Quite a few of you have e-mailed me with questions about my book writing process. It seems I’m not the only struggling or aspiring author out there, and I know I only mentioned that I was writing and editing and then announced that the book was for sale–it was a little bit more complicated than that.
I wouldn’t dare give a “how to” on the actual writing. Everyone has their own process, I’m sure. I can tell you how I chose to write 31 Days to Lovely; it may or may not work for you.
First, I wrote a chapter outline. This changed very slightly as I started to write, but it gave me a confident place to start. Because my book centered around Scripture, my outline was primarily Scripture.
After the outline, I began filling in the chapters–just 500 or so words per night. When each chapter had it’s bare bones information and I had written just over 15,000 words, I was finished with an incomplete book. Still, I felt a little too close to the project to be able to improve upon it without some outside perspective.
I have amazing friends; I like to think that makes me an amazing friend, but they truly surpass me in every way. Because you can now set up completely private and secret Facebook groups, I invited about fifteen friends to a group in which we would read and critique what I had written. These were all women whose opinions I greatly respected (some of them were writers, others were avid readers). Seven of them were enthusiastic about helping and were in a time in their lives which allowed it (although most of them didn’t really have the time; they just made it). The “What exactly do you mean here?” “I think you could expound upon this,” and “You’ve gotta lay off the parenthesis,” comments they returned were absolutely invaluable. I edited according to their suggestions and added another 5,000 words or so.
I highly suggest hiring or begging two editors for every major project. The first one should be an in depth editor and critic and the second a consummate proofreader. We [writers] all know that it’s almost impossible to edit one’s own work (I’ve often worked as an editor for others and cannot believe the errors I both make and miss in my own work). Likewise, the editor who begins a project may have difficulty finishing it as he/she may also become nearsighted. Before you run off and spend $1000 or more on an editor, see if you can’t hire an equally talented friend for cheap or free. Both elance.com and ifreelance.com are good places to look for an inexpensive but talented editor. You may very well have teachers or writers among your immediate family and close friends that would be happy to fill your editor positions for free, however. I was lucky enough to have my cousin edit and my parents proofread. And I’m now paying it forward by editing a good friend’s book (also for free). Just look around, and don’t be afraid to ask! I added another 5,000 or so words at the suggestion of my editor, and she was good enough to read through again after I had made the revisions. If this seems like too much to ask of one person, you might consider finding three editors (two editors and one proofreader) to get the job done in sequence–this is the road I plan to take with book number two.
I had a very specific vision in mind for my cover. First, I knew that I wanted my good friend and the namesake of my youngest daughter to hand-draw the word “Lovely”.
I pictured it on a background of white roses. I began searching the internet for the picture I wanted (and I found tons) only to realize that purchasing a picture for use in a commercialized project could easily cost me thousands of dollars. So, I dusted off my camera and drove to the store for white roses.
I have a nice camera and decent (for amateur) photography skills. That was enough to get a usable picture. If you haven’t invested in a quality camera, never fear! You are sure to know someone who has! Again, just ask around.
Without my designer, I would have been stuck with a nice picture and a beautiful but unusable scan. I had no idea how to combine these things and begin to bring about my vision. Luckily, one of the gals who’d agreed to join my focus group is a talented designer. Not only did she design the most beautiful cover I have ever seen (and yes, I might be biased), but she acted absolutely thrilled to do so for free.
If there is not a willing designer in your circle, never fear! Fiverr.com is the place I run for many, many of my design related issues (blog, book, and logos for clients). Just hop on over and look around. There are designers, coding experts, and all around creative people galore! And amazingly, they will do most small jobs for $5 (check the Fiverr’s rating before hiring). Be sure to let your designer know that they are working on a commercialized project so that they can choose their fonts accordingly.
I knew I wanted to publish my book both in print and for Kindle. However, formatting my MS Word document for Kindle was far outside my scope of understanding. After a full day of frustration and about an hour in tears, I remembered Fiverr.com. I would highly suggest not even trying to format your own document unless that is your area of expertise. I paid $10 (because I tipped) to have my document prepared for Kindle publishing. It might also be wise to hire someone to format your print version. This was my very first publishing expense.
After quite a bit of looking around and reading reviews online, I decided to publish my print version with Create Space. For the most part, I’ve been extremely happy with their printing quality and their customer service. They walked me through the publishing process step by step. Also, Create Space (an Amazon company) makes it easy to sell your self-published title on Amazon. They have a Kindle publishing walk-through, though I chose to bypass this and to hop over to Kindle with my formatted version in hand–therefore skipping the wait and fee that would have been associated with the Create Space to Kindle option.
Create Space is a print-on-demand company. This means that books are not printed until they are purchased. There will never be a minimum amount of books for you to buy; and, like I said, I’ve been predominately pleased with the job they do. I did receive some misprinted books last month, but Create Space replaced them free of charge. Create Space has a completely free option, and because I had already enlisted an editor and designer and was taking and formatting my own interior pictures, free was the option for me. Create Space allowed me to choose from standard book sizes and color options and also allowed me to set my price based on the royalty I wanted to receive.
Royalty rates are higher for self-published authors, because you are the one solely responsible to…
Market and Sell
I’ve read in several publishing articles that the average self-published title sells about a hundred copies [ever]. That hardly makes it worth all the work! No matter how well-written or relevant your book is, it will not sell if it is not marketed. Publishing on Kindle is an essential marketing strategy for a self-published author. In fact, you may decide not to publish a print version at all! When publishing on Kindle, you’ll have the option to sign up for their Kindle Select Program–you want to do this! One of the features of Kindle Select is the option of listing your Kindle title for free (for up to five days). Not only do you want to take advantage of this (whether your title will be priced at $2.99 or $9.99), but you’ll want to use up all five freebie days. There is simply no better way to market, and every single free download will be counted [for ranking purposes] as a sale. In other words, even though my book has only sold a few hundred copies to date, Amazon ranks it as though it has been sold over 14,000 times (I gave away 14,265 Kindle copies).
Because your five freebie days do not have to be used in succession, I highly recommend taking a quick step backward once you are ready to sell on Kindle and before you go live with your print version (I didn’t do this, so you’re learning from my mistake). Activate a twenty-four hour freebie day, but do not advertise it. Instead, send the link to close friends and family, only, letting them know that you’d love it if they would preview your book and point out any errors that might have been overlooked in the proofing or formatting process. Also, ask them to review your book on Amazon, and ask them if they can do all of these things within a specified amount of time (you only have 90 days to use your freebie days, so keep that in mind).
If it becomes necessary for you to make changes to your file, you can simply upload a new file to Create Space. You’ll need to have your Kindle file formatted with the changes. Again, I recommend that you hire someone to do this.
As soon as you’re ready, contact the freebie sites (both miscellaneous and Kindle) and let them know that your book will be listed for free for four days (give them exact dates). You can find the relevant sites by googling, “Freebie Sites,” and “Kindle Freebie Sites”. Don’t worry about contacting every single one. Just pay attention to the top three or four listings, the rest will take their cue from them.
That’s about it…I won’t say simple, but it’s definitely something you can do. Let me know when you publish so that I can review your book!