How to Write & Publish Your Book Start to Finish

If you’ve never written and published a book before, it can be incredibly overwhelming to figure out just what all is involved. How exactly do you go from deciding to write a book to holding that book in your hands? Well, the answer is, regrettably, very complicated, but here are the bare basics boiled down to something digestible.

Before anything else, learn how to use social media & start building your platform (see more on this way at the end). This can help you with multiple parts of this process, but most especially you need that following before you start marketing! 

Part 1: Write Your Book

  1. Decide what you want to write. The world is your oyster, but you have to pick one thing. 
  2. Research the genre to see what expectations from readers are (or don’t, but don’t be surprised if you write something like Romance and then get bad reviews because you don’t follow the expected formula – readers like knowing what the book they’re going to read will contain). 
  3. Develop an outline (or don’t – some write by the seat of their pants, but it can help you stay organized).
  4. Create a schedule to write based on your outline and stick to it (or don’t. I don’t but I wish I could! Chronic illness often has other ideas, and if you have kids, a demanding job, etc, this step might not be for you. Don’t worry about it. Make time, but don’t kill yourself working too hard, the results will suffer).
  5. Write! Join a writing group or take some classes online if you’re not sure about this step. 
  6. Get feedback as you go by workshopping (or don’t, some people like to wait until they have a full story to share). This is more important if you haven’t had formal education in writing. 
  7. Get someone to read your book when it’s done (beta reader). Someone who won’t sugarcoat their response or just leave it at “I liked it.” Preferably a few people. I don’t think this is an optional step. You have no idea how good or clear your book is until someone else reads it and tells you their opinion. 
  8. Revise! Seriously, like, rewrite the whole book. Yes, this is a pain. Yes, it’s the hardest part. Yes, you should do it. Possibly multiple times. 
  9. Get your book edited. If you can do it professionally, great, but I know it’s expensive (it’s time-consuming work, too, and a girl’s gotta eat!) so if you know someone who’s good at it and who offers to do it for free or cheap (Don’t ask! That’s rude!) then go for it. At a bare minimum, a second pair of eyes looking for mistakes is necessary. 
  10. Rewrite based on edits. If significant changes were made, get it edited again (at least proofread for typos). 

a stack of letters

Part 2A: Publishing Your Book Traditionally

  1. Research what publishers sell books like yours. 
  2. Find out how they accept submissions. If they accept unsolicited manuscripts, follow their instructions to the absolute letter and pray your book doesn’t die in the slushpile. 
  3. If the publisher you like requires an Agent, query, query, query. Pay very close attention to what specific things they each want in a query (no one-size-fits-all CC to everyone emails, please) and if they expect you to not query anyone else until they respond to you (exclusive submission). 
  4. Wait. Do it again. Expect this to take at least 6 months to a year. 
  5. When you get an agent and/or a publisher, make sure you really understand their contract before you sign it. Consider consulting a lawyer who isn’t paid by the publisher. 
  6. Enjoy that advance! Know that 90% of traditionally-published books don’t sell more than 1,000 copies. It’s okay! Go enjoy writing your next book, and build up that back catalog. 

Part 2B: Self-Publishing Your Book

  1. If you haven’t already had your book edited, do so now. 
  2. Decide where your book is going to be distributed. This might seem like jumping the gun, but it will affect how you do the next two steps.  
  3. Have your manuscript formatted, either for print, or for eBook, or both. We recommend both. 
  4. Get your cover designed. Do research about your genre and find a graphic designer or illustrator who has done similar work, if possible. Make sure the design follows the guidelines for your distributor and is sized to fit your interior. Most distributors will provide a PDF template based on your trim size and page count if you’re doing the work yourself. 
  5. Distribute! Get your book out there, so that you can move on to… 

Part 3: Marketing your book

(Yes, even if you published traditionally) 

Traditional publishers do not market for 99% of first-time authors. They only market what they are absolutely certain is already guaranteed to sell (which is a good investment strategy). So you’re likely going to be on your own for this, no matter what. 

  1. Word of mouth is still the best way to sell books. Social media counts as word-of-mouth. Remember how I listed this as step 0? The earlier you can build a platform, the better.  
  2. Do some research into using ads, especially if you’re on Amazon only. There are some great Facebook groups about this kind of thing. Since it changes rapidly, it’s a good idea to be part of a community to stay on top of the trends. 
  3. Consider hiring a Publicist to help you if you’re feeling overwhelmed and you have the budget for it.  
  4. Go write your next book. Authors who make a decent income off their books largely do so offtheir back catalog. If someone really likes your book, you want to give them the opportunity to buy five more. You can do it! 

So there’s your basic rundown. You’ll notice there are lots of links to blogs with more information on a lot of these steps. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Our goal is to educate and empower authors so you can make your book the best it can be!