So You Want to Publish a Book? Start Here

Two authors

Two authors in the family! That’s me on the right, in Australia with my talented and beautiful step-daughter Kelly, who published Sailing to Jessica, about her trip around the world. Which ended, by the way, with the adoption of our daughter/grandaughter in the Gilbert Islands.

"You should write a book about that!" Have you heard that before? Well, now you can.

It’s now possible for me to publish a book for the states, Europe, and beyond, from my desk in France (as I did this summer). And whether you’ve written the Great American Novel or you just want to write your family history for your grandkids, you can do it too. Here are some thoughts, from my experience and from our readers who are authors.


The Plan: Decide if you just want something just for family and friends. If it’s just for family and you want to pay for it yourself, there are lots of print-on-demand options, you don’t need a publisher (try Snapfish, for example). But if you want to sell the book to even a small audience, self-publishing might be the way to go.

The cost: if you are handy enough to do the cover, editing, and formatting yourself, you can publish for almost nothing. If you're serious and seeking something professional looking however, you'll need to hire a cover designer (I was very happy with my designer: I signed up a friend as my editor, but this was too much to ask and I should have used a professional. You simply cannot believe how many times you have to read a book to catch the errors. To get a cover design, editing, and formatting done, you could sqeeze by on $1000 but you could spend a lot more.

Sailing jess bk

The time factor: Writing it may be the quick part! There are many publishing options, and it took a while to sort them all out. In the end I decided to go just with Amazon’s Createspace (for print, with both free and paid services) and their Kindle Direct (for the ebook), which is the easiest DIY way , and the fact is that Amazon controls a huge chunk of the market. What took time: finding a cover designer, educating myself about how to be an author and publisher and marketing person; the formatting; the marketing itself. I was lucky in that Ron was willing to do my formatting. You can have that done for you as well; does it for $199, for example. For the hassle factor and the time it took, this, I can tell you, is a bargain. (Note that you can also go with a self-publishing service, who will do some or all of the work for you for a fee or a cut. Smashwords or Bookbaby are two to try, but study them carefully to see what you’re getting).

The how-to: Before you type the first word of your book, read a how-to book and/or several how-to articles or blogs. Why? Apart from the obvious reason of figuring out what you're getting into, your typing will later have to be formatted. I typed mine in Mac Pages, which I later found out was a bad choice for Amazon's Createspace (Word is better, and there are other options). When you type you must avoid all formatting, such as tabs and paragraph indents. So save yourself a LOT of bother, and do your homework FIRST.


Loyal reader Michela Rodeno, who has just published From Bubbles to Boardrooms: Act 1: Startups Are Such Fun (Volume 1)
, recommended a great book for authors, called APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book.
Study it, before you start. Just about everything you need to know is in this book.

The marketing: If you publish it, they won't come---unless you bring them to the book. Most self-published books sell less than 100 copies. There is a lot of competition out there. So before you even begin, figure out how you'll market it. Marketing will be an on-going time-eater.

My step-daughter Kelly has a good marketing tip: "I would recommend that everyone makes a book trailer for their book. In my mind, a book trailer is today's high tech version of a glossy brochure - but it is more fun to watch and share". She was clever enough to do her own, or perhaps you have access to a teen-ager?


Our loyal reader Christine Webb-Curtis is a self-published author, with co-author Dimity Hammon. One key to building successful sales is to have a series of books, and they are now writing their third, after The Diva’s Demise: A Cape Cod Crime Mystery and Rehearsals for Retribution: A Cape Cod Crime Mystery. She recommends taking notes on the publishing process as you go along, so the next one will be easier. “Each one has been a little like birthing a baby, for heaven’s sake,” says Chris. “After this last time, we have kept instructions on some of the nuances.”

Now, to all all you aspiring authors out there, I say, go for it! And for you, a big fat bon courage!

One more tip: We have a free-lance editor among our readers, I have just discovered! So if you need an editor for your book, you know who to contact: Barbara Bell. You can get in touch with her through her website or through LinkedIn.

In the COMMENTS: The artists from last week's post will be thrilled to read your nice comments! And Natalia, you are so right, we can learn to appreciate different styles, when they speak to us. Sally, I agree--Marion pulled off a pretty amazing feat, given the French love of red tape. And Judy, pigeonniers were originally towers that were homes to pigeons. Pigeon caca is prized above all for it's fertilizing properties, so having a pigeonnier was a status symbol--as it is today, but only because of their charm.

A very helpful article Lynn thank you and likewise to the comments which follow it...It might just inspire me to finally pull my finger out and do it this year!

Can I just add, if no-one likes my own styles Ron Whithead is the bees knees of design and is also a seasoned SFN member...he runs the Art Dept group

I also found this free kindle book very helpful in taking me through the process

Great article very interesting and useful. It's inspired me to plod along with my own book for my children.

*WARNING, impending shameless tout for graphic commissions!

I can't resist this....I'm a graphic designer and can do totally personalised, professional e-book and print-ready artwork for ANY book cover design, magazines etc, for the same price or less than Damonza. Plus, My design would be WAY better.

They have a clever way of packaging their deals on-line to give the impression that you have more control over the outcome, but it's really just a template system that you have to work on and given that they are clearly doing designs in a automated way, thereby getting the authors to chose all the possibilities and cut out the designer from the process, maximising their profits, I think they have a nerve to charge the same rates a real designer would charge for each cover.

I think a personal approach from a designer works best with something so personal to an author.

I also think when you deal with an artist directly, you're getting a better quality service and certainly with me, would get someone aiming to give you what you need/want instead of automated templates designed to maximise the design profit. I don't want authors to spend the same money on a faceless service instead of a local artist. Even if it's not me doing the work! so please don't be tempted, talk to a real artist first. It won't cost anything extra to pick up the phone or email.

Using local artists mean more interesting results come out - for example, if my own illustration style doesn't float your boat, I could ask to collaborate with any of the artists on the SFN artists group pages, here and produce a cover that's designed by 2 local designers, using one of someone else's pieces or style as the base illustration. Or if you have a favorite artist or book jacket already in mind I can work 'in the style of..' (see below, a piece I did for a firm of solicitors who wanted something Lichtenstein - I also helped do the proof reading for the content) or if the artist is a friend, I could use their work with permission etc....a truly unique design.

I have this years work here, if anyone fancies a peek.

Happy tapping budding writers x

Thank you for a helpful post. I have just gone through the process of publishing a kindle book on Amazon and the paperback version through Createspace. It was the only way I could manage to publish a book with it being free. I have M.E. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) and live in France. I have published a book of poems about M.E. to help raise awareness and to raise funds for the charity in Invest in ME. I have been sharing and posting on face book and twitter. I have set up a face book page around my book and intend to also do a blog. It takes a lot of time and energy and has not been easy for me. Still now I have gone through the process I think a second time would be easier. I had some help from various people thankfully as at times it was not easy. Anyway here`s the link to my book on Amazon France (also available on Amazon UK and Amazon Com)

Strong suggestion, avoid massive costs and look at, easy to self-publish and/or present a finished product to a Publisher - impressive and saves a lot of wasted time and effort. Avoid like the plague those companies 'Looking for Authors' such as Authorhouse, they are (in my not-so-humble opinion simply rip-off merchants).

Put your book on amazon anyway, sure they will take 30% but you are out there in the market place. Read thir instructions and sit back and make millions! I jest of course, but it at least gets you off and running.

This is a very helpful post. I've done a lot of research and would like to traditionally publish my book but if I can't get an agent and publisher I'll need to self publish and all that involves. Being based in France, how did you get on marketing it in France since most French can't read it and wouldn't understand a lot of promotional efforts because of the language barrier?

Most of my book is finished, I have written a proposal and almost finished my query letter but the final chapter, or two have yet to be done as my immediate future keeps changing. An editor would be a good idea. I asked an author and editor friend in NZ for her input but, disappointingly, all she suggested was to add more direct speak conversation in the narrative sections (inventing it).