is because of Tim’s blog that gets millions of views per month!
If you’ve written a book, creating a WordPress website through BlueHost is 1,000 times easier. So create a website (many guides on Google and YouTube) and then create a landing page that describes your book and collects email addresses for those interested in getting it. A free service like MailChimp will help you collect emails.
The goal is to capture as many email addresses as you can leading up to your book launch. Because when your book goes live these are the people you can reach out to who will order your book right away and leave book reviews.
7. How to self publish your book
We’re so close! The next step is to create a Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account and upload your book through the .mobi or .epub file. Then hit “save as draft” because we have other stuff to do before we make it live for the public.
One step before you officially publish is to create your Amazon Author Central account. Make it reflect you by adding a picture, including a short bio about you and possibly your website, and then you can link to to your blog/website or Twitter feed. A well put together author account helps sell more books.
You’re allowed seven differet keywords that will drive searches to your book, so choose these carefully. I recommend using the Google Keyword Planner tool to see what keywords get searched for the most. Then I would spread out between 2 heavily search keywords, 3 medium, and 2 low competition keywords.
And lastly you’re allowed to select two different categories that describe your book. A smart strategy is to spread your book out into two different categories, like Business & Money plus Self-Help. This works better than picking two subcategories in Business & Money.
8. Set pricing
Pricing depends on your niche and author reputation. If this is your first time publishing, then setting a price between $0.99 to $2.99 is probably best.
Here’s where things get interesting. If you’re a new author, I recommend enlisted your book in Kindle’s Free Book Promotion during the first five days. To set this up just go on your KDP Dashboard and click “Promote and advertise,” then you’ll see the option to do this.
Setting your price at $0 for these five days helps drive as much traffic and as many downloads as possible during launch week. This will help your book’s Amazon ranking and help you bring in book reviews—a major influence in whether someone buys your book or not. Once the promotion ends, then your ebook will cost the initial price you set up in the beginning.
Already successful authors or those with a big blog following would be better off selling their book right away and taking profits from the beginning. That’s their reward for building a big audience.
9. Market it like crazy
For your book to do well, you need to market it like a madman. Send a book launch update the day your book comes out to all the email addresses you collected from step #6. If you have a blog with subscribers, email them with your news.
If you decided to make your book free for the first five days, use this as a valuable marketing tool in emails and social media updates. Or if you’re pricing your book during launch, many subscribers will happily pay for your product if you’ve given them valuable free content in the past.
Also reach out to bloggers and podcasters to share the news that you published a book on a topic relevant to them. Ask if they would be interested in interviewing you to give their audience more information and value. Or send a PDF copy of your book to influencers and ask them to share it if they enjoy the content.
There are other ways to get more eyeballs on your books. For example, you can create a book trailer, record an audiobook, or pay a marketing agency. But these get expensive and the return on investment is unknown.
It’s surprising, but I believe the best way to market this book is to write another book in the same niche. Then you will have readers who enjoyed one of your books order the other books for a similar experience. That’s repeat business and good money for you!
Now that you know how to self publish a book, when are you going to get started? Please feel free to ask questions about the process in the comments below.