How to write a book and get it published? Many people dream of becoming a professional writer and think they have something important that the world needs. If you think getting a book published is the most difficult part, you’re wrong. Writing the book is. Writing a book can be challenging, especially if it is your first time.
Without someone guiding you, there is a strong chance of making crucial mistakes. You will meet a lot of people who will tell you that writing a book is easy and that you can do it fast or they have got five steps to writing a best-seller but the truth is, anyone who tells you that it’s easy has never actually done it or even tried.
Truth be told, it is not that easy. Rather than talking about “proven” steps to writing a hit book, it is better to talk about the foundational steps that one needs to follow.
The first thing to keep in mind is that the process of becoming an author is very different from what you expect it to be. Primarily, you don’t just get an idea, sit down and be done with writing a book. That is not how it works. You start with a sentence, then a paragraph, and gradually a chapter. Writing is a process. It happens in bits and pieces. You have to take one step at a time and not rush it. And it is certainly not as magical and glamorous as shown in TV shows and movies.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there is no secret formula to writing a ground-breaking book and there is no magic potion to help you unlock your creativity and sail you through the process of writing. There is no one way street to authorship. Not every person has the same story and not everyone goes through the same journey.
And I know it is way easier to just quit rather than finish the work. There will be times when you will be tempted to just give up the idea of writing a book when you have writer’s block and cannot think of new ideas when you will get distracted, when you will get bored of your own message, or the times when you will get overwhelmed by the scope of the task in hand.
But what if you already knew how to overcome fear, what each step entails, where to start, how to overcome procrastination, and stop yourself from getting overwhelmed?
Let’s admit, writing a book is way easier today than it ever was. With everyone having access to various writing tools, it is not as difficult to write in less amount of time than it was in earlier days.
The key to doing it successfully is to follow an up-front and candid step by step plan.
How to Write a Book for Beginners?
Following are some techniques to help you build a reliable blueprint to follow and finally finish writing your book:
Let us divide these into small step by step plans and start with the basics.
BEFORE YOU START WRITING:
- Establish a writing space: Investing some time to prepare for this remarkable task is important. You will be thankful later that you decided to do this. You do not require a full sanctuary to write a book. Real writers do not need to build a particular space to work in. They can write anywhere. Even in coffee shops and restaurants. You could be sitting on a sagging couch and still be productive. That being said, it is good to have a dedicated space for writing. An ideal writing space should be devoid of any distractions and should be sparse. Naturally, the more private and comfortable space is, the better.
- Assemble the writing tools: No one has the time to handwrite or typewrite stuff and then type it on the keyboard for the publisher. The most important tool in the publishing industry is MS Word so you will have to work on the same for writing. You can organize your work manually or invest in an electronic organizing system. The most commonly used and effective system to organize work in Scrivener.
It interacts perfectly with Word files and works with both Mac and PC. But before you start working on the system, it is better to get familiarized with it and understand its basics.
Other effective tools to help you with writing are Milanote, The Reedsy Book editor, and Focus Writer.
If you prefer to handwrite your draft before actually typing it, do not scrimp on pencils or pens, paper, or erasers. Even if someone else is doing the typing for you, invest in a computer because you are going to need it in research and contacting potential editors, agents, and publishers.
Other than that, think of everything that you might need other than your writing lair and assemble them in one place to be better equipped and not interrupt the workflow to look for basic things like paper clips, notepads, printing paper, paperweight, stapler, reference works, you name it.
Don’t forget about the most crucial of it all. Get the most comfortable you can afford so that you can be proactive and maintain a healthy posture without hurting your back.
HOW TO START WRITING:
- Break your work into smaller pieces: Writing a book is truly a colossal task. It is better to divide your manuscript into small parts. Take one step at a time. Try and avoid thinking about it as the monstrosity of 300-400 pages. You can’t write it all at once. See it as a text made up of small paragraphs and pages, or even sentences.
Don’t overthink it and keep it simple. Set a daily or a weekly word count goal. It is quite effective, especially you have a deadline to finish the book. Create your goals for individual writing sessions and decide what is reasonable for you. As you progress, you can alter these goals however you like. Take your time, set manageable goals, and gradually work on building bigger goals.
- Establish a healthy routine: The only possible way to achieve your word count goals is to build a healthy routine. Ask yourself questions like:
- When am I most productive?
- When do I have free time?
- Will I be able to balance my writing with my other everyday responsibilities effectively?
- How can I effectively space out sessions?
You could also modify your existing routine accordingly. Ultimately, all you need is a well-balanced routine to work with, that accelerate your productivity without burning you out. If you get overwhelmed by the sessions take a little break, or try spacing your sessions. Do not forget that your mental health is important too. Remember, writing a book is not a sprint but a marathon. It is vital to have a consistent yet healthy approach.
- Decide what your big idea is: To write a ground-breaking book, your idea should be ground-breaking too. Think of something you are passionate about, something that encourages you to get out of bed every morning attracts you towards the computer, and motivates you to keep going. The idea should be exciting both to you and any other person you tell it to.
If you have tried writing about an idea before but did not succeed, it could be possible that the foundation of the idea was flawed. It is possible that an idea is worth an article or a blog post but couldn’t be ideal for writing a whole book. Your idea should be salivating enough for the readers.
How do you know if it is right? Evaluate it. Is it compelling enough to you? Does it attract you and stays in your head and grow every time you give it a thought? Do your friends and family love it? Does it prompt praises or does it face an awkward silence? You will know when something works for you and when it is right.
- Construct an outline: If you lack a clear vision, the book will end up being a disaster. Creating an outline is vital, especially if it is your first book. A solid blueprint will help you when you get stuck. How to create an outline?
- Pick a format: There are various outlines to pick from. Pick the one that you think is best for you.
- Divide the beginning, middle, and conclusion of the book: Having a strong notion of how you want your book to turn out helps you avoid murky sections in the book. Take out time to flesh out and connect different parts of the book.
- Consider the conflict points of the book: A book is incomplete without any conflict. It helps conjure emotion and tension, draw readers in and reflect the message and the theme that you want to convey.
- Take out time to know your characters: Knowing the characters you want to write is important. Take some time to develop individual characters. Evaluate how each character interacts with the story, how does the interactions exhibit who they are and why do they matter to the story.
- Set a writing routine: Set up a schedule. Follow the same pattern so that it becomes a habit. If it is not possible for you to set up an exact pattern, carve out a few hours to make progress. Remember, you will never find the right time to start writing. You will have to make time. Maintain a calendar to help you track your progress.
- Establish a deadline: It can be difficult for some people to get work done without a deadline. Set a deadline you are comfortable with and follow it sacredly. Determine the number of words or number of pages you need to deliver and mark it in your calendar. Make sure the deadline you set is achievable and realistic. Experiment with different figures before finalizing how many pages to yield per session.
- Accept procrastination: There are numerous reasons why most writers end up procrastinating. Instead of fighting it, start embracing it. It is a legit part of the process. No matter how hard you try, you will procrastinate sometimes or the other.
Learn how to be okay with it. Even when you put off writing, your subconscious is always working. When you finally continue writing, you will realize how many amazing ideas can be revealed by your subconscious.
- Try to eliminate all distractions: Are you someone who gets distracted easily? Do you end up checking your email after writing a few sentences? Do you get distracted by pictures and videos on Facebook? Once you get distracted, the writing is ultimately forgotten and the day is gone.
To avoid such insidious timewasters, invest in different tools that help you block everything out. Numerous apps allow you to block social media, browsers, email, gamin apps, and whatever gets you distracted. Some of them are free and others ask for a modest fee. Some of the tools to help you are WriteRoom, FocusWriter, Freedom app, and StayFocused.
- Do thorough research: Research is one of the most vital steps in the writing process. It doesn’t matter if you are writing non-fiction or fiction. Fiction is not just about cooking up a story. To make sure the novel is believable, the logic, details, historical, and technical details must be right.
Even if you are working on non-fiction and writing about a topic you have expertise in, conducting proper research will help you get all the details right and help you polish not only your knowledge but also the finished product.
Your credibility depends on the readers’ trust in you. A lack of research can lead up to mistakes. Regardless of the size of the mistake, the readers will point it out to you. Some of the best research tools are World Almanacs, WorldAtlas.com, and The Merriam Webster Thesaurus.
THE BOOK WRITING:
- Think like a writer: It is important to embrace the right mindset before you sit down and write a single word. Your mind may tell you that you are not a writer or you will never be able to finish the book but not let such thoughts affect you. You need to get over the inner critic first. Start acknowledging yourself as a writer and it will help you get the confidence in you to finish the book.
- Find your voice: The most vital part of the writing process is discovering your voice. Ask yourself questions like:
- What is the most amazing thing that you ever experienced?
- Who did you tell about it?
- How did you sound while telling the story?
That is your voice. If you are working on writing fiction, ask the same question on the protagonist’s behalf.
- Write a captivating opener: The first scene is one of the most important parts of the story. You cannot just put it off and do it later. However, you can modify it later if the story demands it. But starting with a compelling opener will set you up well and get the writing process running.
Make sure it is thrilling, soars with momentum, and is filled with confidence. It can fall into different categories, such as poetic, surprising, philosophical, or can be a dramatic statement.
- Write the messy first draft: It can be quite intimidating. To look at an empty page and wonder how you will fill it can be daunting. Avoid overthinking it. There is a reason why the first draft is called a rough draft or the vomit draft. It will help you build a routine.
Write whatever you have in your mind without stopping to edit or review it. While writing the rough draft, keep your notes and outlines close to guide you through. You cannot work successfully by being a writer and the editor at the same time.
Accept the fact that it will not be perfect and you cannot write every sentence exactly how you want it to be, on the first try.
- Draw a BookMap and turn it into an outline: Gather all the important details of the book and create an outline by using outlining templates like BookMap. It helps you connect all the ideas by helping you create a mindmap. After successfully filling out the template, gather all the ideas into related categories.
Combine your ideas and gather them however it makes the most sense. These outlines of the categories will be different chapters of the book. It allows you to cover the intended points in each chapter.
You can also use sticky notes as a supplement. Note down everything that crosses your mind regarding any topic. Organize these notes into themes and sections. Then, organize them in patterns in context to different chapters. It will help you break down the intensive process and make it more manageable and provide you clarity.
- Start writing. One chapter at the time: Now that you have an outline of the chapters, it is finally time to start writing. Just know there is no wrong or right way to do it.
- Write an unambiguous ending: This is as important as writing the opener. Make sure it is resounding. Some of the things to remember to write a definite ending are:
- Stop rushing it.
- Don’t settle for a “close enough”.
- If you have multiple ideas, go with the one that appeals to you the most.
- Make sure it is logical and fair.
- Don’t give up: Keep going. Don’t forget the reason for deciding to write a book in the first place. With a lot of determination and patience, you will be able to overcome any obstacle. With time and determination, you will know how to deal with everything. Keep motivating yourself and tell yourself that you are almost there.
- Hire an editor: It is difficult to see flaws and loops in research or the story, ideas that don’t work, or chapters that are too lengthy, etc. You might write the first few drafts by yourself but you will need an outsider’s help at some point or the other.
It is easy to waste a lot of time while encountering roadblocks. You can take help from professionals that can help you evaluate your manuscript honestly. An editor can help speed up the process and help you enhance your craft too.
You will have to hire an editor or an agent, weeks before. It is important to take their feedback positively and not personally. Remember they are criticizing the work and not you.
- Hire a Proofreader: You could proofread your material but it could be a time-consuming task. And you might overlook some mistakes and typos because you are close to it. If you cannot afford to hire a professional proofreader, you could also take help from your eagle-eyed family members or friends.
- Become a brutal self-editor: Other than taking help from editors and agents, you must be a brutal editor of your work yourself. It means:
- Omitting needless words.
- Avoiding redundancies.
- Choosing words that are simple to understand.
- Removing too many adjectives.
- Avoiding excessive stage direction.
- And many more.
Publishing the book
- Write a captivating title: Your title should be fascinating enough to capture would-be readers’ attention. Make sure it is intriguing so that it stands out.
- Design an amazing book cover: The importance of a good book cover cannot be stressed enough. It not only grabs the reader’s attention but also convinces them to read it. Hire a professional for designing the cover.
- Format the book: Writing a book and publishing are two very different jobs. Both require different mindsets. Writing is more creative, whereas, publishing is more logical. Regardless of the mode of publishing you pick, formatting the book properly is critical. Some of the tips to format your book properly are:
- Use a commonly known font.
- Write black text and use a white background.
- Don’t put extra space between sentences and paragraphs.
- Use page break rather than hitting enter endlessly.
- Avoid hard indents.
- Decide on the mode of publishing: There are two options to pick from. Traditional publishing or self-publishing.
Traditional publishers take all the responsibility. They pay for proofreading, editing, printing, typesetting, cover art, binding, advertising, promotion, warehousing, billing, shipping, paying royalties, and everything else.
With self-publishing, you are responsible for everything yourself. You are the decision-maker, financier, and ultimately the publisher.
Both options are great. Compare the pros and cons of both before taking the final decision.
- Set up a website: To succeed as an author, you require an audience. You need to build a fan base and a good following to ensure the success of your book. Set up an author website and grow. It serves as a hub where fans, readers, agents, and publishers can learn about you and your work.
How to self publish a book ?
These days you can self-publish your book for free. There are no upfront costs associated with publishing your book. The money that you pay is not for publishing but for printing. The actual publishing is completely free. While publishing a book yourself, you can just publish an eBook or can publish your book as a paperback.
Publishing your book as a paperback can get you more money, makes you look more legitimate as an author, and it doesn’t cost anything more. It also helps you sell more copies. Once your book is formatted properly and your cover design is ready, self-publishing is a piece of cake.
Following is a list of different publishing service companies. But before jumping through, let us talk about different types of publishing service companies.
- Retailer: It is a type of company that sells books through its own retail store exclusively. Some of the examples of retailers are CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing, Apple’s iBookstore Kobe, and Barnes and Noble Press. Although, some of the companies have special distribution partnerships and programs with other retailers.
- Aggregator: An aggregator offers a platform for retailing and publishing eBooks and also distributes them to numerous online libraries and retailers. It helps the writers get a wider reach. They also get books into different channels that are difficult for writers to achieve directly. They charge a fixed commission for the services.
Following are some of the companies that can help you publish your own book:
- Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP): It is an Amazon-owned company that publishes and retails ebooks and make them available on Kindle devices or the Kindle app.
This is one of the prominent methods of self-publishing a book on Amazon. About 80% of the sales are made via Amazon and 42% of these accounts to self-published books.
- You can also provide Amazon with exclusive distribution for 90 days by enrolling into KDP select. It helps in the promotion of the book through cut-down deals and discounts. You can enroll in the program as many times as you please. It makes your book available to Kindle subscribers and you receive payment depending on the pages read by the subscribers.
- Unlike most publishers, Kindle use .MOBI format. You can use software like Calibre to convert a Word document into .MOBI format.
- CreateSpace: This is another publishing platform owned by Amazon. It follows the print-on-demandmethod of publishing. This means, when a customer makes a purchase, only then the book is printed.
- CreateSpace publishes books exclusively on Amazon but you can also opt for the Expanded Distribution Program that allows the authors to make their books available to retailers both online and offline.
- Amazon also links both paperback and digital versions of the book while publishing, to provide a better experience to the customers. It charges 40% of regular sales and 60% of made through the Expanded Distribution Program. After deducting Amazon’s commission, royalty is paid to the author.
- iBooks: After Amazon, it is the second-highest retailer of eBooks. It accounts for about 10% of the sales of the top 5 countries. It has a country-specific eBook store for over 40 countries. It allows the authors to price their books for each country differently. It does not have an exclusive distribution contract and it allows you to schedule discounts and free books anytime. You must own a Mac device to publish directly on eBook or you could use an eBook aggregator.It offers flat 70% royalty.
- Kobo: In the top 5 countries, Kobo accounts for almost 2% of total sales. It is significantly high in countries like Canada and accounts for about 25% of the sales.
Kobo has an e-reading device as well as an app, just like Kindle. It has partnership contacts with retailers from all around the world and provides access to over 5 million books to its customers. It is available in more than 190 countries. Royalty rates can vary from 45% to 70%, depending on the price of the book.
- Barnes and Noble Press: It is a self-publishing portal and was known as NOOK Press before. It accounts for more than 3% of the sales, and most of it is from the USA. It offers print-on-demand and retails both physical as well as online bookstores exclusively. Royalty may vary somewhere between 40% and 65%.
- Smashwords: It is a popular aggregator and distributes the book to all the top retailers like iBook store, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble. They work on extensive formatting guidelines. It does not provide distribution to Amazon and does not offer any support with formatting.
If you are looking forward to getting help with formatting of the book or publishing through an aggregator that allows distribution to Amazon, this may not be the platform for you. It takes a 10% to 15% cut of the sales depending on the retail channel used.
- IngramSpark: It is another self-publishing service and is established by one of the leading distributors of print books Ingram. It is connected to more than 39000 libraries, bookstores, and retailers from all over the world. It allows distribution to all leading retailers, including iBooks, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.
They provide premium printing services and also publish hardcovers. It charges a 30% commission for sales to online retailers and 53% to bookstores. It also charges a $12 annual fee and a $49 set-up fee.
- Bookbaby: They retail through its bookshop but allow distribution to other retailers. They also provide services like editing, marketing, and cover design. You can purchase these services as a package or even individually. They also provide print-on-demand service.
After deducting the retailer’s commission, eBooks can earn 100% royalty. For sales made through bookstores, it allows royalty of 85% and 10% to 30% for printed copies of the book.
- Lulu: It is one of the oldest self-publishing companies and is a popular digital and print books’ distributor. They retail books through all the other retailers and their bookstore as well. It offers both paperback and hardcovers. They offer free publishing, eBook conversion, and distribution services. They charge a 20% commission after deducting production costs of hard copies. Sales made through other retailers generate additional commission.
- Draft2Digital: In comparison to Smashwords, Draft2Digital has lesser retail partners. Although, they allow distribution to all the other retailers, unlike Smashwords. They also allow free formatting of the eBook and charge 10% of the retail price.
How long does it take to self-publish a book?
It takes around 5 weeks to self-publishing a book for standard formatting and book cover designing. However, this time period could change significantly when it comes to books that require a large number of formatting or editing.
How much does self-publishing cost?
There is no publishing cost per se but you will have to bear the production cost such as formatting, editing, cover designing, etc. It may cost you somewhere between $100 and $2500.
Can you publish a book for free?
Most of the aforementioned publishing companies allow you to publish a book without any extra cost. However, they cost a part of sales made as a commission for the services they provide.
How old do you have to be to Publish a Book?
There is no age limit to publishing a book. You can be under 18 and still do it. Numerous publishers allow young authors to publish their books. However, teenagers should take help from an adult to negotiate on their behalf. They will sign a contract on your behalf and ensure that you get a fair deal.