The most important part of writing and publishing a book is always whatever you are working on at the moment. Here’s a guide to get you started.
As a book coach, I’m often asked the blanket question: “How do I write a book and get it published?” The short answer? Make the decision. Once you’ve decided you’re ready to write a book and get it published, the guideline below will put you on the right track.
Step 1: Plan, outline, write, and edit
Finish your manuscript The first step is to plan your book project, outline all the components, and then write until you have a finished manuscript. This is where you invest your time, energy, and emotion and when you are finished, you will have accomplished something few others have done! You will have a complete manuscript.
Editing your book. Every first-class author has a first-class editor who does several things to improve what’s already on the page. In the first pass, you will want a developmental editor to give feedback on the structure and organization of the manuscript, the development of your characters, the consistency in your story line, your vocabulary, the impact of your message, your use of language, and how your unique voice can be amplified. A developmental editor will point out any missing elements in your manuscript and make suggestions about how to weave them in. A developmental editor is crucial for every author, particularly if you are not a professional writer
Focus group. One great way to determine if your manuscript achieves its goal is to gather a group of six to ten people who are part of your target market, give them a copy of your manuscript, and ask for their raw feedback. This will be invaluable to you. When you receive that feedback, make the changes you think are appropriate, then pass the manuscript to your editor for final editing.
Line edit. At this point, you need what we call line-level editing. You editor will scrub your work and make corrections in punctuation, verb tense, spelling, and sentence structure. They will correct your grammar and make suggestions about how to rewrite your sentences for clarity.
Proofreading. If you want a flawless manuscript, you can’t skip the step of hiring a proofreader. Understand this: You are not a capable proofreader. You already know what your story is supposed to say, and your brain will fill in any gaps with what you intended.
Once these steps are complete, you are ready to turn your manuscript into a book.
Step 2: Book design
Before you design your book, you need to know what you want to produce, and you have a lot of choices to make. Do you want a hardcover book? Or a softcover? Both come in myriad sizes, and you need to decide which size best fits your format. Will you issue an eBook? If so, you need to prepare separate digital files for Kindle, Nook, and iPad. [Of course, BookBaby does this for you.]
One of the most important elements is your book cover design. Your title and your book cover art will work together to communicate the essence of your book and invite a reader to purchase it.
When turning your attention to the interior design, consider these questions: What fonts are you going to use? What will your copyright page look like? Your table of contents? You must use industry standards for chapter starts and page numbering. And be sure you’ve calculated the appropriate thumb holds – that’s the margin space where a reader places their thumbs to hold the book. Readers should not have to shift their thumbs while reading the book.
Just for fun, take a look at some book interiors, and notice how they differ in style to match the book content. You need a professional designer for both the book cover and interior.
Step 3: Book production
Of course, you’ll need to get your book produced, and you have several options. Do you want to use an on-demand printer that will print the books as they are ordered? There’s a higher cost-per-book for this option, but you won’t have to put your money into the inventory up front. However, if you want to pay the lowest possible amount per book, you will opt to print a large quantity of books and warehouse them until they are sold. The warehouse can be your basement, and many authors like this option because they can maximize their profits with this approach.
Step 4: Book distribution
You’ve got your book in hand: what about book distribution?
Of course, your eBooks will be distributed online.
If you print a number of books, you can elect to ship them out yourself as they are purchased, but bear in mind that this option requires you to have shipping supplies and a fair amount of time to send things out. Some people make arrangements with warehouse distributors or sheltered workshops to send out their books, and others elect to work through book distributors who receive orders and ship them out to bookstores, online retailers, and libraries.
Step 5: Book marketing
Books don’t sell themselves, so you need to plan your marketing strategy. Will you engage the services of a publicist? Will you do your own push through social media? Will you hold events, book signings, and book readings? Do you have an email marketing list to help get the word out?
Be specific when defining your primary market. Picture the person who buys your book. Is it a woman between the ages of 30 and 50 who is unhappy with the signs of aging? It isn’t every woman between 30 and 50, it’s a subset of that group. Who are they?
What are your secondary markets? Secondary markets are those people/organizations/institutions who will also purchase your book, like educators (if you’re writing about children) or mental health practitioners if you are writing about coming out of a depression. You’re going to use this information when you start reaching out to customers, so think it through.
The most important part of writing and publishing your book
Focus on today. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Do the best possible job on what’s in front of you. There will be plenty of time to focus on what’s ahead.