From Here to There: 7 steps to getting your book done

Getting your book done

Photo: Tim Swaan

Writing your book is part art, but ultimately comes down to a lot of hard work. If you want the kind of quality writing that will stand out among the hundreds of thousands of titles released each year, you’ll need the skills of a professional collaborator/writer.

Here’s a process that will help you think about producing your book in smaller, manageable steps, rather than staring into the face of one big project that may seem overwhelming.

Here are my seven steps to writing your book:

  1. Define the central message
    What is the one central idea or theme you want to get across to your readers? Naturally lots of information and more granular detail will flesh out your book, but there should be one overarching objective.
    You’ll also want to look for books that are similar to what you have in mind so you can refine your objective and message into something that has its own niche and purpose.
    Example: For my first book, Bring Your Teen Back from the Brink, we wanted it to be “an easy-reference handbook for parents to quickly educate themselves on how to deal with a drug abusing teenage child.”
  2. Define your audience
    This one is pretty basic: Who is the audience you want to reach? It’s too time-consuming and costly to market a book too widely, so narrowing your target audience is important. With success in reaching that first target, you can branch out to others later.
  3. Build a book outline
    This step uncovers all the subtopics that will support the objective defined in step one. Dump them out of your brain and onto paper or a computer doc, then arrange them into a logical order. Your outline becomes a working table of contents and the roadmap for the work ahead. (I’m happy to make this an interactive session where we work together to get this done.)
  4. Research and interview
    In this part of the process your collaborator (me) interviews you based on your outline, then transcribes and rewrites it into narrative form. Preliminary research may inform the interview questions, but your writer will do much more extensive research post-interview, to find supporting facts and references for the material uncovered. This stage will require your biggest time investment.
  5. Review and re-write
    It’s taking shape now. You’ll get to read through draft chapters as they come together, providing feedback for revisions until the writing is done. Get others to read the drafts at this stage and you’ll get fresh perspectives that will give you an even better finished product.
  6. Final formatting and publishing
    This may sound simple, but there are many details to attend to here to get the manuscript into shape so it fits publishing requirements and is discoverable by those seeking the content you have to offer. Self-publishing makes it “easier” to get a book into circulation, but there’s a whole skill set needed to do it. Trust me, you don’t want to waste your valuable time figuring it out.
  7. Marketing your book
    Believe it or not, the previous seven steps are probably the easy part of this whole process. While digital self-publishing has opened producing a book to anyone, only a very small percentage ever sell more than a few hundred copies. Be exceptional! Carry out this final step to set your story free for those who can benefit from your expertise.

Yeah, So…About That “Publish” Part: FastPencil

Part of the services I had planned to offer at StorySetFree was helping you navigate the self-publishing process. It has been a complicated and challenging process, requiring meticulous formatting and conversion of documents – usually composed in Microsoft Word – so they will properly display or print for the reader. Different publishers want different formats, among them EPUB, MOBI, PDF, and HTML.

“I know how to do that. People will want my help,” I thought.

“Not so fast,” said the folks at FastPencil.


It makes total sense. Why wouldn’t some smart coders and business folks figure out how to simplify a cumbersome process? And so they did.

I haven’t dived too deeply into it, but from a presentation by Steve Wilson, the founder of FastPencil, it looks like a most-wonderful new development for you, the author.

The promise is that they will make it easy to upload, format, and distribute your book to just about everywhere you need to be, on both electronic and physical bookstore shelves. It looks like they are delivering on that promise. And you can start for free.

Thanks a lot FastPencil.

BUT… I’m not having to apply at the supermarket or fast food joint just yet. You still need quality content before FastPencil can help you package it. The very same Mr. Wilson reminded us that of all people who want to write a book, less than 10 percent finish one.

One simple reason behind that stat is that writing takes a lot of time. Time you probably don’t have even if you have some writing skills. Good writers also know how to draw the most interesting information and stories out of their subject matter experts. (That’s you.)

Just as importantly, real skill in writing is not widely available. Many kids play sports, but only an elite few will ever develop the skill to get paid to do it, and only a tiny fraction of those will ever play at the highest level. The same percentages apply to writing ability.

Writing is a special skill and the quality of your book is more important than ever. With an estimated one million titles self-published last year, you need to do all you can to stand out. You can do that if you work with an elite writer as your collaborator (ghost writer). It’s a good investment.

It’s clear in all kinds of industries that automating routine or tedious tasks is the way of the future. It’s only natural that publishing is riding that trend as well. We professional writers should not deny that or try to hang on to this part of our turf at your expense (literally).

To learn more, go see FastPencil for yourself.
Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with FastPencil. I just know how much easier it will make life for you if you want to write a book.