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How to Write a Book About Yourself in 11 Easy Steps (Includes Publishing!)

POSTED ON Feb 17, 2024

Shannon Clark

Written by Shannon Clark

Home > Blog > Writing > How to Write a Book About Yourself in 11 Easy Steps (Includes Publishing!)

Do you want to know how to write a book about yourself but are unsure where to start? There are several frameworks to choose from, which we'll discuss in this article, and once you get your story written, you have even more options available to get it out into the world.

What's standing between you and writing your life story?

We'll answer some of the most pressing questions about the writing and publishing process and see if we can get you started down the right path.


What type of book can I write about my personal experience?

Writing a book about yourself may feel like a daunting task, but we can help you break it down into achievable steps. To begin, let's take a look at the different types of books that you could use to bring your story to life. 

Essays

Autobiographical essays are short personal writings focusing on a specific, big-picture theme or central message. They are quite short (usually around five paragraphs), and shouldn't be thought of as your entire story, but rather one piece of it.

Multiple essays can be compiled into book form, such as an anthology.

Example: Facing Unpleasant Facts by George Orwell.

Memoir

A memoir is defined as a first-person account that focuses on a singular event or events. However, though they are based on a true story and real people, memoirs are not categorized as nonfiction and likely only cover specific key events (rather than your entire life).

Deciding to write a memoir gives you a bit more freedom to share your life experience as you remember it in your own personal writing style.

For example, Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Autobiography

An autobiography is also in the 1st person voice and covers someone's entire life story, usually from childhood through the time of the book's writing. Autobiographical writing often requires a deeper level of fact-checking and a wider account of someone's life history than memoirs do.  

Example: Cash by Johnny Cash.

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Related: Autobiography vs Memoir Books

Nonfiction narrative

A narrative nonfiction book is a 3rd person account (similar to a biography) of someone's life or an event written like a novel.

Example: Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand

How to start writing a book about your life

In the beginning stages of the writing process (pre-writing), you want to gather as much information as possible and find the best way to organize it so that you can retrieve it later.

1. Gather your notes

I'm a big notetaker, so I keep all of my book notes in:

  • 8.5 x 11” graph-ruled notebooks with stick-on tabs for easy organization
  • The notetaking app on my phone (voice and typed)
  • The Notion app on my laptop
  • Google Keep
  • Otter.ai for voice note transcription (replacing the old tape recorder method!)

This system works for me because when inspiration strikes, I can capture the thought in the moment rather than trying to remember it later. When writing a book, setting up a notetaking system customized to your needs is critical to your book-writing success. Otherwise, you'll lose momentum and risk stopping before you get to the finish line.

Want to know how to write a book about yourself the quickest way? Crowdsource your memories!

Here are some ideas on how to gather information and jog your memory:

  • Interview family and friends
  • Look through old photo albums and yearbooks
  • Watch a favorite movie from your childhood
  • Read old diaries and journals
  • Listen to an old song

2. Outline your book

Whether you need to create a memoir outline or have decided on one of the above types of books to write about yourself, you need to map out the different time periods covered in your book, the order you'd like to share them, and which real-life events feel the most important to include.

Start with these ways to organize the information you've gathered: 

  • Write in a journal
  • Record voice memos (use transcribing software)
  • Use a notetaking app like Notion, Roam Research, or Evernote

Then, I like to make a mindmap of all the different themes or stories that have emerged. You can then use those to fill in the different chapters and chapter sections of the book about yourself!

Remember: how you get started doesn't matter as much as actually getting started writing a book. The best tool or method to use when writing is the one that works for you.

If you need more advice on the writing process, there are a ton of free writing websites online that can help or you can enlist the invaluable support of a writing coach (like the ones we have here at selfpublishing.com!). This person will help guide your process and hold you accountable so that you actually write the book about yourself AND get it published! 

More on that in a bit.

3. Write a book about your life

It has to be said! We looked at ways to gather information to start the writing process. I sharted quick tips for outlining. Once you have all of your research completed, you'll need to start putting everything together.

In case you want to skip step #2 and begin with a book outline (“outliner”), you can write by the seat of your pants (“a pantser”). 

Do whatever it takes to simply start writing and get a rough draft in your hands. Write your story by hand, on your phone, on an old typewriter, or on computer with the best book writing software, take one from Nike's playbook and Just Do It!

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At some point, you'll want to get everything into an electronic format (word processor document or PDF) to simplify the rest of the process, but that's not the top concern at this stage of writing a book about yourself.

How to publish a book about yourself 

Since you are reading this on the selfpublishing.com website, I'll assume you want to know more about how to self-publish your book, so that's what we'll focus on for the next steps.

 4. Have someone read your book

This can be a casual reading from a friend or a colleague (called alpha readers) who is a part of your target audience and whose feedback you trust. Or you can hire a professional editor for a formal critique.

Try to listen to their feedback with objectivity because what they say will help you determine whether you need to go back and do some rewriting or if your manuscript is ready to go to the next step—editing!

5. Edit your manuscript

Every book doesn't require every type of editing, but it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with what each type does so that you can select the best one for your manuscript. 

This is another place where a book coach can help you. They will be able to identify which types of editing your book could benefit from and could help you find the right editors or editing services. 

6. Get beta readers

It's time to get some more eyes on your manuscript.

At this stage, your manuscript has taken shape and is close to complete, so it's ready for an informal review. Have a few beta readers read your book and give you honest feedback.

Again, try to listen objectively (this can be hard when you're close to your work – especially when it's your own personal history). If the critiques are hard to hear, the positive is that you can make any necessary changes before the book is published and in front of a wider audience.

If you are having other people look at your work, it's also a good idea to learn how to copyright a book.

7. Hire a proofreader

After your beta readers (“practice audience”) have provided feedback and you've made any necessary changes, it's time for proofreading.

Proofreading is the last stage of the editing process. A professional proofreader's responsibility is to find any holes that were missed during the editing process, including typos, plot issues, misspelled names, and anything else that may have been overlooked.

They are the final pair of eyes to look at the manuscript before it goes to print.

8. Decide how you'll print your book

For book printing, you have two options—offset printing and POD (print-on-demand).

Offset printing requires a large print run (starting around 1000 books, but some offset printers will print fewer). It is usually cheaper and a good choice for those who want to do direct sales and already have a large audience ready to buy.

Keep in mind that you'll need somewhere to store the books once they've been printed as well as a way to distribute them.

POD printing is a printing process that prints one book at a time as they are sold. You can upload your book files to online companies like Amazon KDP, Ingram Spark, Barnes and Noble Press, and others. They will drop ship your books for you as orders are placed through their online platforms.

Even though these online printers/distributors take a percentage of each sale your book makes on their website, they are usually the best choice for self-published authors.

9. Prep for your Launch

Once you have your printing set up and your book ready to publish, it's time to set up your prelaunch.

This is when you set a book launch date, set up your presales, gather your “street team” and plan out how you're going to let everyone know about your book. At this point in the process, we usually suggest that our authors create an author website, an email list, and social media accounts.

You don't have to use every social media platform, but it's important to determine where your audience is active and create a presence there.

10. Invest in marketing

This could be a time or money investment – or both!

From presale to post-launch, you want to make sure that you become a master at book marketing so that your name and your book's title are getting out in front of potential buyers.

You can use online ads, book promotion sites, podcast interviews, book review sites as well as writing opinion pieces for websites (don't forget to mention your book in your byline).

Course: Market Your Book

11. Host a book launch party

This is the day your book goes “live” on your selected platforms, and readers can buy a copy. Your book launch party isn't just about finally becoming a published author – it's a huge day to leverage to increase book sales and buzz.

This is the day you've been waiting for. You've learned how to write a book about yourself, you've completed said book, and you've self-published. 

If you're a part of our Author Advantage Accelerator Program, our team will help you with launch planning and execution. Otherwise, this is an important step of the publishing process that we highly recommend researching!

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Other publishing options for a book about yourself

When it comes to publishing a book about yourself, you have four options: traditional, hybrid, vanity, and self-publishing.

Traditional publishing

publisher acquires your manuscript for publication. They pay for the book's editing, cover design, and formatting and take a percentage of its sales.

As the author, you also receive a percentage of the sales called a royalty. Some traditional publishers offer an advance on royalties, which usually range between 5%-15%.

Hybrid publishing

A hybrid publisher operates like a traditional publisher, except they share the publishing costs with the author. They do not offer an advance on royalties and royalty rates can be higher than traditional publishing, according to IBPA (The Independent Book Publisher's Association),

When compensation is based on royalties, a hybrid publisher pays its authors more than the industry-standard royalty range on print and digital books – in exchange for the author's personal investment.

Although royalties are generally negotiable, the author's share must be laid out transparently and must be commensurate with the author's investment. In most cases, the author's royalty should be greater than 50% of the net on both print and digital books.

Vanity publishing

With vanity publishers (also called subsidy publishers), authors pay for everything with little to no support.

In many publishing circles, vanity publishing is considered a scam, and we don't recommend going this route.

Self-publishing

Self-publishing (naturally our favorite type of publishing at selfpublishing.com!) puts 100% of the control into the author's hands. The author acts as their own publisher and invests in their product as they see fit. They have control over their budget, creative input, and anyone or any service they decide to hire to help with the process of writing a book about themselves.

Authors do pay upfront costs but can receive anywhere from 50%-80% profit off of their book sales.

Should I really share my story?

Let's address the elephant in the room. You want to know how to write a book about yourself – but should you write it?

Here at selfpublishing.com, we think you should.

Personal stories are just that—personal. You are the only one who ultimately decides if you should share it. That being said, there's likely something someone could learn from your life story. And writing a book about yourself will put that story out there for future generations (what a legacy!).

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I ready to share? Deeply personal stories can sometimes hold us hostage to our past. They can keep us from moving forward because we are stuck in the muck of our memories. Writing it out can be cathartic and a way to shed some of the weight. If getting your story down on paper is enough, write it, then put it under lock and key, tear it up, or whatever helps you get to your next step in life. However, if you feel an inner tugging to share—like maybe your story might be someone else's, too, then move on to the next question.
  • Am I comfortable sharing this experience with the world? It's one thing to write a story for your personal benefit, but it's entirely different when you place it on the table for the world to see. If you are a private person or the idea of strangers reading your story makes you uncomfortable, but you still want to share it, consider writing under a pen name (a fake author name).
  • Why do I want to share my story now? If you're still on board with sharing your story, why now? Authors publish stories for many reasons, including making money, starting a writing career, ticking a “to-do” off their bucket list, or getting revenge. The first reason can be a hit or miss, and the last reason could get you sued. If you find yourself somewhere in the middle where you feel drawn to writing, believe your story could benefit others (whether funny, tragic, inspirational, or redeeming), or just want to try it, go for it!

You know how to write a story about yourself. Now what?

Your story, like every story, matters. When stories are shared, they can connect us, define us, and then can help redefine us as we release them and embark on new journeys.

If you feel compelled to write a book about yourself – do it. Not everyone gets an opportunity to share their story with the world. Sometimes, they don't have the proper guidance or they let imposter syndrome win. Other times, they need someone else to do it for them through ghostwriting or a biography. This journey is about you – so take the path that feels the best for you and your story.

And remember: there's never been an easier time to self-publish a book.

If you want help writing a book about your life and sharing it with others, selfpublishing.com has a team of book professionals who are happy to point you in the right direction.


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