Author’s note: Tekton Press was the first business I ran. Although I shut it down to do the technology consulting I love, I’m leaving this article here in the hope that it helps you as a writer.
Here’s the question: “As a first-time author, how much can I do by myself to publish my book?”
Assuming you want to self-publish, the short answer is that you can do everything by yourself. As with anything, though, there are caveats.
First, here’s the process.
Step 1: Idea to Manuscript
First, take your idea and do several brainstorming sessions.
Next, outline your book into sections (if relevant), chapters, and headings.
Then, write your manuscript by filling out each chapter and section. Make sure your book flows cohesively from start to finish, and that each chapter naturally leads to the next.
Do a little bit of copywriting. Not the legal kind, the marketing kind. Make sure the title, subtitle, and each chapter title is written in a way that entices your reader to want to learn more.
Step 2: Revisions and Editing
Now, take a break. Set your manuscript aside for a few days.
What you’ll find when you come back is somewhat of a fresh perspective. As you read through, you’re going to find things you want to change. For example, you might realize that your thoughts on a dieting cheat day fit better after “How to Eat Healthy Food Without Throwing Up,” rather than before.
You’ll probably also find and fix grammatical errors, spelling errors, and that sort of thing.
If you’re an overachiever, do this again. Set it aside for a few days and then conduct a third review.
Once that’s complete, ask a friend to review it, and to do so mercilessly. Make sure they’re comfortable giving you honest feedback. This is an important part of ensuring that someone other than you understands the thoughts in your head!
Finally, hand it over to an editor.
Seriously, just do it.
Can you edit it yourself? Of course you can.
But don’t. Really.
Even if you’re an English nerd, set your ego aside and hire someone who’s craft is editing. Readers can tell the difference between a book that’s been edited and one that has not. And they’re brutal in their PUBLIC feedback of books that aren’t professionally edited.
Step 3: Format for Digital and Print
Now it’s time to prepare your files for publication.
As a self-published author, you should concentrate first on the two major platforms: Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace.
Amazon’s Kindle has the largest market share of all the digital readers currently on the market.
CreateSpace is a print-on-demand service, which is awesome because it means you don’t have to order a minimum number of printed books. Many printers require minimum print runs of 500 to 2,000 books, which can be cost-prohibitive for most of us.
Now, each format has its own formatting rules. And, you have to be careful, because many word processing programs insert hidden characters and other layout SNAFUs that can cause your book to look horrible in digital form.
If you wrote your book with Word and don’t want to hire someone to format it for Kindle for you, check out Aaron Shepard’s awesome book, From Word to Kindle. You’ll be glad you did.
And so will your readers.
From a layout perspective, take a look at the second half of Guy Kawasaki’s post “How to Avoid the Self-Published Look.”
Formatting for CreateSpace is another animal. There are a lot of publishing rules for print books, such as right-justification, page numbering, running heads, and orphaned text.
Here again, Guy Kawasaki’s post can help. Also, take a read through “Why Self-Published Books Look Self-Publishedx.”
Finally, GET A PROFESSIONAL BOOK COVER.
Yes, I shouted it. Do not make the mistake of doing it yourself! Do not go to the hard work of writing, editing, and formatting your own book, only to completely repel every reader in the world.
Skimping on your cover will be a death blow to your book dreams.
If that sounds harsh, then I’ve done my job. I want you to succeed. Yes, you need to be a good steward of your money. But you also need to be a good steward of your time and your dreams.
Finally, upload your formatted files and your book covers to KDP and CreateSpace. Take advantage of their preview options and, once you’re happy… hit PUBLISH!
You can do this. Yes, YOU.
Don’t let information overload or naysayers hold you back.
Get started today.