- 1 About
- 2 Child Pages
- 3 Your Book Can Be Anything
- 4 The Power of Being a Publisher Author
- 5 Getting It Finished
- 5.1 Pick the Topic
- 5.2 Mind Mapping a Table of Contents
- 5.3 Start Writing
- 5.4 Accountability To Finish
- 5.5 Writing Tips
- 5.6 Making Money
- 5.7 Making Sure Someone Will Buy It - Generate Excitement About Your Book Ahead of Release
- 5.8 Pick a Title
- 5.9 Upload Your Book
- 6 The Success of Your Book - Lessons and Advice
- 7 Links
Have you ever thought about writing a book? Maybe a photo book, poems, recipes, fiction, comedy or stories about your bad dates. Most people dismiss the idea because they think it will be hard or expensive to publish.
You could NOT be more wrong. Publishing is both easy AND free!
... It's so damn easy I might even publish this very article into a tiny book on Amazon (maybe: "Publishing is Easy: Get Cracking") in under 2 hours just to prove my point.
This is an article I will send to friends to inspire them to graduate from everyday civilian to a "published author". Think of it as a superpower, and let's break the misconceptions right now.
What you didn't realize about publishing your book.
- You don't need to pay a cent. - Okay, so ordering each copy of the book will cost $2-6 dollars, but the publishing part is 100% free!
- You don't need a publisher and 99% of the time it's better to self-publish anyway! - Reaching out to publishers represents months or years of wasted time, will kill your creative freedom and they won't even really promote it for you. You first book should be self published, meaning you don't have to wait on anyone but yourself, and you can make corrections to your print-one-demand book instantaneously.
- It doesn't take years or months to become published, it takes hours. - If you decided right now to "try publishing" and simply publish those 5 pretty awesome poems you wrote in high school - you can have it available for purchase on Amazon within 24 hours from now.. consider that a challenge.
- It doesn't have to be a novel. - That's right, you don't have to write a giant 300 page fiction novel to become an author - your book could be 10 pages of recipes or nature photos.
- You don't need expertise! - If you want to write about "scrapbooking tips", "the history of meth" or "having fun fishing", you don't need to be an expert fisherman or a doctor who treats or uses meth. Wikipedia covers the facts of everything already. What's really fascinating to people is your personal story and/or views on any topic you are passionate about. Maybe you get some credit points for being an expert but often books like "my brother died from diabetes" are the most compelling. They are human.
- You don't need to be a good writer! - Some of the best selling books aren't well written - it's about your message and passion. Some people even find poor grammar charming. If someone reads your book and complains about the writing ask them to fix it for you and you can upload the "better grammar" version the next day.
I hope that's already gone some way to convincing you that it could be really fun to be a published author. I guess the next question is the one that matters.
So what will you write about?
- Kindle Direct Publishing - The actual steps to self-publish your own book on Amazon.
- Audio Creation Exchange - To turn your book into an audiobook and get it published on Audible.com, Amazon.com, and iTunes.
- Kindle Create - A Kindle tool that can help create a Kindle version of your book.
- My Books - The list of books I've published.
- Book Agreement Seal - A seal around your book with some kind of agreement to open.
- Publishing - Copyright Page - What to put on the copyright page.
Your Book Can Be Anything
Somewhere in your head right now is an amazing book idea, and the type of book can be anything. For examples:
- Photo Book - you are an amazing photographer, why don't you have a beautiful glossy coffee-table picture book with your best photos? You'll barely need any words at all. You could do:
- Nature Photos - great scenery or animal photos you are proud of? Book!
- Modeling Catalog - maybe you're a makeup/tattoo/clothes/jewelry artist showcasing your work, or an aspiring model... and yes maybe the latter feels narcissistic, but hey we live in an Instagram world where almost everyone is a narcissist, and this might actually help your business. Book!
- Cook Book - you have some amazing family recipes you want to share with your friends. Did someone say family cookbook?
- Poetry Book - you've already written a dozen amazing poems, you just need a few words to string them together... and you can be a published author by tomorrow if you drill down!
- Inspiration Book - a few uplifting quotes, some affirmations, maybe some little pictures, a tiny inspiring story about your teddy bear... with people's limited attention span, the only way to make sure someone will read your "whole" book is if it only takes 1 minute to read and makes you smile at the end! A "little book of motivation" would be a great way to start.
- Autobiographical Story - okay, so you're no Tony Robbins, but you have an amazing story about your brother with a disability or some amazing hardship you've faced. You want your experience to help others. It doesn't have to be a giant long story... but you want a bit of a legacy. It may take off, it may not, but you're excited to put yourself out there.
- Comedy - my first book was called "Ice Cream = Sex", and my next one "Funny Team Names"... which is pretty much what you'd guess.... a list of team names! I guess I love comedy, I'm even thinking about making a yoga joke book.... and the great thing about comedy books, is they could be a few pages.
- Fiction - Let's not dismiss fiction - maybe a collection of short stories or science fiction you wrote as a kid.
- Detective/murder mystery novel - The cliche option, but maybe you can think of something juicier.
- Erotic Fiction - Ever written a naughty story for someone you are dating? I have! Maybe it's fun enough to publish... you might want a pseudonym (alias author name) if the book is really dirty... or maybe you are brave enough to just own it!
- Nonfiction - just pick your favorite topic, toasters, fish, handkerchiefs and check what already exists, or maybe go further into self help.
- Self Help - maybe about finance, dating, or even something social like my "Limitless Questions" book!
- TV or Movie Script - not an easy option and would have to be written in Screenplay Format to be taken seriously.
- Children's Book - a few of my friends have gotten into kids books - often that means paying an illustrator, but there are lots of them around on various freelance sites, or maybe you can do the pictures yourself. The text is pretty easy, and there's probably a wonderful message you want to share.*
... and basically anything else you can think of. Just look at my first book for instance:
This is the first book I ever published. This is a comedy with color pictures throughout and it has brought me so much joy!
Ice Cream = Sex: What your flavor says about your fantasy, and how to make it happen
Length: ................... 112 pages
Book Website: ........ www.icecreamequalssex.com
Amazon URL: ......... Amazon Paperback + Kindle Version
Publication date: .... April 29, 2020
I have published other books since, including black-and-white. You can see a list of all my books at: My Books.
The Power of Being a Publisher Author
It's a special and fun set of people who can throw into a conversation, and onto their resume, that "oh yes, I published a book". When you say those words, people often look at you differently. It's a combination of respect and immediately finding you more interesting. They want to know what your book was about. And if you want them to remember you forever, it's surprisingly inexpensive to give them a copy of your book - just a few dollars. There is no better business card than a signed book!
For me, I like to turn it around on them and explain that publishing was really easy, and I will probably give them a link to this article. Why? Well, I wish someone had sent me this article decades ago!! I love writing, but it wasn't until 2020 (the pandemic) that I realized that self-publishing can be 100% free, and almost instantaneous. There are several print-on-demand self-publishing websites, but I focus on Kindle Direct Publishing because it has the best reach, and it feels great to tell people "Oh yeah, my book is on Amazon". All you need is the Word doc or PDF and a few clicks later you can order as many copies as you want at "cost price" (for a paperback that can be as low as $2 and no shipping fees) for yourself to give to friends! Usually it takes just a day after you upload your word file or PDF that is approved, and you can then send the link on amazon to your first book, for your friends to order as a paperback (usually 1-2 weeks to deliver) or Kindle (instantaneous). You can even upload an audio version via Audio Creation Exchange if you are tech savvy. Find a spelling mistake in your hard copy? Just upload a new version of the PDF and the next person to order your book will see the new copy. That's what print on demand means. It's incredible.
Getting It Finished
So if you've read this far you are pretty excited about the idea of publishing right? :)
Maybe you've already got a strong idea of your book title and topic, but even if that's true I still encourage you to order a copy of Published.: The Proven Path From Blank Page to Published by Chandler Bolt. Why? Well it helped me... it will help you decide on a topic, a title, build a table of contents, and commit to finishing by a particular date. This book is largely focussed on non-fiction for "tell-your-story" and/or "write-a-book-that-generates-you-business", but it will help motivate you for a fiction book also and has many specific tips on KDP and getting yourself an audience and accountability ahead of publishing. It also has some great exercises to help you mind-map your book to get your structure ahead of writing. The author is a huge fan of self-publishing and explains the many ways KDP ("just-upload-it-yourself") is superior over the antiquated "this-is-gonna-take-years-to-get-onto-shelves-and-you-lose-creative-control-and-we-will-not-actually-even-promote-it" situation with traditional publishers. Let's be honest..... if you're not already famous your book probably won't make lots of money... so don't do it for that reason. Do it because you want the rush of being an author, introducing yourself to new peers as an author, and giving copies of your book (at print price - just a few dollars a book often) to everyone you meet. You won't get a better "business card" then giving someone a copy of your book. Even if they don't read it, it will be on their shelf to remember you!
Just in case you decide not to buy a copy of Published, I've summarized some of the key points from the book below.
Pick the Topic
So sit down now with a pen and paper, and give yourself 10 minutes to brainstorm book ideas. Topics or ideas you are passionate about. Any crazy idea will do and any book genre (comedy, photos, self-help, fiction) is fair game. You might be surprised that you end up with 30 ideas and suddenly you change your mind about what to publish first. One word of advice I want to give. Keep your first book short and simple... think of it as a practice book that only needs to be really short. My first book I wrote in 2 days, but then decided I wanted a photo on every page, and then it took me months. Photos and getting licensing for photos take time (unless the photos are yours of course). The most famous painters in history didn't start with their masterpiece. They saved their best ideas till after they practiced a little. The guy who writes a 15 page book of silly poems and the guy who spends years writing a trilogy of novels.... they both get to call themselves published authors, and it's quite likely the guy with the 15 page book sells more copies.
It's a pretty good idea to come up with a "working title" and then Google and Amazon search it right now to see what already exists. Maybe your idea is unique, maybe it's not a unique idea, but your take on it will be unique and your title will be better!
Mind Mapping a Table of Contents
Before you start writing, it's best to know what your structure is for your book. If it's fiction, you need to know the storyline... if it's non-fiction you need to know what sections you want.
The mind mapping strategy is incredible, and I'll explain it in brief. Write the working title of your book in the middle of a page and put a circle around it. Now spend 15 minutes drawing lines off it with related subtopics, like a big tree growing... so if you have a book called "Mastering Photography of Dogs", some of your lines might be "Preparing Your Dog", "Buying a Camera", "Lighting", "Subject Matter", "Technical Camera Details", "Doggie Poses"... and for technical camera details you might add "Exposure"... and so on. It can be rough.. and any idea you might want to write a little about, even if it sounds crazy ("Sexy Dog Photos"), add it. This isn't your final table of contents. Once you finish your mind map, you might want to clean it up, and then work out a logical flow to become your Table of Contents. At that point you may have to consider.... "wow, this book might be way longer than I thought - will someone really want to read 200 pages about dog photography - how can I cut it down to the most important bits".
It's almost like the mind map technique works too well. Watch this little "mind mapping video" and try it now!
If your idea for a book is just black and white with no pictures you can write it on anything - Google docs will do nicely. Before you start writing, you'll want to set page size. Unless you're doing something fancy, I recommend the common paperback size: 6" by 9" KDP book size which is about A5. Set your document at around the right size so you can estimate pages. For font, use size 11 font and 1.25 line spacing and Arial or Helvetica (you can change it later). For a first book I recommend you keep it short and "done is better than perfect". You'll feel a bit lousy if you start something and don't finish.... so commit to just finishing it!
Google Docs is a great option because you can easily share it with friends to proof-read and (more importantly) it will save versioned copies into the cloud. A friend used Microsoft Word and lost half her book when her laptop died. That's a huge reason I like Google Docs.... When it's time to publish you can migrate it to LibreOffice or MS Word. If it's a colored picture book then InDesign is the most powerful tool for publishing.
Accountability To Finish
Nothing is worse than starting a book and not finishing. The key thing to remember is:
Done is better than perfect.
Get yourself accountable to finish writing by a particular date. One hour of writing a day and you'll be done in no time. Talk to some of your friends to tell them you are writing a book. Published is a good book for nailing down a plan to finish. Having a friend to check in with at the end of each week - call it an accountability buddy is a good way to keep focus. Your buddy will encourage you and probably be the first one to read it and offer suggestions. That's actually my own advice.
Accelerate your Progress with Generative AI Text and Images (ChatGPT and MidJourney)
Early 2023 saw a huge revolution in publishing books. With ChatGPT, anyone could suddenly write a book with almost no talent requited. All the publishing companies were suddenly swamped with thousands of book submission from first time authors and most of them closed their submission portals completely for new authors. You can simply type
"Write a children's book about a t-rex called Fred who learns about gender equality from a pterodactyl called Grace" and it will beautiful generate all the text.
Next you can go to Midjourney and type in
/imagine 2D cartoon render of a smiling blue t-rex. Lush mountains in the background, and in second you can generate imagery for your book, or a stunning cover image if you just type the right words.
So what should we make of this new technology? Is it really your book if you only typed a few words? Does being an author mean much less? Yes and no. If we think positivity, books with your unique story and photos and ideas become more precious, and AI can be used as a tool to get you finished quickly. Instead of taking months to finish a book, if you invest a small amount of time to learn these powerful life tools it might help you finish in weeks.
Generative AI has lowered the bar of entry for writers. You don't need hundreds or thousands of dollars to pay illustrators - you can do it very cheap or even free, by typing in the right words. Novel writers no longer need to pay hundreds to thousands for professional editors. My 2023 book about dance is almost entirely Midjourney generated images, and we've used ChatGPT in places to help correct grammar or shorten long pages.
While generating a book completely with AI might be seen as cheating, even people who are dead against AI should recognize it's value as a tool for simple questions like:
- "Shorten this text: '(PASTE_HUGE_TEXT_CHUNK_HERE)' "
- "Fix my grammar: '(PASTE_HUGE_TEXT_CHUNK_HERE)' "
- "Rewrite this paragraph in three different artistic styles: '(PASTE_HUGE_TEXT_CHUNK_HERE)' " (sometimes it's amazing to see several ways to write the same paragraph to tweak your sentences to really pop)
- "What is a more positive way to say 'binge meditation' "
- "What is a great title for a book about (TOPIC_HERE)."
From 2023 onwards, this technology will only get more powerful, and you'd be silly not to play around with these tools just a little to enhance your efficiency and wording.
Edit as you Type (Grammarly)
While done is better than perfect, it's pretty embarassing to publish a book then realize you have an embarassing spelling or grammer mistake in the book's burb or first page. Both of these have happend to me, and cost me days worth of editing. It takes time and effort to upload new versions (edits), so it's great to get it 99% right on the first publish. You might hope or assume that Google, Microsoft and Adobe all have great spelling and gammar checkers but they do not. I highly reocmment you install the free versin of [Grammarly] before you start writing as it will catch far more errors and add in oxford commas (the correct way to use commas). The free version of Grammarly catches spelling and grammar mistakes, and if you are really eager for suggestions to improve sentence structure you might pay the ~$150 per year for the premium version. You might also like to have friends help you edit your book, but even then - it's better you've already fixed basic syntax to allow your friends to focus on suggestions for wider improvements versus hunting for typos. Fix the typos as you type, not afterwards! After grammarly shows zero images, you might also like to copy as paste all the text into the ChatGPT for another layer of editing.
Create a Spreadsheet for Attribution, Permission and Reviews
If you are putting any effort into your book, I highly suggest you create a Google Sheet with multiple tabs, which may include "Reviews", "Image Attribution" and "Contributors". It might sound like overkill, but let me explain.
- Reviews: For your book to have a chance to do well, you need to make sure that once it's published it gets a few 5 star reviews pretty quickly. Since you are probalby not famous, try writing down a list of friends with their phone numbers to get excited about your book, then message them to buy a copy and leave you a review. You can keep revisiting this sheet to see who actually ordered a copy and remembered to write a verified review.
- Text Attribution: If your book contains interviews or text from other people, you will want a list of their names an number to credit them, but also to send them the final PDF ahead of publication to check what you wrote is okay, and tick them off as having given permission. In my book Homeless in Haight book, it was challenging because most homeless people don't have phone number or email.
- Image Attribution: If you have images in your book that belong to other people, you probably want to attribute them. My first book had hundreds of photos, some of them I paid for, and so I needed to create a Google Sheets document to track which photo was where, and what attribution I needed.
Give Contributors a Clear Timeframe to Complete Work
From experience, asking people to contribute blurbs, images, reviews, book edits, ... basically anything, is a huge pain. Why? I could say people are flaky, but in reality people are just busy and distracted... and your book is not their top priority. Why would it be?! So if you want someone to contribute or review your text, you start with something to get them excited, but then follow it up with the date that it's due. You might give them just a couple of days, but make them agree. If they don't meet the deadline, then you follow up - they have probably just forgotten. Double down on them promising to finish in time, but once they miss that second deadline, make sure you have a contigency plan - like maybe someone else to interview - else that person could delay your book by weeks. This has happened to me more than once... and my lesson was I needed to create a spreadsheet and really follow up on people with deadlines and "if you are too busy that's okay, let me know and I will find someone else".
Okay, so here's the interesting part. Don't quit your day job and don't write a book to make money. Write it because you're passionate. Ask yourself this: if you only touch 20 people with your book, are you still happy? Will you still get pride telling people you're a published author if, like mostly first-time author books, it has very modest sales. I hope the answer is yes, because in reality the only way to make money from books is:
- A book in a million - somehow you got lucky with the perfect book topic to hit a chord... somehow Oprah read it and you sell 100,000s of copies. Now it's your living. Now suddenly publishers want to talk to you. To sell more copies you'll need to dedicate your life to book tours and shameless self-promotion. This happens to such a small fraction of authors that you should compare it to winning the lottery. You may as well be a child dreaming of becoming a pop star. J. K. Rowling, before she got lucky with her timing on Harry Potter, was a starving artist. Remember that.
- Sell you business - You get just a few dollars from each book sold.... but what if your book promotes your business? Maybe you're a jewelry artist, or maybe you have online courses. At the inspiring end of the book you have a "call to action" (maybe even a special offer) that makes people excited enough to visit your website or call, and suddenly from a few dollars, that client might be worth hundreds. Tony Robbins knows this better than anyone. He makes almost nothing on books, but it's thousands of dollars to attend his seminar. Using a book to generate more business is just clever. Honestly, even someone at a car dealership could sell or give away a booklet with fancy car photos to clients, and suddenly that client feels such gratitude they will want to use that car dealership every time. You can make a loss on books by giving away copies for free, but then make that money back with extra business and some clever branding.
For reference, Amazon takes a 60% or 40% cut (depending on if you want extended distribution) of profits. So considering you paid nothing to get it published, and you chose the price to sell your book... Well that's pretty great! If you order 100 copies at print price, you can also sell them manually at your cake stall (cupcake pictures - duh!) and then your profit on those books is 100%. Maybe start with 10 copies to be safe. :)
Making Sure Someone Will Buy It - Generate Excitement About Your Book Ahead of Release
Most self-published books don't sell many copies unless you have a plan. It doesn't matter if your book is a masterpiece or not if nobody reads it. Your book may last on Amazon forever, but who's going to discover it by typing in the keywords "Sloppy Bob's Detective Mystery with Angry Joe the Dog" and order a copy of your book that has zero reviews and zero stars. The page with your book is collecting virtual dust. It's good to have a plan to self promote on your social media and just give copies to friends and make sure your first few reviews are 5 stars. Work out how many copies you'd want to sell to be happy. If zero people read the book you might be a bit upset that you committed months to writing your 300 page novel you'll be bummed. You can't just throw it onto Amazon and expect results. You need a plan and you need to be proud enough of your work to sell or gift copies to friends.
Published has a much more specific plan for promoting your book ahead of releasing it... because when you promote ahead of release, there's a small chance it will trend on Amazon. I personally haven't got the timing quite right, but for my next book I'll try harder to follow this book, so I get some sales on day one of release.
Pick a Title
I do like the idea that you don't need a real title till after the book is done. Now you need to decide on a title and subtitle. Remember that some of your sales can come from Amazon or Google web searches, which is why the pros of non-fiction books often have a short title, but then a really long subtitle with a message. The title "Influence" is still a little bit vague and people have short attention spans so they don't want to read the whole blurb. "How to Win Friends & Influence People was a great title (and a best seller) because it told people what they wanted to hear. You might read the book and not win a single friend, but it doesn't matter. Nobody remembers a soft claim (like "this book may help you make slightly more money"), people are attracted to a big claims (like "how to retire by 20 and live on a luxury island"). We're smart enough to know the author isn't promising us a luxury island, but we're still intrigued... because what if?! For my first book I had a catchy title, followed by a juicy subtitle: "Ice Cream = Sex: What your flavor says about your fantasy, and how to make it happen". The subtitle explains what the book is about, and it suggests that reading the book will help you realize your deepest sex fantasy. Will it? Well it might! It's a book that gets you thinking and is bold enough to ask for the ice cream or sex that you want, so I felt like it's a good title.
Also, before you commit to a title be sure to do a web search and amazon search to check there isn't already a similar title that will completely overshadow your book. On KDP, the title is one part of your book you can't change after your first upload. The title gets locked in, so take time to agonize on every word. That long subtitle might help increase hit rates on matching searches. My second book title: “Funny Team Names: The Comprehensive Guide to Winning Best Team Name and Being Memorable In Your Pointless Team Event or Alcoholic Trivia Club. I wanted to make sure people who typed "Trivia" or "Team Event" into Amazon still have a small chance of seeing my book.
Upload Your Book
Okay, so you've had some friends review it and it's ready for upload. Now you'll want my next article :
- Kindle Direct Publishing - The actual steps to self-publish your own book on Amazon.
The Success of Your Book - Lessons and Advice
So my first book "Ice Cream = Sex: What your flavor says about your fantasy, and how to make it happen". Has it sold thousands of copies? It has not.
Am I happy?
It's got a 4.7 out of 5 star rating with 18 ratings - most of them from friends who I encouraged to write a review + I uploaded a video of me flipping through the pages, so people know exactly what they are buying. My one really bad review? That was my mistake on uploading a Kindle version and hitting publish before proofing it on a kindle. I didn't realize that the publish button really does mean publish straight away... and by some miracle someone found it almost instantly.... a whole week before I could proofread the paperback copy and tell my friends to read it.... and the formatting on the Kindle was messed up, so the guy gave me a bad review. Lesson learned there... Kindle format is really hard for any picture book, so do that last.
I'm writing this about a year after I published my Ice Cream book... So how many copies were sold? I'll check now. It looks like about 50 copies which is about $100 in royalties... so not much at all. However, on top of that I've probably ordered at least 50 books myself to give to friends, and it's brought me so much joy to write and to say "I'm an author" that I'm excited to write more books soon. Copies still get bought occasionally (even if just 1-2 a month), so I guess you could call it passive income, but it's so little it doesn't bother my tax return. My day job as an engineer earns me good six figures a year, so I never published for the money. I don't think I'm likely to quit Google anytime soon during a pandemic!
If I really wanted to sell more copies, I guess I would write to columnists, because it is a fun concept. Better yet I'd "spend money to make money" by running a survey to see what ice cream flavors really do mean about sexual adventurousness, but hey - I do what I enjoy, and I don't know if I'd enjoy spending time to market my book outside my fun group of friends.
The biggest joy of this book has been ordering lots of copies myself and gifting it to friends on their birthdays and heck, even on a really good date I've been known to gift a book. It's a wonderful conversation to have... both the act of publishing and the topic is super fun.
You already know the rest of my advice. Pick a light short book for your first topic - you can save your masterpiece for after you have a book. Do it because it brings you happiness. There's always a small chance your book will hit the right person at the right time and make a "bestseller" on one of the specific Amazon topics, but be comfortable with the idea that you probably won't make your fortune in money. You will make your fortune in happiness if you publish something you are proud of and can tell all your friends. :)
Hope this advice resonates. If you do decide to publish a book let me know - I'll be the first to support you and buy a copy!