I must say, a lot of people have been asking me about exactly how to write a book. I’ve written and published my own young adult fiction book, The Month Of June. It surprised me how many people have never met an actual author before. When I tell them, most people react by asking about how I did it. I’ve gotten so many responses of “How did you do that?” or “Can you help me publish my own book?”
It inspires and motivates me when I hear that people like what I do, and that they would like to do the same thing. Publishing a book is a very rewarding experience, and can really teach you a lot. Unfortunately, many people who want to be an author end up giving up on their dreams, thinking that the process is too difficult and a lot of work for just a little bit of payoff. In reality, while writing a book is not a simple thing to do, anyone that really wants to and has the perseverance can do it.
I present to you this guide on how to publish your own book, in the simplest words possible. I understand how frustrating it can be to look up advice but the only things you can find are in confusing vernacular that you don’t understand. Short and sweet but still comprehensive, this guide will tell you all that you need to know to get your own book out there.
Step 1: Write your book
This, right here, is probably the most important part of the whole process, and arguably the most neglected. Before you really do anything in the publishing process, you have to have the entire book finished—completely finished.
People wonder what the first step in getting themselves published is; this is it, hands down. I see people coming up with all these ideas for cover designs, marketing ideas, and shelf space in local stores, but their book isn’t complete yet. This is a big mistake. It’s easy to get ahead of yourself when thinking of the big picture, but you just have to remind yourself to take it slow, pay attention to details and write a good, quality book. That will pay off a lot more in the long run than trying to sell a rushed, low-quality book.
(If you’re having trouble actually writing the book, like coming up with ideas, plots, etc., this article probably isn’t what you’re looking for. Another article, The Layman’s Guide To Writing A Book, will be published and linked here.)
Once you have written your book in it entirety, you will have what’s called a manuscript—a document or folder containing every part that will be in your final book. The manuscript doesn’t count the table of contents, acknowledgements and other sections that don’t have to do with the plot or the content of the book itself. These are still important and will come in later, but are not included in the manuscript or in the process of writing the book itself. It might be a good idea to start thinking of that stuff now, though, to save some time and to make the whole book connect well.
Step 2: Choose how to publish
The next step is to choose how you want to publish your book. There are 2 ways to do it; they are both very different and have their own pros and cons.
The first method is just regular publishing, known as traditional publishing. With this method, you take your manuscript and send it to a company, which will take your book and do everything for you.
I consider this to be its own step because there are several things you need to consider when choosing a publishing method. These include your budget, experience, writing ability, book format, and how much time you have. If you’re a first-time author, looking for a good profit, or are willing to put in more effort to actually getting your book out there, then self-publishing is definitely the way to go. If you’re willing to invest a good amount of money into your book, have confidence in your writing, want a perfect, flawless final book, and your main focus is getting yourself on the main stage no matter what it takes, you should think about traditional publishing.
|Traditional Publishing||Self Publishing|
|Ease||Can be quite difficult. Requires a lot of effort and persistence||Easy to do; almost anyone can do it, if they have the right tools|
|Time (after book is written)||Anywhere from about 6 weeks to over 6 months||About 2 to 6 weeks|
|Money||Can take a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.||Different options. Free, takes a portion of your profits, or a package that can cost about as much as regular publishing.|
|Legitimacy||Professional and recognizable. Looks legit; people, companies, and contests are more willing to accept it.||Might be seen as sketch or unprofessional. Not eligible for many contests and benefits.|
|Skill/Experience||Knowledge in writing and publishing greatly helpful. Previously published authors or those who have help from others.||Not much extensive knowledge needed in the field. Not necessary to have worked with similar things before.|
|Accessibility||Lots of help and problem solving available to you. Editors, marketing managers, proofreaders, and many other specialists are there to help you.||Not much help; the help that is given is in the form of FAQs and articles on the website of the company. Very little if any human help is given.|
|Inventory||Must order hundreds of copies at one time||Can order as many or as few copies as you wish|
|Exposure||Extensive marketing that will gain exposure for your book nicely and efficiently||Extra effort will have to be put forth in order for your book to gain the exposure it needs|
|Reward||Lots of popularity and high potential||Creative freedom and good profit|
While there are benefits to both, my book The Month Of June was self published, so that’s the option that I have more experience with. I’ll still discuss both options in detail, but I might know a few more details about self publishing because of this.
Step 3: start the process
Now, you’re ready to truly start publishing your book. The only thing standing between you and having your work displayed out to the entire world, is these next few steps.
The first thing you need to do is choose a publishing company. This is the company that will take care of you and your book during the entire publishing process. Each publisher has different types and standards for what books they choose to publish. The company will read your manuscript and decide if they want to publish it. If they do, they will print it for you, can ship you the copies, and will provide a variety of other services.
A ton of different options available for you as to which publishing company you want to choose. There are a handful of big name publishers out there–Penguin, Random House, Harper Collins, and Scholastic. They are the publishers of some of the best, most popular, and most lucrative books around. If you’re lucky and skilled enough to get published by one of these companies or their children, then a long successful future with your book is guaranteed. But these companies have very strict standards and are very hard to get into. A successful book is very attainable with a lesser known publisher.
The way I see it, choosing a publishing company and getting published is very much like applying for college. There are so many different options, some more popular than others, some more successful others. Each one also has different benefits and services that are meant to attract new people. You can apply, but there’s no guarantee for getting in, and the better you are, the better chance you have to get into one of the better options. After a long, strenuous waiting period, you’ll either be met with the bitter taste of rejection and uncertainty, or the sweet taste of success and a bright future.
Assuming that the second option will happen, then this step is almost taken care of. Your company will do almost everything for you. First, they’ll edit your manuscript–they will make sure that there are no spelling, grammar or punctuation mistakes. Then they’ll format it, which is when they take the text and make it fit into the layout of the book. This is when it goes from a text file you send them, to the actual appearance it will have when fully printed. They’ll all work with you and make sure that it will be just what you want.
Then, they should ask you to write the front matter sections. These are the parts of the book that comprise the first few pages, and aren’t actually part of the book itself. This includes the table of contents, acknowledgements, the preface, and the half-title – that part at the very beginning that just states the title again. I must admit that I have less experience in traditional publishing, so I’m not 100% sure at what point they do this. But I’ve always presumed they do it at this point, so I’ll add it here. Note that not all of the sections are required, and there are actually a few end matter sections as well. Click here for a list of all the different front and back sections.
This step is actually quite different than in traditional publishing. Unlike its lengthy and more expensive counterpart, you don’t have to wait for any sort of approval to publish your book. The publishing process can begin as soon as you’re done writing it. No approval, no phone calls; you just find a good provider and you can start it off whenever you want.
There are several different self publishing websites you can use. I’ve looked into and even used more than one website over the years. Kindle Direct Publishing, Lulu, and Createspace are the ones I’ve used, and I’ve looked into a few others. They all have slightly different things to offer, but the one I use and highly recommend is Createspace. They are owned by Amazon, so once you publish on there, it also goes on the Amazon website, and they’ll help you make it into a Kindle Ebook as well. They can even get it on the Barnes & Noble website, which will make it available for order in stores!
Whatever website you use, you’ll have to make an account on there, of course. Then you have to make the first basic decisions for your book. Decide what the trim size will be. This is what the dimensions of the book will be when it’s completely printed. The most common trim size for an average novel is about 6″x9″ (15×23 cm), but you do have flexibility, especially depending on what book you’ve written. Obviously, a picture book is not gonna have the same trim size as a sci-fi novel.
Then, depending on what size you choose, they will give you a template, which is a file you download that you paste your book and information into, which will then be printed as the final book. This is the equivalent of the formatting section of the traditional publishing section.
This is an example of an average self publishing template. You take the applicable information and enter it inside the template