Writing and Self-Publishing a Book

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Writing a book is easy. After all, I have written two and I’m no rocket scientist.

Of course, if you want to write a really good book, it might be more difficult. I always aim high, but I guess it will take a few books before I’m really, really satisfied with the result. But at least I’m writing and trying my best. (If you want to check out what I’ve written – check out My Books.)

So how do you write a book? Well, first you put words together, then you put sentences together and then you put paragraphs together and then you put pages together and voila! you have a book.

It might suck, but at least it’s a pile of paper showing you’ve worked for hours.

Because even if writing a book is easy, it does take a lot of time. You really have to put the effort in. It’s like what Malcolm Gladwell says in his book Outliers: you need 10 000 hours to achieve mastery. For writing it seems like 10 000 hours isn’t a whole lot and definitely no guarantee for mastery. You might work on a book for 10 000 hours and it might still turn out to be complete crap, because writing a good book is difficult – writing any book is easy.

How can it be easy? Well, I suggest you take a look at the Kindle Store. There are millions of book there. Many of them self-published. Many of them shit. Still someone had to sit down, write for hours and days, put the book together, get a cover designed, set up the book in Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), decide on a price and click PUBLISH.

Some of the books that you might think are shit get thousands of downloads. Some even get decent reviews. This obviously means that you can write one too! Maybe even a good one!

You don’t need to be a genius to be an author, you just need a computer, heaps of time and a bucketful of determination (because self-doubt WILL haunt you like a hungry ghost).

After a lengthy introduction, here comes the steps towards getting a book published.

1. Have an idea of what to write. You can approach this in different ways. Here are a few:

Based on a situation – “What happens if a guy gets stuck in an elevator with convicted felon and they start talking about their past and it turns out they’re related?”

Based on a person – “What if you have a (on the surface) really dislikable guy who through the course of the book turns out to be quite likeable?

Based on a (historical) event – “How was it to grow up in Hiroshima in the aftermath of the atomic bomb?

Based on a strict plotline – “There is a murder on the Orient express and it’s obvious that one of the passengers is the murderer, but it’s a complete mystery who it is.”

2. When you have the idea you need to: Write, write, write. (This is an essential part of the process).

3. Don’t stop every other page and look at what you have written. This might work for some, but I find it to grow a lot of doubts around what you’re writing, which might lead to you never finishing anything. Which would be very sad.

4. Make sure you find time and space to write. Whether you prefer to write in a café or a hotel lobby (like me) or in your private office or in a cabin in the woods, is up to you – but make sure you’re able to focus a hundred percent on the writing.

5. Cut out distractions. Linked to 4, but worth to be repeated. Unplug your internet cable or turn off your wifi if needed. Get a typewriter. Use a fountain pen. Whatever works for you.

6. Write every day. If you don’t, it’s easy to lose track or interest in the story and the characters. Better an hour a day, than two hours every other day in my experience. Writing every day will make you feel good about yourself too. Like you’re working towards something.

7. Seek inspiration from books, long walks, Internet, friends, overhearing conversations in the subway or cafés, newspapers, family and friends. Be a sponge!

8. Make sure you have fun while you write. (This is probably the most important tip of all). If it’s not fun, it won’t be good. And, not to forget, life is supposed to be fun.

9. When you’ve finished, let someone you trust and respect like your spouse or a best friend read your work. Let them be critical. Try to take it for what it is – constructive feedback. Don’t listen to everything if you feel strongly about something, but try to be open-minded.

10. Rewrite. Rewrite. Rewrite.

11. Let the material rest. Put it in a drawer. Don’t look at it for days or weeks. It’s important to look at your writing with fresh eyes.

12. Pick it up again and read it. It might even be worth to do it out loud to make sure the rhythm is right.

13. (PRO TIP) Hire an editor to give you input and properly proof your book. Can be expensive, but probably worth every penny if you want professional material.

14. Rewrite again.

15. When you’re happy with the material and you think the book is finished, you have two roads to go: pitch your material to an agent and hope to get a contract with a publishing house or self-publish your work. This is obviously up to you, but I have found self-publishing to be a quite friendly and far less frustrating route.

16. Publish. Below you will find some thoughts on where and how…

If you decide on traditional publishing you really need to scout for a suitable agent and make sure you have a good cover letter and a super neat manuscript. Since I haven’t really focused on this route myself (although I have acquired some 20 rejection slips), I feel I’m not the right person to give you advice on it, but there should be plenty of references online.

If self-publishing is the road for you, you have quite a few options of suppliers. Since publishing e-books is the cheapest and easiest way to reach out, I’d definitely suggest starting out with that channel.

Some players in self-publishing industry: Amazon KDPKoboNookSmashwords (for print I found Createspace to be great)

What you need to self-publish properly:

  • A good writing software like Microsoft Word or Pages (for mac).
  • You might need an e-book file conversion software like Calibre.
  • You might like to check out a dedicated writing software like Scrivener.
  • You will need a cover designer or if you want to do it yourself a proper design software like Adobe Photoshop. IMPORTANT! The cover might be one of the most important marketing tools so spend extra time/money to get this really good. I used a good friend and a great designer, Etienne Bugeja, for The Wake-Up Call and Hollywood Ass and I have received lots of praise for the covers.
  • See to it that you write a good sales text for the back cover blurb, the description and for marketing to different book sites. Read this post on how to market your e-book.

A sentence to summarize…

MAKE SURE EVERYTHING YOU DO WITH YOUR BOOK BREATHE PROFESSIONALISM. FOR PEOPLE TO TAKE YOU SERIOUSLY, YOU HAVE TO TAKE YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING SERIOUSLY.

That’s it. The best of luck and remember: you can write and publish a book!