My advice for first-time nonfiction self-publishing book authors

I have written 3 books. The first was with Wiley. They handled just about everything and I learned a lot. The next two were self-published and I much preferred handling everything myself. If you’re weird like me, then this is the “flow” I used for self-publishing my nonfiction books.

  1. Come up with the theme for your book.
  2. Start a doc, write down, and order the working titles for each chapter.
  3. Come up with your book’s title. You can wait if needed, but I find that I am not truly motivated and focused until I have a book’s title.
  4. Register the domain name for the book. If it’s already taken, try adding “book” to the domain name. At some point, you can either build out a website promoting the book or simply point it to the Amazon URL for your book.
  5. Create docs for each of your chapters. In each, add any ideas, themes, notes that immediately come to mind. Anytime you think of something else, go in and add to your notes.
  6. Don’t write your introduction (or conclusion) until you have written the main chapters. You won’t know what to introduce until you’ve written it.
  7. Start thinking about anyone you wish to quote in a particular chapter. Reach out to them early. They may get back to you quickly, but they may take weeks. Send them some general questions for now. Those that you believe best match their expertise and help fill in any gaps in your own knowledge.
  8. Open chapter 1 and start fleshing out your initial notes. Organize your notes in the same order that you think the chapter should flow. Conduct any research for stats or any third-party info or quotes. Save it, walk away.
  9. At least one day later, when your mind is fresh, get started on that chapter. Push your notes to the bottom of the page and start writing above them. This allows you to look at your notes as a reminder of what to say or what stat/quote to pull in.
  10. When you finish writing the chapter, give it a quick read for flow and style. Then save it and walk away.
  11. At least one day later, go back and read the chapter. Does it make sense? Anything you need to add, remove, or clarify? Look for any grammatical errors. Look for any words you use over and over. Look for instances where you use the same word in the same sentence. Look for sentences that are reaaaally long and should be broken up to be more readable. Use to help find any obvious typos or redundancies.
  12. Send the chapter to someone close to you. Spouse, family member, a close friend. Ask them to point out any typos or let you know if something doesn’t make sense. If they know the topic of your book already, they may have some suggestions or find errors. If they don’t know the topic at all, they can let you know if it all made sense to them.
  13. Job done for chapter 1! Repeat this process for all of your chapters.
  14. Start thinking about your book’s subtitle. For my last book, I had a choice of three different ones and tested each with my family to get their reaction and feedback.
  15. When all of your main chapters are finished, write your conclusion first, while fresh in your mind.
  16. Go back and read all of your chapters. Do they flow? Did your writing style change dramatically over the course of the chapters?
  17. Write your introduction. Now you know how your book flows, you can better introduce it.
  18. Combine your chapters into one document and send off to a professional book copyeditor/proofreader. Expect 2-3 weeks for it to be edited.
  19. In the meantime, create a quick, readable version that you can save to a PDF and send to others for a blurb/testimonial. Ask them for something short. Provide a couple of suggested blurbs in case they are busy. Give them a deadline to get back to you, otherwise, they will take forever.
  20. If you have someone planned for the foreword, send them a copy to read. Provide them with direction as to what you want the foreword to focus on and say. Give them an idea of how many words they should aim for. I usually suggest 500-1000 words. Give them a deadline.
  21. While waiting for all of this to come back, work on your book’s cover. I have designed the covers for my last two books. For one, I used a stock image for part of it, for the other I hired a designer and paid them to create the image I wanted to include in my design. If you don’t want to design the cover yourself, look for a template you can just drop in your book info, or hire a professional.
  22. Work on your book’s other important pages: copyright info, acknowledgments, about the author, etc.
  23. Once you have your book edits finished you can start applying your final book format. You can find book templates online for less than $50, hire an editor ($500-1500) or do it yourself.
  24. When you have your final book ready, it’s time to create the Index. You can do this in Word, manually, or hire someone.
  25. Upload your finished book and cover image to your self-publishing platform of choice. I love Amazon.
  26. Request a proof copy of your book. Admire it. Hold it in your hands. Sit down and read it. Look for any errors you missed or any formatting that doesn’t look right. Edit as needed.
  27. Once happy with everything, set your release date, and get to work on promoting the heck out of it!
  28. Congrats!

I am sure there are some steps that I have forgotten (I’ll add as I think of them or if someone asks). The list above should give you at least a general guide and, at worst, will be a personal reminder for if/when I write book number four! ;)

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