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Special Note: Today, with my partners Barrie and Ron, I opened a free video training series on self-publishing your own book. This course will show you how to write, publish, and market your book.
I was surprised to learn that 81% of Americans want to write a book.
The statistic is surprising because so few people actually do.
Of those who do write a book and attempt to publish through traditional channels (ie: big publishing companies), about 98% get a rejection letter. That statistic alone is enough to turn away the vast majority of would-be authors.
Which is a shame.
A damn shame.
Because there are so many people who have important things to write about, things that could help and inspire other people.
YOU are one of those people, even if you've never considered writing a book before. You have a wealth of experience, interests, and ideas accumulated through a lifetime that other people could benefit from. Think about it for a minute. Think about what you know through your career, relationships, hobbies, and life challenges.
You probably take these things for granted, assuming no one would find them useful or interesting. But you're wrong. There are people all over the world searching for the knowledge you could share with them.
So back to that 98% rejection statistic. You might wonder why you'd want to go to the effort of writing a book if the odds of getting it published are so low. Good news future author: you can publish your own book without facing the prospect of a rejection letter.
Self-publishing has changed the entire playing field, and now anyone who has a book inside of them can get it out, publish it, and sell it.
However, just because you can self-publish doesn't mean you should throw out a crappy book and expect it to sell. But you wouldn't want to do that anyway. Self-publishing gives you the opportunity to present your book to the world, but you have to seize the opportunity by producing a quality book that people will want to buy.
Can you do that?
Yes, you can.
It's not as intimidating or confusing as you might think, and with 50 books and counting under my belt (with several that were bestsellers), I can attest to the fact that it is quite doable.
Whatever self-doubts you have at the moment about writing and publishing a book, set them aside as you read through this post, and challenge yourself to make writing and publishing a book one of your goals for the year. (To help make the process easier, read our post on SMART goals examples to improve your writing skills.)
Here's how to publish your own book in 10 simple steps:
(Side note: Want to level up your productivity and time management skills? Then watch this free video about the 9 productivity habits you can build at work.)
What You Will Learn
1. Choose a topic.
This is often the hardest part for writers — “What the heck do I write about?”
Let's talk about non-fiction writing for a moment. Grab a pen and paper and start writing down all of your skills (personal and professional), your interests, your hobbies, any significant life challenges you've faced, and any other knowledge you've gained as part of living.
Write down every possible thing you can think of until you've exhausted your brain. Now go back through that list and pick 3-4 topics that you would actually enjoy writing about. If you hate the topic, writing will be drudgery.
Once you have a few possible topics, break those down into possible sub-topics. For example, if you have an interest in sewing, sub-topics might include how to sew curtains or hand stitching.
You want your topic to be broad enough that you could write a series of books about various elements of it. It's better to go deep into one aspect of a subject than to try to cover everything in one book.
This gives you the opportunity to build a catalog of books, and it gives your reader more bang for the buck with each book you write.
After you've selected a few topics, you'll need to do some research to see if the topic is viable and has enough interested readers to make it profitable for you. We explain exactly how to do that research in the free video series I mentioned earlier, so be sure to watch so you understand this critical part of the process. This research can make or break the success of your book.
2. Write your book.
Let me tell you upfront — you don't have to be an extraordinary writer to write a good book. You just need to be good enough to communicate what you have to say in a clear, concise, and interesting way.
Write a “crappy first draft.” In other words, just get it down on paper and then go back and refine it. So with complete permission to write a crappy first draft, you can get started with these steps:
Decide how much time you can devote to writing each day. Even if it's just 5 minutes, carve that time out as sacred writing time. Don't allow anything or anyone to disturb or distract you.
Write an outline first. Break your topic down into possible chapters or sections, and then bullet point the info that will fit into each of them.
Sit down and write for your allotted time. Just write even if you aren't happy with it. Write in a conversational way so your authentic voice comes through.
Increase your writing time or word count over time. If you want to get more done, set increasingly bigger goals for yourself.
For example, you might have a goal to write 500-1000 words a day. You could finish a 30,000-word non-fiction book in a month or two. For reference, I've written almost 1000 words to this point in my post.
3. Edit your book.
We strongly recommend you get an editor to go through your book before you publish it. Even if you're the most amazing writer in the world, you still need an editor. You need someone to polish your work, make sure it flows, and catch any mistakes. Please don't skip this step. It's that important.
Of course you'll want to edit your own book several times before you send it to an editor. Go through it with a fine-tooth comb and re-write and edit carefully. You might even ask someone who's your ideal reader to look at your manuscript before you send it to an editor.
For example, if you're writing a book on parenting teenagers, find someone you know who is the parent of a teenager and ask them to read your draft. Ask for honest feedback so you can make sure the book appeals to the audience you're trying to reach.
Try to have a thick skin when getting this feedback and see it as an opportunity to make your book the best it can be.
Once you feel the book is ready for the editor's finishing touches, start looking for a good editor. You can find them at places like Upwork, ArchangelInk, and Elance.
Interview a few people and look at some of the books they've edited, particularly in your niche. Many editors can also format your book for publishing on Kindle and for print.
4. Decide on a title.
There's a real art and science to choosing a good title for your book. You want a title that has a “hook” — something short and pithy that really grabs the reader's attention. The subtitle can be longer with more explanation about how the book benefits the reader.
Go on Amazon and look at some of the bestsellers in your niche. Examine the titles and pay attention to those that really jump out at you. You'll also want to consider some of the SEO keywords in your niche that could be included in your title or subtitle to help readers find your book.
I like to write several title ideas and then run them by my blog readers and social media followers. If you don't have a blog or social media following, you can use a service like Pick FU to have a sampling of people weigh in on your titles.
Try to get a lot of feedback from potential readers to see what resonates with them before you settle on a title that you like. We talk more about how to select your book title in our free video series.
5. Design your book cover.
This is another area of self-publishing where you should hire a pro. Please . . . don't choose a cheesy stock photo and slap up your title just because it's the cheapest way to go. Find someone who regularly designs book covers and pay to have your cover well-designed.
I promise this step will pay off in the long run, as more people will be inclined to buy a book with an eye-catching, great looking cover. You can also find cover designers at ArchangelInk, Elance, and Upwork, so go through the same vetting process you used to hire your editor.
Look at their past work, ask about deadlines, and find out how many revisions are included in the price estimate.
You will need to write a copy for the back cover of a print version of your book. This copy should focus on the benefits of your book for the reader. Give them a compelling reason why they must have your book.
You only have a little space on the back cover, so be concise and use language that invites the reader to learn more. You can also include a very brief bio and photo of yourself, as well as a testimonial or review praising your book if you want.
6. Format your book.
I hire someone to format my books for me. Formatting for both Kindle and CreateSpace (Amazon's print on demand service for print books) is time-consuming and tedious. So unless you just love detail work, try to find an editor who will also handle formatting your book for you.
Another reason to hire someone is that you want to be sure it's done correctly. You don't want to go to all of the trouble to write your book, only to have it look like a mess when someone opens it to read it. Find someone who does this for a living and knows all of the rules and requirements of proper formatting.
7. Upload your book to Kindle.
Once your book is edited and formatted, and you have the cover designed, you can upload your book on the Kindle store. You'll need to create an account with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), where you'll find all the instructions for uploading your book, creating an author page, setting pricing for your book, and writing copy for your sales page.
All of these steps are really important when it comes to getting your book noticed and selling a lot of copies. The copy for your author page and your book sales page should focus primarily on how your book benefits the reader.
You don't need to sell people on the features of the book or what a great author you are. You need to let them know how you can answer their questions, offer solutions to their problems, and help them overcome their challenges related to your topic.
Once you've uploaded the book and completed the author page and sales page, it's time to hit the publish button. It generally takes Amazon a few days to review your book and make it live, but once they do, you are officially a published author!
8. Publish your print book.
I use CreateSpace, Amazon's print-on-demand service, to create the print version of my books, although there are many other places to print your book. If you've hired someone to format your book for you, be sure you ask them to format for both Kindle and CreateSpace (or whatever printing service you use).
Once your book is formatted for print, and your cover designs (front, back and spine) are completed, you can upload all of the files on CreateSpace by following their set-up instructions. CreateSpace has a help center and comprehensive book services (formatting, editing, and design) if you run into any problems.
Once you have everything properly uploaded, you can send your book to Amazon for publishing at the click of a button.
9. Promote your book.
So now that your book is published, you'll be waiting for the cash to start rolling in, right? Well, don't rely on Amazon alone to promote your book. You will need to spread the word and do everything you can to market and promote your book.
If you have a blog, be sure to write about your book and how it will help your readers. If you have an email list, be sure you send out an email announcing your new book. Use social media as well to spread the word.
You might also consider writing guest posts on relevant blogs about your topic with a link to your author page in the bio of the guest post. You can offer your books through various other publishing channels, like Nook and Kobo, if you don't want to just rely on Amazon.
Keep marketing your book regularly so it doesn't get lost in obscurity.
10. Start writing your next book.
The best way to become a better writer and to sell more books is by writing more books. Think about creating a catalog of books around your topic, so people interested in your topic will be more inclined to by from you.
The more books you write, the more income your books will bring you monthly. In fact, Barrie and I teach people to build an entire business around self-publishing by learning to leverage the content they create and using it for various other products and services, thus expanding your streams of income.
Always have a book in process, and you'll discover with a regular writing habit, you can publish several books a year.
Finally, if you want to level up your productivity and time management skills, then watch this free video about the 9 productivity habits you can build at work.