Before you begin
Unsurprisingly there are a few things to consider that, if you’re new to self-publishing, will make you wonder what you got yourself info. But don’t worry, the journey is well worth the effort.
I’ve broken this document down into two halves – the first half is about the writing and the second is about the production. It’s mostly aimed at those who have never written and self-published before but there are some sections that might be useful to everyone.
But before you even get to the writing stage make sure you know who you’re writing for – whether its non-fiction or fiction – and what they most want to get out of it.
Make a clear plan if it’s non-fiction of the subjects you’re going to cover and have a strategy in place for beginning promotion and building your platform as you work through writing your book.
It’s a common misconception that you can throw together a book in a couple of days. I won’t deny that some people can, that they don’t have lives that affect their work, or work that takes up a lot of time, and can type non-stop like a beast.
I’ve written fifteen books and have never been able to do a single one in a couple of days.
A week for a first draft is plausible though and if you aim for around the 40k-50k word mark you will have a decent sized book to offer. But remember it will all depend on how much time you have to devote to your writing.
I’ll write mostly as if you are writing a non-fiction but the majority of the information can be applied to fiction too.
Writing the blasted thing
Okay so you got interest, a few people may have even put their money on the table, and you’ve agreed on an unrealistic goal for launch. You’ll probably spend the first few hours in a bit of an excited flap – someone wants your book and now you have to write it.
Hopefully it’s on a subject you know a lot about, or at least enough to teach others who know less than you about it.
Now stop jumping around and hugging people and sit down with a pen and paper. You need to plan.
Work out how much time you realistically have available to spend writing (and researching if you don’t already have all the material you intend to use). Don’t forget to factor in things like any other job you have to go to, family time like taking the children to school or tucking them in at night, shopping etc.
You’ll probably have a number of days until your self-imposed deadline (which should have a little flexibility, but we’ll cover that later) and now you should be able to work out how many actual hours a day you can spend on your book.
I know it seems like a hell of a faff and you just want to get on with brain vomiting all over the computer screen, but you really do need to know how much you have to write each day to meet your target, otherwise you might find yourself lounging around like the often portrayed writer watching TV or doing “research” but never actually writing.
Length of the book
Most books come in varying lengths and some are irritatingly short given how much you paid for them and how much they promised. Whilst others seem to go on forever and give more information than you even thought possible on a subject.
So a rough way of working out how long your book will be is to write your table of contents. Which will look something like this:
And in an eBook you can make these hyperlinks to specific pages so people can jump to the one they want.
Now for each section estimate 2k words (after the acknowledgements, preface, and contents, these are the bits you add in at the end) – some will be more, some will be less, but it’s a good length for a short essay about a subject which is effectively what you will be doing.
Working it out this way also lets you focus on one particular subject at a time and work to a time scale and word limit, even though the word limit isn’t set in stone, which will then let you move onto the next one quickly and easily.
You’ll find as you go through that some subject sections get dumped because they come under other sections or that you need to add sections or sub-sections. It’s easier to do this and write in a sensible order if you already have the layout planned.
Now you can assign particular subjects to your planned writing times and give yourself a good head start instead of coming to each days writing with only an idea of what you’re going to do that day.
You will have days were you just don’t feel like it and others where you write so much you’ll surprise yourself. If you are having difficulty go and do something else for half an hour, your brain will probably solve the problem for you whilst you’re not writing and when you come back you’ll be able to get on with it. Good activities for restarting the brain are usually physical rather than mental, so consider going for a walk or a swim, a bath can help and I often bake cakes or make cookies.
The key is not to ignore the task altogether but take a break when it’s really hard and go back to it fresh. If you’ve given yourself a deadline you need to keep working towards it. But know that some days you’ll manage a few hundred words and others a few thousand.
Give yourself a low target word count and you’ll find you pass it easily.
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