Become An Author: How to Self-Publish a Book in 7 Easy Steps
200 Million Americans Want to Become an Author!
But can just anyone write and publish a book?
The answer is YES, and everyone should start RIGHT NOW!
EVERYONE has a unique story or special skill to share with the world. And publishing a book has never been easier (or more profitable).
A 2014 survey from Mark Coker, founder of e-book distributor Smashwords, found that indie authors were earning over 40% of all dollars going to authors. And that was in 2014. Since then the self-published genre has exploded!
Unfortunately, few people will ever become an author. This is sad because they will miss out on sharing their talents with the world. Think of all the connections, opportunities, and positive influence you could have if you wrote a book.
Maybe you have always had a great idea for a crime novel or a special trick you use to motivate yourself at work. Your skills, ideas, and experiences make you uniquely qualified to help others. Writing a book is a fantastic way to make a huge impact on a large number of people.
Like most people you might say to yourself, “But who am I to write a book? Who would even listen to what I have to say?”
I know I used to think the same thing. For years I wanted to become an author. I had so many ideas that I wanted to share but I was scared. I had no idea where to begin.
- What if I can’t get a publisher?
- What if I can’t find a distributor?
- How do you even get a book deal?
- Do I need an agent?
- What if local book stores won’t put my book on the shelf?
Well in the last few years something big has happened. The entire publishing industry has flipped upside down. Now anyone can write and sell a book without needing a book deal from a traditional publisher. That’s right, YOU can do it by yourself! That means a bigger share of the sales go into your pocket.
Sounds easy right? It is, but just because you can sell your own book doesn’t mean you can cut corners. Self-publishing is an amazing opportunity but it does come with responsibilities. You do need to create a high quality book that customers will love to read. The more people love your book the more they will share with their friends and family. That means the more you will SELL!
Publishing a book is actually a pretty simple process. It just takes following a few simple steps and making sure you do each step well. Once you know the steps you just rinse and repeat, it’s really that easy. I have personally written 7 books in under a year. Some for myself and some for clients that hire me to be a ghost writer.
You may be experiencing some self doubt about your ability to write a book. It’s totally normal and we’ve all been there. But for now, I’m going to ask you to set those feelings aside. Promise yourself that you will at least read the steps below before you decide you can’t do it because I know you CAN!
To keep things simple we are going to focus on writing an ebook that you will publish on Amazon’s Kindle Store. Amazon makes self-publishing super easy and your book will be available world wide. Once you feel comfortable publishing an ebook then you can begin formatting your books for paperback or hardcover. But for now, let’s keep it simple so you can focus on the goal and finally become and author!
Become an Author: 7 Simple Steps to Publish Your Own eBook
Step 1 – Choose Your Book Topic
Deciding what to write about is sometimes the hardest part to writing a book. There are so many topics and ideas it’s hard to choose just one. To choose a book topic first decide if you are going to write a fiction or nonfiction book.
To find ideas for a nonfiction book take an inventory of your skills and life experiences. Maybe you lost 100 pounds by eating healthy and exercising or started making homemade soap to save money.
Make a list of your hobbies, passions, and skills. Maybe jot down the steps you took to resolve a major life experience like divorce or getting out of debt. If you have navigated through a difficult situation then chances are you have tips and ideas to help others going through the same thing.
Another idea is to keep a journal while you develop a new habit or skill. Keep track of what works for you and where you have challenges. What did you do to overcome those challenges that could help someone else save time or money by avoiding the same mistakes?
Coming up with a premise for a fiction book is a little more subjective. I do not write fiction myself. I like to read and write books that teach a skill or process I can follow. There are tons of great blog posts that will give you tips on finding fiction ideas to write about. Here are few to get started:
Step 2 – Write Your Book
Now that you have your idea you need to start writing. Here is my method for putting together a book outline.
Brainstorm and Outline Your Book
- Draw a circle in the middle of a sheet of paper.
- Write the main idea of your book in the circle.
- Brainstorm everything you can think of on the topic that you can write about in this book. I find it helpful to set a timer for 5 to 10 minutes and just write non-stop until the timer goes off. This is a judgement free activity meaning you can’t erase anything you write. Just let the ideas flow. If you are having difficulty writing ideas then start doodling or drawing pictures. Repeat this process 2 – 3 times until you are out of ideas.
- Write every idea on 3×5 index cards (1 idea per card) and arrange them on a table or floor. Remove any ideas that are closely related or redundant.
- Group ideas that go together into piles and stack them up. These are ideas that are all on a one subject. Discover what all the ideas in a stack have in common or what category they fall under. Write that idea or category on a notecard and use it to top off that stack. Now you have a chapter. Repeat until all your ideas are organized into chapters. As an example, if you were writing a book about running a marathon then one pile might have ideas about how to deal with common injuries. The notecard on top of the pile would be called “Common Injuries and How to Avoid Them.”
- Stack all of your chapters in the order you want your book to go from top to bottom. Now you have an outline
Once your book is outlined it’s time to start writing. Follow the steps below and you can have a first draft of an entire book in 2 – 3 weeks.
- Sit down at your computer.
- Pull a notecard from your book outline stack. You can go in order or pull at random.
- Set a timer for 8 minutes and begin writing everything you want to say on that subject or idea. Keep writing until the timer goes off. If your mind goes blank and you can’t think of anything then just write whatever you are thinking in the moment. Put your thoughts (even the random ones) down on the page.
- When the timer goes off stop. You’re done! You can stop for the day OR if you are in the flow you can keep writing for longer. But you MUST do at least 8 minutes a day. This amount of time is small enough to fit into any busy schedule. It’s also enough to create a consistent writing habit.
- Repeat for 8 minutes every day no matter what until your book is done. Using this method you can typically write a 10,000 – 20,000 word book in two weeks.
Step 3 – Edit, edit, edit
Editing your book is CRUCIAL to being a successful self-published author. There’s a lot of crap for sale on Amazon. Books with typos and grammatical errors are unacceptable. Customers will not pay for sloppy mistakes. Make too many and you will get a reputation for selling junk.
How to edit your book for free or cheap
- Ask a friend or colleague to read your draft and check for spelling and grammar mistakes. Also have them highlight or fix any areas that are difficult to read or redundant. If it doesn’t add value, delete it from your draft. It’s better to have a short, concise book that makes a specific point then to have a book of fluff and filler.
- Use the Hemingway App. This free tool highlights the parts of your writing that are difficult to read. I use this everyday, it’s a complete lifesaver.
- Find an editor on Fiverr.com. Fiverr is a marketplace where people sell ‘gigs’ starting at $5. Editing an entire book can start to get expensive and there are a lot of people on Fiverr that deliver poor work. I recommend giving 3 different people a small sample to edit. Pick the best one and then invest more money by having them edit your entire draft.
Step 4 – Pick an Interesting Title
Picking an interesting title is important. This will be the main headline of your book listing on Amazon. Choose a title that sounds interesting and makes people curious to learn more. Picking a book title can be tricky because what sounds good to you might not be attractive to potential buyers.
Tools For Picking a Killer Book Title
- Lulu Title Scorer – Fill out this simple form and see how well your book title scores. Once you get a title that you like you can see how it matches up to the best selling books in your genre on Amazon.
- Portant Content Idea Generator – This tool is designed to help bloggers find ideas to write about based on a keyword. Place your main book idea in the form and submit for some sticky title ideas.
- Pickfu – Once you have your book title narrowed down to 2 or 3 ideas you can pay to run a poll on Pickfu.com. It will cost a little bit of money but you will get valuable feedback from real people.
(Disclosure: If you use the Pickfu.com link you will get 10% off your sign up fee and I wll recieve poll credits as compensation. I only recommend products and services that I think are valuable and that I personally use.)
Step – 5 Find a Cover Designer
Having a high-quality, professional looking cover is extremely important. It is the first thing your customers will see. A cover should stand out and be noticeable while also being appropriate for your genre.
Spend some time on Amazon looking at other books in your genre and keep a spreadsheet of the ones you like and the ones you dislike. Take note of what the best ones have in common. Are they bright colors or black and white? Do they contain graphics or realistic photographs? What color schemes are common?
Once you have an idea of what your cover should look like head over to Fiverr.com and find a designer that has a high rating. Just like editors, some cover designers on Fiverr are excellent and some are terrible.
Do Not Design Your Own Cover
Unless you are a professional graphic designer I would avoid trying to design your own cover. Chances are it will not look professional. I’ve had beautiful book covers made on Fiverr for around $15, a small price to pay for such an important element to your book’s success. Do not take any chances. Hire a professional.
Step 6 – Format Your eBook For Kindle
Kindle ebooks need to be in a specific format to be accepted by KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). This is another task that you can outsource on Fiverr but I wouldn’t recommend it. I format all my own books because there are so many small details that you need to catch. I just don’t want to trust someone else to do it and it’s actually pretty easy once you get the hang of it.
Step 7 – Upload to Amazon KDP
Once you are ready to upload to Amazon’s KDP platform for publication. To do this visit https://kdp.amazon.com/ and create an account or login with your Amazon.com username and password. Follow the prompts and fill out all the necessary fields. Double checked your work you are ready to click publish and submit your book to the Amazon Kindle Store!
Congrats! You did it!! You are now a published author and it’s time to celebrate. Tell all your friends, relatives, and connections on social media to download your book.
Now that your book is published it’s time to sit back and relax…for a day or two. Then it’s back to writing! Remember, to be successful as an author you need to keep writing to build up a following of loyal fans who will buy your next book. Go back to your brainstorming list and select another idea to write about. Follow the same process in steps 2 through 7 and start working on your next best seller!