Step by Step: Writing to Self-Publishing

More help from editor Chara White at WordsAPlenty:

I would not presume to know every step for publishing, but the following is a good rule of thumb to follow beginning the moment you settle down to write.

  1. Create an idea for a book. Easier said than done!  For some, it is far more difficult to jump in feet first and begin to write hoping an idea will worm its way from your brain to your fingertips to the key board.  This method can be very stifling to those who need a starting point.  One point to begin is the title … ok, so this can be even harder to come up with than an awesome storyline.  Don’t fret!  There are resources out there for you … here are a few that help you with titles, themes, sayings, content ideas, character names, and more:

  1. Once you’ve come up with an idea, research is next. You need to make sure that what you are going to write about is a full-length book.  The last thing you want is to set your sites on a 75,000 word book only to discover there is only a 30,000 story in your idea.
  2. You need to define your target audience at this point. If you are writing a military book heavy with romance, is there an audience to buy your book?  Mixing genres is a good idea but make sure there is an audience for your book.  Your audience for a strictly military book is not going to match the military/romance genre.  So again, do your research.  Bounce ideas off family, friends, look at the number of military based romance novels on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.
  3. Create an outline for the content of your book. The outline can be in great detail or not, work with what you NEED.  Not everyone has the same needs – for me, a lesser detailed outline works best because I spend too much time stressing out over writing one!  However, if you need one then put in the effort and make it solid.
  4. And yet again, more research! It is important for one’s content to be accurate.  Whether the book is military, medical, romance, fantasy based or whatever, you want to make sure your terminology is accurate.  Be prepared to research.  Nothing will kill your hopes of a success book than a poorly written one!  Every book requires some research – some more than others so do so with care!
  5. Settle back and let your fingers do the typing. Follow your outline but don’t lock yourself in to it as ideas need to grow.  I had a friend who started out writing a mystery novel that grew into a full series. If she had followed her original plan, the story would not have matured into the success it is.
  6. Have your manuscript read by a couple of beta-readers. These are the folks who will be brutally honest with you and tell you whether or not the story is a success or a flop.  What needs to be fixed or explained and so forth.  Take their advice but don’t agonize over it.  They are a wealth of information but take their feedback but be sure to keep your voice!
  7. The next step is to have your manuscript edited by an experienced professional. These are hard to come by and there are tons of “fly-by-night” rip off artists.  How to find the best?  Easy … go to social media and ask other authors who they recommend, use or know.  Then interview each one and make your decision.  Have them provide you with references, examples and a timeline as well as cost.  There are some who perform editing by the job, others by the word count and still others who do it by the page.  Regardless of how you go, draw up a simple contract that lists your expectations of them and the finished product and at what cost.  One person requested that I edit his book in exchange for a cut of his royalties, while another insisted I be paid when his book was published … these are not acceptable expectations.  Be clear but also be realistic.
  8. Choose your online, self-publishing format: CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kobo, Draft2Digital, iBooks, Nook to name a few.  These options are free.
  9. The fun part is cover work which is vital – too many people still shop by cover than by reading the reading the book summary or publishers notes. So hire a good graphic artist – pick one with original work.  There is nothing disconcerting for a reader than to discover two or three books with the same exact stock photo cover for different books and different genres!!
  10. Establish the price for your book. Also, consider using BookBub, FreeBooksy, The eReader Café, and Lisa at ManyBooks as a marketing tool.
  11. Select a publication date and thus set your timeline for marketing your book!
  12. Develop your press material; remember, you are selling yourself as well as your book. The larger your audience with the first book, then the books that follow will already have a waiting audience!
  13. Build your author brand – create a website, Amazon page and an author presence on line via social media. Then promote your book with a strategic plan of action. CONNECT with your audience via Facebook and create a mystery about your books, draw your audience in with snippets of your next writing.  Plant teasers.    One author I know, presented a poll for who her readers thought was the killer who stretched over several books in her series before earning his own dedicated novel … the energy and interest she generated was AMAZING!


This is by no means a perfect plan from beginning to end but it is one you can use to get your feet wet!  It is one designed to help you plan, focus and not lose sight of your goal.

Good luck!

Charla White

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