A Brief Guide to Writing, Editing, and Publishing Your Very First Book

For those who follow or subscribe to the Holistic Marketing Concepts for Business blog, I’m sure you may have noticed in recent months that I’ve taken a considerable hiatus from posting, after several years of very consistent activity! I wanted to quickly provide a brief update here to better explain why: I’ve been a bit preoccupied with working on a book.

Entitled Fate on a Folded Wing: The True Story of Pioneering Solo Pilot Joan Merriam Smith, I’m excited to share that this new book will soon be available for purchase on Amazon.com! In the meantime, for more info about the story, you can visit the website here.

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While the book I’ve written is not about marketing, a lot can be learned about the marketing process from going through the hands-on experience of writing and producing a book. And while I never set out to write a book, I always knew that I had a story I wanted to tell.  In fact, the more I started talking to people about it, the more I started hearing “you should write a book.” Eventually I heard that phrase enough times that I decided I should at least look into the idea of writing a book, but I had no idea where to begin.

If the thought of writing a book has ever crossed your mind, but you didn’t know where to start, then I’m hopeful that my experience can help you! While no two paths to writing a book look the same, below follows an overview of the steps I followed and the tidbits I learned along the way.

Getting Started: Surveying the Lay of the Land

Without having a literary agent or knowing anything about the book publishing industry, I began to move forward with the idea of writing a book by first reaching out to a few different book publishers. After everything I read online about needing to have an agent, I was surprised to get any responses at all, but I ended up receiving some very helpful baseline feedback from various publishers, who I had located via Google. Another thing I did was reach out to a few fellow authors who had written books similar to the topic I was pursuing. Again, I received some great initial feedback. I now had a better idea of how to get started.

The more I looked into it, the sooner I learned that the first step in this process was going to require finding a great editor. After talking through the story with a few different publishers, I connected with Jessica Santina at Lucky Bat Books in Reno, who was a friend of friend that agreed to meet up with me and hear more about the story I wanted to tell. After our conversation, she agreed to do a simple structural edit for me, and skim through what I had initially written in order to offer some general feedback. This was a fundamental meeting and I received some great editorial advice.

Developing the Story

Following Jessica’s structural edit, I now had a better sense of what direction I wanted to go in next. With her feedback, I re-organized the story, developed areas that were lacking in content, and got rid of portions that didn’t quite fit. I tried to focus on the story I wanted to tell and not worry about what other people were going to think about it. During this period, I became most intently focused on writing. I spent a few hours each day for weeks on end (totaling hundreds of hours thanks to the tracking function in Word that shows you how much time you’ve spent in a document) working to pull the threads of the story together. In looking back at the entire process, however, for me writing the story was both the easy and the fun part. It was preparing to write the story, gathering the research, organizing the ideas, and editing the story that was difficult. At this point, the book was now ready for a comprehensive edit. The next step would be choosing which type of publisher to work with.

Traditional, Hybrid or Self-Publishing Company?

In the beginning, I didn’t know the difference between traditional publishing, hybrid publishing, or self publishing. Boy did I have a lot to learn! A big decision I needed to make up front was this: did I want to spend time trying to “sell” my story to a traditional publisher, or did I want to have a little more flexibility by working with a hybrid or self-publishing company? After gathering a rudimentary understanding of the various differences between book publishing options, I was able to glean the following takeaways:

  • Traditional publishing company: pitch a story, usually through the help of a literary agent, sign a contract, get paid up front, work with said publisher on tweaking the story to fit a particular audience, publisher keeps rights, handles marketing, relies on built-in marketing and distribution channels to sell books to the masses. Usually the best option for an established author or someone with a built-in number of followers who can use their own audience to sell books.
  • Hybrid or self publishing company: pitch a story, sign a contract, pay up front for various services (editing, cover design, graphic design, and in some cases marketing/distribution), receive feedback on direction, author retains rights, handles their own marketing, and relies heavily on web platforms and personal networks for distribution. Best for new or first-time authors.

Because I am I first-time author and was focused on getting a particular story told well vs. desiring to sell many copies of books, I decided to go with a hybrid publishing company. Also, because Jessica was so helpful up front, it was literally a no-brainer to pair up with her on this, and the company in which she is a partner, Lucky Bat Books.

Editing, Cover Design, and Graphic Design

While I came into this project assuming myself to be a strong writer, I was still very much shocked at how much editing was needed. In my opinion, the best investment you can make in any book is finding a top notch editor.  For me, Jessica offered a needed outside perspective, and her edits brought important consistency, flow, and accuracy to my written words. Not to mention encouragement and morale support.

After several rounds of edits—in conjunction with the laborious process of going back in after-the-fact to add in over one hundred footnotes—work on the cover art began. I ran through a design process with Nuno Moreira, who created several options for a book cover. Ultimately, after identifying what I didn’t like, we zeroed in on which photos I wanted to use, re-considered the tone of the story, and eventually selected a design that is the book cover you see today.

At this stage in the process, things really started to get fun. There were many questions I never thought about having to answer such as, did I want a 5 x 8″ or 6 x 9″ sized book? Glossy or matte cover? Was I happy with the chosen title? How did I want the author bio or synopsis on the back of the book to read? At this point, I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel and the reality of finishing a book began to set in.

With the story edited, cover selected, title finalized, and back cover blurb completed, the final step was working with Sarah Katreen Hoggatt, a talented graphic designer, to lay out the content for both the print and ebook formats. After going through a series of options for fonts, we decided on a final font scheme, and the book was laid out for review. Final proofs were ordered, additional tweaks made … and as of this writing, we’re now just a few days away from having the final book!

Publishing Your First Book

After writing the book, the next step was to set up publisher accounts at Amazon, Kobo, Nook, and Smashwords. I also created a simple book website using a WordPress template, so that the book would have a “home page” on the web. In my case, I bought the domain to eliminate unwanted advertisements. While the ebook format is currently ready to go, once the final paperback version is approved then the formal process of marketing the content will begin. Will save that learning experience for a future post …

Needless to say, depending upon what your own goals may be for writing a book, I hope that hearing my own experience was helpful. If I had to give one single piece of advice for someone thinking about writing their first book, it would simply be this: take the time to consider your intentions for writing a book up front, even before you get started. Understanding the reasons why you are writing a particular book will help you form a master strategy, set you on the right path from the beginning, and simplify the number of decisions needing to be made along the way. While writing a book certainly takes a lot of work, with the right team in place, and the right story needing to be told, the possibilities are endless.




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