How to write and publish a book



A few of the main points to consider for those looking to become authors.

Why

Start by establishing, why you want to create a book. Is it to be creative, to make money, to leave your stamp on humanity or to prop up your ego. Be under no illusion, the effort required to write a book of note is substantial. If you are creating a children’s story book, cook book or short training ebook, the effort and time required is far shorter. The “Why” is important as it’s what will get you through the tough times. We are living in a truly glorious time for publishing a book, in that it has never been easier with technology, software and the outsourcing of components available to everyone...take the plunge.

Discipline

It’s important whatever type of book you are writing to discipline yourself to putting in the hours, every single day if possible. I personally would put in between 4-6 hours per day for 5-6 days per week. By constantly chipping away, you will over the course of around 6 months have a body of work that is substantial.book It will be far from perfect, but you will have passed one of the main hurdles which is to have the minimum word/page count towards a real book.

There are authors that publish books with as little as 100-200 pages, possibly because it is a niche subject, however most books have minimum standards. The time you choose to write will vary compared to others. Many are morning people, others are late night writers. Most will be working full time so this will determine when you can allocate time, finding the time wherever you can is the key.

When you come across dry and difficult periods, don’t worry, it’s normal and happens to all writers. Unless you have a specific deadline, why not simply take a break and come back when your enthusiasm levels come back. More serious problems could be with the story itself. The story is not flowing or going down a dead path. In this case, you will need to go back to basics of looking at your outline and tweaking it. This may require further research or learning about story writing and theory. All of which are solvable with time and enthusiasm.

Title

The title for your book is probably the most important element as this is all that will distinguish your book from the thousands of others in a book shop. The best advice seems to be, to keep it very short (one-to-two words), or have a descriptive title, whichever route you choose, make sure it will intrigue the buyer.

Body

Getting started with your writing is probably the most difficult part, staring at that blank piece of paper/screen is your first major hurdle, and one that will come back over and over again. My advice would be to start small, with chapter titles and a few bullets points with short sentences, you now have a foundation to expand upon one word at a time. You see, once you have a sentence the next step is to expand it to a paragraph. Just keep writing, often you will move around sentences and paragraphs to either make more sense or make the story flow more easily. This is the easiest way to start, however, creating a more organised outline is the more robust method.

Outline

For most writers, it is likely that their first book will be a novel. Begin with the name of the book which may in and of itself help tell the story. Next look through your favourite books to determine how they are structured, chapters, scenes, characters and make some notes. When I began creating the book from my Around the World with 80 Questions website, I clearly had the chapters laid out in that there would be 80. Your outline will be your roadmap for your story, which for a novel would flow in chronological order with a beginning, middle and end. books This outline will help you stay on track and keep you focussed to piece together your thoughts and ideas. The simplest way to start writing is to create a bulleted list with the chapter at the top and sub-bullets which start to define individual main moments within the chapter.

In addition to chapters, you will need to define what assets are used, people, locations and props etc. Defining each character will be the most important element as any novel without interesting characters will fail to keep a readers attention. Give the character a name and create a persona around them, what are their goals, motivations, personality type and importantly what problems or conflicts will they encounter on their journey through the book. All of these will likely change over time so don’t worry about perfection, just start jotting words down.

Editing

Many writers prefer to simply type and not worry about every single error that comes up on screen as this takes them out of their flow. There is a time for writing and a time for editing. Spelling and grammar checks are extremely important parts for your book and should not be underestimated and repeated, especially the grammer side. The amount of time spent editing and re-editing will pay you back later.

Size

The word count can range between 70-120,000 depending on the genre, however most fiction novels tend to be between 60-90,000 words. To write a standard length fiction or non-fiction book for publication, it is recommended to have a minimum of 70,000 words. This equates to around 300 words per page for a 350 page average paperback book. In my book, in order to reach the 70,000 word count, it would mean that each answer would need to be an average of 900 words (80×900 = 70,000).book As I had already begun the website some answers were very short, while others much longer. In order to reach 80 questions I was happy with, it required me noting down every question that would come into my head into a note application on my smartphone. I ended up with around 200 questions which I whittled down to the final 80. I decided I would simply research each question, gather the information and piece together each answer and see what the word count would be. After my first initial run, I ended up with around 54,000 words.

The funny thing, I was never sure how many words I had completed as I chose to create one document for every question. It was not until I combined all answers that I got my 54,000 figure. I then identified the shortest answers and carried out further research to raise the word count. I got to 66,000 after this round. I was happy as the 70,000 figure is a guide and not required. As I further edited and refined each answer, I ended up around the 69,000 figure.

Further refinement, editing and research would eventually raise the final word count to just under 80,000. I could have carried on, but wanted to wrap up the book. I always have the option to do an edition 2 with revisions, further information or correct any mistakes from the original.

Design

If you have decided to go to an agent or publisher, book design is not required. Simply submit a fully edited PDF document containing your words, nothing else. They will read it and decide if they wish to proceed with publication as happened to J.K Rowling.

If you prefer to go down the self-publishing route, then everything is down to you! The fonts, paragraph spacing, sizes, indents, orphans, hyphens, wrap points and styles. To help, you can often find templates on the internet as a starting point which you will then have to customize to your liking. Be aware that there are typesetting conventions around what a book should look like in order to ensure that the reader has a good reading experience.book-cover The design of your book cover is as important as its name in capturing the attention of a potential buyer.

Spend time in a book shop and compare what others are doing in the genre that you have chosen to get some ideas for your own cover. You will probably need to outsource the design of the cover, fortunately there are plenty of online websites where designers can be found.The back cover includes a short 150-200 word description to capture the buyer’s imagination, make sure you give this section serious consideration as it does determine sales.

ISBN

The back cover also includes your unique ISBN number (barcode) which is given to every published book for sale. This you will have to purchase yourself unless you hand over your book to Amazon to publish, in which case they will give you one for free.

Pricing

How much you charge for your book will determine pretty much, how many copies you will sell. The cheaper the price, the more sales. In the digital world, most ebooks sell for a few pounds or are given away for free. The ideal price according to real world data is between £3-4 in order to maximize sales. In the analogue world of a paperback, things get more complicated as you have to factor in the cost of printing and shipping. Again, according to real world data, the ideal selling price is between £12-14. For a hardback book, which is considered premium, £17-20 is the norm. Bear in mind that all these prices are considered the “cheap” end of the pricing spectrum, books below and well above these price levels exist.

Marketing

Once you have created your ebook or paperback, you will need to tell people about it, if self-publishing. Even if you take the Amazon route and can send family & friends a link, I would suggest creating your own simple one-page website, where you control every aspect and can make available your book for download or purchase directly. A great summary of what elements to include are detailed in this article.books The pricing of your book can be higher or the same as Amazon, either way, you bring in more revenue, so a win-win situation. You can create a community, email list, blog or forum which will bring together your fans and readers which cannot be underestimated for possible future books. Social media is also the perfect way to announce the availability of your new book to friends that may not have any idea that you have become an author. I came across a great website with many articles, on the subject of promotion.

Software

Fortunately you do not need to spend a penny on software as there are free versions of simple writing tools on your smartphone, tablet, laptop or the internet. More robust word processing tools such as Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Open Office or LibreOffice which I use, make the task of writing simpler. I would not recommend hand writing a book even though this has worked for hundreds of years and is pretty nostalgic and beautiful.books

When it comes to creating an ebook/digital version of your book so people can read it on digital devices like their smartphones or kindle. You can find free websites which will transform your Word/Google/Libre text document into a pdf, epub, azw or mobi format. If you prefer more control, you can download for free a program called Calibre e-book manager. This is available across all formats such as Windows, Apple and Linux.

I personally found that the conversion process creates many ugly looking artefacts in whichever ebook format you choose. I then discovered that ebook formats are essentially html pages, just like a website page. I then created a new clean html document that would serve as the basis to create all the various ebook formats. This is best performed when you have your final version of your book. When creating your various ebook formats, it’s important to check what they look like across various ebook readers. Many readers do not share the same standards, therefore what looks good on a Kindle may not look the same on other readers.

Hardware

I partially wrote my book on my smartphone as I would often, get ideas for questions or answers while I was out and about. I simply dictated my thoughts into a free note app which created the text automatically using voice-to-text function. Those of you that are not touch typists have no excuse as you don’t even have to know how to type. I would however, recommend learning touch typing as the speed gains when using a laptop are significant. booksThere are online programs which with a little effort will have you getting to 25 words-per-minute in no time. With further practice 50wpm is not a too distant goal.

Windows 11 now has the amazing feature (when connected to the internet) for voice typing. Simply hit the Windows + H key and a pop-up app will load, hit the begin button and simply talk. The accuracy is truly amazing considering that years ago you had to train expensive software to recognise your voice and nuances. I believe similar functions are available on Apple.

Back-up

While using your laptop, tablet or smartphone to create your writing, I would always recommend that you have multiple back-up versions or live versions of all active documents stored in the cloud. Your most important assets are the words you create and not the laptop used to create them. Spending six months writing a book with your work being deleted by accident, corruption or stolen is not a fun prospect. The most basic type of back-up to carry out regularly, would be to email yourself a copy of your draft.

Sharks

Watch out for sharks, these are online publishers that will do everything for you for a “fee”. The cost will usually be thousands and the results usually feeble. booksYour dream of being the next “JK” will usually come down to receiving royalties for a fraction of the thousands you paid as a fee.

Traditional Publishing.

It can take two to three years to traditionally publish a book, while self-publishing is as fast as you can type! Keep in mind that most traditional publishers do not accept unsolicited book drafts so landing a book deal is indeed rare, as is finding an agent to represent you. Should you go down this route, if selected, then everything is taken care for you...for a price!

Self Publishing

You take care of everything yourself; more and more authors are choosing this route as the time savings and reduction in heartache are immense. The learning curve is substantial, but once mastered can be applied to future books on your way to a publishing empire. Having total control of your work cannot be underestimated, this was a large part of my own decision to go down this route.

Monopolies

IngramSpark and KDP Amazon are pretty much the gorillas in the room and dominate the book publishing industry. IngramSpark is the company that book stores will buy your book from as a wholesaler, so if you want your book in a retail store, this is the route to go and why you need an ISBN number and barcode.

Royalties

With traditional publishing, your royalty rate will be in the range of 10-12% per book, with self-publishing, this goes up to 40-60% per book.

Costs

If you are self-publishing, the major cost will be your time, this will vary, in the region of six-nine months averaging a few hours per day. Next will be the cost of having a book cover created (£70-250). booksYou can create the book yourself using free software or again pay someone to format and typeset your words into a table of contents, chapters etc. The other major cost is purchasing an ISBN number which will vary between £20-150.

To a hire a professional editor/proofreader to go through your book will cost thousands, so this is a serious consideration. A cheaper option is to do this yourself and get friends to read your book. Finally, the cost of actually printing a typical paperback is around £5-7, but only if 1,000 copies are printed. Only need 50, then the cost will be £15-25 each! As most books sell for £9.99, you can see the main problem and why most new authors choose the ebook/digital route.

Facts

A few interesting and sobering facts that came to light from a recent lawsuit involving a major book publishing behmoth. From 58,000 trade titles published, 50% sold less than 12 copies. 90% of books sell less than 2,000 units and 98% of the books from 2020, sold fewer than 5,000 copies. A further article from 2004 showed that 79% of books sold fewer than 99 copies.

Conclusion

I hope this short article gives potential authors a basic guide to the options available and provides a roadmap for further research. I believe we are in a golden period for writers, especially those that go down the self-publishing route. My one recommendation is to write for yourself, not for profit (as shown by the paragraph on facts) or ego, write because you have something to say, welcome to the world of authorship and publishing...good luck.

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