First time authors often underestimate the amount of work that goes into writing a successful book.  I know many authors whose books don’t do as well as they could because they’ve neglected one or more of these essential stages.

1: Research

Before you even start writing, you need to do a bit of digging into who else has published similar books so you can ensure you’re not rewriting what has already been written.

If you’re thinking of trying to get one of the mainstream publishers on board to publish your book, you’ll also need to research which of them publishes books similar to the one you’re proposing to write (if they don’t, they probably won’t be interested in a book that doesn’t fit into their genre).  Also you’ll need to look at their publishing schedules to ensure you won’t be in direct competition with another title published around the same time or a bit before yours.

2: Planning

To make your writing process as easy as possible, it’s wise to put together both an overview of the book and a schedule in your diary to ensure that you have time blocked out to write.

I like to use mind maps to plan out, first, the whole book so I can work out what each chapter is about and second, the content headings for each chapter, including stories and anecdotes, quotes, models, diagrams, processes, etc.

Finally, it’s a good idea to plan your chapter recipe.  This is the structure you will use for every chapter, so, if you begin with a quotation, every chapter starts the same way.  If you end with an action plan, you’ll need to do that on all the chapters.

2B: Your Proposal

If you’re planning to go with a mainstream publishing house you’ll need to submit a proposal.  Most big publishing houses have an on-line format for this and they’re all slightly different.  However, you can expect them to want:

  • A synopsis of the book – 1-2 pages only.
  • One or two chapters of the book for them to see your writing style.
  • An overview of your target reader audience.
  • Your marketing plan – don’t expect them to do a huge amount of marketing.

3: Writing

If you’ve dug deep in your planning, this should be pretty straightforward.  As long as you have time allocated to write, you can simply take each chapter plan and apply it to the chapter recipe, filling in the information as you go.

Writing to a plan ensures you don’t hit the ‘blank page syndrome’, where you don’t know what to write.

4: The title

You may already have a title in mind for your book, but before you carve it in marble, do some checking.  Search for your proposed title and see if someone has already used it.  It doesn’t mean you can’t use it for your book, but you could be creating confusion and even lose sales to a book with the same or a similar title.

Non-fiction books will also need a subtitle.  The rule of thumb with titles and subtitles is that if the title doesn’t tell people what the book is about, then the subtitle must do that job.  This means you can have a quirky title, with a practical subtitle explaining what the book is about.

Research what phrases and words people are searching for when they’re looking for the kind of book you’re writing.  This will help to ensure your book title turns up high in searches.

This research is much easier than it used to be – now there are huge online bookstores where all books are listed.

5: Editing and proof-reading

If you’re self-publishing or going with an independent publisher you will need to have your work edited prior to submitting your manuscript.  Be prepared for at least two edits and a final proof-read.

If you are successful in getting a publishing contract then your publishing house will almost certainly have in-house editors who will edit and proof-read your work.

Don’t be tempted not to have your book edited – it will benefit enormously from a professional editor’s attention.  Unedited books are usually harder for the reader to get through.

6: The cover

Once again a publishing house will have in-house graphic designers to help with this.  A very few independent publishers also have in-house cover design services, but mostly you’ll need to get a graphic designer who is experienced in book cover design to create your cover.

There is a cost to this – and it’s wise to take a look at potential designers’ work to ensure they’re familiar with the kind of cover you have in mind.

Having had at least one book where the cover was done in a hurry to ensure launch took place at a specific event, which resulted in something neither me nor my co-author liked.

You will need ‘blurb’ for the back cover giving potential readers an insight into why they should read the book.  Also a short biography of you as the author.

If you have people who will read a pre-publication copy of your book and give you a review, you may also want to include a short (one sentence) quote from one of these.

7: Marketing

There are two elements to marketing your book:

  1. The launch
  2. Ongoing marketing

There are many ways to create a successful launch, but don’t expect your publisher to do much.  You could have a launch bonus, a special launch day price reduction, email campaign, social media promotions, social ads, book yourself to speak about the book content at local networking or professional organisations, etc.

Once the book is published and launched you’ll need to continue your marketing campaign to keep sales moving, otherwise your book will vanish without trace.

If you’d like help with any of these elements, call us on 01245 473296 or email for more information.