The 10 steps I took to write & publish my first book
Recently I posted in one of my favourite Facebook groups, Blogging Boost, about how amazing it was to hold the very first printed copy of my book in my hands. I was overwhelmed by the response: At the time of publishing this blog post, that Facebook post has received 515 reactions and 81 comments. Wow. After that post, I got some questions from people who’d seen it. One of the most frequent questions was, ‘How exactly did you do it?’ So I thought I’d answer that.
I want to start by saying this: It was not easy. Maybe for some lucky people out there, sitting down and writing thousands of good, useful, actionable words is the easiest thing in the world. Not for me. I loved it, and I am going to do it again soon, but it wasn’t easy—and I don’t think you should expect it’s going to be easy, either.
But, in saying that, it was absolutely possible. It was also one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. If you’re thinking about writing a book, do it. Give it a shot.
By the way, if you want to have a look at my book, you can find all the details here. Blog in Bloom is a writing and grammar workbook for bloggers and infopreneurs.
Anyway, without further ado, here are the exact steps I took to writing and self-publishing my first book.
@@Thinking of self-publishing a book? Here are the 10 steps @hedera_house took@@
Time frame: Four weeks
Obviously, the first step to creating anything is to come up with the idea for it. Because my passion is beautifully crafted, error-free writing, I knew that was what I wanted to create a book about.
I also knew that I wanted to write a book for budding infopreneurs, because that’s the community I’m a part of and passionate about.
The next step in the concept creation was harder, because I had to start solving all the holes in my idea. This is where the majority of the four weeks went. I had to figure out why any infopreneur would be interested in a book about grammar. Firstly, it’s not the most thrilling subject, and often information about grammar is poorly presented and just not interesting at all. Secondly, learning about writing and grammar isn't really an immediate money-making strategy, unlike what a lot of other products out there offer. Learning more about grammar probably isn’t going to make you a million dollars overnight.
So why would anyone buy this book? I had to accept that, well, they probably wouldn’t. Which meant that then I had to turn it into a product that infopreneurs would buy.
I brainstormed a lot, and eventually came up with a solution.
Firstly, I knew it had to be pretty. So many writing workbooks are ugly and dated, and I knew that if I was appealing to infopreneurs, my book had to be different—it had to look beautiful.
Secondly, I knew it had to be written in a way that infopreneurs would enjoy. That is, it had to be casual, not too bloated with grammar jargon. I decided that I’d write the workbook in a similar voice to my blog posts.
Thirdly, I knew that the workbook had to really be a workbook—that is, it had to contain exercises; it had to encourage its readers to really work inside its covers.
Last but certainly not least, I knew that it had to be highly relevant to developing the sorts of products that infopreneurs write.
This was my next problem: How would I make it relevant? Well, I know that writing is at the core of any infopreneur’s business. I just had to make sure that my exercises and the advice I was giving in the book were aimed at helping my readers to work on their own content. So, I decided that I’d create exercises that asked the infopreneur to edit a pre-written blog post as well as their own blog post (or product) while progressing through the workbook.
So now I had the bare bones of my book and I could start planning the steps I’d need to take next.
Time frame: One week
Once I’d come up with the core ideas behind the workbook, the next step was planning what information I needed to find in order to write the book and what sorts of things I’d be including. Because I wanted the workbook to be relevant to infopreneurs, I wanted to get straight into researching what grammar and writing mistakes infopreneurs make most often—I couldn't really progress any further without knowing that.
Time frame: Two months
My research consisted mainly of choosing twenty blog posts and info-products and analysing them closely. I looked at the grammar errors that each contained as well as the engaging and effective writing techniques the infopreneurs used to make their work stand out. I collected this information so that I would know exactly what bloggers and infopreneurs actually needed help with, so I'd know what to write about.
4. MORE PLANNING
Time frame: Two weeks
Once I’d done my research, I could figure out how to structure my book. I had collected data on the writing of bloggers and infopreneurs, so I knew what I should include in the book and what I shouldn’t. For example, I decided not to include errors that none of the content I analysed contained.
I used Scrivener to create the outline of my book (you could do this in any word-processing software, even Word, but I love Scrivener for planning).
In this stage, I also nailed down the structure for each chapter in the book. I decided that each chapter would look something like this:
- So what?
- What is [subject]?
- How can you improve?
Having this set structure (even though I deviated from it when I needed to) made the job of writing a lot easier and less daunting.
An important note: Each of these steps—particularly 3 and 4, research and planning, were not nearly as neat and separated as they seem in this blog post. I didn’t one day just stop researching, close the door on that part of the process, and move on to planning. Sometimes steps melt together—and that’s ok. That’s all part of the process.
Time frame: One week
Now that I had my outline, I started on the hardest part of the process: the actual writing. Ugh. I am a writer; I love writing. But I really, really struggle with it, most of the time.
I decided to start my initial drafts on paper. I don't know about you, but I always find it easier to write when I’m using pen and paper—the words flow better. Even though I always end up editing harshly as I’m transferring from paper to computer, at least the ideas are there.
So I began my (very) rough drafts on paper. I knew what the structure of each chapter would be because I’d already planned that, so all I had to do was fill in the gaps with my words. And because I knew the subject of my book so well, it wasn’t too hard to just let my knowledge spill onto the paper.
Well, I mean, it was hard. But the hard thing wasn’t getting the words down, especially once I’d transferred to writing with paper and pen—the hardest part was making myself sit down and start.
Note: It was around this time that I began experiencing serious project boredom. If you’re starting a big project like a book, and you’re not a 100% perfect human being, you can probably expect project boredom. This is where you have been working on a project for so long, and you’ve put so much time and effort and brainpower into it, that all you want to do is abandon it and start a new, shiny project. All I can say is this: The grass is always greener. Push through! Get it done! You'll thank yourself later.
Time frame: A couple of days
I love the design stage of big projects like this, because it’s such a nice break from writing and word work.
I designed my book myself, but if you have no interest at all in DIY design, I’d highly recommend working with a designer.
To design my book, I first scribbled some ideas down on paper about what the design might look like. I knew that the name of my book was Blog in Bloom, and when I’d come up with that title, I thought it had great possibilities for beautiful, flowery design.
So, when it came time to design the book, I found some absolutely beautiful graphics on Creative Market (it was actually one of the free downloads) and used those graphics as the core of my design, so it would look coherent.
I think I designed the cover first so I could start marketing the book.
Then, because I was going to create the book’s layout in InDesign, I designed the different master pages I was going to need—a spread for the actual chapter pages, then some extra spreads for things like chapter title pages and the pages for the opening content.
If you’ve never worked in InDesign before, I definitely recommend giving it a shot. I’ve created quite a few different things in InDesign now, including a textbook for a past employer, and I’m always shocked by how much easier it is to create a professional, beautiful document in InDesign. And you can find loads of great tutorials on sites like Lynda.com.
If you’re not comfortable working in InDesign, you could also work in Apple Pages, and I'm sure there are loads of other options you could look into. While some suggest working in Word, I highly recommend not doing that, unless your book doesn't need any design elements at all (unlikely). Word is great for straight word processing, and will probably be great for your first draft, but you can’t design in Word. You just can’t.
7. MORE WRITING
Time frame: Two weeks
Because I used the design step as a bit of a break from writing, I still had loads of writing left to do once I’d come up with my design. I actually continued writing in InDesign once I’d created the document.
I think this is an important point: Don’t hem yourself in. If something is working for you, just go with it. You’re writing a book, for goodness’ sake! For example, normally I wouldn’t write in InDesign—I’d write in Word or Scrivener and then transfer that over to InDesign. But for some reason it was working for me, so I went with it.
8. MARKETING & EDITING
Time frame: One week
What is normally my favourite part of the process—editing!—turned into such a chore this time around. I just had so much going on with my business outside of the book, and I’d been working on the book for so long, that I wasn’t really in the right headspace. But I got on with it anyway, because if you’re going to go to all the effort of writing a book, you want it to be as good as it possibly can be, right?
Please, no matter how much you detest editing, don’t skip this step. Give yourself a chocolate for every paragraph you edit or something like that. There’s nothing worse than seeing that someone has poured their heart into their writing and then not edited afterwards.
And if you truly don’t have a single editing bone in your body, send it my way.
And, with the marketing… well, I have to be honest: I did a terrible job of marketing the book. But this is a lesson for me and for you, probably, too. Don’t try to launch and market while also writing and editing your book (and working at the same time). Please. Don’t. If you have final touches you want to make, fine: Leave that for your launch phase. But don’t do it all at once. I thought I could do it. I was so wrong.
Anyway, to start marketing, I created a sales page, set up my Squarespace shop (BTW, I’ve now changed that over to Gumroad and Etsy because at the time of writing Squarespace doesn’t play nice with PayPal). Then the extent of my marketing effort was pretty much to send out a few emails, tweet a couple of times, and… well. That was really it. I told you—terrible.
If you want to actually have an effective launch plan, like I absolutely didn’t, you can find some great advice in the articles below:
- Launch it big, creating buzz by Little Trailer Studio
- Course launch collateral: All the things you'll make for your launch by Femtrepreneur
- How to launch anything online by Just Creative
Time frame: One week
Once I’d finished the book, it was time to have it printed. When I first decided to write a book (way back in, like, August last year) I really wanted to have it published through Amazon’s CreateSpace—that’s what Regina uses for Epic Blog, and what a lot of other infopreneurs use, and I thought it sounded fantastic.
But, of course, CreateSpace doesn’t publish for Australian authors. Classic!
Luckily, when it came time for printing, I’d already met a printer I wanted to work with: Worldwide Printing Solutions in Brisbane. And I have to say, I’m so glad I went with a local printer. It meant that I could see a proof copy of the book before I ordered a larger print run, and it also meant that I could talk with my printer if I had questions or problems. I think I would have felt a lot less in control if I hadn’t been able to communicate with someone I knew about the process. Highly recommended!
Plus, when I need to have some more printed, it's only a 10-minute bus ride away.
Time frame: Ongoing
This is where I’m at now, and I have to admit, it’s the step I’m the least confident writing about—mostly because I don’t think I’ve been all that successful in my marketing efforts so far.
Here are my plans for marketing:
- social media posts (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat)
- my free email course, Unboring Your Writing is a lead-in to Blog in Bloom
- blog posts like this one
- guest blog posts for my blogging friends
- local networking in Brisbane.
Really, I’ll be happy if I can set up a system where I can bring in regular, consistent sales—as much as I love Blog in Bloom and I’ve adored creating it, I really want to move on to new projects!
So those are my ten steps. Phewph! Are you thinking of writing a book? Did these steps help you, or do you have more questions? Let me know in the comments.
@@10 steps I took to write and publish my first book, via @hedera_house@@