Home / Blog / How to Write a Book: 12 Steps to Write A Book For First-Time Authors

How to Write a Book: 12 Steps to Write A Book For First-Time Authors

Written by

Justin Champion

https://selfpublishing.com/author/justin-champion/

Published on

2020-07-24

You’re ready to learn how to write a book…

And as a first-time author, you’re nervous about this new journey because you want first-time success (who doesn’t?).

But today’s publishing industry has become noisy. There is endless information out there on writing a book, and with the rise of self-publishing, it can be overwhelming, to say the least.

Related: Traditional Publishing VS Self-Publishing

If you’re ready to take the leap, become an author, and learn how to write a book the right way, start with this resource to get your wheels in motion.

As a first-time bestselling author, I can tell you that writing my first book was one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of my life.

I experienced a lot of growth and pushed through many hurdles, in my mind and process, and being able to learn how to publish is something I am truly proud of.

And I’m ready to share the steps with you, so that you can go on to write a book of your own, and find success as a first-time author.

how to write a book

Here’s how to write a book step-by-step:

  1. Develop a writer’s mindset
  2. Create a book writing space
  3. Choose a book writing software
  4. Determine your book’s topic
  5. Create a book outline
  6. Finish writing your manuscript
  7. Edit your book
  8. Choose a compelling book cover
  9. Format your book
  10. Prepare to launch your book
  11. Publish your book
  12. Market your book
  13. How To Write A Book: FAQ

Ready to start writing your book? Let’s get to it!

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Part 1: Successful Foundations When Learning How to Write a Book

In Part 1 of this article, we’ll start with the basics. While the steps in this phase may seem to be unrelated to actually writing a book, they are very important.

In fact, setting yourself up for success will help you build the foundation needed to start, and finish, your book.

We’ll talk about developing a writer’s mindset to get you in the right frame of mind that’s conducive to writing. Then, we’ll discuss how to create a writing space that will boost your writing productivity, and how to choose the right writing tool for your needs.

Tips for success as you write a book:

  1. Develop a writer’s mindset. This is all about embracing a mentality that will inspire you to start, and finish writing your book.
  2. Create a writing space. This is all about how to set up the ideal writing environment that fits your routine.
  3. Use a tool to write your book. This is all about deciding on what you will use to write your book.

Step #1 – Develop a Writer’s Mindset

Writing a book takes time, work, and dedication. It’s easy to romanticize being a well-known bestselling author like J.K. Rowling or Octavia Butler. However, every author has a story on how they started out just like you or me and overcame adversity to get where they are today.

Related: Imposter Syndrome for Writers

For example, Rowling, who had no job and was on welfare at the time, would take her children to a coffee shop and write.

Butler, who was a dishwasher and potato chip inspector at the time, would wake up at two or three in the morning to write and wrote herself mantras to keep her focused on her goals.

The first step in learning how to write a book is learning how to overcome mindset blocks, deal with self-doubt as a writer, and develop a healthy frame of mind that will help you achieve your goals.

write a book mindset

Let’s review three things you can do to circumvent roadblocks and crush challenges to keep you focused on your goal — writing your book.

#1 – Hold yourself accountable to writing your book

It’s not good enough to write only when inspiration strikes. There will be days where writing is the last thing you want to be doing.

But you have to treat your writing as if it were a job, or a duty. This means holding yourself accountable, taking action, and showing up every day.

Here’s how to hold yourself accountable to writing:

  1. Set a writing goal. If you don’t have a goal, procrastination will get the best of you. Determine a writing goal, including how many days a week you intend to set aside time to write, and set a deadline or due date for when you’d like to have parts of your book.
  2. Block off chunks of time to write every week. If you’re looking for a place to start, consider one to two hours per day five days per week. The more often you write, the more you’ll develop a habit for it, and making time for writing won’t be that much of a struggle.
  3. Set a daily word count goal. Consider how many words you want to write each week. Use this Word Count Calculator to determine the goal you should aim for, depending on the type of book you are writing. For example, if your goal is 3,000 words per week and you have five chunks of time blocked off to write per week, then you’d need to write 600 words per day to achieve your weekly goal.

I write early in the morning before I do anything else for 1-2 hours. I find that as I go throughout the day and work on other projects my mind isn’t as fresh or sharp by the end of the day. However, sometimes I have ideas throughout the day that I jot down in Evernote to jump-start the next morning with a working outline.

#2 – Give yourself permission to be a writer

This might sound silly, but it’s true: you need to give yourself permission to be a writer. Many aspiring authors get stuck in their mindset, which prevents them from initiating and completing their writing projects.

Even successful authors feel like they aren’t good enough. Acknowledge your feelings, but then shake them off, and move on with your day.

Hear this: You don’t have to be an expert to get started. You don’t have to feel 100% confident to be a good writer. You don’t even have to be all-knowing to teach others about your experiences or knowledge.

Here’s how to give yourself permission to be a writer:

  1. Get inspiration from other writers. When you’re just getting started, you might feel alone in your journey. But take comfort in the fact that other successful writers and creative geniuses all started at the bottom, just like you. Many of them overcame seemingly impossible hurdles, but persisted with their writing dreams, anyway. Research some of your favorite authors, and read up on their stories to discover the issues they overcame to find success.
  2. Accept where you are. Acknowledge your feelings of self-doubt, and then release them. It’s okay to experience moments of feeling discouraged, but it’s important that you don’t let those feelings hold you back. Accept that you are beginning in your journey, and that this is a learning process.
  3. Use positive affirmations. Your thoughts have a huge influence on your abilities. What you think starts to become your reality, so make your thoughts good. Use positive affirmations about yourself and your writing abilities to pump yourself up. You can even read inspirational writing quotes from famous authors for motivation.
  4. Overcome imposter syndrome. Even expert authors and writers feel like imposters every now and again. While it’s okay to experience feeling inferior, you have to eventually get over those thoughts and push on towards your goals. Connect with other aspiring writers, get yourself a mentor, and join writers conference or writing community.

#3 – Announce your intention to write a book

The best way to hold yourself accountable for your work is to let others know your goals. Is there someone you trust or a group of people in your network you can appoint to check in on progress?

Perhaps there is someone else you know who is trying to write or someone who is a seasoned writer who can serve as a mentor. If so, try to have regular check-ins with this person.

One way to keep these meetings consistent is to schedule a lunch or coffee date. Talk about your progress and perhaps any challenges you’re facing. They may be able to bring a fresh perspective.

I told my wife, Ariele, and several of my closest teammates from work about my intentions to write my first book. We had regular check-ins to talk about progress. Everyone helped keep me motivated and had different feedback that helped progress the book. Without them, it would have been a lot more difficult to write Inbound Content in the timeframe I did.

Step #2 – Create a Book Writing Space

The second step in how to write a book has to do with your environment. Where you choose to write will have a major impact on your writing productivity.

Find creative spaces where you can produce your best writing.

Sure, some might argue that they can write anywhere as long as they have the tools to write. But where we choose to write play a huge role in our writing motivation and focus.

Questions to think about: Where do you work best? What surroundings inspire you most? Identify them and make it a best practice to work there consistently.

space to write a book

Here are creative writing spaces to write your book:

  1. Coffee shops (classic)
  2. Library
  3. Beautiful park or somewhere in nature
  4. A dedicated writing nook at home

My main writing location is the dinette in my Airstream. I do my best work when traveling; I wrote the manuscript for my book in six weeks as I traveled the U.S. and worked full time from the road.

Step #3 – Choose a Book Writing Software

The next step in how to write a book has to do with writing tools.

In 1882, Mark Twain sent to a publisher the first manuscript to be written on a piece of technology that would transform the writing industry: the typewriter.

Nowadays, we have computers with word processing and the internet where you can find an endless assortment of useful book writing software and apps that are meant to help you be an efficient and effective writer.

You may be tempted to overload on apps because you think it’ll help elevate your writing. But honestly, less is more. The truth is that the right tools and even self-publishing companies make writing and publishing easier and more enjoyable.

Instead of overwhelming you with all the possible apps in existence, below is a list of three tools I recommend adding to your writing toolkit today (and they’re free).

#1 – Google Drive

  • You can organize all aspects of your project in folders (research, outline, manuscript drafts, etc.)
  • You can host files for your projects like images, photos, etc.
  • You can use Google Docs as a word processor.
  • You can enable offline access and work on your files even when you don’t have an internet connection, such as when you’re traveling.
  • You can collaborate easily with others, avoiding version control issues.
  • You can access it from just about any device (laptop, smartphone, tablet, you name it).

Google Drive is one of the most versatile cloud storage services available today. But Google Drive is so much more than cloud storage. Here’s a list of ways you can use Google Drive to help you write your book:

Plus, Google will give you 15GB of free storage just for signing up.

If you’re new to Google Drive, here’s a list of resources that can turn you into a pro. (FYI, if you have a Gmail account, you have a Google Drive account.)

#2 – Grammarly

Grammarly is an editing tool that helps you identify grammatical errors, typos, and incorrect sentence structure in your writing.

Download the web extension and Grammarly will edit most anything you type in a web browser (yes, it will work with Google Docs).

You can check out this Grammarly review if you’re on the fence about this one.

#3 – Evernote

Inspiration can strike at any time. Capture those thoughts and ideas as they happen in Evernote. You can even sync Google Drive and Evernote. I recommend doing this, especially on your mobile device.

#4 – A Notebook & Pen

Don’t underestimate the power of good ole’ fashioned pen and paper when it comes to writing a book, which is arguable the only essential writing tool out there.

Even if you write your entire manuscript on a trusty writing software program, you’ll still want to have a dedicated notebook available for the times when inspiration strikes and you can’t access a computer.

Every writer should have a notebook handy for random ideas and thoughts. You can jot these down in your notebook, then revisit them and digitally store them in your book writing software when you’re back at the computer.

how to write a book

Section 2: Writing Your Book

Now we’ll move on to how to actually start writing a book. This is the part that seems simple, but can be more difficult than you realize.

However, once you get through the process of actually writing your book, you will gain momentum to finish it, and eventually publish it.

We’ll show you how to write a book in these steps.

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Step #4 – Determine Your Book Topic

It all starts with an idea. What’s your book idea?

Maybe you already know exactly what you want to write about. Or maybe you have a million ideas floating on in your head, but you don’t know exactly where to start.

One of the most common pieces of advice for aspiring first-time authors is “write what you know.” A simple phrase that’s meant to be helpful, yet it begs so many questions.

If you’re struggling with a book idea, try jumpstarting your creativity by experimenting with these writing prompts.

Whether you’re writing a non-fiction how-to guide or a fictional post-apocalyptic thriller, you need to form a connection with your audience and you can do that through emotion. The best way to create emotion with your reader is to understand them.

Here’s how to determine what you want to write about and how to write it in a meaningful way.  

#1 – Identify your target reader

The key to producing meaningful content is understanding your reader. You can do this by creating a reader persona — a semi-fictional representation of your ideal audience.

To get started with your reader persona, consider answering the following questions:

  1. What’s the reader’s age? Are you writing a self-help book geared towards mature adults, or are you writing a guide for teenagers? The age of your reader will set the tone for your writing and book’s context.
  2. What’s the reader’s education level? Are you writing a book for PhD candidates, or for recent high school graduates? Depending on the answer, your writing style, verbiage, and word choice will vary.
  3. Does the reader prefer visuals? Think about your book’s potential topic and if visuals like charts, graphs, tables, illustrations, screenshots, or photographs will be expected.
  4. What is this reader interested in? When you write a book, it’s less about what you want to say, and more about what your reader needs to know. As you start to brainstorm a topic and write your book, always have a reader-centric approach.

The more you know about your reader, the better experience you can create for them.

When you set out to write a book, you have to think about your reader wants to know more than what you want to say. Make your book about the reader: what do they need to know in order to learn what you have to say?

My main audience is marketers and business owners at small- to medium-sized businesses. They’re strapped for time and don’t need another theoretical resource. They value real-world examples to help visualize what tips and strategies look like in action.

#2 – Write about something that intrigues you

You need to write about something that spikes your curiosity, something that keeps you coming back day after day. Something that lights you up and that you’re invested in.

how to write a book

Don’t write about a topic for the wrong reasons.

I can’t stress the importance of this enough. If you choose a topic to write about for the wrong reason, don’t expect to create something that people will love.

You need to be able to stick with it through dry spells and bouts of non-inspiration. Your own desire to hear the story will be what drives you through.

I’m a practitioner at heart and curious about finding ways to use content marketing to stand out and compete online. It energizes me to explain complex problems in an easy-to-understand way. Inspiration for this project is what kept me coming back to work on it day after day.

#3 – Research potential topics

In our digital age, we can conveniently research topics from the comfort of our own home.

Google makes it easy to research just about any topic. Have multiple ideas for your book? Do a search on Google to learn more.

Here’s a list of ways to research your book concept on Google:

  • What content already exists? Are there already books written on this topic? If so, which ones performed well? Why did they perform well? Is there anything interesting about their content that enhanced the reader’s experience? Is the market over-saturated on this topic?
  • What influencers exist on the subject? Are there well-known authors on this topic? Who are they? What can you learn from them?
  • What do you need to learn? Are there specific things you need to learn to create a rich, meaningful narrative (ex. geography, culture, time period, etc.)?

I performed extensive research before writing the manuscript for Inbound Content. It was important for me to understand what content was already out there, which content was performing well, and most importantly, how could I make my book unique. This is exactly why I included homework after each chapter to help my readers build an action plan that they could implement immediately, something I noticed wasn’t typical in other marketing books.

#4 – Choose a topic you can write about quickly

Writing your first book is invaluable because it’s a serious learning experience. The process of actually writing a book and completing it will make this book a personal success for you, because of how much you will learn about yourself and your craft in the process.

Don’t get hung up on a topic. If you’re struggling with deciding what to write about first, go with the topic that you know best. Choose a topic or experience that you can write about quickly, with limited resources.

Here’s how to find a topic you can write about quickly:

  1. Write what you can teach right now. If you had to teach a lesson on something right at. this second, what could you confidently teach? This is a topic you know well, that requires limited additional research, and what you can quickly create content for.
  2. Write about a powerful experience. Each individual is unique in their experiences. Everyone has gone through something that changed them. Reflect on your life and think about one experience that sticks out about your life.
  3. Write about a life lesson. What has life taught you? What unique observations have you made about the world? Think about your own life lessons, and reflect on how what you now know can help others in the world.

Step #5: Write A Book Outline

Once you know what you want to write about, you’re probably eager to start writing.

Keep in mind these words from Mark Twain: “The secret to getting ahead is getting started. The secret to getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

Let’s review what you can do to create a clear book outline for your book that you can use as a roadmap.

#1 – Create a mindmap

You have an idea, now it’s time to hone in on just exactly what that idea is. With a mindmap, you can drill your topic down into sub-topics. It will help you get all of your ideas out and onto paper.

Here are the steps to mindmap your book’s topic:

  1. Get a blank piece of paper and pen.
  2. Set a timer for 10 minutes.
  3. Write your topic in the middle of the page.
  4. Jot down all of your ideas related to your book’s topic.
  5. Do not stop writing until the timer goes off.

Once you have mindmapped your idea, you should have a full page of brainstormed thoughts, ideas, and concepts. You can then review what you’ve written, and begin to organize them. This will come in handy when it comes time to actually start plugging in content for your book outline.

#2 – Write a purpose statement

In one sentence describe the purpose of your book. A strong purpose statement will explain to readers why they should consider reading your book.

This will also help you stay focused as you begin drafting your outline and writing your book. It will prevent you from straying from related topics, and going off on tangents.

When you have trouble solidifying what your book is about, review your purpose statement.

Inbound Content‘s purpose statement: People who read this book will learn a step-by-step process on how to do content marketing the inbound way.

#3 – Create a working title

A working title is a temporary title used during the production of your book. Identifying your book by giving it a name can help set the direction.

Once you finish your work you can revisit the title and update accordingly. Don’t get too hung up on this step; think of the title as a placeholder. It isn’t permanent, but it will be helpful to begin with one in mind.

If you need help thinking of a working title, use our Nonfiction Book Title Generator.

Inbound Content’s working title was Content Marketing Simplified. Once I completed the content, I updated it to something more fitting based on the content I created.

#4 – Write an elevator pitch for your book

An effective elevator pitch should last no longer than a short elevator ride of 30 seconds. For context, 30 seconds equals about 65-70 words.

Having a prepared elevator pitch will come in handy throughout your book-writing process. It will help you nail your book’s purpose and topic, and it will help the concept become crystal clear not only for yourself as the writer, but for your potential readers, too.

As you ask family and friends to hold you accountable to writing, and as you connect with fellow writers, authors, and mentors, you will be asked about your book. Having a prepared elevator pitch will help you nail the answer without hesitation, each and every time.

Pro tip: Take the time to nail your elevator pitch. You want to be ready to have a clear, confident answer when people ask about your book.

how to outline a book

#5 – Draft a working outline for your book

It’s time to draft a working book outline! Just like the working title you created, this outline is a work-in-progress. The outline can change throughout your writing process, and that’s okay!

However, it’s super helpful to start with an outline so that you know where to begin, and have a general roadmap for where to go as you start writing.

Use the related concepts and sub-topics you organized in your mindmap, and start plugging in some content into your outline.

If you want to create a solid foundation for your book in just a few hours, consider this BookMap method. It’s a template you can follow to quickly pull together all the subjects you want to write about and organize them into topics that will become chapters of your book.

Your outline will do wonders for you once you start writing. It can help you avoid writer’s block, and increase your writing momentum and productivity. Instead of wondering what to write about in the next chapter of your book, you’ll already have an idea of where to start with your book’s outline.

#6 – Fill in the gaps with more research

After your working outline is completed, it’s important to do further research on your topic so that you can fill in any areas that you missed or forgot to include in your original outline.

Research is important, but writing is more important when it comes to completing your book. So, make sure you balance time for research wisely.

Do not get too caught up in your research that it prevents you from writing your book. Take some time to research, but set a limit. Always go back to writing.

nonfiction book research

Here’s how to research when writing a book:

  1. Use online resources by doing a Google search on your topic.
  2. Read other books that have been written about your topic.
  3. Listen to expert interviews, podcasts, and audiobooks related to your topic.
  4. Read scholarly articles and academic journals within the subject or industry.
  5. Search archives, collections, historical journals, data records, and newspaper clippings to get clear on events, dates, and facts about your topic, especially if you’re writing about the past.

#7 – Choose a framework to write your book

If your book can follow a framework, this will make it easier to keep your writing organized and relevant.

By choosing a format or structure for your book’s topic, you’ll be able to align your outline in a way that will be helpful when you start to write each chapter.

Most nonfiction books can fall into a specific framework, or a blend of frameworks. It’s better to start with a specific framework, then tweak it as needed as you continue writing.

Here are common nonfiction book frameworks to consider when writing a book:

  1. Modular: Use this framework if you have a lot of information or concepts that can be grouped into similar topics, but don’t need to be presented in a specific order.
  2. Reference: Use this framework if your book will be used as a reference that makes it easy for readers to quickly find the information they need.
  3. Three Act Structure: Use this framework if you plan to use storytelling in your book, where you have three main parts like a Set Up, Rising Action, and Resolution.
  4. Sequential: Use this framework if your book reads like a “how to” with a specific set of steps.
  5. Compare & Contrast: Use this framework if you need to show your reader how two or more ideas or concepts are similar to or different from one another.
  6. Problem & Solution: Use this framework if readers need to be able to clearly identify a problem and understand the solution.
  7. Chronological: Use this framework if each main section of your book represents a specific time or order of events.
  8. Combination: If your book will fall under two or more of the above frameworks, then you will need to use a combination framework that’s adjusted to your book’s specific topic.

Step #6 – Finish Writing Your Book Draft

For many, the hard part isn’t getting started with how to write a book… it’s in actually finishing it!

Commit to finishing your first draft, and you’re already succeeding!

Here are our top tips to keep the momentum going as you start taking action after learning exactly how to write a book.

#1 – Break your book writing into small chunks

Now that you have your book’s outline and framework, it’s time to get started with writing.

Like a marathon, your manuscript is essentially a puzzle made up of many smaller like-themed pieces. Your finished book may be 262 pages long, but it’s written one word or thought at a time. Pace yourself and stick to your consistent writing schedule.

If you approach your book writing by focusing too much on the larger picture, you can get overwhelmed. Write chapter-by-chapter.

Related: How to Write a Book Chapter in 7 Simple Steps

Start with baby steps by chunking your writing into small pieces. Set milestones, and celebrate the small wins.

Here are some tips for breaking your writing into small pieces:

  1. Write one chapter at a time. Focus on one piece at a time, not the entire puzzle!
  2. Set deadlines to complete each chunk of writing. Break your goal down into smaller sections, then set individual deadlines for each section.
  3. Structure your writing time. Follow a routine for writing that includes time for research (if needed) and review. For example, if you dedicate two hours each day towards your book, set 30 minutes aside to review your outline so you know what you’re writing about, then 30 minutes to research anything that you need to clarify, then one hour to actually writing.
  4. Celebrate small goals. As you accomplish milestones towards your end goal, schedule and celebrate your small accomplishments. It can be something as simple as going out to dinner, buying yourself a small gift, or doing a little dance.

Pro tip: Set deadlines to complete the chunks of writing you need to meet your goal. This will help you better prioritize your blocks of writing time and word count goal.  

#2 – Build the momentum to finish writing your book

Writing is difficult. Writing an entire book is even more difficult.

When you’re in the weeds with writing your book, there will be days you want to give it all up.

There will also be times when you have writer’s block, and even though you know what you should be writing about, it all sounds wrong as you re-read what you’ve written in your head.

Here’s how to fight writer’s block and increase your writing momentum:

  1. Don’t edit as you write. Writing and editing requires your brain to work in two very different ways, so don’t do it! It’ll slow you down, and keep you at a standstill. Keep writing, and save the editing for later. It’s okay if what you type out doesn’t sound perfect; it’s all about getting your words out first. You can clean them up later.
  2. Switch up your scenery. If you usually write at home in your own writing space, maybe it’s time to freshen up your writing environment. Try writing in a public park, or at a coffee shop or library on the days when writing is the last thing you feel like doing.
  3. Take a break. It’s okay if you’re too mentally worn-out to write. Take a small break, and then get back to it. When we say small break, we mean take a day or two off from writing (not a month or two!).
  4. Get creative inspiration elsewhere. Binge-watch an exciting new show, read a novel, take a walk in nature, go to an art gallery, or be around people you love. While you aren’t writing when you do these things, it can help your brain reset and re-charge so you can return to your book.
  5. Write about something else. Sometimes, when we’re so engulfed in our book’s topic, it can be self-limited. If you’re feeling less excited about writing when it comes to your book, maybe it’s time to flex your writing muscles in a different way. Try doing some creative writing exercises, journal, or write a poem.

#3 – Collaborate with others

There’s strength in numbers when it comes to accomplishing a huge task.

And, more importantly, it can help you feel less isolated in what can be a very solitary act. Writing a book can be lonely!

Let’s review three things you can do to collaborate with others when writing your book.  

#1 – Connect with your original accountability partner or group

A great example of finding accountability partners is through a group or self-publishing company much like what Self-Publishing School does with their Mastermind Community on Facebook.

#2 – Attend a writer’s conference

Sharing space and networking with other writers can do wonders for your own writing habits and momentum. By attending writer’s conferences, you’ll be in a room full of people just like you.

Not only will you be able to network with and learn from expert authors who have been where you are, but you’ll also be able to meet fellow aspiring writers going through the same process as you.

writers conference

#3 – Collaborate with thought-leaders on your subject

Ideal for non-fiction writers, this collaboration could mean asking well-known people in your industry to write a quote that brings value to your content.

how to write a book quote

Pro tip: When promoting your book launch on social media, consider creating a buzzworthy piece of content like an engaging blog article and have your audience share it.


Section 3: Bringing Your Book to the Finish Line

Now it’s time to put on your marketing pants and spread the word about your book!

Step #7: Include Front & Back Matter

There are elements outside of your book’s content that you’ll need to write, such as a preface, foreword, notes, etc. I suggest waiting until after you’ve written your book. This way, not only can you better connect them to your story, but you won’t waste time editing them in case you make changes to your manuscript.

Let’s review eight final touches you may or may not need to wrap up your book.

#1 – Preface or Introduction

Draw in your readers with a compelling story. This could be a personal anecdote related to your topic. Tell them what the book is about and why it is relevant to them (think of your reader persona from earlier).

#2 – Foreword

A foreword is typically written by another author or thought leader of your particular industry. Getting someone credible to write this can add a lot of value to your readers.

#3 – Testimonials

Just like with the foreword, try and find respected, well-known people in your space and have them write a review about your book. The best way to promote yourself is to have someone else speak on your behalf.  

how to write a book back cover

#4 – Author Bio

How do you want to be portrayed to your audience? Readers love knowing personal details of an author’s life, such as your hobbies, where you live, or what inspired you to write this book.

Pro tip: The author bio on the flap of your book might be one of the first things people read when deciding whether or not to read our book. Keep it short, but make sure it packs a punch (just like your elevator pitch).

#5 – Glossary

A glossary is an alphabetical list of terms or words relating to a specific subject, text, or dialect with corresponding explanations. If you are writing nonfiction, especially a topic that uses a lot of lingo or uncommon words, make sure to include a glossary to create a better experience for your readers.

#6 – Notes

If you are writing nonfiction, keep track of your sources as you research and write. A clear bibliography will only add to your value and credibility.

Being nonfiction that was based on a lot of research and experiments, I made sure to include a notes section in Inbound Content. It included citations, stats, image sources, etc.

how to write a book notes

#7 – Images

Using images is a nice addition to your content. Images can create a more engaging experience for the reader while improving the communication of hard-to-grasp concepts.

how to write a book

Pro tip: Include a figure number on each image. This way you can easily reference it in your text. You can organize images by leading with the chapter number first, then image number after the bullet point. For example, the above image is image 22 in chapter 11 of Inbound Content.

#8 – Edit Your Book

Once your manuscript is completed, it’s time to edit your book, which involves self-editing first, then having a thorough professional edit done.

The success of your book will depend on its quality, and a thoroughly edited book is a solid way to increase your book’s quality.

Even the best writers require editing, so don’t feel discouraged by this process. In the end, you’ll be glad you followed the editing process, and will have a completed, error-free book that you can be proud of.

#1 – Self-edit your book

Remember when we told you not to edit your book as you wrote? Well, now’s your time to shine in the editing department.

Once you’re book is written, it’s time to go through and read it line-by-line.

We recommend printing your entire manuscript out on paper, then going through each page and making edits. This will make it easy to spot errors, and will help you easily implement these changes into your manuscript.

There’s a specific strategy to self-editing; if you start this process blindly, it can be overwhelming, so make sure you understand how it works before diving in.

You’ll want to read for structure, readability, and grammar and word choice. There are a few different ways to self-edit book, and it will depend on your own preferences.

Here’s some tips to self-edit your book successfully:

  1. Read your manuscript aloud as you edit.
  2. Start with one chapter at a time.
  3. First, go through and edit the chapter for structure revisions.
  4. Second, find opportunities for improving the book’s readability.
  5. Third, make edits for grammar and word choice.

Once you complete your self-edit, you can make your revisions on your manuscript, then get ready for the next round of edits.

#2 – Hire a professional book editor

Now, it’s time to hand your book off to a professional editor.

As meticulous as you may be, there are bound to be some grammatical or spelling errors that get overlooked. Also, a professional editor should be able to give you feedback on the structure of your writing so you can feel confident in your final published draft.

Related: Explore Line Editing vs Copyediting

If you use Reedsy to configure your book, you can leverage their network of experienced book editors to bring your book to the finish line.

#3 – Re-write sections of your book’s draft using your editors feedback

Now it’s time to improve your book using your editor’s feedback. Don’t be discouraged when you get your manuscript back full of edits, comments, and identified errors.

Think of these edits as opportunities to improve your book. You want to give your reader a polished, well-written book, and to do this, you need to edit and re-write.

This doesn’t mean you have to re-write your entire book. You simply have to go through your editor’s feedback, and make any revisions you think are necessary.

If there is something you don’t agree with your editor on, that’s okay. In the end, it is your book, and you are in control of what you want to add or take out of the manuscript.

Just be sure your revisions are coming from a place of sound reasoning, and not pride.

#4 – Finalize your book title

If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to revisit the working title you created for your book earlier in the process.

You need to finalize your book’s title before you move on to the next steps!

Related: Book Title Generator

If you need help deciding on a title, cast a vote with your target readers and mentors in your author network. Send an email out, post a social media announcement, or reach out through text with people that are considered your book’s ideal reader.

Get feedback on your title by asking people vote for their favorite title. Include the top three choices, then use the crowdsourced results to narrow it down even more.

Once you have a title selected, don’t worry too much if you’re not 100 percent sold on it yet. Even if the title turns out to not be effective, you can always change the title depending on the publishing platform you select.

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#9 – Choose a Compelling Book Cover

Don’t judge a book by its cover? Please. People are definitely judging your book by its cover. 

The cover design is generally the first thing that will pique a reader’s interest.

Related: Self-Publishing Services

You can find freelance graphic designers to create a compelling book cover for you on many online marketplace sites like Upwork, Reedsy, and Snappa. You can even check with a local graphic design artist for a more hands-on approach.

Tips for creating an effective book cover:

  • Whitespace is your friend. Make it a best practice to choose a design that pops, but doesn’t distract.
  • Make it creative (non-fiction) or emotional (fiction). Do your best to connect the art to the story or use it to enhance the title.
  • Consider a subtitle. Think if this as a one-sentence descriptor on what this book is about.
  • Test two or three designs. Send a few designs to your trusted accountability group to get their honest first impressions and feedback.

Keeping these best practices in mind, I chose a cover for Inbound Content that was simple but made the title pop and let the subtitle provide the promise to the reader.

how to write a book cover

Step #10 – Format Your Book

Now that you’ve written your manuscript, it’s time to format it so you can visualize the final product — your book!

Formatting your book is an important step because it has to do with how your book will appear for the reader. A successfully formatted book will not cut-off text, incorrect indentations, or typeset errors when printed or displayed on a digital device.

If you’ve already decided to go with self-publishing versus traditional publishing, this is all on you. But if you’re not tech-savvy and don’t have the time to learn how to format your own book, you can hire a professional to do this part for you.

If you know how to format a book correctly and to fit your book distributor’s specification, you can do so in Word or Google Docs. You can also use a program like Vellum Software.

Otherwise, we recommend hiring someone to do this professionally, as it’s one of the most important aspects to get right.

Step #11 – Prepare to Launch Your Book

Before you hit “Publish” it’s time to do the groundwork to start prepping for your book’s launch, and your ongoing book launch and book marketing strategy.

There are a few steps involved in this process, which we’ll outline below.

#1 – Build your book’s launch team

This is an ongoing step that you can start doing when you are finished with your rough draft. As you send your book to the editor, designer, and formatter, you can organize a launch team in the meantime.

Your book’s launch team is essentially a group of individuals that are considered your target readers. They will help you promote your book, and will be actively involved in the launch process of your book.

#2 – Develop a marketing mindset

It’s time to start shifting your mindset from writing to marketing. Think about your strengths and areas of growth when it comes to sales and marketing.

Acknowledge any fears or self-limiting thoughts you have, then push past them by remembering your book’s purpose. Know that the power of sharing your knowledge and experience through your book is stronger than any fear that might hold you back.

It’s important to understand in the marketing phase that your mindset has a huge role in the success of your book. You can write the best book in the world, but if you don’t channel some energy towards marketing, no one will know it exists.

#3 – Create a book launch strategy

There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to your launch strategy, so it’s important to draft up a plan before you publish your book.

Your launch strategy is basically how you plan to create momentum with your book. Think of it like a business launch. There’s always a big celebration to announce the launch of the business. It’s the same for your book.

Step #12 – Publish Your Book

The self-publishing process steps will vary on whether you are publishing your book as an eBook only, or whether you plan to publish it as a print book.

It will also vary depending on which self-publishing companies you plan to work with. There are many self-publishing platforms to choose from, including Amazon’s KDP and IngramSpark.

If you plan to work with a different book publisher, you’ll want to follow their guidelines.

Once you’ve hit publish on your platform, you can start implementing your launch strategies and marketing strategies, which we’ll cover in the next section.

Related: How to Publish an eBook on Amazon

Step #13 – Market Your Book

Now that your book has been published, it’s time to sell it and get your words into the hands of as many readers as possible.

This is where your marketing strategies come into effect, and this is how you can really leverage your book sales and build a book business.

Here are four ways to market your book:

  1. Paid advertisements
  2. Free advertisement opportunities
  3. Local or in-person events
  4. Content marketing on Google and Amazon
  5. Be a guest on podcasts and websites
  6. Speaker opportunities

FAQ: How To Write A Book

If you read through this guide and have specific questions, here are some other Frequently Asked Questions we get often.

How long does it take to write a book?

The time it to write a book depends; on average, it takes self-published authors anywhere from 1-6 months, but that can be shorter or longer depending on your writing habits, work ethic, time available, and much more.

How much do authors make?

There is no set amount that an author can make. It largely depends on so many factors, such as the genre type, book topic, author’s readership and following, and marketing success.

For a full report on this, please read our report on Author Salary

Writing a book is not a get-rich-quick strategy by any means. While a book can help you grow your business through techniques like a book funnel, unless you sell hundreds of thousands of copies of books, you likely will not earn six figures from book sales alone.

How much money does an author make per book?

The money an author makes per book sold is calculated by the royalty rate. The royalty rate varies depending on the publishing medium, and company.

Use this Book Royalties Calculator to get a better idea of your potential earnings.

How much does it cost to write and publish a book?

With Amazon self-publishing and other self-publishing platforms, the cost to publish is actually free. However, it costs money to hire professionals that actually produce a high quality book that you will be proud of.

For full details, read this guide on Self-Publishing Costs.

Can anyone write a book?

Yes, anyone can write a book and thanks to the rise of technology and self-publishing, anyone can publish a book as well.

Traditional publishers used to serve as the gatekeepers to publishing, holding the power to determine which books would be published – preventing many stories from not being shared, and many talented authors from not being recognized.

Thankfully, this antiquated system is no longer the only option. This also means that because anyone can technically publish a book, it is extremely important that you create a quality, professional book that’s of the highest standard.

You Wrote A Book!

And that’s it! Those are the steps to take to learn how to write a book from start to finish.

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You can and will write your first book if you put forth the effort. You’re going to crush this!

Trust the process, create a consistent writing schedule, and use this practical guide to help you through the journey.

Are you ready to write your book?