Publishing a book is something that has been on my list for a very, very long time. I have been reading about the best ways to do it and all the important tips and tricks and things to pay attention to, especially as a first-time publisher.
Beside the fact that I have longed to create and publish a book simply because of my love for writing in general, this can also be a very good way to earn passive income.
This guide is mainly directed at non-fiction ebook publishing, but most of the tips here do apply on creating and publishing any type of book. And I do mention a few tips on fiction writing and paperback publishing briefly.
Whether you consider self-publishing a fiction or a non-fiction book and whether it is a 100-page book or 10-page guide, the steps below will help you have a better understanding of how this process goes, and the best way to go about it, without spending a fortune.
- 1. Planning
- 2. Content
- 3. Design
- 4. Publication
- 5. Promotion
Before even starting on the writing process of your ebook, there is some planning that needs to take place, and that is in order to ensure a more smooth process in the development stages and for a more successful outcome.
Planning here is a two-step process: A. Book outlining and B. market research.
First thing about planning your book is to have an outline that specifies the major points that will be discussed, and to have a clear understanding of what the outcome should be from reading this book.
What is the end goal? Why would someone buy this and how will it help them?
When you answer these questions, it will guide you through the writing process and give you direction so you don’t lose track while you’re a few dozen pages in.
Because if you lose track of the main topic, so will the reader. And that’s not what you want.
You can do this by simply creating the index page of the book, as this will have an overview of everything that will be discussed, including main and subtopics.
The same thing applies in writing fiction, whether you are a plotter or panster, you have got to have a clear outline for your novel and know exactly where you want to go with this. And that is both to help you in the writing process, and also in order to be able to move to the next step of the planning process.
B. Market research
This is another crucial step that also has to come in the very early stages of creating your book, and before you’d have started indulging in the process of content creation.
After you have decided on the idea of your book and specified the main topics that will be discussed, you should then start doing some market research; figure out whether this book and this idea will be successful or not.
And there are a few ways you can do this:
- You can use Google to find out the best-selling books in your niche/genre and see if any of them have similar ideas discussed. Read the reviews and see what people thought of the topic.
- You can email some of your friends or family members and tell them that you’re thinking of writing a book that will go through so and so; ask if they would be interested in buying this book. And if not, why?
- Another way you can market research your book idea is through asking on social media. You can use Facebook groups or Twitter, and do the same thing you did with the emails.
The results you will get from all the three methods above will give you a clear idea of what people actually want, and wether your book would be able to fulfill that or not.
I get that with fiction writing many writers are not always fond of the idea of having what people want direct their writing process; and I am one of those writers.
However, market research doesn’t necessarily mean you have to change the whole book, it just gives you an idea of what works and what doesn’t, and you then have the option to take that to tweak your idea or your technique accordingly and where you see fit.
It can also be an inspiring process to bring some new ideas to your attention.
Now that you are done with the planning process and confident that your idea has an interested audience, you are ready to work on the actual book and develop the content.
After you have written a first draft of your book, either fiction or non-fiction (check out these writing tools), you will need to go through a few steps to polish it and prepare it for publication.
There are two method you can go about editing your book: the paid method and the free method.
Before we dive into this one, let’s just agree that a properly edited book is, in a way, more important than the writing itself.
You may wonder, how come editing is more important?
Well, this is because if the book is poorly edited, with grammar, spelling, and syntax errors, it gives a message across to the reader that it is written by an amateur, which will kind of decrease your credibility and authority.
And that, in turn, will make it hard to follow your advice with confidence, even if your advice is indeed foolproof. So, make sure you pay extra attention to the editing.
Now let’s get into the editing process and start with the free method first.
A.1 Free editing
To ensure that your piece is carefully edited, there are a few steps you might want to follow.
Almost every major writing program has a spell check option. So whether you are using MS Word, Google Docs, or Pages, make sure the spell check is enabled and go through the entire piece to check for any errors.
For grammar errors, you can use a program like Grammarly or WhiteSmoke. All you will need to do is paste the entire content of the book into the program and let it check for grammar errors. It will show you the error and the suggested correction to apply.
Just make sure that you either correct the errors in the original piece or copy and paste the corrected version from Grammarly and save it.
Alternatively, you can download the add on to your browser and have Grammarly detect the errors right into the writing program you are using.
Grammarly can also help detect some basic stylistic errors; and if you have a paid version, it shows you more advanced ones.
You can also use a tool like this one to point out any punctuation errors you have.
There is also a list of other similar free tools for both grammar and stylistic errors you can find here.
After you have done all three steps above, you want to re-read the full thing again to make sure there are no missing words or any errors that may have slipped through any of the previous checks.
It is best if you either copy and paste the content in a different program than the one you used to write, or print it and read it on paper.
This is because when you read the same piece over and over, your eyes will get used to the words, and you won’t really be seeing the errors anymore.
So by changing things like the fonts, colours, or the display on which the text is showing, it helps make it look fresh and you will become more conscious reading it.
Bonus tip: Read with your mouth not your eyes. When you speak the words out loud, it will be much easier to find any missing words or odd sentence structure.
When you have thoroughly went through the book and managed to fix all the errors, the final step would be to give it someone, or a few people, to proofread it for you.
You can just ask one of your friends or a family member. Or you can find beta readers online, many of them would do it for free or in exchange for a similar favor, like beta reading each other’s work, which is still a great deal.
A.2 Paid Editing
Now, if you would rather pay for the editing to make sure that nothing slips, or if you don’t have the time to edit it yourself, you will also have a few options.
But before you pay for services, make sure you understand the different services available and which one of them you actually need.
You can either hire an editor or a proofreader, depending on your need and also your budget.
Editing usually involves correcting sentence structure and adding/removing words to make the text more appealing and readable, along with correcting any language mistakes and syntax errors.
It is a more involved process. This is a better option if the language you write in is not your first language. Or if you feel that your writing could use some polishing. This is usually a more expensive service.
While proofreading is mainly focusing on language mistakes like spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors only.
This is an option you would opt for if you just worry you missed an error and want a new, yet professional, pair of eyes to scan it for any errors. And this is usually a cheaper service.
You can read more about this here.
Where to find editors and proofreaders
Fiverr and Upwork are some famous examples of websites where you can hire freelance editors and proofreaders.
To make sure you pay your money for the right person though, go through the list of the category you want to hire from and read the reviews and check their portfolios and their ratings.
Once you decide on the freelancer you want to hire, don’t send them the entire book all at once. It’s better if you send them only a few chapters first as a sample, to see how good they are, and let them know that if the work is done properly, you will then send them the whole book.
This is to avoid paying a full payment for the whole thing and still end up with a poorly edited book.
Another way you can have your book edited is through doing some online search and looking for editors or editing offices around you. This may be a little more expensive than a freelancing editor online, but will most likely have even better results.
The book is written and edited, now it’s time to properly format it!
Formatting will vary based on where you plan to publish your book. There is more on the publication process below.
But, for now, let’s just say that formatting an ebook for Amazon is different from formatting it for other ebook distributors, and will also entirely differ if you aim to have it published as paperback.
- Opting for a website like Kindle, they have their own formatting guide that you would need to follow in order to get approved for publication. You can watch this video to see the steps.
- If you will go for publication on your website or other ebook websites like iBooks, you can read about the general guidelines and a step-by-step guide that walks you through it in this article for Pages users and this guide for MS Word users.
Learn more about the different format types for ebooks here.
- If you want to opt for a paperback option too, then read this article that is a step-by-step guide on how to format your book to self-publish in the paperback form for free.
And just like editing, you can always hire a professional to format your book for you, if you feel like it is too much work, or if you are looking for a more efficient route and have the budget for it.
This is an example of a website that offers formatting services.
Finally, the book is finished! Now the one last step before it is finally out there for the world to see is the book cover!
Book cover design is very, very important. You want your cover design to pop and attract attention but also not to look tacky.
Choosing the right cover design is as important as choosing the right topic for your book; in fact, it can be more important sometimes. Because as cliche as this sounds, most people do judge a book by its cover.
There are also two routes you can take when it comes to designing the cover, a free one and paid one.
A. Free cover design
A free cover design would basically be you creating the design yourself.
They both provide paid plans, but the free version is just as good with plenty of features and design templates.
If you don’t know what your book cover should look like, you may do some Google search.
Check out book covers for similar books and try to see if there is any colour combination or text style that you like and use that as an inspiration to create yours.
Another way to get some ideas would be to take a look at the book cover templates available on Canva.
You will still need to make changes to the design though, as these covers are available to everyone who uses the program and you wouldn’t want to have a copied book cover of someone else’s. But it is a good way to get some ideas.
I have not used Adobe photoshop before, so I don’t know if this is something that is available there too or not.
B. Paid cover design
Just like with editing, paying for a cover design will vary based on how much you are willing to pay.
And also whether or not you have a clear idea about what you want the cover to look like.
You can go for similar freelance websites like you did with the editing, hire a freelance designer and provide them with the idea of the cover design and the colour palette you have in mind.
But what if you don’t have an idea of what your cover should look like and haven’t found anything matches it from searching Google?
There is a website called 99 designs, where you can either hire a specific designer to work on your book cover or create something like a contest; providing all the information you have in mind about the design and the book itself and all available designers create their own version of the design.
In that case, you will end up with a number of different designs for your book to choose from.
Once you settle on a design you like, you then pay for registration and get the design. After signing up, you may also ask them to make any changes you wish to have on the design.
This option is a bit pricy, as the registration for this site starts at $299. But you do get dozens of different covers designed by professionals.
There are several options when it comes to publishing your book. You can publish it on your website, publish it on Amazon as an ebook or a paperback.
Let’s go through these options separately.
A. On your website
After you download the plugin, you will choose to upload a digital product (a PDF copy of your book) where you will be required to fill some information about your book, like the title and description, and set a price for it.
You will also need to implement a payment system on your site. Most people use and trust Paypal; so that might be the safest option to go with.
But there is a number of other payment plugins you can use depending on what is compatible with your site. If you are a WordPress user, you can find plenty of options here.
Bonus tip: Before promoting the book, make sure you test the process on your site first. Set the price to 0, purchase a copy, and see if everything works properly.
Watch the below tutorial to learn how to get started with WooCommerce.
B. On Amazon
The second option is to publish your book through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) where it will be available for all Amazon users.
On KDP you have the option to make your book available in an ebook format and also as a paperback.
Having your book on Amazon will, of course, allow for more exposure and will most likely bring you more sales as opposed to having it only available on your website.
However, there is something you will need to consider when publishing on Amazon is that your book must have at least 2500 words to be accepted.
So, workbooks with lots of empty space/pages or very short guides would not be approved for publication.
Also remember that it needs to be formatted according to KDP’s format guide.
Publishing on Kindle is an easy process that is mainly a few clicks of a button. You will upload the digital copy of your book, fill information about the book and set a price.
And while setting this up, you will have the option to choose “paperback.” This will make your book available for paperback orders as well.
There is also an option for you to receive a copy of the printed book for revision, just to make sure that it looks good in print.
Watch the below tutorial to learn how to start with KDP.
Everything about the book is set and ready to go live. But before you go ahead and publish your book, you should have a promotional strategy in place first.
There are three stages for promoting your book: prelaunch promo, launch day promo, and post launch promo.
A. Prelaunch promotion
Prelaunch promotion is the most critical one because it will build the momentum up to the day of the publication.
Why it is the most important stage is because if you get enough people excited to buy your book, you will be able to make a decent number of sales on your first day, which is how your book can become featured on Amazon’s best sellers of its category, for example.
Being featured on this list means that everyone visiting Amazon’s page to buy a book, will see your book among the first ones on top, which means more exposure and more possible sales.
B. Launch day promotion
On the day of the book launch, you should work towards trying to drive the highest traffic to the book and get as many downloads as you can.
B.1 Social media
Post about your book 3-4 times on that day, across all your social media accounts. However, try to make each post different, maybe once share a snippet, once ask for people to support you by downloading, once ask them to leave a review.
So that it doesn’t feel like spamming, and also for the post to actually be interesting and get interactions, instead of simply sharing a plain link.
Also, go to Facebook groups that are made for book promos and add a link to your book in as many as you can.
B.2 Your email list
Sending 2-3 emails to your list (since this is your launch day, and you don’t normally do that, it wouldn’t be considered spamming).
In each email, you can ask your subscribers to do something different.
For example, you can send an email first thing in the morning announcing that your book is now available and ask them to go to the link and download.
Then in a 2nd email, maybe midday or in the afternoon, ask them to share the book link with their friends or on social media to help deliver it to more poeple.
Then may be send a 3rd one the following morning, and you can ask them to leave a review on the book if they haven’t already.
B.3 Family and friends
Contact everyone you know, personally, and tell them that your book is available and to download it and leave you a review.
C. Post launch promotion
You are going to need to plan your on-going promotion that follows your launch day, before the actual launch day.
C.1 On your Website
There are two types of promo strategies you can offer on your website:
1) Run a promo that during x number of days, people can purchase the book at $0.99 and then the price will go up to be $9.99, for example.
2) Make the book available for free purchase for, say, 3 days, and then set it at a low price for another 3 days, and then it goes up to the original price after that.
Usually these promos can last up to 6-7 days after launch day.
C.2 KDP Select
Another great option for promotion you can use would be if you will publish your book through Amazon. You can choose an option on there to enroll in one of their promos under KDP select.
Which is a similar idea to the above ones, however, your book will be available for a much wider audience of course.
They offer two types of promo:
- Kindle Countdown Deals. They put a discount on your book with a countdown to the day the price will go up again.
- Free Book Promotion. They offer readers worldwide your book for free for a limited time.
Here are a few more tips on how to become a best selling author on Amazon.
However, note that, in order for you to enroll in the KDP Select promo offers, you must be exclusively publishing on KDP. So, you wont be allowed to have a digital copy of your book available on any other platform, including your website.
Bonus tip: After the free promo on KDP, increase the price gradually not all the way up at once. You can start with $0.99 first, then increase that after 2 days or so.
Because your book will not immediately be moved from the free books list. And if people browsing the free list and your book is there, listed for like $10, they obviously won’t buy it. But if it’s there at $0.99, they may think it’s still a good deal.
Extra promo tips:
To get more attention to your book and more downloads during the promo days, whether you have it on KDP or just your website, you may also want to do the following:
- Post about it on all social media accounts, multiple times a day, throughout the promo duration
- Send emails to your list every 2 days, asking them to download the free/discounted copy and leave a review
- Post on Facebook groups that are specifically made for free book promos at least once every day during your promo days
- Tweet to dedicated accounts that share free books and share your book link with them, they will mostly retweet or tweet about it
- Use relevant hashtags with your promo tweets on Twitter
- Submit your book to free KDP book promo websites (in case of free promo option)
- Submit your book to paid KDP book promo websites (in case of paid promo options, or when you put the price back up)
Have you considered publishing a book before? Or maybe you already published one and have some tips for first-time publishers? Let me know in the comments below.
Till next week, happy days!