How to Write a Book From Start to Finish

How to Write a Book From Start to Finish: A Proven Guide

So you want to write a book. Becoming an author can change your life—not to mention give you the ability to impact thousands, even millions, of people.

But writing a book isn’t easy. As a 21-time New York Times bestselling author, I can tell you: It’s far easier to quit than to finish.

You’re going to be tempted to give up writing your book when you run out of ideas, when your own message bores you, when you get distracted, or when you become overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the task.

But what if you knew exactly:

  • Where to start…
  • What each step entails…
  • How to overcome fear, procrastination, a nd writer’s block …
  • And how to keep from feeling overwhelmed?

You can write a book—and more quickly than you might think, because these days you have access to more writing tools than ever. 

The key is to follow a proven, straightforward, step-by-step plan .

My goal here is to offer you that book-writing plan.

I’ve used the techniques I outline below to write more than 200 books (including the Left Behind series) over the past 50 years. Yes, I realize writing over four books per year on average is more than you may have thought humanly possible. 

But trust me—with a reliable blueprint, you can get unstuck and finally write your book .

This is my personal approach on how to write a book. I’m confident you’ll find something here that can change the game for you. So, let’s jump in.

  • How to Write a Book From Start to Finish

Part 1: Before You Begin Writing Your Book

  • Establish your writing space.
  • Assemble your writing tools.

Part 2: How to Start Writing a Book

  • Break the project into small pieces.
  • Settle on your BIG idea.
  • Construct your outline.
  • Set a firm writing schedule.
  • Establish a sacred deadline.
  • Embrace procrastination (really!).
  • Eliminate distractions.
  • Conduct your research.
  • Start calling yourself a writer.

Part 3: The Book-Writing Itself

  • Think reader-first.
  • Find your writing voice.
  • Write a compelling opener.
  • Fill your story with conflict and tension.
  • Turn off your internal editor while writing the first draft.
  • Persevere through The Marathon of the Middle.
  • Write a resounding ending.

Part 4: Editing Your Book

  • Become a ferocious self-editor.
  • Find a mentor.
  • Part 5: Publishing Your Book
  • Decide on your publishing avenue.
  • Properly format your manuscript.
  • Set up and grow your author platform.
  • Pursue a Literary Agent
  • Writing Your Query Letter
  • Part One: Before You Begin Writing Your Book

You’ll never regret—in fact, you’ll thank yourself later—for investing the time necessary to prepare for such a monumental task.

You wouldn’t set out to cut down a huge grove of trees with just an axe. You’d need a chain saw, perhaps more than one. Something to keep them sharp. Enough fuel to keep them running.

You get the picture. Don’t shortcut this foundational part of the process.

Step 1. Establish your writing space.

To write your book, you don’t need a sanctuary. In fact, I started my career o n my couch facing a typewriter perched on a plank of wood suspended by two kitchen chairs.

What were you saying about your setup again? We do what we have to do.

And those early days on that sagging couch were among the most productive of my career.

Naturally, the nicer and more comfortable and private you can make your writing lair (I call mine my cave), the better.

How to Write a Book Image 1

Real writers can write anywhere .

Some authors write their books in restaurants and coffee shops. My first full time job was at a newspaper where 40 of us clacked away on manual typewriters in one big room—no cubicles, no partitions, conversations hollered over the din, most of my colleagues smoking, teletype machines clattering.

Cut your writing teeth in an environment like that, and anywhere else seems glorious.

Step 2. Assemble your writing tools.

In the newspaper business, there was no time to hand write our stuff and then type it for the layout guys. So I have always written at a keyboard and still write my books that way.

Most authors do, though some hand write their first drafts and then keyboard them onto a computer or pay someone to do that.

No publisher I know would even consider a typewritten manuscript, let alone one submitted in handwriting.

The publishing industry runs on Microsoft Word, so you’ll need to submit Word document files. Whether you prefer a Mac or a PC, both will produce the kinds of files you need.

And if you’re looking for a musclebound electronic organizing system, you can’t do better than Scrivener . It works well on both PCs and Macs, and it nicely interacts with Word files.

Just remember, Scrivener has a steep learning curve, so familiarize yourself with it before you start writing.

Scrivener users know that taking the time to learn the basics is well worth it.

Tons of other book-writing tools exist to help you. I’ve included some of the most well-known in my blog po st on book writing software and my writing tools page fo r your reference.

So, what else do you need?

If you are one who handwrites your first drafts, don’t scrimp on paper, pencils, or erasers.

Don’t shortchange yourself on a computer either. Even if someone else is keyboarding for you, you’ll need a computer for research and for communicating with potential agents , edi tors, publishers.

Get the best computer you can afford, the latest, the one with the most capacity and speed.

Try to imagine everything you’re going to need in addition to your desk or table, so you can equip yourself in advance and don’t have to keep interrupting your work to find things like:

  • Paper clips
  • Pencil holders
  • Pencil sharpeners
  • Printing paper
  • Paperweight
  • Tape dispensers
  • Cork or bulletin boards
  • Reference works
  • Space heaters
  • Beverage mugs
  • You name it
  • Last, but most crucial, get the best, most ergonomic chair you can afford.

If I were to start my career again with that typewriter on a plank, I would not sit on that couch. I’d grab another straight-backed kitchen chair or something similar and be proactive about my posture and maintaining a healthy spine.

There’s nothing worse than trying to be creative and immerse yourself in writing while you’re in agony . The chair I work in today cost more than my first car!

How to Write a Book Image 2

If you’ve never used some of the items I listed above and can’t imagine needing them, fine. But make a list of everything you know you’ll need so when the actual writing begins, you’re already equipped.

As you grow as a writer and actually start making money at it, you can keep upgrading your writing space.

Where I work now is light years from where I started. But the point is, I didn’t wait to start writing until I could have a great spot in which to do it.

  • Part Two: How to Start Writing a Book

Step 1. Break your book into small pieces.

Writing a book feels like a colossal project, because it is! Bu t your manuscript w ill be made up of many small parts.

An old adage says that the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time .

Try to get your mind off your book as a 400-or-so-page monstrosity.

It can’t be written all at once any more than that proverbial elephant could be eaten in a single sitting.

See your book for what it is: a manuscript made up of sentences, paragraphs, pages. Those pages will begin to add up, and though after a week you may have barely accumulated double digits, a few months down the road you’ll be into your second hundred pages.

So keep it simple.

Start by distilling you r big book idea from a page or so to a single sentence—your premise. The more specific that one-sentence premise, the more it will keep you focused while you’re writing.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before you can turn your big idea into one sentence, which can then b e expanded to an outline , you have to settle on exactly what that big idea is.

Step 2. Settle on your BIG idea.

To be book-worthy, your idea has to be killer.

You need to write something about which you’re passionate , something that gets you up in the morning, draws you to the keyboard, and keeps you there. It should excite not only you, but also anyone you tell about it.

I can’t overstate the importance of this.

If you’ve tried and failed to finish your book before—maybe more than once—it could be that the basic premise was flawed. Maybe it was worth a blog post or an article but couldn’t carry an entire book.

Think The Hunger Games , Harry Potter , or How to Win Friends and Influence People . The market is crowded, the competition fierce. There’s no more room for run-of-the-mill ideas. Your premise alone should make readers salivate.

Go for the big concept book.

How do you know you’ve got a winner? Does it have legs? In other words, does it stay in your mind, growing and developing every time you think of it?

Run it past loved ones and others you trust.

Does it raise eyebrows? Elicit Wows? Or does it result in awkward silences?

The right concept simply works, and you’ll know it when you land on it. Most importantly, your idea must capture you in such a way that you’re compelled to write it . Otherwise you will lose interest halfway through and never finish.

Step 3. Construct your outline.

Writing your book without a clear vision of where you’re going usually ends in disaster.

Even if you ’re writing a fiction book an d consider yourself a Pantser* as opposed to an Outliner, you need at least a basic structure .

[*Those of us who write by the seat of our pants and, as Stephen King advises, pu t interesting characters i n difficult situations and write to find out what happens]

You don’t have to call it an outline if that offends your sensibilities. But fashion some sort of a directional document that provides structure for your book and also serves as a safety net.

If you get out on that Pantser highwire and lose your balance, you’ll thank me for advising you to have this in place.

Now if you’re writing a nonfiction book, there’s no substitute for an outline .

Potential agents or publishers require this in your proposal . T hey want to know where you’re going, and they want to know that you know. What do you want your reader to learn from your book, and how will you ensure they learn it?

Fiction or nonfiction, if you commonly lose interest in your book somewhere in what I call the Marathon of the Middle, you likely didn’t start with enough exciting ideas .

That’s why and outline (or a basic framework) is essential. Don’t even start writing until you’re confident your structure will hold up through the end.

You may recognize this novel structure illustration.

Did you know it holds up—with only slight adaptations—for nonfiction books too? It’s self-explanatory for novelists; they list their plot twists and developments and arrange them in an order that best serves to increase tension .

What separates great nonfiction from mediocre? The same structure!

Arrange your points and evidence in the same way so you’re setting your reader up for a huge payoff, and then make sure you deliver.

If your nonfiction book is a memoir , an autobiography , or a biography, structure it like a novel and you can’t go wrong.

But even if it’s a straightforward how-to book, stay as close to this structure as possible, and you’ll see your manuscript come alive.

Make promises early, triggering your reader to anticipate fresh ideas, secrets, inside information, something major that will make him thrilled with the finished product.

How to write a book - graph

While a nonfiction book may not have as much action or dialogue or character development as a novel, you can inject tension by showing where people have failed before and how your reader can succeed.

You can even make the how-to project look impossible until you pay off that setup with your unique solution.

Keep your outline to a single page for now. But make sure every major point is represented, so you’ll always know where you’re going.

And don’t worry if you’ve forgotten the basics of classic outlining or have never felt comfortable with the concept.

Your outline must serve you. If that means Roman numerals and capital and lowercase letters and then Arabic numerals, you can certainly fashion it that way. But if you just want a list of sentences that synopsize your idea, that’s fine too.

Simply start with your working title, then your premise, then—for fiction, list all the major scenes that fit into the rough structure above.

For nonfiction, try to come up with chapter titles and a sentence or two of what each chapter will cover.

Once you have your one-page outline, remember it is a fluid document meant to serve you and your book. Expand it, change it, play with it as you see fit—even during the writing process .

Step 4. Set a firm writing schedule.

Ideally, you want to schedule at least six hours per week to write your book.

That may consist of three sessions of two hours each, two sessions of three hours, or six one-hour sessions—whatever works for you.

I recommend a regular pattern (same times, same days) that can most easily become a habit. But if that’s impossible, just make sure you carve out at least six hours so you can see real progress.

Having trouble finding the time to write a book? News flash—you won’t find the time. You have to make it.

I used the phrase carve out above for a reason. That’s what it takes.

Something in your calendar will likely have to be sacrificed in the interest of writing time . 

Make sure it’s not your family—they should always be your top priority. Never sacrifice your family on the altar of your writing career.

But beyond that, the truth is that we all find time for what we really want to do.

Many writers insist they have no time to write, but they always seem to catch the latest Netflix original series, or go to the next big Hollywood feature. They enjoy concerts, parties, ball games, whatever.

How important is it to you to finally write your book? What will you cut from your calendar each week to ensure you give it the time it deserves?

  • A favorite TV show?
  • An hour of sleep per night? (Be careful with this one; rest is crucial to a writer.)

Successful writers make time to write.

When writing becomes a habit, you’ll be on your way.

Step 5. Establish a sacred deadline.

Without deadlines, I rarely get anything done. I need that motivation.

Admittedly, my deadlines are now established in my contracts from publishers.

If you’re writing your first book, you probably don’t have a contract yet. To ensure you finish your book, set your own deadline—then consider it sacred .

Tell your spouse or loved one or trusted friend. Ask that they hold you accountable.

Now determine—and enter in your calendar—the number of pages you need to produce per writing session to meet your deadline. If it proves unrealistic, change the deadline now.

If you have no idea how many pages or words you typically produce per session, you may have to experiment before you finalize those figures.

Say you want to finish a 400-page manuscript by this time next year.

Divide 400 by 50 weeks (accounting for two off-weeks), and you get eight pages per week. 

Divide that by your typical number of writing sessions per week and you’ll know how many pages you should finish per session.

Now is the time to adjust these numbers, while setting your deadline and determining your pages per session.

Maybe you’d rather schedule four off weeks over the next year. Or you know your book will be unusually long.

Change the numbers to make it realistic and doable, and then lock it in. Remember, your deadline is sacred.

Step 6. Embrace procrastination (really!).

You read that right. Don’t fight it; embrace it.

You wouldn’t guess it from my 200+ published books, but I’m the king of procrastinators .

Don’t be. So many authors are procrastinators that I’ve come to wonder if it’s a prerequisite.

The secret is to accept it and, in fact, schedule it.

I quit fretting and losing sleep over procrastinating when I realized it was inevitable and predictable, and also that it was productive.

Sound like rationalization?

Maybe it was at first. But I learned that while I’m putting off the writing, my subconscious is working on my book. It’s a part of the process. When you do start writing again, you’ll enjoy the surprises your subconscious reveals to you.

So, knowing procrastination is coming, book it on your calendar .

Take it into account when you’re determining your page quotas. If you have to go back in and increase the number of pages you need to produce per session, do that (I still do it all the time).

But—and here’s the key—you must never let things get to where that number of pages per day exceeds your capacity.

It’s one thing to ratchet up your output from two pages per session to three. But if you let it get out of hand, you’ve violated the sacredness of your deadline.

How can I procrastinate and still meet more than 190 deadlines?

Because I keep the deadlines sacred.

Step 7. Eliminate distractions to stay focused.

Are you as easily distracted as I am?

Have you found yourself writing a sentence and then checking your email? Writing another and checking Facebook? Getting caught up in the pictures of 10 Sea Monsters You Wouldn’t Believe Actually Exist?

Then you just have to check out that precious video from a talk show where the dad surprises the family by returning from the war.

That leads to more and more of the same. Once I’m in, my writing is forgotten, and all of a sudden the day has gotten away from me.

The answer to these insidious timewasters?

Look into these apps that allow you to block your email, social media, browsers, game apps, whatever you wish during the hours you want to write. Some carry a modest fee, others are free.

  • Freedom app
  • FocusWriter

Step 8. Conduct your research.

Yes, research is a vital part of the process, whether you’re writing fiction or nonfict i on .

Fiction means more than just making up a story .

Your details and logic and technical and historical details must be right for your novel to be believable.

And for nonfiction, even if you’re writing about a subject in which you’re an expert—as I’m doing here—getting all the facts right will polish your finished product.

In fact, you’d be surprised at how many times I’ve researched a fact or two while writing this blog post alone.

The importance of research when writing

The last thing you want is even a small mistake due to your lack of proper research .

Regardless the detail, trust me, you’ll hear from readers about it.

Your credibility as an author and an expert hinges on creating trust with your reader. That dissolves in a hurry if you commit an error.

My favorite research resources:

  • World Almanacs : These alone list almost everything you need for accurate prose: facts, data, government information, and more. For my novels, I often use these to come up with ethnically accurate character names .
  • The Merriam-Webster Thesaurus : The online version is great, because it’s lightning fast. You couldn’t turn the pages of a hard copy as quickly as you can get where you want to onscreen. One caution: Never let it be obvious you’ve consulted a thesaurus. You’re not looking for the exotic word that jumps off the page. You’re looking for that common word that’s on the tip of your tongue.
  • : Here you’ll find nearly limitless information about any continent, country, region, city, town, or village. Names, monetary units, weather patterns, tourism info, and even facts you wouldn’t have thought to search for. I get ideas when I’m digging here, for both my novels and my nonfiction books.

Step 9. Start calling yourself a writer.

Your inner voice may tell you, “You’re no writer and you never will be. Who do you think you are, trying to write a book?”

That may be why you’ve stalled at writing your book in the past .

But if you’re working at writing, studying writing, practicing writing, that makes you a writer. Don’t wait till you reach some artificial level of accomplishment before calling yourself a writer.

A cop in uniform and on duty is a cop whether he’s actively enforced the law yet or not. A carpenter is a carpenter whether he’s ever built a house.

Self-identify as a writer now and you’ll silence that inner critic —who, of course, is really you. 

Talk back to yourself if you must. It may sound silly, but acknowledging yourself as a writer can give you the confidence to keep going and finish your book.

Are you a writer? Say so.

  • Part Three: The Book-Writing Itself

Step 1. Think reader-first.

This is so important that that you should write it on a sticky note and affix it to your monitor so you’re reminded of it every time you write.

Every decision you make about your manuscript must be run through this filter.

Not you-first, not book-first, not editor-, agent-, or publisher-first. Certainly not your inner circle- or critics-first.

Reader-first, last, and always .

If every decision is based on the idea of reader-first, all those others benefit anyway.

When fans tell me they were moved by one of my books, I think back to this adage and am grateful I maintained that posture during the writing.

Does a scene bore you? If you’re thinking reader-first, it gets overhauled or deleted.

Where to go, what to say, what to write next? Decide based on the reader as your priority.

Whatever your gut tells you your reader would prefer, that’s your answer.

Whatever will intrigue him, move him, keep him reading, those are your marching orders.

So, naturally, you need to know your reader. Rough age? General interests? Loves? Hates? Attention span?

When in doubt, look in the mirror . 

The surest way to please your reader is to please yourself. Write what you would want to read and trust there is a broad readership out there that agrees.

Step 2. Find your writing voice.

Discovering your voice is nowhere near as complicated as some make it out to be.

You can find yours by answering these quick questions :

  • What’s the coolest thing that ever happened to you?
  • Who’s the most important person you told about it?
  • What did you sound like when you did?
  • That’s your writing voice. It should read the way you sound at your most engaged.

That’s all there is to it.

If you write fiction and the narrator of your book isn’t you, go through the three-question exercise on the narrator’s behalf—and you’ll quickly master the voice.

Here’s a blog I posted that’ll walk you through the process .

Step 3. Write a compelling opener.

If you’re stuck because of the pressure of crafting the perfect opening line for your book, you’re not alone.

And neither is your angst misplaced.

This is not something you should put off and come back to once you’ve started on the rest of the first chapter.

How to Write a Book Image 5

Oh, it can still change if the story dictates that . But settling on a good one will really get you off and running.

It’s unlikely you’ll write a more important sentence than your first one , whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction. Make sure you’re thrilled with it and then watch how your confidence—and momentum—soars.

Most great first lines fall into one of these categories:

1. Surprising

Fiction : “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” —George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Nonfiction : “By the time Eustace Conway was seven years old, he could throw a knife accurately enough to nail a chipmunk to a tree.” —Elizabeth Gilbert, The Last American Man

2. Dramatic Statement

Fiction : “They shoot the white girl first.” —Toni Morrison, Paradise

Nonfiction : “I was five years old the first time I ever set foot in prison.” —Jimmy Santiago Baca, A Place to Stand

3. Philosophical

Fiction : “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Nonfiction : “It’s not about you.” —Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life

Fiction : “When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon. —James Crumley, The Last Good Kiss

Nonfiction : “The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call ‘out there.’” —Truman Capote, In Cold Blood

Great opening lines from other classics may give you ideas for yours. Here’s a list of famous openers .

Step 4. Fill your story with conflict and tension.

Your reader craves conflict, and yes, this applies to nonfiction readers as well.

In a novel, if everything is going well and everyone is agreeing, your reader will soon lose interest and find something else to do.

Are two of your characters talking at the dinner table? Have one say something that makes the other storm out.

Some deep-seeded rift in their relationship has surfaced—just a misunderstanding, or an injustice?

Thrust people into conflict with each other . 

That’ll keep your reader’s attention.

Certain nonfiction genres won’t lend themselves to that kind of conflict, of course, but you can still inject tension by setting up your reader for a payoff in later chapters. Check out some of the current bestselling nonfiction works to see how writers accomplish this.

Somehow they keep you turning those pages, even in a simple how-to title.

Tension is the secret sauce that will propel your reader through to the end . 

And sometimes that’s as simple as implying something to come.

Step 5. Turn off your internal editor while writing the first draft.

Many of us perfectionists find it hard to write a first draft—fiction or nonfiction—without feeling compelled to make every sentence exactly the way we want it.

That voice in your head that questions every word, every phrase, every sentence, and makes you worry you’re being redundant or have allowed cliches to creep in—well, that’s just your editor alter ego.

He or she needs to be told to shut up .

Turning off your inner self-editor

This is not easy.

Deep as I am into a long career, I still have to remind myself of this every writing day. I cannot be both creator and editor at the same time. That slows me to a crawl, and my first draft of even one brief chapter could take days.

Our job when writing that first draft is to get down the story or the message or the teaching—depending on your genre.

It helps me to view that rough draft as a slab of meat I will carve tomorrow .

I can’t both produce that hunk and trim it at the same time.

A cliche, a redundancy, a hackneyed phrase comes tumbling out of my keyboard, and I start wondering whether I’ve forgotten to engage the reader’s senses or aimed for his emotions.

That’s when I have to chastise myself and say, “No! Don’t worry about that now! First thing tomorrow you get to tear this thing up and put it back together again to your heart’s content!”

Imagine yourself wearing different hats for different tasks , if that helps—whatever works to keep you rolling on that rough draft. You don’t need to show it to your worst enemy or even your dearest love. This chore is about creating. Don’t let anything slow you down.

Some like to write their entire first draft before attacking the revision. As I say, whatever works.

Doing it that way would make me worry I’ve missed something major early that will cause a complete rewrite when I discover it months later. I alternate creating and revising.

The first thing I do every morning is a heavy edit and rewrite of whatever I wrote the day before. If that’s ten pages, so be it. I put my perfectionist hat on and grab my paring knife and trim that slab of meat until I’m happy with every word.

Then I switch hats, tell Perfectionist Me to take the rest of the day off, and I start producing rough pages again.

So, for me, when I’ve finished the entire first draft, it’s actually a second draft because I have already revised and polished it in chunks every day.

THEN I go back through the entire manuscript one more time, scouring it for anything I missed or omitted, being sure to engage the reader’s senses and heart, and making sure the whole thing holds together.

I do not submit anything I’m not entirely thrilled with .

I know there’s still an editing process it will go through at the publisher, but my goal is to make my manuscript the absolute best I can before they see it.

Compartmentalize your writing vs. your revising and you’ll find that frees you to create much more quickly.

Step 6. Persevere through The Marathon of the Middle.

Most who fail at writing a book tell me they give up somewhere in what I like to call The Marathon of the Middle.

That’s a particularly rough stretch for novelists who have a great concept, a stunning opener, and they can’t wait to get to the dramatic ending. But they bail when they realize they don’t have enough cool stuff to fill the middle.

They start padding, trying to add scenes just for the sake of bulk, but they’re soon bored and know readers will be too.

This actually happens to nonfiction writers too.

The solution there is in the outlining stage , being sure your middle points and chapters are every bit as valuable and magnetic as the first and last.

If you strategize the progression of your points or steps in a process—depending on nonfiction genre—you should be able to eliminate the strain in the middle chapters.

For novelists, know that every book becomes a challenge a few chapters in. The shine wears off, keeping the pace and tension gets harder, and it’s easy to run out of steam.

But that’s not the time to quit. Force yourself back to your structure, come up with a subplot if necessary, but do whatever you need to so your reader stays engaged.

Fiction writer or nonfiction author, The Marathon of the Middle is when you must remember why you started this journey in the first place.

It isn’t just that you want to be an author. You have something to say. You want to reach the masses with your message.

Yes, it’s hard. It still is for me—every time. But don’t panic or do anything rash, like surrendering. Embrace the challenge of the middle as part of the process. If it were easy, anyone could do it.

Step 7. Write a resounding ending.

This is just as important for your nonfiction book as your novel. It may not be as dramatic or emotional, but it could be—especially if you’re writing a memoir.

But even a how-to or self-help book needs to close with a resounding thud, the way a Broadway theater curtain meets the floor .

How do you ensure your ending doesn’t fizzle ?

  • Don’t rush it . Give readers the payoff they’ve been promised. They’ve invested in you and your book the whole way. Take the time to make it satisfying.
  • Never settle for close enough just because you’re eager to be finished. Wait till you’re thrilled with every word, and keep revising until you are.
  • If it’s unpredictable, it had better be fair and logical so your reader doesn’t feel cheated. You want him to be delighted with the surprise, not tricked.
  • If you have multiple ideas for how your book should end, go for the heart rather than the head, even in nonfiction. Readers most remember what moves them.
  • Part Four: Rewriting Your Book

Step 1. Become a ferocious self-editor.

Agents and editors can tell within the first two pages whether your manuscript is worthy of consideration. That sounds unfair, and maybe it is. But it’s also reality, so we writers need to face it.

How can they often decide that quickly on something you’ve devoted months, maybe years, to?

Because they can almost immediately envision how much editing would be required to make those first couple of pages publishable. If they decide the investment wouldn’t make economic sense for a 300-400-page manuscript, end of story.

Your best bet to keep an agent or editor reading your manuscript?

You must become a ferocious self-editor. That means:

  • Omit needless words
  • Choose the simple word over one that requires a dictionary
  • Avoid subtle redundancies , like “He thought in his mind…” (Where else would someone think?)
  • Avoid hedging verbs like almost frowned, sort of jumped, etc.
  • Generally remove the word that —use it only when absolutely necessary for clarity
  • Give the reader credit and resist the urge to explain , as in, “She walked through the open door.” (Did we need to be told it was open?)
  • Avoid too much stage direction (what every character is doing with every limb and digit)
  • Avoid excessive adjectives
  • Show, don’t tell
  • And many more

For my full list and how to use them, click here . (It’s free.)

When do you know you’re finished revising? When you’ve gone from making your writing better to merely making it different. That’s not always easy to determine, but it’s what makes you an author. 

Step 2. Find a mentor.

Get help from someone who’s been where you want to be.

Imagine engaging a mentor who can help you sidestep all the amateur pitfalls and shave years of painful trial-and-error off your learning curve.

Just make sure it’s someone who really knows the writing and publishing world. Many masquerade as mentors and coaches but have never really succeeded themselves.

Look for someone widely-published who knows how to work with agents, editors, and publishers .

There are many helpful mentors online . I teach writers through this free site, as well as in my members-only Writers Guild .

Step 1. Decide on your publishing avenue.

In simple terms, you have two options when it comes to publishing your book:

1. Traditional publishing

Traditional publishers take all the risks. They pay for everything from editing, proofreading, typesetting, printing, binding, cover art and design, promotion, advertising, warehousing, shipping, billing, and paying author royalties.

2. Self-publishing

Everything is on you. You are the publisher, the financier, the decision-maker. Everything listed above falls to you. You decide who does it, you approve or reject it, and you pay for it. The term self-publishing is a bit of a misnomer, however, because what you’re paying for is not publishing, but printing. 

Both avenues are great options under certain circumstances. 

Not sure which direction you want to take? Click here to read my in-depth guide to publishing a book . It’ll show you the pros and cons of each, what each involves, and my ultimate recommendation.

Step 2: Properly format your manuscript.

Regardless whether you traditionally or self-publish your book, proper formatting is critical.

Because poor formatting makes you look like an amateur .

Readers and agents expect a certain format for book manuscripts, and if you don’t follow their guidelines, you set yourself up for failure.

Best practices when formatting your book:

  • Use 12-point type
  • Use a serif font; the most common is Times Roman
  • Double space your manuscript
  • No extra space between paragraphs
  • Only one space between sentences
  • Indent each paragraph half an inch (setting a tab, not using several spaces)
  • Text should be flush left and ragged right, not justified
  • If you choose to add a line between paragraphs to indicate a change of location or passage of time, center a typographical dingbat (like ***) on the line
  • Black text on a white background only
  • One-inch margins on the top, bottom, and sides (the default in Word)
  • Create a header with the title followed by your last name and the page number. The header should appear on each page other than the title page.

If you need help implementing these formatting guidelines, click here to read my in-depth post on formatting your manuscript .

Step 3. Set up your author website and grow your platform.

All serious authors need a website. Period.

Because here’s the reality of publishing today…

You need an audience to succeed.

If you want to traditionally publish, agents and publishers will Google your name to see if you have a website and a following.

If you want to self-publish, you need a fan base.

And your author website serves as a hub for your writing, where agents, publishers, readers, and fans can learn about your work.

Don’t have an author website yet? Click here to read my tutorial on setting this up.

Step 4. Pursue a Literary Agent.

There remain a few traditional publishers (those who pay you and take the entire financial risk of publishing your book rather than the other way around) who accept unsolicited submissions, but I do NOT recommend going that route. 

Your submission will likely wind up in what is known in the business as the slush pile. That means some junior staff member will be assigned to get to it when convenient and determine whether to reject it out of hand (which includes the vast majority of the submissions they see) or suggest the publisher’s editorial board consider it.

While I am clearly on record urging you to exhaust all your efforts to traditionally publish before resorting to self-publishing (in other words, paying to be printed), as I say, I do not recommend submitting unsolicited material even to those publishers who say they accept such efforts.

Even I don’t try to navigate the publishing world by myself, despite having been an author, an editor, a publisher, and a writing coach over the last 50 years.

That’s why I have an agent and you need one too.

Many beginning writers naturally wonder why they should share any of their potential income with an agent (traditionally 15%). First, they don’t see any of that income unless you’re getting your 85% at the same time. And second, everyone I know in the business is happy to have someone in their corner, making an agent a real bargain.

I don’t want to have to personally represent myself and my work. I want to stay in my creative lane and let a professional negotiate every clause of the contract and win me the best advance and rights deal possible.

Once under contract, I work directly with the publishing house’s editor and proofreader, but I leave the financial business to my agent.

Ultimately, an agent’s job is to protect your rights and make you money. They profit only when you do.

That said, landing an agent can be as difficult and painstaking as landing a publisher. They know the market, they know the editors, they know what publishers want, and they can advise you how to put your best foot forward.

But how do you know who to trust? Credible, trustworthy agents welcome scrutiny. If you read a book in your genre that you like, check the Acknowledgments page for the agent’s name. If the author thinks enough of that person to mention them glowingly, that’s a great endorsement.

If you’re writing in the inspirational market, peruse agents listed in The Christian Writer’s Market Guide . If you’re writing for the general market, try The Writer’s Market . If you know any published authors, ask about their agents.

The guides that list agents also include what they’re looking for, what they specialize in, and sometimes even what they’re not interested in. Study these to determine potential agents who ply their trade in your genre. Visit their websites for their submission guidelines, and follow these to a T.

They may ask for a query letter, a synopsis, a proposal, or even sample chapters. Be sure not to send more or less than they suggest. 

The best, and most logical place to start is by sending them a query letter. Query simply means question, and in essence the question your letter asks is whether you may send them more.

Step 5: Writing Your Query Letter.

It’s time to move from author to salesperson.

Your query letter will determine whether a literary agent asks to see more, sends you a cordial form letter to let you down easy, or simply doesn’t respond.

Sadly, many agents stipulate on their websites that if you hear nothing after a certain number of weeks, you should take that as an indication that they’re not interested. Frankly, to me, this is frustrating to the writer and lazy on the part of the agent. Surely, in this technological age, it should be easy to hit one button and send a note to someone who might otherwise wonder if the query reached the agent at all.

But that’s the reality we deal with.

So, the job of your one-page single-spaced email letter is to win a response—best case scenario: an invitation to send more: a proposal or even the manuscript. 

Basically, you’re selling yourself and your work. Write a poor query letter and an agent will assume your book is also poorly written.

Without being gimmicky or cute, your letter must intrigue an agent. 

Your query letter should:

  • Be addressed to a specific person (not to the staff of the agency or “To Whom It May Concern”)*
  • Present your book idea simply
  • Evidence your style
  • Show you know who your readers are
  • Clarify your qualifications
  • Exhibit flexibility and professionalism

*If you see a list of agents in a firm, choose one from the middle or bottom of the list. It could be that they get less personal mail than the person whose name is on the door. Who knows? That you single them out may make them see your query in a more favorable light.

For some great advice on writing a query letter, check this out:  

  • You Have What It Takes to Write a Book

Writing a book is a herculean task, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

You can do this .

Take it one step at a time and vow to stay focused. And who knows, maybe by this time next year you’ll be holding a published copy of your book. :)

I’ve created an exclusive writing guide called How to Maximize Your Writing Time that will help you stay on track and finish writing your book.

Get your FREE copy by clicking the button below.

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How to write a book in 12 simple steps [free book template]

POSTED ON Nov 28, 2023

Justin Champion

Written by Justin Champion

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 how to write a book, and with the rise of self-publishing , it can be overwhelming, to say the least.

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, and being able to learn how to publish is something I am truly proud of.

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

Ready to learn how to write a book? Let's get to it!

Spcom Nonfiction Outline 1

Need A Nonfiction Book Outline?

Here's how to write a book in 12 steps:

  • Develop a writer’s mindset a. Hold yourself accountable to writing your book b. Give yourself permission to be a writer c. Announce your intention to write a book
  • Create a book writing space
  • Choose your book writing software a. Google Drive b. Grammarly c. Evernote d. A notebook & pen
  • Determine your book's topic a. Identify your target reader b. Write about something that intrigues you c. Research potential topics d. Choose a topic you can write about quickly
  • Create a book outline a. Create a mindmap b. Write a purpose statement c. Create a working title d. Write an elevator pitch for your book e. Draft a working outline for your book f. Fill in the gaps with more research g. Frameworks on how to write your book
  • Finish writing your manuscript a. Break your book writing into small chunks b. Build the momentum to finish writing your book c. Collaborate with others
  • Include front & back matter a. Preface or introduction b. Foreward c. Testimonials d. Author Bio e. Glossary f. Notes g. Images
  • Edit your book a. Self-edit your book b. Hire a professional book editor c. Re-write sections of your book's draft using your editor's feedback d. Finalize your book title
  • Choose a compelling book cover
  • Format your book
  • Prepare to launch your book a. Build your book's launch team b. Develop a marketing mindset c. Create a book launch strategy
  • Publish your book
  • How To Write A Book: FAQs

In this article, we'll start with the basics. While the steps in this phase may seem to be unrelated to actually learning how to write a book, they are very important.

In fact, setting yourself up for success will help you build the foundation needed to start writing a book .

We'll talk about developing a writer's mindset to get you in a 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 best book-writing software for your needs.

Here are some tips for success as you write a book:

  • Develop a writer's mindset . This is all about embracing a mentality that will inspire you to start (and finish) writing your book.
  • Create a writing space . This is all about how to set up the ideal writing environment that fits your routine.
  • Use a tool to write your book . This is all about deciding on what you will use to write your book.
  • Get support . A strong support network, a community of peers, and a book-writing coach could be the difference between a published book and an unfinished manuscript.
  • Use templates where you can. We provide you with a proven book outline template in this post. But there are templates for cover layouts, formatting, and more. Don't recreate the wheel! Use these and build upon them to make them your own.

YouTube video

1. Develop a Writer’s Mindset

Learning how to write a book takes time, work, and dedication. It’s easy to romanticize becoming a bestseller like J.K. Rowling or Octavia Butler. However, every author has a story on how they started out and overcame adversity to get where they are today.

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 steps in learning how to write a book are overcoming mindset blocks, dealing with self-doubt as a writer , and developing a healthy frame of mind that will help you with your writing goals .

Write A Book Mindset Quote Graphic

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

Hold yourself accountable to writing your book

It’s not good enough to write only when inspiration strikes. There will be days when 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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Give yourself permission to be a writer

This might sound silly, but it's true: in order to learn how to write a book, 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 learn how to write a book. 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:

  • Get inspiration from other writers . When you're just starting to learn how to write a book, you might feel alone in your journey. But take comfort in the fact that other successful writers 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.
  • 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 your journey and that this is a learning process.
  • 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.
  • 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 conferences or writing communities.

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 your progress?

Perhaps there is 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 for me. Without them, it would have been a lot more difficult to write Inbound Content in the timeframe I did.

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 plays 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.

Creative Book Writing Spaces Graphic

Here are creative writing spaces to write your book:

  • Coffee shops (classic)
  • Beautiful park or somewhere in nature
  • 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.

3. Choose your 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. If you're writing a novel, check out this guide to novel-writing software .

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.

YouTube video

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).

Google Drive

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:

  • 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. And we have a book writing template , specifically for Google Docs.
  • 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).

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.)

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.

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.

A Notebook & Pen

Don't underestimate the power of good ole' fashioned pen and paper when it comes to learning how to write a book, which is arguably 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.

4. Determine Your Book Topic

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.

Learning how to write a book starts with an idea. Shat's your book idea ?

YouTube video

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.  

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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 start learning how to write a book, you have to 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.

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.

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 learning how to write a book.

Research potential topics

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

Google makes it easy to research just about any topic.

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 enhances 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.

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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Write about a life lesson. What has life taught you? What unique observations have you made about the world? You can use this information to learn how to write a memoir .

5. Write A Book Outline

Once you know what you want to write about, you’re probably eager to start writing. But you need a writing guide first.

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

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:

  • Get a blank piece of paper and pen.
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes.
  • Write your topic in the middle of the page.
  • Jot down all of your ideas related to your book's topic.
  • 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.

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. For me, I was writing a book to grow my business .

This will also help you stay focused as you begin drafting your outline and writing your book. 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.

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 Book Title Generator .

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.

Draft a working outline for your book

The next step in learning how to write a book is drafting 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.

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.

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.

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 Infographic

Here's how to research when writing a book:

  • Use online resources by doing a Google search on your topic.
  • Read other books that have been written about your topic.
  • Listen to expert interviews, podcasts, and audiobooks related to your topic.
  • Read scholarly articles and academic journals within the subject or industry.
  • 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.

Frameworks on how 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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Sequential: Use this framework if your book reads like a “how to” with a specific set of steps.
  • 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.
  • Problem & Solution: Use this framework if readers need to be able to clearly identify a problem and understand the solution.
  • Chronological: Use this framework if each main section of your book represents a specific time or order of events.
  • 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.

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 rough 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.

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.

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:

  • Write one chapter at a time . Focus on one piece at a time, not the entire puzzle!
  • Set deadlines to complete each chunk of writing . Break your goal down into smaller sections, then set individual deadlines for each section.
  • 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 write.
  • 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.

Build the momentum to finish writing your book

Learning how to write a book can be 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:

  • Don't edit as you write. Writing and editing require 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!).
  • 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 recharge so you can return to your book.
  • 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.

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.  

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.

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 Infographic

Collaborate with thought leaders on your subject

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

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.

7. Include Front & Back Matter

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

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.

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).

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.


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 Blurb Photo

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).

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.

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

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.

8. Edit Your Book

The next step in learning how to write a book is editing. This 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.

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 your 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.

Here are some tips to self-edit your book successfully:

  • Read your manuscript aloud as you edit.
  • Start with one chapter at a time.
  • First, go through and edit the chapter for structure revisions.
  • Second, find opportunities for improving the book's readability.
  • 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.

Hire a professional book editor

The next step in learning how to write a book is handing your book off to a professional book 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.

There are many different types of editing , so think carefully to determine who you should hire.

Re-write sections of your book's draft using your editor's 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.

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!

YouTube video

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 to vote for their favorite. 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.

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

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.

Book Cover Of Inbound Content By Justin Champion

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 in learning how to write a book, because it has to do with how your book will appear to 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 vs 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 specifications, you can do so in Word or Google Docs. You can also use a program like Vellum Software or Atticus .

Otherwise, we recommend hiring someone to do this professionally, as it's one of the most important aspects to get right. Check out Formatted Books if that's the case for you.

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.

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 who are considered your target readers. They will help you promote your book, and will be actively involved in the launch process of your book.

Develop a marketing mindset

It's time to start shifting your mindset from writing to book 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.

Here are six ways to market your book:

  • Paid advertisements
  • Free advertisement opportunities
  • Local or in-person events
  • Content marketing on Google and Amazon
  • Be a guest on podcasts and websites
  • Speaker opportunities

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.

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 KDP on Amazon 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.

FAQs: How To Write A Book

If you read through this guide and have specific questions on how to write a book, here are some other questions we get often.

How long does it take to write a book?

How long it takes to write a book depends on a number of factors. on average, it takes self-published authors anywhere from 3-6 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 depends on many factors, such as the book genre , 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 learning how to write 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 Royalty 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 learn how to 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. This prevented many stories from being shared, and many talented authors from 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.

How To Write A Book Step-By-Step Infographic

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.

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 of learning how to write a book.

Are you ready to write your book?

how to write a bok

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How to Write a Book in 10 Simple Steps | Forbes Books Guide

Man Writing a manuscript

How many people think they have what it takes to write a business book? Thousands of writers have started books, but never finished. Writing a book can be overwhelming for many writers without authorship experience. Learn how to write a book in 10 simple steps with expert advice from Forbes Books .

1. Establish Why You Want to Write a Book

Why do you want to write a book? Before Forbes Books selects an author to be a member, we ask them to answer  this question. When you’re thinking about writing a book, ask yourself three questions .

  • Why do I want to write a book?
  • Do I have expert knowledge to share with the world?
  • What am I passionate about?

A business book is typically at least 40,000 words . This goal is difficult to reach without guidance from professionals. Forbes Books helps our members finesse, narrow, or expand their book topic to reach their goals. 

Are you writing for family legacy or would you like to entertain? For example, if you’re writing a book to leave for your family, selling books probably won’t be your biggest concern. 

However, if you’re wanting to influence readers and become an Amazon bestseller , your book needs to be structured for maximum engagement . This means using best practices, combined with new ideas to position your book to sell. 

As you could imagine, this is much harder than it sounds, but positioning your book to achieve maximum engagement is what we do.

In order to stand out from the crowd, you must offer your target audience something of value . Value can be in the form of pure entertainment or ideas that can improve your professional skills. 

2. Determine on an Overarching Idea for Your Book

Many of our authors are doctors, CPAs, business leaders, and CEOs. Before we even get involved, authors should already have an overarching (30,000 foot) view of what they’re wanting to write about. 

If you’re a medical doctor, write about how your specialty can help people become healthier. If you’re a CPA, consider how your skills can help people with financial literacy. Once you have your overarching idea, it’s time to conduct your research to hone in your title and ideas.

3. Conduct Research on Book Topic

Before you ever put pen to paper, you’ll want to be as prepared as possible with your knowledge and organization. Every great book started with hours (and hours) of research about the specific topic. There are two forms of research you’ll want to complete before writing a book. 

Competitor Analysis

If you’re a cardiologist that wants to share your insights into a healthy life, you’ll want to read similar content. For example, Google “ cardiologist recommended books ” and start reading as many books in your genre as you can.

Top Selling Cardiovascular books

We recommend looking for the type of content in each book and determining if you have similar knowledge. Look at the titles in each book and think about how you would structure your book based on other published authors. 

Reading books from your peers will help understand the major themes of their book. Look at the number of chapters, pages, and media they’ve used in their book, as well. This will give you an idea of how long your book should be. Furthermore, this will help you establish your writing goals. 

Market Analysis

After you’ve read enough books on your potential topics, it’s time to see how consumers are viewing your topic. We recommend you start with a simple Google search for the best or most popular books in your genre. For example, a cardiothoracic surgeon should type in something like “best cardiovascular surgeon books”. 

Top 24 cardiothoracic surgery books on Google

Google provides you with the most popular books in the cardiothoracic genre. Reading some of the best sellers will help you understand what separates the best from the average.  

Research Amazon b est sellers for your genre because Amazon is the most popular place in the world to buy books. We always recommend studying the top books to get an understanding of the titles, themes, cover design, and interior design.

If you look at the top four books for this genre, you’ll notice they’re all guides to understanding a specific topic. So, if you’re a heart surgeon and want to write a book, you’ll want to write some type of guide. 

Conducting market research is a must if you want to share your knowledge and sell books. For example, an autobiography in the cardiovascular genre isn’t going to sell enough to make an impact on your target audience.

Conducting market research and competitor analysis while maintaining other responsibilities can be difficult for business leaders. The Forbes Books marketing team boasts decades of combined experience in market research and competitor analysis. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help, read our Digital Media & Engagement services page .

4. Create an Outline For Your Book

Creating an outline is one of those practices that may seem like it’s a waste of time. However, outlining is an essential step authors take for creating a retail-worthy book. Before you ever write one word in your book, write a rough outline. 

Many writers might think they don’t need an outline, but it’s important to ensure your organization is perfect. One common mistake we often see with new authors is the “ marathon middle ” of their books. Authors without detailed outlines make the mistake of front loading their content, instead of offering value throughout the book. 

woman speaking in front of male and female coworkers

What Types of Outlines Are Great for Books?

The most common outline used for authors is the Alphanumeric outline . Using this outline allows you to organize each chapter into Roman numerals, capitalized letters, Arabic Numerals, and lowercase letters. An Alphanumeric outline gives you a blueprint for each chapter and the sub topics inside them. 

Some people (like myself) do a better job of organizing their thoughts in an interactive way, such as a mindmap . Using a mindmap to outline your book will not only help you organize your book, but also can be more comprehensive. 

Using a mindmap in conjunction with an Alphanumeric outline provides multiple perspectives to hone in your content. 5. Emphasize a Conflict and Resolution To Provide Value

Every good book starts with a good story. Readers want to be conflicted and be touched emotionally by the story. People love stories with someone overcoming extreme adversity. Think about Forbes Books author, Andres Pira and how he went from being Homeless to a Billionaire . 

Andres’ story is incredible, but we have many other authors, like Mari Tautimes , who embodies resilience, persistence, and adversity. You can listen to Mari Tautimes’ life-lessons and how she overcame her circumstances to become a successful CEO on Forbes Books Audio . 

Forbes Books podcast with Mari Tautimes

There are three things you can do to set your book up for success. Remember, your introduction is your first impression and we only ever get one first impression. 

Get Your Readers’ Attention with a Great Hook

There are many things you can do to get your readers’ attention, but it depends on the writer’s voice, style, and purpose for their book. 

  • Use empathy to connect with your audience by telling them a personal story
  • Use unique statistics to prove your point and enlighten the readers
  • Start with a prolific quote that emphasizes your topic
  • Ask a question you think people are thinking about

Detail the Context of Your Book

After your hook, you’ll need to detail what separates your book from the rest. How do you bring tangible value to your audience? Your readers want to know exactly what you’re going to do for them, and they want it asap. 

The biggest thing to think about when writing a business book is how you can address a common problem people have. Readers need to know they’re going to get something they can use to better their lives. 

Highlight Your Keywords

Whether it’s the title, headings, or the content, you need to establish your keywords and highlight them in your book. This is more important if you want to publish your book online (ebooks, audible) because of Google Search . 

Regardless of how you want your book distributed, having a set of keywords you want to highlight will help organize your thoughts . Your keywords should be key topics that your target audience wants to learn about.

6. Establish a Writing and Reading Routine

One of the 20th century’s most prolific authors, Stephen King , once stated, “ If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that .”

Simply put, writers must be avid readers to gain new perspectives and knowledge that the public doesn’t have. Establishing a routine to read and write is the most important step you can take to be a successful writer. 

How do I create a writing and reading routine? Lay out your daily, weekly, and monthly schedule. Once you know your schedule, set out at least 30 minutes every day for reading . 

However, you don’t need to write every day to become an author. In fact, writing every day is a good way to burn yourself out before your book is finished. We recommend setting aside two to four  hours a week for writing . 

7. Create Writing Goals

There are two types of goals that writers should focus on; short-term and long-term goals . A long-term goal is set out over months or years, whereas a short-term goal is a daily or weekly goal. 

A great short-term goal to set is writing 1,000 words per week (4,000 words per month). Using short-term goals is the best way to ensure you’re not overwhelmed or discouraged by the lengthy process. 

A long-term goal would be to finish your manuscript in 10 months ( 40,000 words ) by using your weekly goals. Creating tangible and realistic goals will only help you stay locked in during your process.

Professional writing a business book

8. Establish an Editing Routine

Editing is the most time-consuming process of writing a book. Establishing a routine to edit is just as important as a writing routine. One of the major faults of many writers is they either try to edit too much or not enough. 

We’d recommend using tools, such as Grammarly , ProWritingAid , or Hemingway App for editing. 

Our recommendation is to edit weekly instead of editing every day you write. This will save you time, energy, and most importantly, keep you in the rhythm of writing. 

As writers, we believe it’s more important to write when your mind is right, instead of breaking up your train of thought. This will help with preventing writer’s block, as well. 

At Forbes Books, you’ll work with a professional editorial team to ensure your manuscript is well organized and free from error.

Person proofreading a manuscript

How Can You Amplify the Message in Your Book?

Many publishing companies encourage writers to give their business book manuscript to their friends and families. At first this seems like a great idea, but there are problems with this strategy. For example, do you know if your friends and family are a part of your target audience? 

It’s likely your business connections will bring greater feedback than your family and support your manuscirpt’s circulation. Try sending a book advance to the people in your business network. Word of mouth is by far the best form of amplification. Sending these advanced copies of your book will encourage your professional network to share your book and recommend it to others. 

9. Decide on Your Publishing Program: Which is Better?

There are three types of publishing for business books; traditional, self-publishing and independent publishing . Forbes Books offers an independent model, allowing our members to fully own and control their book. 

Traditional Publishing

  • No up-front costs to publishing
  • Professional publishers offer elite level promotion and publishing plans
  • Major publishers have authoritative media contacts for top-tier books only
  • Highest chance to get books in brick & mortar bookstores


  • Around 1% of books get signed to major publishing houses
  • Lengthy process requiring lots of  oversight
  • Minimal creative control since publishers take the bill
  • No ownership of your book manuscript
  • Niche topics are much harder to get published
  • The publisher determines how the book is marketed to the public
  • Could take up 2 years to publish

Independent Publishing

  • Full ownership of your book
  • Customize all aspects of your book plan
  • Publish a book in less than 14 months
  • Complete marketing control 
  • Ideal for niche topics
  • Higher opportunity for profit than traditional publishing
  • Complete creative control
  • There will be higher up-front costs
  • Independent publishing has higher overall costs


  • More creative control than traditional publishing
  • Higher earning potential because you handle the entire process
  • No deadlines or gatekeepers telling you what you must do
  • The most time-consuming process out of the 3 types of publishing
  • Learning the book publishing process by yourself is very difficult
  • Hiring professional editors, PR firms, or other important professionals is very expensive
  • Unless you have professional connections, you’ll need someone to help market your book

10. Create a Book Promotion Strategy

Even after you write a manuscript and design a book cover, you still have to promote your book. Planning your book release brings on a whole new set of problems that can be overwhelming without professional help. 

According to our Sr. Director of Book Marketing & Promotions , not all types of promotion should start at the same time. For example, if you’re creating promotional content and updating assets online, you’ll need 6 months of promotion before the release .

However, there’s an entirely new campaign for selling the book as the release date gets closer. We recommend 6-8 weeks of active promotion before the release date to sell on online platforms.

Why Choose Independent Publishing With Forbes Books?

So there are pros and cons to traditional, self-publishing, and independent publishing. However, how many publishing companies are going to give you full ownership of your book? 

Forbes Books is all about giving our members full control over their projects while guiding them the entire way through. We offer multiple publishing plans for prospective authors to fit the busy life of a CEO. 

Independent publishing is a lot like self-publishing, except you’ll have access to some of the best editors, marketers, and PR. We not only give our members 100% rights to their book , but we nurture, guide, and ensure each book represents the best in business.

According to Quora , there are about 1 million books published in the U.S. every year . How many books have you heard of this year? Anybody can market a book and spend thousands with paid ads. 

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How to start writing a book as a beginner (10 easy steps).

Ready to write your first bestseller? See our expert tips on how to start writing a book. We also share 10 easy steps to follow and 5 must-have writing tools.

Published on Dec 11, 2022

By Austin Distel

how to write a bok

It’s time. You’ve decided you’re finally going to start writing a book for the first time, and you’re excited, but also super nervous. We understand, and we’re here to help. 

We’ve scoured the top books and resources for the best writing tips, from outlining to taking your book to completion. You’ll also get access to writing resources and tools for both beginners and experienced writers.

10 steps to writing a book as a beginner

Figuring out how to start writing a book can seem even more daunting than the actual writing process itself. Here are 10 steps to follow while writing your first book — and hopefully a bestseller.

1. Make a plan

Writing requires time, dedication, and hard work, so you need a schedule if you want to write a book from start to finish. A book is at least 20,000 words long — for novellas. Novels are typically 50,000 words and up. You should know when and where you will write on a daily basis . If possible, plan to write in the same places to build a reliable habit.

2. What do you want to write about?

You may not know every single plot point, but don’t start writing if you have no idea what you’re writing about . You’ll waste your time. A helpful exercise is writing a 3-5 line synopsis of your book. Publisher’s Weekly’s Rights Roundups is a great place to find examples of these synopses. Here’s one.

Notice how the actual synopsis fits in one sentence. Do that for your premise.

Some things may change or get clearer as you write, but you need a starting premise to make your book idea work.

3. Make an outline

Once you’re clear on your book’s subject matter, it’s time to create an outline. There are different outline styles, but the goal is to get a clearer picture of most of what happens in your book — chapter by chapter . We’ll dive deeper into this later in this article.

4. Do the research

Sometimes writer’s block is just a sign of insufficient research. Good writing requires research. You need research to tell your story, explain a subject, or sell an idea. Use the internet, libraries, first-person accounts, or even take research trips where possible. 

5. The messy first draft

After the research comes real creative writing. For many writers, this is the hardest part. 

Our best tip here is to let your first draft be messy . Styles differ, but often the first draft is you figuring out the story for yourself, while the second draft is making it shine for readers. Let it be messy; focus on getting out the story, not making it pretty. Other tips for a successful first draft:

  • Set daily word count goals. This keeps you accountable.
  • Be consistent. Show up every day — preferably in a dedicated writing space — to write, even if you don’t meet your goals.
  • Avoid distractions. Write without internet connectivity, go to a coffee shop, lock your office door, use noise-canceling headphones — whatever it takes. 
  • Know your target audience. It’s easier and more effective to write when you can picture your specific audience.

6. Edit and revise

The first round of edits is usually the most grueling. Some writers realize that a story isn’t viable. Others find numerous plot holes to fill. And for some, their message becomes clearer and the book comes to life. Either way, don’t skip the editing process, and if you can get a professional editor to review the entire book, that will do wonders for your work.

7. The cleaner second draft

Your second draft is where you make any changes flagged by your editor (or you!) during the initial revision process. Fill plot holes, rewrite sections more persuasively, and cut any fluff that may have gotten through in the first draft. You’re now on your way to a great book.

8. Meet your first readers

Ideally, the first readers should be a sample of your target audience. Whether these are other authors you’d like to blurb your book or industry experts you hope will endorse it, send those digital copies to the first readers. Your first reader could also be a spouse or friend who can provide kind, but critical feedback. 

9. Final edits and proofreading

With comments from first readers and one more close look by a professional (hopefully!) proofreader, your book should be in its final state. Its message should be clear, back flap copy written, and cover design ready to meet more readers.

10. Time to publish

Self-publishing is becoming more popular as writers refuse to wait for publishing gatekeepers to validate their efforts. If this is your chosen route, you can now get your book formatted and ready to sell on Amazon or other platforms. But if you’d like to give traditional publishing a shot, now would be the time to find an agent and start querying!

How to outline a book without losing your mind

Outlining can be intimidating for new writers who aren’t sure where the story will take them. Perhaps you feel like you’d rather be spontaneous and not outline before writing. We’re big fans of outlining here. 

Outlining doesn’t mean things are set in stone . Rather, your outline is a guide that can be tweaked as you write. 

Having an outline also ensures that you wake up every day knowing what you’re going to write about. Unless you’d rather spend an hour of your writing time every day deciding what the heck will happen in this chapter.

Hopefully, we’ve sold you some valid benefits of outlining. Now, here’s how to do it:

1. Pick a style

There are several ways to outline your book. Some writers prefer a mind map method to help them visualize how things tie together. Others like to use post-its or index cards where they’ll write a key point or plot event in their book on each note. We recommend a basic summary outline , which is the chapter by chapter outline — and that’s what we’ll be walking you through.

2. Try a writing assistant

Writing assistants can take the work out of writing and make the process much faster. Our number one recommendation, Jasper, has a Blog Post Outline template that works beautifully for outlining book chapters. You can then break each section down even further to provide more information in your book. 

In our example below, we’re writing a book about succeeding as a freelancer. All Jasper needs to generate our outline is the book title and tone of writing. 

With some tweaking, I can already see the outline titles as chapter titles

You could also try Jasper's AI story generation tools to help bring your story to life.

3. Get some structure 

Most non-fiction books provide a solution to readers’ problems, and you’re probably writing a book to do that too. Like Anne Lamott says in her book, Bird by Bird

“To be a good writer, you not only have to write a great deal but you have to care. You do not have to have a complicated moral philosophy. But a writer always tries, I think, to be a part of the solution , to understand a little about life and to pass this on.”

With your outline, you’re working to give your book a structure that best tells the story to help your audience. 

Every outline should have an introduction, a middle, and a conclusion . Similarly, your outline should be structured — like any marketing copy —  to lay out the problem, your history with it, and your method of solving it. The meat of the book would then be strategies to help readers tackle that same problem or similar problems. 

4. Write chapter overviews and subheadings

When you write your outline, include notes for yourself about what each chapter tackles . If you can leave yourself questions to answer about each section, even better! 

For example, in the introduction, the goal is to hook the readers on the first page by sharing an anecdote or your experience with the specific problem they’re dealing with. Tell readers about your unique value proposition aka why they should read this book and not the others on this subject matter. The Jasper Unique Proposition Template can help you craft yours. Here’s an example from Jasper based on our input on the left.

The one-liner that captures exactly what your book will do

Questions to answer in your introduction: 

  • What problem are you solving? 
  • How can readers who aren’t self-aware recognize this issue?
  • Who is this book for? 
  • Why should readers trust you to help them?

Do this exercise for every potential chapter and your outline should be shaping up in your mind.

Outline in hand, it’s time to get the work done . Go back to our step-by-step guide for writing your own book and move through the remaining steps after outlining. We’re rooting for you, future bestselling author.

5 helpful resources for writing a book for the first time

Before we wrap up, we’ll share five of the best resources and writing tools for beginners figuring out how to start writing a book.


AI writing assistant Jasper has written so many books in part or full and has proven to be brilliant at it. This software can get you through outlining, writing a powerful introduction, sharing your unique value proposition, and crafting a powerful conclusion. But it doesn’t stop there.

All you have to do is type a sentence or two and Jasper will keep it going. Other templates such as the Blog Post Intro Paragraph and Blog Post Conclusion Paragraph come in handy for every chapter.

Pricing: Plans start at $39/month

2. Scrivener


Scrivener is a favorite for many writers because of its word processing and outlining capabilities. Available for Mac, iOS, and Windows, it allows you to outline, keep fragmented notes and write within the same application! That way, you can keep track of chapters and headings easily.

Pricing: Licenses start at $19.99 for iOS

3. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

bird by bird book

Anne Lamott’s book is a warm guide for new and old writers. If you need some encouragement from a long-distance writing buddy and are open to inspiring stories about writing and life, this is a good one to read.

4. On Writing Well by William Zinsser

on writing well book

Another classic for new writers, Zinsser’s book is perfect for non-fiction writers figuring out the nuts and bolts of the craft. He delves into writing about sports, business writing, memoir writing, self-help, and more. This one has helped many already successful writers become better writers.

5. Focus Writer 

Focus Writer

One last tool to keep distractions at bay: Focus Writer keeps writers on track with daily goals and word counts while providing an immersive writing environment. It also has spellcheck, timers to keep on your Pomodoro grind, and optional typewriter sound effects, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Start writing your book with Jasper

Figuring out how to start writing a book as a beginner can be scary, but it is far from impossible, and we know that you have what it takes. Take a step-by-step approach, or bird by bird as Lamott says. Set clear goals, have a message to share and get to work.

Jasper can help you tackle outlining, writing creative introductions, and crafting the messy middle one word at a time. Ready to give it a shot? Write your first book with Jasper. Sign up for a free account.

Meet The Author:

Austin Distel

Austin Distel

Austin Distel is the Sr. Director of Marketing at Jasper , your AI creative assistant. He's also an Airbnb superhost in Austin, Texas. You can follow Austin's adventures around the internet and the world at .

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How to Write a Book: The Ultimate Guide

We all have a great book idea burning inside of us.

In fact, most of us dream about learning how to write a book .

We imagine how writing a bestseller will change our lives. How it will advance our careers. How it will make us an authority on a topic we enjoy.

A 2021 poll conducted for National Novel Writing Month showed that 54% of people would love to write a book about their own life story. But, only 15% have been able to get started and still more struggle to finish.

The truth is many of us don’t actually make it to the writing phase.

The epic ideas, thoughts, and stories we wish to tell don’t come to fruition because of the inability to act on this dream.

This inability to act can manifest as  writer’s block , but could also be more deeply rooted in limiting beliefs having to do with readiness or imposter syndrome.

As a New York Times bestselling author with numerous published books, I understand how hard it can be to overcome to take that first step to  start writing .

Table of Contents

  • Find Your Why: Reasons To Write Your Book

Set Up Your Writing Space

Dedicate the time to be a better writer, get to know your target audience, choose the right book topic, know how to make your book a bestseller, create a book outline to begin the writing process, dedicate extra time to working on your book title, learn how to fight writer’s block, create your first draft, edit your book, publish your book, write your next book, start writing your book today.

I also know that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. When you know how to write a book and have the right tools and support to get through the book writing process, your dreams of writing your first book can come true.

Use the following book writing and publishing guide of the 12 most important steps you can take to plan, produce, and launch your own book.

Find Your Why: Reasons to Write Your Book

If you have a great idea of what to write about for a book, you should write it. It’s as simple as that.

Not only are you doing your future readers a disservice by not sharing your creation, but you are also holding yourself back from reaching your full potential.

You will stay motivated through the writing process as you remind yourself of the reason you are writing a book. What is your why?

Here are just four of my favorite reasons  why you should write your first book and how writing will change your life in ways you never even imagined:

  • Writing a book provides a great opportunity to share something meaningful with you.
  • Writing a book is a way to help others improve their lives.
  • Writing a book is one of the best ways to gain lasting credibility.
  • Writing a book helps you discover who you are and ignite your passions.

This sounds simple enough, right? So then the real question becomes, “why don’t more people start writing?”

This is a tough question to answer, but I believe much of it has to do with direction…or lack of it.

For most people, writing and publishing a book may seem like an insurmountable task. Figuring out  how to stay motivated when writing your book can be challenging, especially if you do not have the right processes and guides in place.

However, just like any other seemingly insurmountable task, the journey from start to finish is best handled one step at a time. Through regular, focused writing practice, you can begin to put pen to paper to compile your piece with a step-by-step process, one page at a time.

One of the most important steps to how to write a book begins before you put any words on paper. Take the time to set up a proper writing space so each writing session can be productive.

As you create a dedicated writing space, your goal is to minimize distractions and maximize inspiration.

If you have a spare room, turn it into your dedicated writing space. If you do not, find a space that is comfortable and as free of distractions as possible.

Some successful writers prefer writing in public spaces like coffee shops, libraries, or parks. The white noise of coffee shops can keep your mind focused on your writing. Writing your book in a library can prevent you from the distractions of your cell phone or being at home. An outdoor area not only gives you healthy natural sunlight but being among nature can also be inspiring.

The best writing location for you is a personal choice, and it does not always have to be the same place if you find you need a break from your normal writing environment.

If you are setting up your dedicated writing space at home, add a desk and supportive chair. A sit-stand desk and an ergonomic chair can counter the effects of sitting for long periods of time and invite you to your writing space.

Small touches like adding plants help you create an inspiring writing environment. Add your favorite artwork, photographs, or books, but keep it simple. You want each of your writing sessions to be productive and free of distractions.

Many successful writers prefer writing at a computer while others always start with pen and paper. You might begin writing in your notebook at a coffee shop and transfer your notes to your laptop. If you are more productive spending all of your writing time at a keyboard, do so.

Book writing software can help you streamline the writing process. It cuts down your writing time with helpful tools like spell checkers, auto-save, grammar tools, plagiarism checkers, and ways to organize your chapters.

Some book writing software has built-in productivity features that help you stay free of distractions. Others can help you publish your book. If you decide to use book writing software, choose one that is user-friendly and meets your needs.

The next step to how to write a book is to set aside time to develop your writing skills.

Writers come from all walks of life, and some of the most successful authors in the world often lived half their life with no real intention of ever writing a book.

Although there is no set formula for how to be a good writer, the difference between average writers and good writers comes down to the way they approach their craft. 

Being a good writer requires you to write often, read more, and polish your writing skills

Write Often

Great writing stems from consistency and regularity. If you can establish a daily writing routine with regular writing sessions, you will be well on your way to making significant strides toward finishing your book. 

The best way to get started is to find a structure that works for you. 

First, set the scene.

Set up your writing space where you will be able to do your best work, whether that is in your home office, a corner of the living room, your local coffee shop, a coworking space, or your back porch. 

Second, choose an ideal time to write. If you have the most unstructured time available to you in the early morning, perhaps that timeframe could be devoted to your craft.

On the flip side, if the idea of putting pen to paper before winding down for the evening seems more appealing, an evening writing schedule might be more suitable. 

And, last but not least, set a goal for how much actual writing you’d like to accomplish every day. 

It doesn’t have to be a lot. You might also aim to give yourself a target word count to hit, perhaps something between 250-500 words. 

Regardless of the structure, you create, make sure that it provides you with the most freedom and flexibility to succeed at writing more often.

The fuel for writing books comes largely from reading good books.

Whether you love horror or hate it, Stephen King is widely recognized as one of the most successful authors in the genre.

With almost 70 novels and hundreds of short stories under his belt, King has built a life on the foundation of sharing spooky stories that have captivated millions. 

In his book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft , King describes his writing process and offers tips for aspiring novelists. One of the biggest pieces of often-overlooked wisdom he offers focuses on the importance of being an avid reader in order to be a sensational writer. 

On this topic, he says, “Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

I honestly couldn’t have said it better myself.

But, if you don’t want to take King’s word for it, here are some other reasons why reading more makes you a better writer:

  • It is a learning opportunity to study the works of other professional writers in the same field. 
  • The more styles of writing you read, the more you’ll be able to recognize and borrow certain strategies and weave them into your own writing process.
  • It can help you source ideas for different languages and vocabulary to use.
  • It can help you fine-tune your own unique writing style and voice.

And as a final note, walking a mile in a reader’s shoes can also help you feel more connected with your audience.

If you invest your time in reading more of your genre, you will begin to understand firsthand what motivates readers to continue reading.

You’ll discover the answers to questions like:

  • What answers are they searching for?
  • What problems do they hope to resolve by the end of the book?
  • How do specific sections of the story mirror pieces of their own life?
  • What makes the information or the characters so relatable?

Take a Writing Class

While you certainly do not need a degree to be a professional writer, learning good writing skills and how to make best use of writing tools will help you tremendously to learn how to write a book.

Whether you are writing fiction or writing nonfiction–or even just starting out with a blog post or short article–learning the tools of the trade will boost your writing career.

And this is not just my opinion. Studies show that being a good writer depends on repeated practice.  

Many writing classes are available online for free, so it is easy to fit them into your schedule.

Taking the time to learn effective writing skills will not only help you strengthen your writing muscles, but you will also gain a community of other writers that can inspire you with fresh ideas.

To be a successful writer, choose a story to tell and learn how and who to tell it to.

First, you need to identify what story you will tell. A lot of great book ideas come from brainstorming what you are interested in. Make a list of things you enjoy doing, things you know how to do, topics you are an authority on or at least know a lot, and things people come to you for advice or help with.

Once you’ve decided on your topic, knowing how to write a book that will reach the people you want to read it depends on getting to know your target audience.

It is important to understand your audience in order to continue to successfully create new pieces of your work they can’t wait to get their hands on. 

This is perhaps the most important step in the process of how to write a book. Because when you write, the book is never about you. It’s about what you can share with the audience you wish to serve. 

To determine your target audience, it is first important to consider:

  • Which genre you’d like to write for
  • Which books within that genre you’d like to be compared to
  • Who your ideal reader might be

Once you’ve determined your unique answers to these questions, you can begin sourcing information from people within your network.

There is a chance that your personal or professional network could be very closely aligned with the audience you wish to reach. You could even begin with this audience and expand or revise it as you continue to edit and change portions of your soon-to-be bestseller.

All in all, it is a writer’s job to get to know their audience. It takes work, but all of that work is what will make your book great.

My next how-to write a book guideline is to choose your topic wisely.

Once you have committed to being a better writer and have identified your target audience, now it’s time to choose an appropriate topic or a story for the audience you’ve selected.

It is critical that the topic be unique enough to set your book apart but general enough to appeal to a wider group of people that still fall within the same umbrella as your audience.

Take the idea of writing a book on social media marketing, for example. It’s general enough for your audience to understand, but you need to pitch it from a different perspective.

Perhaps your book could be focused on a specific theory on why you should only post to social media on Tuesdays. Now, this is a very unique train of thought, so if you choose this route, be sure that you can back up your ideas in grounded evidence as to why you believe this…but you get my point.

And most importantly, choosing the right book topic for your audience is meaningless unless you are passionate about the topic yourself.

Not only is it much easier and more natural to write a book about something you actively believe in, but it is also more entertaining for your reader because they’ll be able to feel your level of involvement and interest in the topic just by scanning a couple of sentences.

Simply put, your audience won’t believe what you’re saying unless you believe it first.

Along with choosing the right topic that you are passionate about and will keep your reader’s interest, knowing how to write a book also involves understanding key concepts that turn good books into bestsellers.

Network With Other Published Authors

Since fellow writers have been through the process of taking a book from ideation to creation numerous times, they are a wealth of knowledge and can offer you expert guidance and tips about any step in the writing process and publishing process.

Assuming they are a talented, successful writer, this is almost always a good thing and will put you on track to becoming a bestseller yourself.

Plus, reading and familiarizing yourself with the works of other bestselling authors that you look up to is one of the best ways to develop your writing skills.

By getting to know the works of authors in your own genre, you’ll develop a knack for understanding different successful writing formulas and be able to begin piecing together engaging stories that readers cannot wait to get their hands on.

On top of that, you’ll also begin to recognize stylistic patterns that specific authors use to define their work and stand out from the crowd. 

Best case scenario, you will pick up some of their  writing tips and tricks to use in your own works. Worst case scenario, you may be struck with some additional inspiration on how to approach and alter your own writing techniques and style choices.

Either way, you can’t lose.

The more people who know about your book, the greater chances it has of becoming a bestseller. The word will spread when readers find a good book, but there are also things you can do to bring attention to your book.

The best way to get the word out about the great work you have created – or are in the process of creating – is to network with other seasoned authors.

Determine What Bestseller List You Want To Be On

So, you want to be a bestseller. But do you know what kind of bestseller do you want to be?

For example, do you see yourself topping the digital charts on Amazon? What about clinching the top spot on the New York Times list? Or perhaps sitting pretty high up the book list that is put out by the Wall Street Journal?

There are so many bestseller lists that it is impossible to track how many there are. To make matters more confusing, each one also has different criteria for determining which books make the cut and which do not.

Some bestseller lists measure the number of sales of a certain book over a specific period of time, while others are curated by a certain group of people responsible for choosing which titles should make their list. 

In any case, if you are trying to be recognized as a bestseller, you should come into the process of book writing with an idea of which list you’d like to be on. From there, you can perform research to better understand the qualifications you will need to meet to be considered for a ranking.

Other Bestseller Considerations

While the above considerations should be the main priority when thinking about ways to make any bestseller list when writing a book, you’ll also want to keep a few other things in the back of your mind while creating. 

One of those things is the quality of your writing. To make a book a bestseller, it is essential that your writing is both clear and captivating so your readers do not lose interest. While the story you tell is certainly important, so is the way you tell it.

Your prose doesn’t necessarily have to sing like Shakespeare’s, but it does need to be polished enough that people thoroughly enjoy reading what you write.

You’ll also want to take a look at your marketing strategy. Is there anything you could change in order to get more eyes on your work?

Consider what places your audience usually shops for books of this nature, if your potential buyers are on social media or if they prefer to see most of their ads via billboards, fliers, or in a newspaper.

A successful journey starts with a good road map. A bestselling book begins with turning a good book idea into an outline you can follow before the actual writing begins.

Finding a way to organize all of your thoughts at the front end of writing a book will guarantee your success later. This sounds like a tedious step, but trust me, knowing how to write a book outline can make or break the direction you take your piece or how much time it will take you to complete.

A  book outline is essentially a map that guides authors to the end of their book-writing journey as smoothly and seamlessly as possible. A good outline should help set the stage, organize the scenes, and clarify how the entire story or message comes together.  It also will eventually  form the table of contents for your book.

How much planning you end up doing is largely up to you. Some authors prefer to have a detailed outline that is well fleshed out from start to finish while others create a basic outline, preferring instead to let the book unfold as they write it but having the foundational structure in place.

Regardless of the outline you choose to create, once you build your outline piece by piece, you will then be ready to write your book page by page, and, eventually, you’ll progress from one sentence to your first drafts to a finished product ready for publication.

How to write a book outline is slightly different when your write fiction versus writing a nonfiction book. Here are some guidelines to follow:

Writing fiction

When you write a book on a fictional topic, your outline helps you plan out your characters, scenes, setting, plot, climax, and more. You can approach writing your novel outline in many different ways, but whichever approach you choose, include these essential elements:

  • Craft your premise by writing a one-paragraph summary of what the novel will be about.
  • Decide on the setting of your book and do your research so your writing will be accurate.
  • Determine who your characters are and write detailed profiles about what they look like, who they are, what they are interested in, and what their personality traits are.
  • Lay out your plot by creating a timeline of events that includes the beginning, middle, and end of your story.
  • Add pivotal scenes into your plot so you will know what needs to happen where. You might add these as you go along as well when the inspiration hits you, including dialogue and other details.

Writing non-fiction

Writing an outline for your non-fiction book involves identifying the purpose of your book and writing down the main ideas, principles, and concepts you want to convey. Nonfiction writers include these elements in their book outlines:

  • Identify the main idea or purpose of your book. What problem are you trying to solve that the reader has or what do you want them to know or do?
  • Create a structure for your book that will lead to the solution to the problem. You might need to set up background information first, for instance, or you might outline a step-by-step process. This structure will lend itself to forming chapters after you start writing, or you can include your chapters in your outline.
  • Revise as needed.

The purpose of your outline is not to write an entire manuscript but to create a structure you can follow to get from your big idea to an entire first draft, all while heading in the right direction that will keep your reader’s attention.

When you pour your heart and soul into writing a book, you want people to read it. Often the first impression readers get of your book is its title. You want to craft a title that will encourage someone to open the cover and read the entire book.

Assume 80% of people will read your title, while only 20% will end up reading your book. That means you should spend extra time working on an emotional and impactful title.

You might have a great title for your book long before your write your rough draft, or you might until you finish writing or are even in the editing process.

Regardless, aim for a title that grabs attention, is easy to say, gives an idea of what the book is about, and is memorable.

Make a list of 20 or so book ideas. If you are writing a book that is fictional, think of the names of your characters, places, memorable phrases, and plot twists in your book for inspiration.

For your nonfiction book title, think of your target audience’s pain points and how you are solving them. Unlike fictional book titles that can be more inventive and imaginative, the title for your non-fiction book should give the reader a clear idea of what the book is about.

While it is usually not against copyright laws for your book to have the same title as another book, you want to avoid this for confusion, especially with popular titles. You can do this with a deep search on the internet. Book titles can be trademarked, however, such as Chicken Soup for the Soul and the Dummies series.

Check the database of the US Patent and Trademark Office online to ensure your book title has not already been trademarked.  

Consider adding a subtitle as well. This can help your title stand out by allowing for a short title, but clarifying with a longer subtitle.

Nearly anyone who tries to write a book knows that writer’s block can hit and put up a roadblock to your progress.

Writer’s block can sometimes come from self-doubt. You might stop writing because you fear no one will want to read your story. That is simply not true. Write it anyway, you have something important to say and there are people who need to hear it.

You might also get writer’s block from not hitting your daily word count goal or being overwhelmed with how many words need to be written to complete your first draft.

Don’t allow discouragement to keep you from doing a great thing. Everything worth doing takes time and effort. Renew your motivation by taking a break, reading motivational quotes, or talking to a trusted, inspirational friend or family member.

You might also lose interest in your book idea. If this happens, whether after just writing the first few pages or deep into your book, you may need to revise your approach.

First, be sure what you are writing about is interesting to you. If not, it will be very difficult to  stay motivated when writing a book . Second, determine if there are parts of your outline that should be omitted. If you are bored writing it, chances are your readers will be too.

Head over to my blog post for more tips on  overcoming writer’s block .

Use your outline to craft your first draft. Don’t worry about how perfect it is or if you are including everything you need.

As you get into the writing habit, you will find you are inspired with ideas you may want to insert into an earlier or later part of your story. That is what a first draft is for, to allow your book to be a living, thinking, changing document.

Use your personal writing voice for your book. Do not try to write like other authors, although you can learn from their good writing habits as well. But make sure your first draft captures who you are and what you want to convey. Chances are this will not be your only book. You will want your voice to emanate from and be recognizable to your readership.

When you feel you have written the particular story you want to convey in your first draft, you will then focus on editing and revising.

When I write a book, I write quickly and leave the editing process for later. This strategy has helped turn my book ideas into over 70 books.

My motto is to write feverishly and edit meticulously.

When you get into your writing routine and first start writing a new page or a new chapter, it should come as an uninterrupted flow of conscience.

Don’t worry about how good it sounds or how many mistakes there are – simply write. Write feverishly until that page or chapter or whatever section you are working on is done. This is also a good way to combat  writer’s block .

Later, you can go back and carefully edit your work, pruning away unnecessary content, polishing your writing, and weeding out mistakes. In the beginning, though, it’s getting your thoughts onto paper into a rough draft that is the most important.

Self-editing, hiring an editor, or combining both processes are options to you.

It’s always best to review your work yourself first, to ensure you have addressed all of the ideas you want. If you continue solely with self-editing, use one or more of the many writing tools available to you. These will help you catch spelling, grammar, and technical errors, and some can give you advice on voice and tone.

You can also hire a professional editor to make sure your entire book is polished from cover to cover. This is especially helpful when you are self-publishing.

Learning how to write a book will turn your big idea into a bestseller. Once you finish writing, it is time to get it in front of your readers.

In the past, publishing a book meant convincing publishing companies to look at your work and like it enough to publish it under their name.

Of course, this is much easier said than done, and even the world’s most successful authors, such as J.K. Rowling, Dr. Seuss, and Luisa May Alcott had to deal with countless rejections and years of waiting before they were able to finally publish their book.

In many ways, though, this process is a thing of the past. Today you can self-publish, work with a publishing company, or use a publishing service like Amazon.


Self-publishing is the practice of publishing a book without the help of a traditional publishing company. Choosing this option might sound challenging, but in fact, there are a variety of convenient options that make publishing a book quick and easy.

You can pay for and arrange all aspects of the publishing process on your own, or work with a company that handles some of these tasks for you. Just note that if you work with a non-traditional self-publishing company, you may need to pay for specific services or turn over some rights to your book.

Self-publishing is often the more affordable option for those who are focused on the financial aspect of bringing a book into the world. 

The process of  self-publishing a book is actually quite simple, and, if you take the time to do it right, the results can be just as effective and spectacular as any book published by one of the major publishing companies.

Publishing Companies

A publishing company is an entity that is responsible for handling the printing, distribution, and storage of an author’s book. 

Within the publishing company, there is typically a publisher who is tasked with finding books that are likely to sell well. They act as the direct line of communication between the author and the publishing company and are responsible for creating contracts with authors they would like to sign.

Once a publisher has signed a contract with an author, the publisher will move forward with the process of printing the book and preparing it for sale.

There are two specific kinds of  publishing companies that an author could consider – traditional book publishing companies and self-publishing book companies. Each operates in a different way and offers aspiring authors their own unique set of processes, services, and contracts for the work they are seeking to publish.

Traditional Book Publishing Companies

Traditional book publishing companies have been around for years. They used to be the sole gatekeepers that one would need to impress in order to get a book published. The process involved pitching your creative work to a company or publisher who would then make a final decision on whether or not to take a chance on your book.

Oftentimes, this process was long and tedious, and the author might have to pitch to multiple companies in order to get their book in front of their audience.

Though times have changed, and some of these companies have adapted well to the digital age, their essential roles remain the same.

Some of today’s most well-known traditional book publishing companies include Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster.

Self-Publishing Companies

Self-publishing companies are less established and take a different approach to the publishing process than traditional publishing companies.

Their primary role is to assist authors with the process of publishing books independently. These companies help with printing or digital preparation, as well as the distribution of works.

Some of the best self-publishing companies include Kindle Direct Publishing, Kobo, and Xlibris. However, a number of other options are also available.

How to Publish a Book on Amazon

The  benefits of Amazon’s book publishing platform have appealed to many authors in recent years. 

Amazon’s self-publishing has made it incredibly easy for anyone to market their book on the largest book-selling platform in the world. Through the variety of services that Amazon offers, you can publish your fiction or nonfiction book in digital, print, and even audio format.

Really, the only parts of the process that Amazon doesn’t have a hand in are your book cover design and formatting, although it does have a built-in cover creator.

A few standout perks that set Amazon’s publishing platform apart from the competitors are:

  • The ability to easily reach millions of readers
  • A free way to publish e-books and paperbacks
  • A quick and efficient way to publish books in only a few days
  • Self-publish vs. contract with a traditional publishing company

Now that you’ve written and published your first book, why not do it again?

Learning how to write a book makes writing the next book even easier.

Note what worked well in your first draft and throughout the whole process and what needs improvement.

Once you start getting book reviews, it is also very helpful to read these. While some reviewers will not give constructive criticism, the majority of readers will give honest and helpful reviews.

Use their words to analyze what your target audience is looking for. If them mention something they wish your book had, see if you can provide that in your next book. Try also to incorporate the positive things they raved about your first book. It is all about finding needs and meeting them.

My final piece of advice for your book-writing journey is to tell you to go for it!

The main difference between those who are published authors and those who are not is that published authors actually followed through with their dreams, taking it one sentence at a time using a proven book writing strategy.

If you can do that, you’re on the verge of seeing your name on the front of a bestselling book. For step-by-step guidance on how to bring your bestselling book to life, check out my  Book Writing Template .

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About Brian Tracy — Brian is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today. He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement. Brian's goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined. You can follow him on Twitter , Facebook , Pinterest , Linkedin and Youtube .

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Book Marketing for Self-Publishing Authors

Home / Guides / Book Writing / How to Write a Book in 2023: The Ultimate Guide for Authors

How to Write a Book in 2023: The Ultimate Guide for Authors

  • Should you write a book?
  • Outline the Book
  • Write the Book
  • Edit the Book
  • Get Feedback
  • Publish & Market Your Book!

Writing a book is a long process, but it doesn’t have to be scary. Many writers benefit from having a checklist of things they need to do. Enter: This comprehensive guide. I will guide you through the planning stages, the writing process, the editing phase, and the marketing phase (though you should start marketing your book long before it’s finished). And before we get there, I’ll help you determine if you should even write a book in the first place. Considering you’re here, the answer is most likely “ yes! ” Can anyone write a book? Yes, anyone can write a book. All you need is determination, a willingness to learn, and a story you want to tell. Bookmark this page or copy and paste it into a text document so you can check off each step as you make progress along your book writing journey .

  • How to write a book
  • Best ways to plan ahead
  • A lot of writing tips
  • Industry standards and expectations
  • Software recommendations
  • Outlining tips
  • Editing and proofreading tips
  • How to market your book

Links in this article may give me a small commission if you use them to purchase products. There’s NO extra cost to you, and it helps me continue to write handy articles like this one.

It’s common to hear between friends, “I’m going to write a book one day.”

But there are several steps in between that statement and the actual process of writing books.

I want to get this idea out of the way: you can and should write a book!

Most people want to write a book but never get around to it. Well, you can do it.

If you don't think you can, or you think you're not talented enough, remember that even the Stephen Kings and Neil Gaimans of the word started out with a skill level of zero, and you're probably more skilled than that!

Don't get me wrong, writing can be hard. But it's learning to deal with those hard things that make you a better writer. So let's discuss how you can make it happen.

Before you set deadlines or create your writing space, there are a few things you should do:

  • Figure out why you’re writing
  • Don’t give yourself excuses to not write
  • Determine your big ideaw
  • Create a budget for your book writing
  • Establish accountability
  • Announce that you’re writing a book!

Nail Down Your “Why”

Why are you writing this book? Answer this question, and your writing process will have a sense of direction. Many authors have a story they need to tell. It’s in their heads. They can’t stop thinking about it. Whether it’s because of the compelling characters, the fantastical new worlds, or the powerful central theme, a good book writer must tell the story in their head. If you’re in it for fame and fortune, you won’t find it here. Only the top New York Times bestselling authors gain fame or fortune. Most authors make between $40,000 and $80,000 per year — though it’s worth noting that earning an author’s salary can take years of establishing yourself within the industry. You should also determine what you want this book to become. Questions you can ask yourself:

  • Do you want this book to appear in brick-and-mortar stores across the country?
  • Are you happy to display in local bookstores and libraries?
  • Is this an online-only book?
  • Do you want to turn writing into a career or a one-time affair?
  • Is this the beginning of a series or a one-off story?
  • Do you want to write a book that’s great for people in a social media group you’re a part of and their friends?

Overcome Common Barriers to Writing Your First Book

Before they become a problem, you need to overcome common barriers to writing a book. You can toss a rock and probably find a “writer” who started a book or, more often, has an excellent idea for a book they’re never going to write. But you’re different. You need to tell this story, and you’re looking up resources to help you get started. These are some of the most common excuses for not writing a book and how to overcome them:

  • I don’t have the talent. No one knows how to write a book before they learn, practice, and experiment. Until you try, you’ll never know if you genuinely have the stuff it takes to be a successful author.
  • I can’t concentrate. Yes, distractions abound: kids, work, Facebook, hunger, messy desk, neighbors, the dog. Find a way to overcome the distractions and just concentrate if you really want to tell this story.
  • No one will want to publish my book. Though traditional publishing is difficult to achieve, independent publishers and self-publishing offer additional venues for success.
  • I can’t write without a deadline. Then give yourself a deadline! Tell your spouse or a friend that you intend to finish your manuscript within 6 months. Or announce it on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit — wherever peers can keep you accountable.
  • Taking time to write makes me feel guilty. You shouldn’t feel guilty doing what you love, what you feel you need to do, or what could earn you a salary in the future.
  • Writing is too hard. Writing may prove a harrowing task. It can take a long time (though there are ways to write faster ). But there is nothing quite like the rewarding feeling of having written a book.
  • My grammar is terrible. Use proofreading software like Grammarly or ProWritingAid . Also, the more you write, the better you get at grammar — and quickly.
  • My life is too dull to write anything interesting. They say, “Write what you know.” But honestly, that’s what research is for. Write what interests you. It doesn’t have to be about your life. Write to escape your (supposedly boring) life.
  • People won’t like what I write. Thick skin is required for writing. Unfortunately, some ignorant or insecure people may put you down — whether for your book or for the simple fact you’re a writer. But let the ridicule roll off you like water off a duck’s back.
  • My back hurts. Sitting in a chair for long hours to write can make your back hurt. Come up with a system where you can lie down to rest or walk around to mobilize your back every hour.
  • Fiction offers nothing of value to society. This is just flat-out untrue. Art is society’s record of history. Fiction evokes emotion that causes a reader to feel something. A book’s central theme is powerful for its intended audience — and for some, life-changing.

Determine Your Topic

To determine your topic, answer these questions:

  • What do I want to write about?
  • What is important for someone (like me) to write about?
  • Can I effectively tell this story?
  • Who would want to read about my story?

For nonfiction, it’s customary to choose a topic about which you have particular expertise. For readers who buy your book, determine what information to include that will best benefit these readers. For fiction, you can determine your genre(s), then your subgenre(s), then what would make your story unique. Each genre comes with its own tropes that readers expect you to deliver. Is your book idea good? Does it serve anyone? Does it add value, whether by entertaining, informing, or teaching the prospective reader? If you’re having trouble determining your topic, check out these resources:

  • Plot Generator
  • Writing Prompts
  • Best Book Title Generators
  • Short Story Prompts by Squibler

Validate Your Book Idea

Before you completely narrow down your story or topic, you need to know if it's a good idea or not. To do this, you need to run through four steps:

  • Step 1: Learn if and how many people search for your book idea
  • Step 2: Learn if the idea is profitable during the book topic validation process
  • Step 3: Discover how hard the competition is for your book
  • Step 4: Rinse and repeat

If you find your book topic is not profitable, you can still write it. But if that's the case, you will have to resort to different marketing tactics. You will need to focus on finding the right market somewhere other than Amazon, and getting them interested in reading your book.

Read more about validating your book idea here.

Create a Budget

Don’t let this step scare you. If your budget is $0, that’s okay. But you need to create a budget, so you know what you’re willing to spend down the road. What might you spend money on as an author?

  • Research software for authors, like Publisher Rocket
  • Book writing software, like Atticus
  • Proofreading software, like ProWritingAid
  • Book formatting services, like Ebook Launch
  • Email service, like GetResponse
  • Cover design services, like Damonza (if you’re self-publishing)
  • A human editor (if you’re self-publishing)
  • Book reviews from paid influencers
  • Various marketing efforts
  • Promotional giveaways
  • A professional looking website

What should an author not spend money on?

  • Literary agents — An agent should only make money when you make money. Beware agents who charge upfront fees. They are preying off of authors who desperately want to publish their book .
  • Vanity publishers — If an indie publisher asks for an upfront charge, they are probably a vanity press, and you do not want to use their services. These seldom result in a profit.
  • Beta readers — Although it’s nice to buy them lunch to talk about the book, when you find people to beta read your book, they are reading for enjoyment. They’re getting a free book out of this. If you pay them, that’s getting into professional editor territory, and most beta readers probably aren’t qualified for that.
  • A human editor and proofreader — If you’re traditionally publishing, the publishing house will most likely pay for the editor.
  • Cover design — If you’re traditionally publishing, the publisher will most likely pay for the cover design. This item may end up in your final budget if you’re self-publishing.

How much money does an author make per book? A first-time, self-published author might make between $5,000 and $20,000 on their first book, not including expenses. A traditionally published first-time author can expect up to $5,000 without a massive existing audience.

Establish Accountability for When Things Get Hard

It’s important to establish accountability for when the going gets tough. Who will support you through your writing process? Find a reliable person in your life that's experienced in book writing or can help encourage you along the journey. Ask them to ask you about how your writing’s coming along. Some days, you will hate them. Other days, you will thank them. Also, plan for how you’ll handle writer's block , discouragement, falling behind, etc. For example, if you didn’t reach your daily word count goal, plan on going over your goal next weekend. Or, if you get writer’s block, work more detail into your outline or take a walk to clear your head.

Publicly Announce What You’re Doing

You need to publicly announce that you’re writing a book. Not only is this a marketing must that gets your friends and family buzzing about your book, but it also creates public accountability for you. Sound terrifying? Remember, if you’re going to be an author, this is the first of many marketing steps you’ll need to take. It’s also one of the easiest (and least expensive). If you need a community of like-minded authors, I'd recommend fully investing in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) as a great way to push yourself and gain accountability. Don’t get scared by this step. You may worry about what people have to say about you writing a book. Writers need thick skin, and this is an excellent exercise in accepting congratulations and ignoring naysayers. For instance, I recall a fellow author’s grandfather commenting on a Facebook post: “Hope it works out for you. But if it doesn’t, I can always get you a job down at Duke Energy.”

My friend didn’t let the comment bother him, instead accepting that his grandfather didn’t understand that writing and even self-publishing is an entirely legitimate career path nowadays. Is it worth only selling your book on Amazon? Yes! As a self-made author who primarily markets on Amazon, I cannot recommend this route highly enough.

Make a Plan

Before writing your book’s outline, here are 8 crucial steps all great writers should use to plan ahead:

  • Create a writing space
  • Set a schedule
  • Determine word count goals
  • Set deadlines
  • Do your research (market, genre, topical)
  • Discover your voice & tone
  • Choose the best book writing software for your project
  • Get in the author mindset

Create a Writing Space

When you create a space for writing, it will mentally help you to set aside that space for only writing. Your writing space should not be the same as your home office or your relaxation space. If you write your book in the same place as you watch TV, the temptation of TV easily overpowers your will to write. If you work in the same area as you write, it’s difficult to distinguish the two in your subconscious. Of course, you don’t always have to write in the same place. Although some writers need to be in one place at a single desk to get in the headspace, many authors can write from multiple locations with no problem. A good space for writing might be:

  • A dining room your family doesn’t use
  • A home office no one is using
  • A desk in your bedroom (facing away from the bed)
  • A coffee shop
  • On the porch
  • At the park

Set a Schedule

Every author can benefit from setting a designated writing time. Determine when you can work on your book and set a schedule. Some authors love sticking to a strict schedule. For others, a schedule is just a helpful guideline. At first, you may want to experiment with various lengths of time and days of the week. Figure out how long it takes you specifically to write what you want to write in a given day. Some writers may need to relegate their writing to 8 hours on Saturday. Others may have the luxury of spending 2 hours writing, 5 days a week. For inspiration from successful authors, check out Medium’s article: The Daily Routine of 20 Famous Writers (and How You Can Use Them to Succeed) .

Determine Word Count Goals

You should determine your word count goal for each writing session. Average word count goals for bestselling book authors range between 500 and 2,000 words a day. Again, for some authors, this strict word count goal is helpful. For others, it is nice to have a general goal to target — there’s no need to stress out if you don’t reach it. Of course, your word count goal is flexible. It depends on your writing schedule, your genre, your experience, your discipline, how far you are in your book, and your own personal writing habits. Many book writing tools, such as Atticus allow you to set daily word count goals and keep track for you.

Side note: Check out this fascinating article for more info: The Daily Word Counts of 19 Famous Writers .

Set Deadlines

A deadline for your writing makes you accountable. It gives you a tangible target. It drives you. How many of us didn’t do the college paper until the night before it was due? Well, you can’t write a book in one night, but the sentiment still applies. Setting a due date — even if it’s arbitrary — motivates you to keep writing, keep writing, every day on your schedule, and continue to reach your daily word count goal. Set up a way to track your time and word count progress. Atticus allows you to set an overall word count goal and a deadline to reach that overall word count. (I know I keep gushing about Atticus, but it just has so many amazing features .) Here’s a great article on How Long It Takes to Write a Book & Do it Well .

Do Your Research

Do not skip this step. This is not boring. It is necessary. You need to do your research on the market, your genre, and the specific topic you’ve chosen to write about. If you don’t, sales numbers and the quality of your book will suffer. Depending on your genre, whether you write fiction or nonfiction, and your familiarity with your future readers, you will probably need to conduct:

Market Research

Genre research, topical research.

Get to know your audience. Market research tells you what readers want. It may also predict the sort of sales you can expect. Market research might tell you that few people are interested in stories about a sentient clump of dirt. How would you market and sell that book ? Consider catering your story to the market research you discover. This isn’t selling out. This is catering to a particular audience. Figure out what your readers are looking for. Often, readers will respond to an audience avatar, which is a character the reader can really relate to. If you’re writing a fantasy book, I strongly recommend working dragons into your story. Dragons sell. The word “dragon” sells. A picture of a dragon on the cover sells.

If you’re writing a children’s book , don’t be afraid to bank on traditions: Boys love superheroes, and girls love princesses. If you’re writing a nonfiction book , try to reach an untapped market. A friend of mine is writing a book on a specific category of mobile software development that he couldn’t find any books on. He taught himself and now wants to teach others what he learned.

Genre research is critical. You need to deliver certain unspoken promises to your audience. Each genre has its own expected tropes and unspoken promises that you need to know to satisfy your reader. Find out what is typical for your genre:

  • Character archetypes
  • Word count/chapter length
  • Story structure
  • Common themes

Pro tip: Check the Amazon bestsellers list in your genre for hugely helpful research. If you write a romance book, for instance, and you don’t deliver on the expected tropes of romance, you’re going to get negative reviews and fewer sales. There is a fine line between unique and unsatisfying. Check out these great articles on genre research:

  • Tropes Readers Adore Across 15 Fiction Genres
  • 101 Horror Tropes
  • 7 Thriller Tropes That Have Stood the Test of Time
  • 101 Romance Tropes For Writers
  • Kid Novel Tropes
  • 101 Fantasy Tropes

Fiction or nonfiction, most books require some foothold in reality. Topical research entails the research you must do to fully understand what you’re writing. Readers can tell if you don’t know what you’re talking about. Even if a reader isn’t an expert, lack/misuse of jargon, an illogical timeline, or not following your own rules will key the reader in that you didn’t do your topical research. Then, you will lose credibility with the reader.

You don’t need to be a degreed expert on police procedures to write a police drama. You don’t need to scientifically study a unique type of plant to write about a forest. You don’t have to learn every detail of the War of 1812 to write a historical drama around that time. But it needs to be evident in your writing that you have taken the time to research important aspects of your book’s topic. If you can interview an expert, that’s an added bonus. You could even put that on the back cover or the foreword bragging that you did the in-person research. You need to get readers to trust you as a writer as early in your tale as possible.

Discover Your Voice & Tone

Discover your unique voice and the tone you’re most comfortable writing in. This may change between books, particularly if you swap genres or if you’re a nonfiction writer who now writes fiction. Find your unique words. Determine if humor has a place. How literary will your prose be? Read other books in your genre for inspiration. For example, one of my author friends decided to use “is/are/am/be” as little as possible in his prose, then go crazy with it in his dialogue — giving the dialogue a distinctly relaxed feeling separate from the prose. Another example is Jane Austen’s unique voice. I think of Elinor in Sense & Sensibility. Her intellectual, judicious voice was one of the first examples in the literature of the character speaking for themselves instead of an author avatar. If you benefit from writing prompts to discover your voice, try out Daily Prompt on iOS. Word to the wise: Deciding to employ unique grammar techniques is risky. Some readers are sticklers for grammar and may put down your book if it contains what they perceive as grammatical “errors.” For some readers, these choices are a distraction. For some authors, though, these changes are necessary or more aesthetically pleasing.

Choose the Best Book Writing Software for Your Project

You may already have Microsoft Word downloaded to your computer or be comfortable with Google Docs because you use it for work. But I implore you to choose the best book writing software for writing your individual project.

I use Atticus for all my fiction novel writing. MS Word may suffice, but it is definitely inferior to Atticus’s robust features emphasizing organization and customization.

Several book writing tools are available to try. Some cost a one-time fee, while others cost a monthly subscription fee. (I suggest the one-time price tag.) Be careful using Google Docs to write a novel. Once you get above 15,000 words or so, Google Docs slows down. It is designed for short-form, collaborative documents — not lengthy books, though their technology is improving. Below are 4 pieces of software for writing your book:

Microsoft Word

Read my more in-depth article on the Best Book Writing Software .

Use Atticus. It is unmatched in overall capability. Not only does it allow you to write great books, but it comes with tracking software to help you form effective writing habits, and it's a robust formatting software , which means you'll never need to use more than one program to handle the entire novel production process from start to finish.

Read my full review of Atticus .

How much does Atticus cost?

  • Atticus costs $147 as a one-time fee. This includes all current and upcoming features, including all writing, formatting, and collaboration features.
  • It works on virtually all platforms, including Mac, Windows, Linux, and Chromebook.

Scrivener is the next best thing. It has great organization and customization, but it has a steep learning curve, but only because it is such an amazing piece of software. You can upload all your research files (including images and audio) into the Binder sidebar, so everything shows up in one window. You can split-screen within Scrivener, bookmark files, or simply write with its distraction-free Composition Mode. Read my full review of Scrivener . How much does Scrivener cost?

  • Scrivener costs $49 (one-time) for Mac or Windows.
  • It’s $19.99 for iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch).
  • Reduced pricing of $41.65 is available for “students & academics.”

There is a full 30-working-day free trial that only counts the days you use the app. Use Kindlepreneur’s unique discount code (KINDLEPRENEUR) to get 20% OFF your purchase.

  • Download Scrivener 3 for Mac
  • Download Scrivener 1 for Windows , which is on par with Scrivener 2 for Mac (update coming in 2021)
  • Download Scrivener 1 for iOS , which is also on par with Scrivener 2 on Mac (a handy tool for on-the-go writing with an iPad or iPhone)

Ulysses is a sleek, easy-to-use, yet customizable book writing tool. Your project syncs automatically between devices, or you can store projects locally. Not only does it look great, but it also utilizes a drag and drop functionality with its Library feature. Unfortunately for Windows users, Ulysses works only on Apple products. The price has gone up in recent years. Ulysses now costs $5.99/month or $49.99/year. However, they do offer a free 2-week trial.

Microsoft Word is the industry standard for word processing. Most people think of MS Word when you say “word processor.” However, it’s meant for memos and business letters — not novel writing. Most writers probably use MS Word because it is so ubiquitous. Heck, the famous DOC/DOCX file format originated from Microsoft Word. Stephen King uses MS Word to write his book manuscripts, as do other authors. But there are many helpful word processors out there that boast more robust features ideal for writing a book. Word is cumbersome and only suitable for writing in a linear fashion. For many writers, it is helpful to write out of order or switch around the order of scenes and chapters. In MS Word, this is very inconvenient. How much does Microsoft Word cost? Microsoft Word costs $139.99 as a one-time purchase. Alternatively, you could spend $6.99/month (or more) for a subscription to Microsoft 365, including Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook, and 1 TB of cloud storage on OneDrive.

Get in the Author Mindset

To get in the author mindset, a million authors will do a million different things. Figure out what you specifically need to do to get into the writing mindset, and do that every time you get ready to write. What might help you get into that author mindset:

  • Walk around outside (my favorite brainstorming method)
  • Turn on relaxing or mood-setting music ( YouTube has every playlist imaginable, including ambiance scenes to transport you anywhere you wish you were writing)
  • Read a book
  • Listen to an audiobook
  • Read your outline where you’re about to start writing
  • Sit outside and breathe in the fresh air
  • Write in a journal
  • Doodle in a notebook
  • Close everything else on your computer
  • Clear your desk

Now that you’ve done the hard work of preparation, it’s time to outline your book! This is where we diverge from planning that applies to fiction and nonfiction and focus more on an outline for a fiction novel. (If you’re writing a nonfiction book, skip to section 3 for helpful writing tips.)

Yes, you need to outline your book — whether it’s vague or very detailed. For some authors, a very general outline can give your story direction and focus, like a roadmap. For others, a highly detailed outline prevents writer’s block, improves pacing, avoids plot holes, and saves time editing after the fact. How do you begin to write a book? You begin to write a book by writing the book’s outline. Writing an outline ahead of time can preemptively prevent writer’s block, plot holes, and pacing problems. And you can always edit your outline later; it’s a living document.

  • Choose an outline type
  • Pick an outlining software
  • Actually write the outline

Check out my in-depth guide: How To Outline A Novel .

Choose an Outline Type

There are many types of novel outlines. Some are more detailed than others, so pick the outline type that best fits your individual needs:

  • A synopsis outline looks the most like an essay. When you write a synopsis , you need to summarize everything that matters to the story in 2-3 pages.
  • A beat sheet outline lists the “beats” of the story into individual paragraphs or bullet points. A beat is a change in tone, motivation, character development , etc.
  • A mind map shows the spatial relationship between characters, story beats, timelines, and chapters. You can map out any number of story elements on your mind map.
  • A scenes and sequences outline lists out all the scenes and sequences in your story, in whatever order you want. Switch the order and experiment with scene progression. This outline can be detailed or vague.
  • A character outline puts character development first. List out the critical moments in your character arcs. Check out How to Create a Character Profile .
  • A skeleton outline lists out the key plot points in your story. It is the most sparse approach to outlining.

Pick an Outlining Software

Whatever outlining software you pick, it should help you. That’s the only requirement. The best outlining software can be the same as your novel writing software. But some authors find it useful to utilize software explicitly designed for novel outlining.

  • Scrivener offers ready-made, built-in templates for plotting out all sorts of books and genres. Using these templates, you can organize your thoughts into an effective novel outline.
  • The Novel Factory is a structure-heavy novel outlining software. Easy to use, genre-specific templates, robust export capabilities — the main downside is that it isn’t available on Mac. Read my full review of The Novel Factory or download The Novel Factory today . Use my coupon code KINDLEPRENEUR to get 20% off your subscription.
  • Plot Factory is useful outlining software that offers straightforward templates, character creation features, world-building capabilities, and many more. Read my full review of Plot Factory or download Plot Factory today . Use my coupon code KINDLEPRENEUR for 35% for the first 12 months!
  • Plottr is a handy outlining tool that offers templates such as the 8 Sequences Method, Hero’s Journey , 12 Chapter Mystery Formula, and so much more. Read my full review of Plottr .
  • Microsoft Word offers a bunch of book outline templates that make creative writing easier. Plus, if you download any outline template from the web, you can likely open it with Word.
  • Google Docs is fantastic for collaboration . If you work with another person on your book outline, Google Docs autosaves to the cloud every few seconds across multiple devices at once.
  • Evernote helps you take notes in a modern, sophisticated way. Write down your notes however you want, share notes with others, and access Evernote across unlimited devices.
  • Ulysses creates projects out of fragments, such as chapters or scenes — a structure that lends itself to outlining in segments.
  • bibisco is a word processor that emphasizes character. Before you start writing, bibisco encourages you to fully map out your character beats and character arcs — great for character-led outlining.

Create the Premise

You need to create a premise for your novel. This gives your writing direction, helps with marketing, and provides you with an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a 30-second pitch about what makes your story interesting, unique, and worthy of attention. To create the premise of your novel, write down the following:

  • Main protagonist
  • Main antagonist
  • Secondary characters
  • Character motivations
  • Central theme
  • Inciting incident
  • The book description (seriously, you want this written before you write the book)

Now brainstorm. Write down all your thoughts, even the bad ones. Don’t censor your ideas. There are no bad ideas when you’re brainstorming. Break up your book into smaller pieces. Determine the natural progression of your main idea and central theme. Finally, consider your reader’s perspective. Is this book’s central idea what your readers want? Figure out the intersection between what you find most interesting and what audiences find most interesting. Now you have created a premise that will give your writing focus and direction. You can use this premise to entice potential readers, editors, agents, or publishers.

Craft the Setting

The setting is where the story takes place. The setting should enhance character development, plot points, mood/tone, atmosphere, suspense, the passage of time, etc. You must craft a setting that is:

  • Interesting
  • Evocative of some emotion
  • Vital to the central theme
  • Important to your character(s)
  • Well-fleshed out
  • Well-researched

Even if you don’t write down everything about your setting in the actual book, you need to understand everything about your setting. Readers can tell if you’re making the setting up as you go or if you know more than they do about where the story takes place.

Construct the Characters

Next, construct your characters , the story element with which most readers connect the most.

You must give each significant character (at least the protagonist and antagonist) a satisfying character arc. Many readers will care more about the character development than the plot development! The plot should serve characters as much as characters contribute to the plot. Give each major character:

  • Motivations
  • External conflict(s)
  • Internal conflict(s)
  • Complex relationships with other characters
  • Backstory (avoid cliches, which are very easy to include in backstories)
  • Distinct traits , including physical and personality attributes
  • Strengths and weaknesses (character flaws are essential!)

You can base characters on real-life people, but I recommend not basing your character entirely on an individual person that you know. Instead, take inspiration for one character from multiple real-life people.

When you put your character through challenging situations, remember that you should construct characters that make bold choices that move the plot forward. Your main character should be more than just an observer.

Develop the Plot

Now that you have your outline type, outlining software, premise, setting, and characters, it’s time to develop your plot.

A plot is what happens in a story.

  • In the beginning, decide what exposition you need to occur in the plot before the inciting incident. How will you introduce your main character(s)? How will you get readers to care about the main character(s)?
  • After the inciting incident that starts the central conflict of the book, what rising actions occur? There should be twists and turns, surprising character development, and satisfying payoffs to promises made by the genre choice or premise.
  • To avoid the mid-novel slump, continue to put your character through hardships and mini-conflicts that engage the reader and keep up your story’s pace.
  • Usually, before the climax, the main character faces their lowest point. This is where he or she hits rock bottom.
  • The climax should solve the main conflict of the novel. It should be the most intense, satisfying section of your book.
  • The resolution is usually pretty short. What character arcs and side plots need to be resolved? Are there any unanswered questions?
  • Finally, a denouement is the very ending. What is the last thing that happens in your book?

Some authors may benefit from writing their plot on a physical piece of paper or index cards to start with. It may help to use a plot structure, especially if this is your first time writing a novel. You can use any of these templates (or none of them — it’s your book!):

  • Three-Act Story Structure
  • Hero’s Journey Template (by Joseph Campbell)
  • The Snowflake Method (by Randy Ingermanson)
  • Save the Cat Beat Worksheet (by Blake Snyder)
  • The One-Page Outline

It may sound simple, but writing a book takes hard work and determination. You have your goals, your space, your topic, and your research. Now you need to write that book!

Read my article on How to Start a Story that Hooks Readers Right Away . As long as you have an outline, writer’s block and procrastination shouldn’t be significant problems. Whenever you sit down to write, go to whatever scene in your outline speaks to you most. Yes, you can write a book out of order — and it’s easy to do with a detailed outline. Some authors may write in a very linear fashion. Depending on the narrative, it may be necessary to write every chapter and scene in order. There are many rules of writing a book, including industry standards for formatting, grammar, and avoiding cliches. I cover 20 major writing rules below, but there are also many “rules” of writing a book that you can choose not to obey, as long as you have a good reason. How many pages should a book be? A book can be any number of pages, depending on audience and genre. A novel is defined as at least 40,000 words (or about 150 novel pages), though most authors aim to double that word count. Fantasy and science fiction tend to be longer. Nonfiction books vary wildly, depending on how long it takes to thoroughly discuss the topic. Because you have the outline from the previous section, I’m not going to take you through how to write a beginning, middle, and end to your story. I’ve already covered how to outline those. However, I think this is the place for handy tips and tricks that every author should know.

Follow These Writing Principles

Although most of these are strong suggestions, not necessarily must-dos, these writing principles can guide you through your writing process and result in a higher quality book. 20 writing tips, tricks, industry standards, and guiding principles for authors:

  • Come up with a book title before you write. A title can give you direction, guidance, and focus. However, change it if need be. In the middle of writing, or after you’re finished, experiment with various title options. Check out this Book Title Generator .
  • Pick a subtitle for marketing purposes. A subtitle can increase your novel’s visibility by including valuable keywords that are great for searchability and marketing purposes.
  • Choose a basic typeface. When you’re writing a manuscript, stick with Times New Roman. When you’re submitting your manuscript to a publisher or a literary agent, they don’t want to see fancy fonts or weird formatting.
  • Don’t start with a cliché. Beginning clichés include waking up, looking in a mirror, lots of dialogue, a dream sequence, a weather description, backstory, and similar book beginnings you’ve heard many times. Some experts even argue against starting with an action scene or prologue, but I would disagree. Those last two can be done well.
  • Don’t start with an info dump. This is a common mistake for new book writers. They want to orient readers into their story’s world and setting. They want to immediately describe everything about their characters that they worked so hard to develop. But you need to start your novel with a hook, a little mystery, and an action (not an action scene, to be precise). An info dump on the first page will scare off readers, editors, agents, etc.
  • Stick to one perspective. If you want to write in a first-person perspective, stick to it. Same for third-person — but with the added caveat of omniscient vs. limited. Beginner’s tip: Don’t use the first person for a first novel; it can easily come off as amateurish and overly introspective. Also, most writers should never use more than 1-3 POV characters. George R.R. Martin is the rare exception.
  • Stick to one tense. Your book should probably be in the past tense. Present tense books from first-time authors tend to read as amateurish. However, young adult books may work in the present tense. Whatever you choose, stick to it. Do not go in and out of present tense. Read this article on when to use “had/have/has” in past tense flashbacks.
  • Use adverbs sparingly. Adverbs may be a crutch for many inexperienced authors. Instead of an adverb, you should use a powerful verb that expresses gripping action without needing an adverb. For example, instead of your main character “loudly saying” an important line of dialogue, perhaps she should “exclaim” it.
  • Avoid “to be. ” Like avoiding adverbs, avoid “to be,” and its conjugates is/am/are/was/were. Use them whenever necessary, of course. But “to be” may signal passive voice and can often be replaced with a more powerful verb.
  • Be careful with pronouns. Pronouns are great tools for avoiding repetition. However, you don’t want to confuse the reader with multiple he’s and she’s and they’s. When you finish a chapter, read it aloud and see if you confuse yourself with any pronoun usage.
  • Ensure every chapter has conflict. Without conflict, your reader feels no stakes or urgency. Every single page should feature conflict and the progression towards its resolution. When you’re about to write a chapter — or finish one — ask yourself if that chapter has/had conflict. No? Then cut it. (Or rework it.)
  • Make every sentence reveal character or advance the action. This is Kurt Vonnegut’s incredible advice that still holds true today. If a sentence doesn't accomplish one or both of these things, remove it. If the paragraph still makes sense, leave that sentence out.
  • Never answer every question. From the first page, your readers need a question that demands an answer. You can introduce any number of questions, but never leave all the questions answered. An unanswered question is what makes readers want to keep reading. Answer a question here and there to satisfy readers with a sense of progression, but never answer every question.
  • Avoid lengthy sentences. Sometimes, a long sentence is needed. More often than not, however, readers digest shorter sentences better. Especially in action scenes, suspenseful sequences, or heated arguments, lengthy sentences disrupt the momentum.
  • Format your dialogue correctly. Commas and periods almost always go inside quotation marks. Check out my article on formatting dialogue for more in-depth info.
  • Use dialogue tags sparingly. Dialogue tags, like “they said” or “she answered” or “Taylor sang” can be useful. However, replace dialogue tags with action tags from the speaker for more spice and less repetition. For instance, don’t write [Greg said, “Where are you?”]. Write [Greg cupped his hands around his mouth. “Where are you?”] instead.
  • Don’t use flowery dialogue tags. “Said” is basically an invisible word. You can use it over and over without the reader noticing. Don’t replace it with more exciting words: elucidated, informed, filibustered, clarified, etc. These can easily distract the reader and ruin the flow of the conversation.
  • Give your characters bold choices. Make sure your characters are making bold choices that progress the plot. No one wants to read about a casual observer in an otherwise fascinating narrative. The main character should directly affect the story.
  • Create likable characters. You readers will root for your characters if the characters do likable things. Have your character show kindness to someone who is bullied. Have your character tell the truth in the face of a lie. Have your character save a cat from a tree (any Blake Snyder fans?).
  • Create unlikable characters. Inversely, you probably want readers to hate certain characters in your book. Have your antagonist bully someone smaller or weaker than him/her. Have your antagonist lie, even if it’s petty and seems insignificant. Give your antagonist snarky comebacks to everything people say. But be careful — you don’t want too many unlikable characters. The most fun part of these characters is working in their comeuppance into the ending of your novel.

Take a Break Before Editing

Once you’ve finished your first draft, take a break. You deserve it! You’ll likely go through a second draft, third draft, beta reader draft, professional edit draft, and another professionally edited draft before you get to your final draft. But those will all be easier than writing the darn thing. You’ve conquered the behemoth. You’ve finished a book. No one can take that away from you. Now sleep in for a few days.

Editing your book may take a lot of time, but it doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful.

You must edit your own book; then , you must hire a human editor. There’s no getting around it. No professional author publishes his/her first draft: not James Patterson, J.K. Rowling, or Joyce Carol Oates. You need to edit your own book to be the best it can be before an editor makes it even better. You need to hire a human editor to go over your book, or readers will be distracted by every little mistake you missed: grammar, spelling, word choice, amateurish writing style, all sorts of errors. Now here’s where the article diverges into 2 paths:

  • If you’re traditionally publishing, the publishing house will pay for a human editor.
  • If you’re self-publishing, you will need to pay for a human editor.

When editing, it’s almost always better to cut than to add. Although it can feel like you’re cutting off parts of your baby, some subplots, useless characters, lengthy descriptions, and directionless twists hurt your story more than they help it. Let’s break up the editing process into 3 steps:

  • Developmental edits
  • Scene edits

Developmental Edits

When editing, you should deal with developmental edits first. These are big picture edits that become clearer after the entire narrative has been created. For a nonfiction book, these edits frequently involve the clarity, focus, and consistency of your primary theme. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • Are there places the information or storytelling bogs down the pace?
  • Is my voice consistent throughout the book?
  • Are there any gaps in my content or places where the flow feels disorganized?
  • Does my book meet the need of my audience or just my own vision?

Read Cascadia’s breakdown of developmental editing for nonfiction books . For a fiction book, developmental edits include making changes to your:

Your characters should have clear motivation , distinct characteristics, believable choices, and satisfying character arcs. Readers experience your book through the characters’ eyes, so characters are usually your most important story element. Changing characters may mean changing many scenes or even adding scenes to elucidate their traits and motivations. Your plot should be engaging, believable, satisfying, and free of plot holes. Your plot should follow a plot structure and genre expectations. If your plot doesn’t check any of these boxes, consider editing your story’s overall plot. This might mean cutting out or adding entire chapters. Make sure there are no loose ends or plot points that go nowhere. Your ending should be preceded by a build-up, foreshadowing, set-ups, and a clear central theme summed up by said ending. Your conflict should engage the reader, further the character development, and make them want to keep turning pages. Consider editing your central conflict if you see ways to strengthen your conflict. Every chapter needs to have a conflict, as well as advancing the overall conflict. Look through your table of contents , and ask of each chapter, “What is the conflict happening in this chapter?” Your theme needs to be clearly conveyed, usually via your plot, characters’ motivations, and conflict/resolution. If you think your themes don’t come across clearly enough, you may need to adjust certain scenes to clarify your central theme. Beta readers are really helpful in determining whether your themes come across.

Scene Edits

We’ve got our big picture developmental edits out of the way. Now let’s dive into scene-by-scene edits, a critical step for editing fiction. Here’s a checklist for when you do your scene edits:

  • Each scene and sequence should contribute to character development or the central conflict. Scenes can contribute to worldbuilding, backstory, and atmosphere, but no scene should go by without character development or conflict development.
  • Always start a scene in media res (in the middle of the action). It helps with pacing, keeps readers engaged, and offers up a mini-question for you to answer right away.
  • Always end a scene with a cliffhanger, however small. Keep your readers asking questions and turning those pages.
  • Make sure every scene is correctly oriented in time and location. Readers need to know where and when everything is happening. Near the beginning of each scene, insert a brief physical description of the unique qualities of where the scene takes place.
  • If one scene is a lot longer than other scenes, ensure that your physical descriptions aren’t overly long, or that your dialogue doesn’t go on and on, or that your action scenes aren’t slow-paced.
  • If one scene is shorter than other scenes, determine whether the pacing is too rushed, whether you skipped establishing time and location, or whether that scene could be combined with another.
  • Every scene needs a consistent voice, a consistent POV, and a consistent tone.
  • Of course, show, don’t tell in every scene.

Now you can proofread and edit your book, line by line. If you don’t have the dexterity to pour over every sentence for grammar, spelling, word choice, and more, then you can use proofreading software like ProWritingAid or Grammarly . Hemingway is another valid option, but it’s my third choice compared to the other two. List of common errors you should fix in copy edits:

  • Passive voice
  • Too many commas
  • Filter words (which are most common when writing in the first person)
  • Too many adverbs
  • Inconsistent voice or POV
  • Too many pronouns, especially the nonspecific “it”
  • Sentences that go on, and on, and on
  • Improper subject-verb agreement
  • Misused words
  • Repeated words
  • Overused jargon

Stop Editing Your Own Book

Once you’ve edited and edited and edited, know when it’s time to stop. You’ve done well. You’ve spent the time necessary to improve your manuscript. Now reward yourself with a week’s rest.

Authors may have big egos.

Not you, of course — other authors…

But it is essential to separate yourself from your work and get feedback from beta readers, professional proofreaders, and editors. You can get feedback from anyone, but I recommend you seek feedback mainly from folks who know something about writing, publishing, or book marketing. Librarians, avid readers, English majors — these people may give you the most constructive feedback.

Enlist Beta Readers

Enlist beta readers to give you feedback. Find willing beta readers on social media , friend groups, and anywhere else you can imagine. Alternatively, you can find a critique partner. This is basically a beta reader for whom you also beta read. Usually, critique partners have some experience in the field, so they can prove very helpful. Plus, most are free. How many beta readers should you have? You should have at least 3-5 beta readers, but some new writers cast a wider net for more feedback opportunities. Unfortunately, some beta readers may never get around to reading your work. They are doing this for free, so don’t harbor too many grievances. I do recommend creating some kind of guide, like a few questions to ask themselves as they're reading. A deadline can also help. Although you want feedback, don’t necessarily make any changes until 2 or 3 beta readers give you the same feedback. Some authors enlist beta readers after they’ve hired a professional proofreader. But I say that’s not necessary.

Hire Editor(s)

You need at least one professional human editor to look over your work. And yes, this is after you’ve edited it yourself. You need to present your best work to a human editor and let him or her make it even better. If you’re publishing through a traditional publisher, they will hire editors in return for a share of your royalties. If you’re self-publishing, this is a necessary (and tax-deductible) expense. And I won’t lie to you: Full-time editors cost money. A copy editor or line editor is different from a proofreader. Here are the 4 types of editors , in chronological order of when they should be hired in your editing process:

  • Developmental editors are the first editor you should hire. They can be the most expensive, but they look at your whole book and help you know what big picture changes you should make to improve your overall story.
  • Line editors focus on the flow of ideas, transitional elements, mood, tone, voice, and style throughout your entire book. They make sentences crisper and tighter by fixing redundancy and verbosity issues and improve awkward sentence and paragraph construction without a full rewrite.
  • Copy editors make changes to the text, including spelling, grammar, word choice, syntax errors, and punctuation use. (“Copy editing” means something different in the UK; there, it’s akin to proofreading.)
  • Proofreaders search for last-minute spelling, grammar, and minor formatting mistakes. A professional proofreader looking over your formatted book should be the final step before publishing.

Of course, you don’t need to hire all four editors. I recommend hiring a developmental editor early in the editing process, a line editor near the end of the editing process, and a proofreader with formatting experience right before publishing. How do you find a great book editor? The best way to find a book editor you can trust is often a word-of-mouth referral from an accomplished author. You may also try book editing services that connect you with fantastic editors for your book. How much does an editor cost?

  • Developmental editors may cost $1,000 and $8,000, depending on your manuscript length and the individual proofreading professional.
  • Line editors charge between $600 and $2,000.
  • Copy editors run between $300 and $1,200.
  • Proofreaders will set you back between $200 and $1,000.

Check out these helpful articles:

  • Book Editing 101
  • Book Editing Blueprint (a fantastic class I’d recommend!)
  • List of the Best Book Editors and How to Select Them
  • Best Proofreading Software
  • Best Proofreading Services You'll Ever Find

Build Your Launch Team

Your launch team ( ARC team ) is a group of people who help your book launch prove as successful as possible. Members of your launch team leave (glowing but honest) reviews on Amazon and share the book’s launch with their circle of influence. The more book reviews you have, the more Amazon suggests your book to other readers. Also, good reviews of your book mean more people are likely to buy your book. A launch team could include:

  • Beta readers
  • Friends/family who want to support you
  • Fans of your previous work
  • Readers of your blog
  • Followers on your social media
  • Critique partners
  • Business contacts
  • Fellow authors

When you recruit launch team members, make sure they know what to do on launch day/week and kindly hold them accountable for following through. Offer freebies to encourage follow-through.

Publish & Market Your Book!

Finally, it’s time to publish your book. And don’t forget you have to market your own book, too — whether you’re going through the self-publishing or traditional publishing process.

When you publish your book, make sure you format your book correctly , nail your back cover blurb , have a stellar book cover (traditional publishers will usually pay for this), and properly organize the front matter and back matter . Hopefully, you know that you have to start marketing your book long before it hits shelves and the online marketplace. Be sure to check out my podcast about book marketing . Here are some articles you can read to learn more about book marketing:

  • Book Marketing 101
  • Kindle Keywords for Self-Publishers
  • Ultimate List of the Best Book Review Blogs
  • How to Use Surveys to Sell More Books
  • Best Email Services for Authors
  • How to Sell Your Books in an Indie Bookstore

Dave Chesson

Related posts, writing a book for the first time a breakdown of the complete process, how to write the best novel outline of 2023: 6 easy steps, sell more books on amazon, amazon kindle rankings e-book.

Learn how to rank your Kindle book #1 on Amazon with our collection of time-tested tips and tricks.

3 thoughts on “ How to Write a Book in 2023: The Ultimate Guide for Authors ”

Loved this format, Dave – am currently editing my next book, so could skip right to that section for tips. The bloggers list will also come in handy for me very soon, so that’s much appreciated too!

I really enjoyed this article. There were many good points I never considered. I am a new writer. I self-published my first book in 2008, it is on Amazon. I am working on a second novel and it is in the revising stage. I cannot afford an editor, so I hope my editing will be enough. I plan to submit to Amazon.

Thank you so much for the hard work you put into making this information available for authors or soon to be authors, it was much needed.

I laughed over the idea of outlining software. Really? I do my initial outline in longhand in my plots notebook, where I also describe the characters. I wouldn’t feel connected to them if I did them onscreen. Then I outline 6 chapters ahead, on the end of my document, erasing or moving events around as I go with the chapters written. It sounds like someone has come up with a way to make authors spend more. If I want to write out of order, I add a scene or convo to the plot outline to slot in. Word is quite flexible enough! You don’t need any fancy software. Indeed, you can do it longhand with a separate notebook for outlines. And then edit the first time on transcription, which is more efficient than writing to screen. Only arthritis makes me abandon the habit.

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The Write Practice

How to Write a Book: The Ultimate Guide (with Free Book Idea Worksheet!)

by Joe Bunting | 0 comments

You want to write a book. Maybe you have a great story idea. Maybe you have a big idea you want to share with the world. Maybe people have told you, “Your life should be made into a book!” But first, you have to learn how to write a book.

how to write a bok

The problem for the first-time author is figuring out how to get started. What are the writing habits you need to finish the actual writing for an entire book? And what comes next for your writing goals: traditional publishing? Self-publishing? Becoming a New York Times bestselling book? A long and illustrious writing career?

Because after coaching thousands of writers to write and finish their books, and also writing fifteen books of my own, I know exactly how much hard work it takes to finish a book.

It's not enough to want to write, you need to know how to write a book.

You need to have the right process. The write process, you might say (sorry, I had to!).

In this guide, we're going to learn everything about how to write a nonfiction book, from how to defeat procrastination and find writing time, all the way to revising and the editing process—and even to the publishing process.

If you've ever wanted to write a book, whether a memoir, a big idea book, or a self help book, you're in the right place.

If, on the other hand, you're a fiction writer and have a main character who you know is going to take the world by storm, we have a complete guide on novel writing here . For you nonfiction writers, though, read on for all our best writing tips.

And that free book idea worksheet ? Here's your FREE download: Book Idea Worksheet

Quick Tip: The Best Tool to Write a Book

Before we get started, here's a quick tip for writing a book, Microsoft Word just doesn't cut it.

My favorite writing tool is Scrivener, a book writing software used by the most successful writers. Scrivener helps you stay organized, set word count goals, and keep better track of your writing sessions. Check out our full review of Scrivener here.

How to Fail Writing a Book

In 2011, I had one of the best years of my life. That year, I wrote my first book, became a full-time writer, got my first book published , became a bestselling author, and had 80,000 people read my writing.

But it didn't happen overnight. I had dreamed about and had been working toward those goals for eight years before that: eight years of failure, of trying to write books and not being able to finish them, eight years of wanting to be a writer but not knowing how to actually do it .

Since then, I've written fifteen books, including one book that recently hit the Wall Street Journal bestsellers list.

You might be thinking, “That's cool, Joe. But you're clearly a talented writer. Writing is hard work for me.”

To be honest, it doesn't come easy to me. In fact, if I told my high school English teachers I'm a writer, they would probably be shocked.

The difference is that I found the right process. It's a step-by-step process that works every time, and it will work for you too.

In this guide, I'm going to share the process that I've used to write fifteen books, become a professional writer, and hit the bestsellers list.

But it's not just me. I've also trained thousands of people in our 100 Day Book program to finish books using this process, too.

It works, and it will work for you, if you follow it.

That being said, if you're still not sure you can actually do this alone, or if you just want some extra help along the way, check out 100 Day Book . In this program, we've helped thousands of aspiring writers turned authors to accomplish their dream of writing a book, and we'd love to help you, too. Click to learn more about 100 Day Book here.

How to Write a Book: 12 Steps to Writing a Book

Here's the process I finally learned after that decade of trying to learn how to write a book and failing, the same twelve steps that have helped me write fifteen books.

come up with a book idea

1. Come Up With a Great Book Idea

If you're here, you probably have a book idea already. Maybe you have several ideas.

And if that's true, great! Pat yourself on the back. You've made it to step one.

Here's what to do next: forget any sense accomplishment you have.

Yes, I'm serious.

Here's what George R.R. Martin said:

“Ideas are useless. Execution is everything.”

Because the thing is, an idea alone, even a great idea, is just the small step to write your book.

There are a lot more steps, and all of them are more difficult than coming up with your initial idea. (I'm sorry if that's discouraging!)

You have an idea. Great! Next, it's time to learn how to execute the way successful authors do. Let's get started with step 2.

(Don't have an idea yet? Check out this article: How to Write When You Don't Have Ideas .)

write a premise

2. Write Your Book Idea In the Form of a 1-Sentence Premise

The next step to taking your idea and turning it into a book is to summarize your idea into a single-sentence premise.

But wait, what's a premise ?

A premise distills your entire book idea down to a single sentence. This sentence becomes the foundation of all your writing efforts and will be helpful even into publishing process.

Your premise is also the most important part of a book proposal, so a good premise can actually help you get published.

Here’s an example of a nonfiction premise from my book The Write Structure , which got half a dozen responses from agents.

The Write Structure utilizes The Write Practice’s ( award-winning methodology to show creative writers how to write their best novels, memoirs, short stories, or screenplays by following story structure principles used and taught by writers for hundreds of years.

Each nonfiction book premise should contain the following three elements:

  • A problem . The problem the book aims to solve (in this case, how to write a good novel, memoir, short story, or screenplay)
  • A person . Who is the person sharing the solution to that problem, e.g. you
  • A solution . What is your unique process to solve that problem

By simplifying your book down to a single sentence, you create a strong, achievable foundation to your entire book. Not only will this simple step help you during the writing process, it will also help you throughout the publishing process, too, which we'll talk about more in a bit.

Ready to write your premise? To make it easier we have a free worksheet template that will guide you through writing a publishable premise: Download the worksheet here.

Or get a copy of our Write Plan Planner , and have a physical tool to guide you through the writing process. Check out the planner here.

3. Choose Your Publishing Path

When you're writing nonfiction, you have to choose your publishing path earlier than creative writers because most nonfiction books are picked up by publishers before they're written.

In fact, it's a red flag in the eyes of traditional publishers and literary agents if you've finished your book before you pitch them. They want to see a book proposal first, and have a hand in the shaping of the book.

That means, if you're writing nonfiction, and you want to get traditionally published, before you go write your own book, you must write a book proposal.

However, if you're writing a memoir, you may need to finish writing the book before you seek publishing. Memoir exists in something of a gray area in the publishing world, with more self-help focused memoirs requiring a proposal, and more creative memoirs acting more like a novel, where the writer would finish them first.

Which publishing path is right for you? Here are the two main requirements for traditional publishing for nonfiction books:

  • Platform . Do you have authority within this topic? Do you have a following, via social media, speaking, podcast, YouTube, an email list, or some other platform of at least 10,000 people?
  • A tested idea with mass market appeal . Does your idea line up with your platform? Does it have mass market appeal?

If you can't answer “yes” to both of these questions, then you might consider self-publishing, working with a small press, or hybrid press after you complete your book. Or taking a break from your book to build your platform and target audience, perhaps by building an author website and starting a blog. (For more on this, check out this guide on how to build a platform via a blog .)

You might be wondering, at this point too, how do you write a book proposal?

Book proposals vary across writers and publishers, but here are some of the major components:

  • 1-Sentence Premise (see above)
  • 2-4 paragraph synopsis
  • Outline (Table of Contents)
  • Tone and Writing Style
  • Platform Description and Marketing Info
  • 2-3 Sample Chapters

For more on this, check out Jane Friedman's excellent guide on how to write a book proposal .

Now, once you've chosen your publishing path and you're ready to begin writing a whole book, how do you actually finish it? The next steps will all but guarantee you reach The End of your book.

outline your book

4. Outline Your Book

Even you if you don't decide to traditionally publish, I still recommend working through most of the elements of a book proposal listed above, especially the book outline because it will make the writing process so much easier.

Your book's outline will vary widely depending on your genre, your writing style, your book's topic, and your method.

However, there are some tried and true structures that exist in nonfiction books. Here are some suggested structures you can use:

Introduction . Most nonfiction books include a short (2,000 to 3,000 words) introduction. They usually outline the main problem you will be focusing on in the book. They may also introduce you as the author and your authority, and outline the unique solution you will be guiding readers through in your book.

8-10 Chapters . Nonfiction book chapters dive deeper into the problem and give principles or steps to solve that problem. Chapters can have a variety of different structures, but here is my personal favorite, used frequently by Malcolm Gladwell:

  • Opening story
  • Analysis of the story
  • Universal principle
  • Closing story (may be the conclusion of the opening story)

Conclusion . Conclusions usually restate the problem and show how you solved that problem, often ending with a concluding story and a call to action to encourage the reader to go out and put the ideas you've shared to use.

Easy right? Not exactly, but creating this outline will make the rest of the writing process so much easier. Even if it changes, you'll have a resource to help you get unstuck when the writing gets hard.

If you want a template for your outline, as well as a step-by-step guide through the book writing process, get a copy of our Write Plan Planner . This is the exact process that I have used to write fifteen books, and that thousands of other authors in our community have used to finish their book all in a beautiful, daily planner . Check out the planner here.

set a deadline

5. Set a Deadline

This one might surprise you. Because most people think that once you've got your idea ready to go, you should just start writing and not worry about the period of time it takes.

Nope. Not even close.

The next step is to set a deadline for when you're going to finish the first rough draft of your book. But you might be wondering, how long does it take to write a book in the first place?

How long should you set your deadline for?

Some people use NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, to set their deadline for them, writing 50,000 words of book in the thirty days of November. That being said, it's very challenging for most people to finish a book in thirty days.

Stephen King, on the other hand, said the first draft of a book should take no more than a season, so three months. With all due respect to Stephen King, I think that's a little fast for most people.

We give people 100 days , which seems to be just long enough to write a first draft without getting distracted by everything else the world wants you to focus on (looking at you, social media).

So for you, give yourself a week or two to prepare, then set your deadline for about 100 days after that.

There you go! You now have a deadline to finish your book!

break up your deadline

6. Break Your Deadline Into Weekly and Daily Word Counts

You can't pull an all-nighter and finish writing a book. Trust me, I've tried!

Instead, you have to break up your deadline into smaller, weekly, and daily deadlines so you can make measured progress over your writing period. This step breaks the work into manageable pieces.

This step also requires a bit of math. Here's how to do it so you can actually stay on track:

  • Figure out your book's ideal target word count goal (check out our word count guide )
  • Figure out how many weeks until your deadline (e.g. 100 days = 14.5 weeks)
  • Divide your book's total word count by the number of weeks (e.g. 45,000 ÷ 14.5 = 3,103 words per week)
  • Next, figure out how many days per week you're going to write (e.g. 5 days a week)
  • Finally, divide your weekly word count goal by the number of days you'll write to get your daily word count goal (e.g. 3,103 ÷ 5. = 621 words per day)

If you can hit all of your weekly and daily deadlines, you know you’ll make your final deadline at the end.

P.S. You're much more likely to actually meet your deadlines if you take a stand and set a consequence, which I”ll talk about next.

take a stand

7. Take a Stand

Deadlines are nice, but it can be too easy to follow Douglas Adams' advice:

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by.

There are two tricks that will help you actually meet your deadline, and it's essential to do these before you start writing or you'll never finish your book.

The first one is a little scary, but will make a huge difference.

Once you've set your deadline, go tell everyone you know. Post your deadline on social media, saying something like this:

how to write a bok

Here. We'll even make it easy for you. Just click the share button below to tweet this and fill in the blank with your deadline:

Don't have social media? That's okay. Just email five friends. These friends will become your accountability partners to ensure you finish your book.

Important: I don't recommend talking about your book idea. Talking about the idea can actually remove some of the motivation to actually work on your book.

But I highly recommend talking about your book's deadline because humans naturally avoid letting each other down. When you make a public promise to do something, you're much more likely to do it!

So go ahead. Share your deadline. You can do this right now. Don't worry, we'll be here when you get back.

Then, move on to the next trick to keep your deadline.

set a consequence

8. Set a Consequence

You might think, “Setting a deadline is fine, but how do I actually hit my deadline?”

The answer is you need to create a consequence. A consequence is a bad thing that happens if you don't hit your deadline.

Maybe you write a check to a charity you hate, like the society for the euthanasia of puppies, you give it to a friend, and you say, “You have to send this check if I don't hit my deadline.”

Or maybe you say you're going to give up a guilty pleasure if you don't hit your deadline, like ice cream or wine or TV or your favorite phone game.

Set a really tough consequence for your final deadline, and then set a couple of less severe consequences for your weekly deadlines.

Whatever you choose, make it really hard to not hit your deadline.

Why? Because writing is hard! If you want to write a book, you need to make not writing harder than writing.

By creating a consequence, you make not writing harder than the actual writing, and this simple trick will make you much more likely to finish.

set an intention

9. Set an Intention

This is the last step before you start writing, but secretly one of the most helpful.

Set an intention.

Studies have shown that when you have a goal, like working out more or writing a book, and you imagine where , when , and how much you're going to do something, you're much more likely to actually do it.

So do this with me:

  • Close your eyes, and imagine your ideal writing space , the place you're going to spend your writing time. Maybe it's a coffee shop or your home office or a chair beside your favorite window.
  • Next, imagine what time it is . Is it the morning? Afternoon? Late at night after everyone's gone to bed?
  • Finally, picture yourself writing, and watch yourself reach your daily word count goal . Imagine how it feels to accomplish your goal. Great? A relief?
  • Then, write all of that down, locking your intention in place . Now that you have a set writing schedule, follow it!

Notice that this is the tenth step.

Most people start here, but without the groundwork you've laid in the previous nine steps, you're setting yourself up for failure.

Don't skip the first nine steps!

Once you do begin writing, keep this in mind:

First drafts are universally bad .

Don't try to write perfect sentences. Don't go back and edit endlessly.

No, instead write as fast as you're able. Get to “the end” as quickly as you can. Use writing sprints .

Try to write as imperfectly as you can, not because you want to write a bad book, but because this is how writing always is: you write a bad first draft and then revise it into a better second draft—and finally, three or five drafts later, you've written a good book.

The difference between aspiring writers and published authors is that published authors know you can't do good writing until you write a bad draft first. Get through it as quickly as you can!

If you're not a natural writer , consider dictating your book into a recorder, and transcribing it afterward. There's no reason you have to physically type out your book. Transcribing it is a perfectly viable way to create a good first draft.

revise, rewrite, edit

11. Revise, Rewrite, and Edit

After you finish your first draft comes the real hard part.

I know what you're thinking. The first ten steps weren't hard enough?

Yes, of course they were hard. But for some reason, second drafts can be just as hard, if not harder, than first drafts. I've had some of my biggest mental and emotional breakdowns in my life while working on the second draft of a book. There's just something about second drafts that are much more mentally challenging than first drafts.

Here, it's a good idea to get an editor who can give you feedback. (Need an editor recommendation? We have a team of editors we work with here at The Write Practice. Check out our process and get a quote here .)

Once you've finished your second draft, I also recommend getting beta readers, people who can read your book and give you feedback. For more on this, check out our guide on how to find beta readers and use their feedback effectively here .

Depending on your topic, you might also consider recruiting some sensitivity readers to read your book, too.

After you've done all of this, I have one last writing tip for you to ensure you actually finish writing your book—and it might be the most important of all.

Don't stop

12. Don't Stop

Most people want to write a book. I hear from people all the time that think they have a book in them, who believe that they have a story that needs to be shared.

I very rarely talk to people who have finished a book.

Writing a book is hard.

It's SO easy to quit. You get a new idea. Or you read your writing and think, “This is terrible.” Or you decide, “I'd rather be catching up on Netflix, not spending my nights writing.”

Because of this, you quit.

Here's the thing though: the only way to fail at writing a book is to quit .

If you don't quit, if you just keep writing, keep following this process we've outlined above, you will finish a book.

It might not be a good book (yet). But that's what editing is for.

It will be a first draft, and a finished draft at that . You can't write a second draft and start to make your book actually good, actually publishable, until you write the first draft.

So write. Don't stop. Don't quit. If you follow these steps and don't stop, you'll finish.

We'll be here supporting you along the way.

More Resources on How to Write a Book

Still feeling stuck? Have more questions about how to write a book? We've put together a library of book-writing resources. Take a look at the articles below.

Book Writing Tools and Programs

  • 100 Day Book . Get a mentor, 100+ writing lessons, deadlines, and accountability and write your book in a program that works. Thousands of authors have finished their books in 100 Day Book, and we'd love to help you too. Click to sign up for 100 Day Book here.
  • The Write Plan Planner. Containing everything we've learned about how to write a book over the last 10+ years, this step-by-step guide will walk you through our proven book writing process. Click to get your daily book writing planner.
  • Best Book Writing Software . A variety of the best tools for writing, publishing, formatting, and marketing your book.

How to Write a Book Fast Articles

I shared above why I believe that first drafts should be written quickly, in just a few weeks. Still not sure? In the articles below, dozens of other writers share how they wrote fast first drafts, plus you'll get all the tips and strategies they learned along the way.

  • How to Write a Book in 100 Days: 10 Steps
  • How to Write a Book FAST
  • How to Write a Book in 100 Days
  • How to Write a Novel in 6 Months
  • The First 10 Steps to Write Your Book in 2020
  • How to Right a Book in Nine (Not So) Easy Steps
  • How to Finish a Novel With a Swim Buddy
  • How to Write a Book Using Microsoft Word

How to Write a Book by Genre

Every genre comes with specific expectations that must be fulfilled. Here's how to craft an amazing story in your genre.

  • How to Write a Novel
  • How to Write a Memoir
  • How to Write a Mystery Novel
  • How to Write a Suspense Novel
  • How to Write a Thriller Novel
  • How to Write a Romance Novel
  • How to Write an Adventure Book
  • How to Write a Coming of Age Novel
  • How to Write a Young Adult Novel
  • How to Write a Self-Help Book
  • How to Write a Book That's Based on a True Story
  • How to Write a Book Like Stephen King
  • 20 Sci-Fi Creative Writing Prompts and Story Ideas

Okay, no, Stephen King isn't a genre. But he's well worth learning from!

How to Write a Book When Writing Is Hard

Let's face it: writing is hard . Every single writer struggles at some point in their book. The important thing is not to quit . In the following articles, writers share how they persevered through the hard parts, and how you can too.

  • How to Write a Book While Working Full Time
  • How to Write a Book When You Don't Have Ideas
  • How to Write a Book When You’ve Got Writer’s Block
  • I Never Thought I Would Write a Book. Here's How I Did It Anyway
  • How to Write a Book: The Everest Method
  • 10 Obstacles to Writing a Book and How to Conquer Them

How to Write a Book With a Specific Style

Your book comes with its own unique quirks and challenges, especially if the story you're telling is a series, or is told from multiple perspectives. Here's how other writers have navigated these choices.

  • How to Write a Book from Multiple Perspectives
  • How to Write a Book Series Without Messing Things Up
  • How to Write a Novel That Readers Can't Put Down

How to Write a Book and Publish It

Writing is meant to be shared! In these articles, writers break down the publishing process so you can finish your book and share it with the world.

  • How to Write and Publish a Book for Free
  • How to Write a Book Description That Will Captivate Readers (And Sell Books!)

Publishing Resources

Once you've finished writing a book, how do you get it published. Here are some resources to help.

  • Amazon KDP. Self-publish your book on Kindle to the world's biggest book marketplace.
  • Book Cover Design . Find a book cover designer among our favorite designers.

Commit to the Book Writing Process, Not Your Feelings

Are you ready to commit to finishing your book?

I don't want you to commit to a book idea. Ideas are seductive, but then you get a fresh idea and the idea you've been working on becomes much less interesting.

You probably have had inspiring moments of writing, when everything feels like it's flowing. But I don't want you to commit to a feeling. Feelings are fickle. They change by the hour.

No, instead commit to the process.

If you follow these steps, you will finish a book. It won't be easy. It will still be a challenge. But you'll do it.

Can you imagine how great it will feel to write “The End” on your own book? Think about the people you will touch because you finished that book. Let's get to it together.

Are you going to commit to writing a book? Let me know in the comments !

The first part of Step Three is to create a 1-sentence premise of your book.

Spend fifteen minutes today to rewrite your book idea into a single-sentence premise. Then, share your premise in the Pro Practice Workshop here.  (and if you’re not a member yet, you can join here ).

Finally, after you share, make sure to give feedback to three other writers.

Happy writing!

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Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris , a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

Want best-seller coaching? Book Joe here.

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Become a Writer Today

How to Write a Book: A Definitive Guide for New Authors

Learning how to write a book for the first time is a challenge, but you can easily become an author.

In this article, I offer a step-by-step process for writing your first book faster.

Over the past few years, I wrote a three-part series of books about writing called Become a Writer Today. I also published The Power of Creativity, a novella and several short stories.

I’ve faced many painful mistakes while writing books, and I’ve also learned a little bit about how to write a book. In this guide, I’ll explain exactly how to write a book based on my experiences and lessons from talking to other authors on the Become a Writer Today podcast .

I’ll also reveal some of my mistakes and offer proven book writing tips. My speciality is nonfiction book writing. That said, you can apply some of the lessons from this guide to fiction too.

1. Develop Your Book Writing Skills

2. create a dedicated writing space, 3. decide why you want to write a book, 4. commit to writing your book, 5. research your ideal reader, 6. study other books in your niche or genre, 7. gather your book ideas, 8. establish what your book is about, 9. decide what type of author you are, 10. interview experts for nonfiction books, 11. set a cutoff date for your research, 12. establish your book’s controlling idea, 13. select your book writing apps, 14. outline your book, 15. break writing into small chunks, 16. write everyday (if you can), 17. finish your messy first draft … fast, 18. accept you’ll make mistakes, 19. manage your book writing time, 20. set a deadline, 21. fight writer’s block, 22. track your progress, 3. before editing your book, let it sit, 24. write the next draft, 25. budget for self-publishing your book, 26. hire an editor, 27. hire a proofreader, 28. publish your book, how to write a book this year: the end, can anyone write a book, how much does an author make per book, do you need a publisher to write a book, is it better to write or type a book.

How to write a book

Book writing, like any skill, takes time to develop. You need to learn skills like writing the first draft, self-editing, arranging your ideas and so on.

Your strengths and weaknesses, life experiences and even the books you read play a crucial role in shaping the author you will become.

Don’t worry if you get things wrong. Stephen King threw the draft of his first book in the bin. His wife fished the book, Carrie, out of the trash and encouraged him to finish and publish it.

It took me three years to write my first novella and a year to write my second book. After that, I got faster.

Tip: Blogging and journaling are great ways to practice writing and explore ideas for a nonfiction book.

Do you have a dedicated place in your house to cook? Or perhaps you have a large couch in front of your television?

____-WHAT______ can be an easy and fun activity if you have a dedicated space. The same is true for writing.

Want to write a best selling book? Create a dedicated writing space where you can work on your first draft without interruption.

Ideally, your space will be sparse and devoid of distractions. That means no televisions, game consoles or other items that don’t support your writing.

You could put inspirational posters on the wall or look out onto your garden.  Conversely, many successful authors prefer working while facing the wall because the outside is distracting.

Even if you don’t have space in your house or office, you could go to a library or coffee shop each day. Poet Raymond Carver wrote many of his early poems in his car.

You could also listen to some soft, soothing music in this space to get you in the groove. When working, I like listening to rainfall on repeat using noise-cancelling headphones. Remember, a perfect writing atmosphere varies from one author to another.

Tip: You could also go to a library or coffee shop each day. The poet Raymond Carver wrote many of his early poems in his car. As long as you can work without interruption, you’re good. 

Most people forget to mention how lonely the writing process feels. Authors spend hours researching, revising and sitting alone in a room with only words and ideas for company.

If you’ve never written a book, the isolation is difficult to get used to, but it’ll pass as you get into the process of writing the book. The people close to you might understand what you’re doing, but don’t count on it! One new writer struggling with his book emailed me to say:

“ One of the reasons I have not gone farther with writing is because my family sees me working at a computer, or like today with a cell phone, and thinks I’m goofing off. “

Handling isolation and staying motivated is easier if you know why you’re writing a book in the first place. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Is my book a passion project ?
  • Am I writing this book to improve my writing skills?
  • Will this book help me advance my career or become an expert in my field?
  • How will I serve existing or new readers with my work?
  • Is a book the best medium for me to express my ideas?
  • Do I want to generate a side income from my book, and if so, how much?
  • Do I have a plan for marketing, promoting and distributing my book?
  • Will this title help me advance my dream for writing full time?

Find at least four to seven reasons why you’re writing a book in the first place. Referring to your list will keep you motivated when you feel isolated or others question what you’re doing.

I wrote The Art of Writing a Non-Fiction Book because I wanted to:

  • Practice writing and improve my craft
  • Help other writers and readers
  • Deepen my knowledge of various topics
  • Earn a side income from sales.

Tip: Keep your list of reasons alongside your book notes so you can review it regularly. 

Writing a book is a time-consuming creative project that demands months (or even years) of time. Ask yourself if you have the mental resources, creative energy, and time to do it.

You must write every day and sacrifice other pursuits or rearrange your day so you can put writing a book first. When I wrote my first book, I gave up playing Call of Duty and Halo because I didn’t have the time to write and play games.

Stick to your commitment when the writing feels more like work and less like a passion, even when you don’t feel inspired. After all, it’s not easy to write the first draft, never mind become a “ New York Times bestselling author.”

Adopt the mindset of a professional writer who doesn’t call in sick or give up because he or she doesn’t feel like doing the work. You must become a professional who finishes writing. Learn more in our explainer on how long it takes to write a book .

Tip: Commit to working on your book every day by writing in the same place at the same time, either early in the morning or late at night.

what readers want

A reader buys a book because they want to be informed, inspired educated or entertained. Connecting with your intended audience is critical when you want to publish your manuscript. You must cater to a certain demographic, so having a clear idea about your intended audience can go a long way in shaping your book.

For instance, J.K. Rowling wrote her Harry Potter books primarily targeting teenagers and young adults reading for pleasure. Her books catered to a universal audience and became a cult phenomenon due to her magical storytelling abilities. Always keep your intended audience in mind and consider how they might feel or react to your book.

Figure out what you’re going to say that’s different. If you want to entertain, educate or inform readers, you must offer something no one else can.

Tip: If you’re writing nonfiction, consider surveying someone who represents your ideal reader or interviewing them.

As a savvy writer, your job is to find out your audience’s wants, likes and dislikes. Spend an hour or two browsing Amazon and finding Kindle books about your topic. Look for books in your niche with a sales ranking below 30,000 in the Kindle store.

Typically, these books sell at least five copies per day, meaning they’re popular with readers and earn a return for the author. Read at least the top ten books in your niche, taking note of the titles, categories and ideas behind each book. Study both good and bad reviews for these books to see what readers like and dislike and how you can improve.

An author can also easily combine several ideas from various books and remix the information with their writing.

Robert Greene, author of Mastery and The 48 Laws of Power, said he reads 300-400 books over the 12-24 months before starting a project. He uses a flashcard analogue system to record lessons and stories. In a 2013 Reddit AMA, he said,

“I read a book, very carefully, writing on the margins with all kinds of notes. “A few weeks later I return to the book and transfer my scribbles onto note cards, each card representing a critical theme in the book.”

You might not be writing a book as dense as Greene’s, but research is an integral part of learning how to write a book.

Tip: Learning how to analyze a book is a great way of understanding the conventions of that genre.

If you’re writing nonfiction, readers expect accuracy and research. If you’re writing fiction, and your story takes place in real-world locations, details matter. Every good author has a system for arranging ideas for their current and future books.

Try these options: 

  • Learn how to journal
  • Keep a personal Zettelkästen
  • Use a mind map
  • Keep a commonplace book using index cards like Greene

The main lesson is to have some sort of system for storing and arranging each book idea in one place. 

Tip: Review your Kindle notes from other books at least once a week. You’ll be amazed by what you forget.

Get a blank piece of paper and spend an hour asking and answering questions like:

  • Who is this book for?
  • What’s the big idea behind my book?
  • What are my strengths and weaknesses?
  • How is my book different from other titles?
  • Why should people spend their money (or time) reading my work?
  • What can I offer that no one else can?

Nobody has to read your answers, so be honest. They’ll help you write a more concise first draft. Free writing can help with this step too. Unless you’re writing fiction or literary nonfiction, craft a positioning statement for your book that describes it in one sentence.

Here are three templates:

My book helps ________________ who ________________ get ________________.

My book teaches ________________ how to ________________.

My book helps ________________ who ________________ achieve ________________.

My positioning statement for The Power of Creativity is, “My book helps people who don’t think they’ve any ideas to become more creative.”

Doing this extra work upfront will help you avoid spending hours writing, only to find later you hate your idea. If you’re self-publishing your book, your positioning statement and book proposal will also help you market your book.

Tip: Road test positioning statements by writing and publishing short articles related to that topic on popular blogs and other writing platforms like Medium. 

There are two types of authors: pantsers and plotters.

Pantsers are writers who sit down in front of the blank page with only a vague idea of where they are going or what the story is about. They write from the seat of their pants, inventing things as they go along, and are happy to see where their characters take them. They write with a connection to God, their muse or their subconscious.

Stephen King is a pantser.

Plotters spend weeks or months planning their book ideas. They decide what they want to write about in advance. They also have a clear view of their story before they begin. When plotters sit down to write, they have a firm idea of what they’re going to say and the research to back it up.

Robert Greene is a plotter.

I’ve tried both approaches, and there’s nothing wrong with either. You’ll discover what type of writer you are, and your writing voice will emerge if you turn up and do the work.

Remember, as Seth Godin says, “Everybody’s writing process is different.”

After years of painful rewrites, unfinished manuscripts, and pulling my hair out, I found out I’m a plotter. I like to know what I’m writing about in advance. I NEED to know what I’m writing about in advance. Today, I’m convinced being a plotter lends itself well to most types of nonfiction writing.

You don’t need to be a subject matter expert to start writing a nonfiction book, but you will become one by the time you’re finished. To start, you just need patience and the ability to write clearly.

Tip: Identify a subject or an area of expertise about which you can write at length and let your imagination soar. Freewriting is one way to explore your interests before planning or starting a book.

Years ago, part of my job as a journalist involved interviewing politicians, business people and even authors. The interviews that caused me the most problems were more than 60 minutes long because they took hours to transcribe.

Don’t make my mistake.

Interviews can help you research a nonfiction book faster and add credibility to your work. However, if you’re interviewing subjects, keep your interviews between 30 and 60 minutes and work out in advance what you want to ask interviewees.

Tip: You can save a lot of time by getting your interviews transcribed for a dollar a minute using Rev.

How much research is too much? Greene’s books are dense, nonfiction books of more than 500 pages filled with historical stories and psychological insights. In other words, research forms the backbone of what he writes.

Consider a typical Frederick Forsyth novel, the english novelist of books like The Jackal . He dedicates entire chapters to describing the origins and operations of an intelligence agency. This process indicates in-depth research.

Your book might not depend on so much research upfront. Remember, research can turn into a form of procrastination.

Tip: You can always fix gaps during the editing process.

You might want to write a children’s book, or a book about a sport or a diet regime. Or you might want to tell a personal story or offer a guide to a complex topic like teaching science to kids.

Your job will feel a lot easier if you get yourself a chainsaw. For authors, that chainsaw is the controlling idea behind their book.

Your thesis statement or controlling idea should offer a glimpse into the subject you’re writing about and the viewpoint that guides your book. You can figure out your book’s controlling idea by spending an hour asking and answering some simple questions:

  • What am I trying to say?
  • Who or what is the subject of my book?
  • From what point of view is my book?
  • What is the core value underpinning my book?
  • How is my book different from everything else that’s out there?

Your thesis statement will help you assess whether each chapter achieves its purpose during the editing process. It will help you build your book on a firm foundation.

Here’s the controlling idea for The Art of Writing a Non-Fiction Book:

“With the right ideas, skills and hard work, you can become a successful non-fiction author today.”

Tip: Consider two to three books from your preferred genre . Use the back jacket copy or book blurb to extract their controlling ideas.

The Art of Writing a Non-Fiction Book: An Easy Guide to Researching, Creating, Editing, and Self-Publishing Your First Book (Become a Writer Today 3)

  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Collins, Bryan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 12/03/2017 (Publication Date) - Become a Writer Today (Publisher)

For outlining, consider using an app like Dynalist or creating a mind map. Scrivener is my preferred choice for long-form writing as it’s easy to drag and drop book chapters. Ulysses is another good choice. 

That said, MS Word and Google Docs work too. Then I use Vellum for laying out final drafts and self-publishing.

I also recommend using a plagiarism checker like Grammarly or ProWritingAid to check your nonfiction works for inadvertent mistakes. Ultimately, the tool is less important than the process.

Tip: Check out our guide to the best book writing apps. 

Outlining a book is an ideal approach for most nonfiction authors and plotters. You can create an outline using an index card or dedicated software like Dynalist or MindMeister.

Here’s how I did it: I

  • Outlined my most recent book in advance in longhand. 
  • Started by reading dozens of books about creativity, writing and productivity for a year before deciding to tackle this topic.
  • Freewrote about the book for an hour or so.
  • Extracted the ideas I wanted to write about. 
  • Turned the ideas into provisional chapter titles and recorded them on fifty index cards, one for each potential chapter.
  • Created a rough list of ideas on each card in the form of five-to-ten bullet points. 
  • Noted other books and stories to reference.
  • Pinned these index cards to a wall near where I write so I could live with this outline for a few weeks.
  • Spent several more weeks working on the outline before transferring it to my computer and expanding upon each bullet point.

Write an outline to help guide you in the right direction, making sure your chapters follow a logical progression.

Don’t write an outline and expect it to solve all your problems when working on a first draft. When you write an outline, all you are doing is creating a blueprint that you can use as a reference.

Tip: Create an outline based around the three-act structure. Book writing apps like Living Writer include this. 

Writing a book is much like running a marathon. A new runner doesn’t attempt to run 26 miles as part of the first session. Achieving that level of endurance requires many sessions to build the discipline and strength to finish a marathon.

Do you feel overwhelmed by the amount of work ahead of you? Break your work down into smaller milestones that you tackle one by one.

Books are made up of chapters, sections, paragraphs and sentences. Today, write a few paragraphs about a single idea or piece of research for your nonfiction book. Tomorrow, write about another idea. And so on.

As long as you move forward with your first draft each day, you will reach the end of your first draft.

Tip: Use the Pomodoro Technique to manage your writing sessions.

Do you need to write every day? If this is your first book, it’s unrealistic to expect you can write every day for several months. Instead, aim to write five or six days every week.

Cultivating a writing habit becomes crucial when you reach this juncture. A good writing habit ensures that you set aside time each day for creative work.

If you haven’t written much before, set a more achievable daily word count target along the lines of 300 or 400 words. Then, with some basic math and a calendar (I use Google’s), you can work out how long writing the first draft of your book will take and set yourself a deadline.

Tip: I recommend new authors use competitions like NaNoWriMo as a motivational tool.

Writing the first draft of a book is intimidating. You look at the blank page in front of you and wonder how you’re going to fill this page and hundreds of other pages to come.

Don’t overthink it.

Instead, find somewhere you can write quietly for an hour and do all you can to get the words out of your head and onto the blank page.

The first draft is sometimes called the vomit draft (Eww!) or the rough draft because you just need to get it out! Don’t stop to edit yourself, review what you’ve written or see if what you’re saying makes sense. The first draft is also a time when you can nurture and develop your writing habit.

If you decide you’re going to set aside two hours each morning, writing the rough draft becomes a schedule you stick to. I find it helpful to set a target word count for my writing sessions. I usually aim to write 1,500 words in an hour, set a timer and open Scrivener.

(Don’t want to use Scrivener? Check out our guide to the best book writing software. )

Then I keep my fingers moving until I reach the target word count or until the buzzer sounds. While you’re writing your first draft, keep your outline and notes nearby to guide you through each section in your chapter. You might be interested in our overview of first draft examples .

Tip: Speech to text software will help you write the first draft faster.

A rough draft, like the name suggests, includes flaws. As long as you have a skeleton idea that you can refine and rework, your rough draft is a success.

A writer shared this sentiment with me a few weeks ago:

“My writing isn’t good enough; I feel like I’ll never finish my first draft!”

First of all, the job of your first draft is simply to exist, so don’t worry about the writing.

That comes later.

If you feel like you’ll never finish, start in the middle of the chapter that’s causing you problems.

Here’s why:

Introductions explain what you’re about to say next, but how can you write an introduction if you don’t know what comes next? Similarly, conclusions wrap up what you just said, but how can you write one if you don’t know what you just said!

Your story needs a good beginning, a juicy middle portion, and a cracker of an ending. Jumping straight into the middle of a chapter will help you gain momentum faster. Maybe your main character finds out about a secret that will change the course of the story. Or perhaps a major event threatens the very existence of your protagonist’s universe.

Jump into the middle, then figure out how to write the introduction. Take writing your first draft chapter by chapter. Write your book with the sole intention of putting the story that is stuck in the recesses of your memory onto a paper.

Don’t worry if all of it comes out at once and some chapters seem unfinished. That’s the purpose of rewrites, editing and revisions. When you write your book, ideally you should enter a state of flow.

In this state, your fingers move automatically over the keyboard. Sentences become paragraphs, and paragraphs become chapters.

Don’t write your book with the sole purpose of getting it to the top of some best sellers list or a big payday. Instead, write it to create something readers love.

Tip: If you’re unsure what to do about a mistake, write the letters “TK” beside it. It stands for “to come” except with a K. You’ll easily spot this annotation during the editing process as no other words begin with these letters.

I wrote my first book when I was working in a job I disliked, just after my wife had our daughter. I didn’t have enough free time to write for eight hours a day. Even if I did, I lacked the mental discipline to do it.

Starting out, I wrote every night after 9 p.m. when the kids were in bed. However, I quickly found that when I put writing last in the day, it was least likely to happen. I cannot stress the importance of hard work. It’s the key to completing any daunting task, and writing a book, at least for a first-timer, demands it.

Now I set aside time in my calendar for writing every morning at 6 a.m., and I do all I can to stick to this. It helps that my daughter is now five.

If you’re a new writer or you’ve never written a book before, you’re probably balancing writing your book with a job and family commitments. So pick a time when you’re going to write every day, block-book it in your calendar, and do all you can to stick to it.

Managing your creative time also means saying no to other activities and ideas—if they take you away from the blank page. Getting from page one to The End is a long race, and it sometimes gets lonely, but the hard work will pay off.

Tip: Eliminate distractions while writing using software like Freedom App or RescueTime. Still need help? Read our guide to productivity for writers .

Professional writers work to deadlines. Some writers complain that deadlines loom like a guillotine and find them off-putting.

Your story will not jump out of that blank page on a bright sunny day and say, “Hey, I am ready to be published!” A typical nonfiction book consists of between 60,000 and 80,000 words, and a typical novel can be anywhere from 60,000 to 120,000 words.

(You can write shorter books if you’re self-publishing.)

If you want to write a nonfiction book, and you commit to writing 1,000 words every day, it will take you 60 days to write the first draft if you write daily.

Tip: Put deadlines into your calendar for a first draft and for sending your book to an editor.

Many new writers worry about writer’s block. They say things like:

“How can I get the words to flow?” or “I can’t think of anything to say.”

Writer’s block is a serious issue for some new writers, but it’s easy to conquer.

In his book, On Writing, King says he deals with writer’s block by throwing a new problem at a character. If you write fiction, your protagonist might get lost in a forest and meet a villain.

Freewrite about what this encounter looks like. Introducing plot twists, small tragedies, a background story or even a new character will help you get over writer’s block.

If you write nonfiction, explore a setback or challenge you faced while trying to achieve a specific outcome. Extract a story from your journal if it helps. Stopping to refill the well is another good way to conquer writer’s block.

Tip: When stuck, put your first draft down, read other books that inspire you, visit an art gallery or listen to a podcast by someone you admire. Also, check out the best writing books for advice.

Wordcount tracker

One of the biggest tips I can give you for writing your first book is to track your daily word count and how long you spend writing each day. Writing and publishing a book takes months, depending on the subject, so set small milestones for yourself.

Ernest Hemingway recorded his daily word count on a board next to where he wrote so as not to kid himself. Tracking your daily word count will help you measure your productivity and see how far you need to go to reach your target for writing your first book.

A target daily word count is less important when you’re writing the second and third drafts or self-editing your book. During these rewrites, concern yourself with shaping your ideas and working on the flow and structure of your book.

At this point, it’s more helpful to track time spent each day rewriting or editing.

No matter the stage of your book, you should:

  • Review your word count and how long you write
  • Identify if you reached any milestones like finishing a chapter or section
  • See what’s holding you back
  • Figure out what you need to write or research next

Remember, what gets measured gets managed, and what gets managed gets done. Check out our self-editing checklist for more.

Tip: Track your word count in a spreadsheet. During the editing process, track time spent working on each draft.

When you’ve finished writing your first draft, let it sit on your computer for a week or two, and do something else.

Celebrate your success! Your hard work has paid off.

After spending weeks or months working on an idea, I find that the work becomes too hot to touch, let alone edit.

When you let your writing sit for a while, the ideas cool down, and your memory of it fades. Once you’re ready, print out a draft of your book, sit down with a cup of coffee or tea, and read your draft in one or two sessions.

When you read the draft, you’ll look at it and think, “Oh yeah, I remember this.” Best of all? You’ll be able to see the book’s strengths and problems you missed previously. Highlight and underline sections with a red pen that you need to change.

Look for words and sentences to change and ideas to remove and expand upon. Don’t change them now! Mark your manuscript with a pen and continue reading. Also, don’t feel disheartened if your prose disappoints. Ernest Hemingway arguably said, “First drafts are shit.”

The American novelist and editor Sol Stein likened reviewing the first draft to performing triage on a patient.

Tip: Reading the first draft aloud will help you hear instances of weak writing.  You can still ignore the grammar nazis though.

Great writing is rewriting.

Before you get into small changes during a rewrite like tweaking a chapter title or editing a sentence, fix your book’s big problems. What does this look like?

While I was rewriting my creativity book, I dumped two unnecessary chapters and wrote a new one. I also found additional research to back up holes in my arguments. Only then did I get into performing line edits.

While rewriting, ask yourself:

  • Does my introduction invoke curiosity in the reader?
  • Have I told stories in my work?
  • How can I strengthen my arguments?
  • How can I bring an original insight to my work?
  • Do I invoke at least one of the five senses on each page of my work?
  • What’s the weakest part of this chapter? Can I cut it?
  • Have I eliminated as many unnecessary adverbs and adjectives from my work as possible?
  • Have I removed every cliché?

You might perform the process of writing, reviewing, editing, and rewriting several times before you’re happy with your book. Take it sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, and chapter by chapter.

As you work, your book will teach you how to write it. This is also a good time to reexamine your writing style and check if you maintain a consistent style throughout your book. You can develop your craft by analyzing books and stories.

But what if you still need help?

Stephen King advises,

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”

Even marathon runners stop to refuel. Plan your breaks because procrastination is inevitable. Relax, refresh, and then get back to your book.

Tip: While working on later drafts, enlist the help of a family member or friend for input. Later on, hire an editor and ask them to provide frank feedback. Our guide to long-form writing also adapts this process.

I’ve written before about the cost of self-publishing a book.

Writing a book is free (unless you count your time), but publishing a book is not. So budget for hiring an editor, proofreader, and cover designer. Recently, I spent:

  • $2,000 on an editor for a 60,000-word book about creativity
  • $500 on a proofreader (or try Grammarly until you can afford one)
  • $250 on a cover designer

What else did I budget for? Well, because I’m self-publishing this book, I set aside several hundred dollars for Amazon book ads. Even if you’re on a tight budget, you must understand that working with an editor, proofreader, and cover designer is the entry cost.

Here’s the truth:

If you want to write something readers enjoy, invest more than just time in your book.

Tip: Check out our guide to the cost of self-publishing a book.

You might be able to write the first or second, or even third draft alone, but at some point, you need outside help. When you’re immersed in a writing project, it’s difficult to see gaps in your research, stories that don’t work or chapters that are too long.

If you’re encountering roadblocks, you can waste a lot of time trying to get around them yourself. Editors are trained professionals whose job is to turn manuscripts into something readers enjoy.

A good editor will help you write a far better book and improve your craft as a writer. They’ll also help you speed up the process of rewriting your book.

Like any professional, editors are not free. You’ll have to hire one in advance and give them several weeks to review your book. Depending on your book’s length, you can spend anywhere between 500 and several thousand dollars on an editor. 

Getting frank editorial feedback about your work is difficult to take. Sometimes, you can ignore criticism, but your editor’s feedback should be about the work and not about you.

After a book cover, budgeting for an editor is one of the most important things you must-do if you’re going to publish the book you’ve just written.

Tip: Check out our podcast interview with Natasa Lekic of NY Book Editors. 

You could try proofreading as well, but I don’t recommend it. It’s time-consuming, and because you’re so close to the material, you will inevitably overlook some typos and mistakes.

I wasted a lot of time trying to proofread my drafts only to have readers email me about the typos. I don’t know about you, but typos keep me up at night! In the end, I hired a proofreader, asked them to fix my book, and re-uploaded the proofed version to Amazon.

Instead, I recommend hiring a proofreader or giving chapters to beta readers, family and friends to check. Hiring a proofreader will cost several hundred dollars, depending on the length of your work.

Giving chapters of your book to eagle-eyed friends and family shouldn’t cost you much (beyond returning the favor!).

Tip: You can proofread early drafts using software like ProWritingAid and Grammarly. We still recommend working with a professional proofreader before pressing publish though. Read our grammar checker review .

I recommend Scrivener and Vellum for preparing a final draft for publication. There’s a modest learning curve to both tools, but it’s time well spent. Alternatively, you can hire a book designer for a few hundred dollars.

You’ll also need to hire a cover designer, and I recommend 99 Designs. Adding a book review will also come in handy to attract those readers who do a drive-through by skimming your summary and cover.

Getting a book review from an established author or lots of readers will help you sell more copies. If you need help with this, consider joining the Author Marketing Club.

If you have an email list or blog, you could offer readers free review copies of your work. It’s relatively easy to upload your e-book and cover to Amazon and other bookstores like Kobo or Draft2Digital.

Tip: Build pre-buzz for your book by writing guest blog posts on other sites. It’s relatively easy to turn nonfiction chapters into posts with some editing.

Learning how to write a book takes a tremendous amount of hard work and mental discipline.

That’s one reason why many would-be authors spend more time talking about writing than doing the work. Once you finish your work and publish it, congratulations!

Now, you’re a professional author. But remember …

Successful nonfiction writers put their books on the marketplace and move on.

You will always see a gap between what you want to create and what you end up writing, but you can narrow the distance with each new title. After all, the best way to sell the most recent book is to write an even better one next time.

How To Write a Book: FAQs

Lots of people say they have a book inside of them but less than 5% of people will write one. The good news is you can write a book with a little hard work and perseverance.

If you learn the basics of advertising, you can expect to earn between $250 and $1000 from your first book. Publish on Amazon and you will earn up to 70% royalties on your book. Traditionally published authors earn between 10% and 12%.

Anyone can write a book. And, thanks to self-publishing platforms, anyone can publish their work too. On the other hand, if you wait until you find a publisher before starting your book, you risk not writing much at all. Plus, you’ll put off gaining the practice and experience of a creative who works consistently.

Some popular authors, like Neil Gaiman and Joyce Carol Oates, enjoy writing long-form by hand. Other writers prefer typing up their manuscripts. Either is ok. However, typing is usually faster. And unless you have a budget for a typist, you’ll have to create a digital draft at some point.

how to write a bok

Bryan Collins is the owner of Become a Writer Today. He's an author from Ireland who helps writers build authority and earn a living from their creative work. He's also a former Forbes columnist and his work has appeared in publications like Lifehacker and Fast Company.

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How to Write and Publish a Book

Last Updated: May 6, 2021 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Lucy V. Hay . Lucy V. Hay is a Professional Writer based in London, England. With over 20 years of industry experience, Lucy is an author, script editor, and award-winning blogger who helps other writers through writing workshops, courses, and her blog Bang2Write. Lucy is the producer of two British thrillers, and Bang2Write has appeared in the Top 100 round-ups for Writer’s Digest & The Write Life and is a UK Blog Awards Finalist and Feedspot’s #1 Screenwriting blog in the UK. She received a B.A. in Scriptwriting for Film & Television from Bournemouth University. There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 491,917 times.

Writing a good book is a big achievement. Your book could either turn you into a celebrity and/or millionaire or gather dust at the bottom shelves of a bookstore. (Most would probably prefer the first option.) So, to guide you towards this future here's a few helpful tips to pave your way towards literature stardom.

Start by setting daily goals you can accomplish. Once you finally have a book, look at your publishing options. Before you officially commit yourself to what could be a literary masterpiece, please keep in mind that getting a book published is not easy, especially if you want your book to be published by a major publishing company such as Penguin Books or HarperCollins. Be open to disappointments and possible failures. But don't allow those setbacks to hinder you. After all, many famous authors now have experienced dozens of rejections. Who knows? You may one day join the ranks of J.K Rowling, James Patterson, and other accomplished authors.

Writing Your Book

Step 1 Begin forming ideas.

  • Start off by deciding what type of book you'd like to present. Is it an educational book covering topics like math, science or business and finance? Perhaps it is a novel, or maybe even an autobiography.
  • Whichever type of writer you are is fine. The trick is following an idea down the proverbial rabbit hole.
  • Stephen King, a famous author has noted that he doesn’t write ideas down in a notebook. To him “A writer’s notebook is the best way in the world to immortalize bad ideas.” This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t write ideas down in a notebook you carry around. If that works for you, grab a notebook and jot your ideas down. But be cautious about which ideas you do write down. Ask yourself, if you didn’t write this idea down, would it be good enough to remember tomorrow?
  • Once you find inspiration for an idea you want to pursue, start writing.

Lucy V. Hay

Lucy V. Hay

Expert Trick: Everyone loves a good ending, so why not start with that? Figure out where you want to go, then plot backward from there.

Step 2 Don't worry about errors; you can correct your writing later.

  • When writing a book, and hoping to get it published, you will write many drafts before it’s ready to send out. Some of those drafts will probably include major changes to your story. But at the beginning, you’re just trying to build a world and get your ideas on paper, or your screen.
  • Focus on building your characters. Some books are plot heavy, and that’s ok. But a book that people typically want to read is really about the characters and the importance of the situation you put those characters in.
  • While the plot moves a story along, it’s the moments between characters that sell a book. Whether you’re writing fantasy like Harry Potter, or a strict novel like Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen.
  • Focus on the “Who” you are writing about. The “When” “What” “Where” “Why” and “How” will come more naturally. [1] X Research source

Step 3 Set daily writing goals.

  • Whether you set a goal of 300 words a day, or a goal of one hour, doing so will help you stay on track. 300 words a day isn’t much but can be a great starting place. If you’re new to writing, or very busy, give yourself a smaller goal which you can easily meet.
  • Large goals are much harder to meet and will often cause you to not write at all. You are taking one step at a time, and in the end, you will have arrived at your large, final goal.
  • You can increase your daily goal as you continue along, or if you have more free time to write. Just make sure you can stick to it. Even if you feel stuck in your writing, press on and reach your goal. You never know when you’ll get some inspiration.
  • Work in a quiet or empty place. Finding a quiet place where you can focus, and which you can make yours is invaluable to writing. Even if you write at a coffee shop, find a corner where you won’t be too distracted.

Step 4 Stay diligent.

  • Following and reaching your daily goal will help you stay on course. The act of sitting in your chair and chiseling away will help you make reaching that goal a reality.
  • Try to have a set time to write every day in addition to a daily goal. John Grisham has published many best-selling books, and he started his writing career while he was a lawyer. He got up early every morning and wrote one page.
  • Make writing a habit you can’t quit. Find that unique place to write and do it every day at the same time.

Step 5 Get early feedback.

  • If you’re not part of one already, consider joining a local writer’s workshop. These groups will help you flesh out your ideas, give you feedback, and keep you accountable.
  • Use the internet. If you’re nervous about showing someone you know your work, find an online forum where you can get feedback and bounce ideas back and forth. Places like /r/Writing on offer options for you to get help on your work. [2] X Research source

Editing Your Book and Preparing to Publish

Step 1 Categorize your book.

  • For beginner readers, aged 5-8, word length 5,000-10,000
  • For confident readers, aged 7-10, word length 10,000-30,000
  • For middle readers, aged 11-14, word length 30,000-55,000
  • For teenage readers, aged 13-16, word length 40,000-60,000
  • For mature teenage and older readers, aged 15+, word length 40,000-100,000
  • For a total list and for more information and writing and publishing, go to "Submission Guidelines" on the Allen and Unwin website. [1]

Step 2 Recheck and re-edit your story.

  • While you do need to edit and give the editing process as much attention as, if not more than the actual writing, you also need a break. You’ve been living inside this story you’ve created and now it’s time for a vacation. Giving yourself time will help you get into the editing mindset. Because, as the editor, you have to look at your work with a cold eye, ready to chop up it up and make changes.
  • When you do start editing, edit as much as you need to, but don't keep editing if you don't know what the problem is. If you don’t have a concrete solution, you’ll chop up your story and have no idea how to put it back together.
  • Over-editing is possible and dangerous, so get others to check your work. Another pair of eyes can spot gaps that you overlooked because you’re so close to your work.
  • Get someone you trust to give you notes and feedback. So far, you’ve been operating in a vacuum. There will be parts that need work that will be hard for you find on your own.
  • Read others’ notes, and then put the notes away. You probably won’t like what someone else’s notes are. So read the notes, decompress, and after some time go back and incorporate the ones which are helpful. Discard the ones which aren’t.

Step 3 Get an editor to look over your book.

  • A professional editor is especially valuable if you’re going to self-publish. The last thing you want is a glaring, yet silly, spelling error in your book after all of your hard work.
  • The right editor will be able to bring clarity and flow to your narrative without changing your voice.
  • Your editor will bring a much needed objective eye to your work and will help you not only fix those small errors but help you find the true story underneath all the extra stuff you don’t need.
  • An editor will also, at the end of the day, make your book look professional.

Step 4 Do a final check to make sure you’re ready to publish.

  • Make sure you have a good title you’re ready to stick with.
  • Start building buzz on social media. Create a Facebook page and Twitter profile for your book. Post frequently with updates about what’s going on, next steps, and other exciting information.

Publishing Your Book

Step 1 Consider getting an agent.

  • You won’t always need an agent. If you plan to go the self-publishing route, you may find that an agent is something you can do without.
  • Look for agents on sites like Here you can search many profiles and see what kinds of work are getting published. [5] X Research source
  • Query Letter. A one-page pitch letter that describes your work.
  • Book Synopsis. A brief summary of your story.
  • Nonfiction proposal (if you’re writing for nonfiction). This is a very detailed document, usually around twenty to thirty pages, that outlines your argument for why your book deserves to be published. [6] X Research source
  • Sample chapters, or your whole manuscript.

Step 2 Research different publishers.

  • Some publishers only choose to publish or even read solicited material, manuscripts which have gone through an agent.
  • Agents and publishers also like material which either comes from already known authors or writers. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t attract the attention of either. These people will want to see that you have a following, and are being self-promotional on social media.
  • Some publishers such as Penguin or Allen & Unwin will also look at your manuscript if you aren’t represented by an agent.
  • Check out self-publishing options. [7] X Research source Self-publishing might sound like a way to circumvent a bunch of people who will just say “no” to you. But it’s hard work, and the reason there are people who publish books is because these people know how to best do it. If you’re going to self-publish, you have to find a good distributor if you’re going to publish hard copies. You can also self-publish your story as an ebook through Amazon’s self-publishing site. [8] X Research source

Step 3 Narrow your publishing options.

  • Some choose to publish for adults only and in selected genres while others may have a wider range of books that are accepted.
  • All information should be available on the publisher’s websites. Some have different guidelines and word limits, or whether your book need be solicited or not.
  • Almost all publishers require a hard copy (printed) manuscript of your story. Also, keep in mind the specifications. Some publishers prefer double-spaced lines, with a certain type of font in a certain size, etc.
  • Stick to what is specified. Do not send emailed copies or ones on a disc, unless stated you may.
  • Never send in your original or only copy of anything. You will not get your materials back.

Step 4 Consider self-publishing online.

  • The KDP service is free to use, however, Amazon will keep up to 70% of your profits.
  • If you are self-publishing online, make sure that you have gotten your book edited professionally and have had the cover designed by a professional graphic designer.
  • All the work of promoting your book will also fall on you when you use this method.
  • Be realistic. You’re most likely not going to become the next breakout hit with your first book. You won’t gain fame overnight. It takes several books and many years to gain a solid reputation in most cases.

Step 5 Wait and stay patient.

  • It may take up to four months or more, to get your book reviewed.
  • If you get a “yes” from a publisher, well done! You get to see it in the stores! However, the publisher may not advertise it for you. That will fall to an agent. The good news is getting an agent after you have a book deal is easier. But remember, that in most cases, the advertising usually falls on you.

Community Q&A

Community Answer

  • Remember; regardless of your age, most publishers will still publish for you if your story is good. Be prepared to take criticism and use it wisely. Thanks Helpful 11 Not Helpful 1
  • Always edit your own work before submitting it. No publishing company will accept your work if it's full of spelling and grammatical errors or inconsistencies. Also, consider a professional editor to help you. Thanks Helpful 6 Not Helpful 0
  • Keep writing! While everyone has a different editing style, most people find it most helpful to write as much as possible while the ideas are fresh and revise the story later. Thanks Helpful 6 Not Helpful 0

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About This Article

Lucy V. Hay

Writing and publishing a book can be a lot of work, but you can get started by setting a realistic goal, like writing 300 words every day. Additionally, get regular feedback from people you trust to be honest with you, and continue writing until you’re happy with the finished product. After that, get a professional editor to help polish your writing and make it sound more professional. Then, research publishers and self-publishing options to figure out the best way to publish your book. For tips on how to find publishers who work with first-time authors, scroll down! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Table of Contents

  • Ch. 1: Create Your Writing Plan
  • Ch. 2: Write Your Book
  • Ch. 3: Editing Your Book

How to Write a Book [Step-By-Step Guide] by a 4X New York Times Bestselling Author

how to write a bok

This is the best, most comprehensive online guide to writing a non-fiction book in existence.

That’s not just my opinion; I can back this statement up.

I’ve personally written 4 New York Times bestselling books, 3 of which hit #1. Those books combined to sell 4 million+ copies. I’ve helped other major Authors with their books (Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin, Dave Asprey, Peter Thiel, etc), and I also co-founded Scribe , which has already helped 1,200 authors write and publish great books, including a dozen major bestsellers, including books by David Goggins ( Can’t Hurt Me ) and Tiffany Haddish ( The Last Black Unicorn ).

I wrote this piece to give you a detailed, step-by-step instructional that you can follow to actually finish your book .

I know of nothing better, or more well tested to work, on the internet.

But remember—this guide is ONLY for non-fiction authors. If you are looking for how to write fiction, I’d go here .

calendar planning

Create Your Writing Plan

Step 1: set proper expectations for yourself.

Most online guides to writing a new book begin with writing.

But that doesn’t work.

If you wanted to cook dinner, you wouldn’t start with the cooking, would you? No, of course not. You’d start by preparing your space and collecting the right ingredients. It seems obvious when it’s pointed out, but so many people miss this when writing a book.

At Scribe, we’ve helped over 1,200 authors write their books (as of summer 2019), and probably the #1 thing that separates those who finish their books from those who do not is having the proper expectations going in.

Because writing a book is hard, and if you’re not prepared for that fact, you’re far more likely to stall, and even quit. But if you know the difficulty of what’s coming, you can mentally prepare to get past those obstacles when they come (and they will ).

These are the major expectations you should have as you write your book:

Expect it to be hard.

Anyone who tells you the process of writing a book is easy is either trying to sell you something, has never written a book, or writes really bad books.

Books are hard to write.

And writing a good book is even harder.

If you want to write a good book, then expect that it will require hard work from you.

Expect to get tired.

Writing is tiring (especially if you do it correctly).

Expect to get tired when you write, and expect that it will drain you. Make sure to take the steps you need to be both rested and energized when you write.

Expect to be confused.

Writing a book is confusing. But what you’ll find as you work this method is that while some of the things we recommend might seem unusual, they actually WORK really well—which is ultimately what matters the most.

Expect to feel overwhelmed at times.

There is a lot coming. It will be like drinking from a firehose. You WILL feel overwhelmed at times.

But understand this: overwhelm is NOT KNOWING WHAT TO DO NEXT—which is exactly why you are reading this guide. We solve this for you.

If you follow along and do what we say, you will ALWAYS know what to do next. We’ve made this process so that there are no surprises.

Expect to be emotionally uncomfortable (and maybe afraid).

This is a big one. Writing a book will unquestionably push you emotionally and expose fears and anxieties.

That is never easy, and never fun, but if you want to write a book, it’s almost certainly going to be a necessity (don’t worry, I will tell you what fears are coming and how to deal with them).

Don’t worry too much about your fears right now, but if they come up later, you can always read our guide on book writing fears and how to beat them. It’s the best guide on the internet on how to deal with writing and book fears.

Step 2: Schedule a Time and Place to Write Each Day

Shouldn’t you just get inspired to write? If you wait until inspiration strikes, and then use that as fuel to write, you’ll be good, right?

If you rely on inspiration to write your own book, you will fail . There is one single thing that creates success with writing, and every single writer will tell you this:


It took me three years as a professional writer before I understood that I needed a writing plan for every book I wrote. Writing without a plan is like going cross country without a map. Yeah, you might get there, but it’ll take you at least twice as long.

You must sit your ass in the chair and write, just about every day, until the book is done.

It doesn’t need to be full-time, but you do need a writing plan. Because it defines exactly what you will do to finish your book.

Inspiration might be how you decide to start the book—and that’s fine—but discipline is how you’ll finish.

You are an author now, and what does an author do? They write. EVERY DAY.

A writing plan is nothing more than a specific writing schedule that lays out a writing time, where you’re going to write each day, how much you will write, when everything is due, and what your accountability is.

“When should I write?”

You must start by picking the exact time and writing space you will write each day. For example, you could write every day during free time from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. in your home office. Or from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Compass Coffee.

This is not negotiable. If you tell yourself that you’ll “write when you have time” then the book won’t ever get done. If you don’t think about the environment where you will do your writing, you may very well not make effective use of that time you’ve set aside.

With both of these elements, you want to be as specific as possible. The more you plan now, the less you have to think later.

If the book matters, then you figure out precisely when and where you will write it.

We recommend writing for at least one hour per day. If you only have 30 minutes per day to write, then do that. The optimal amount of time is two hours, but very few people can set aside that much time.

Also, be realistic. Most authors cannot write (effectively) for more than three hours a day.

“How consistently should I write?”

If you can, write every day. If seven days a week is too much, then take one day off and write for six. God rested on the seventh day and so can you.

The key thing to remember with a book is that you don’t stay where you are with a book; you either move forward or you move backward .

Momentum is a key element in seeing a book through from beginning to end. You will make that decision each and every day for the duration of the book-writing process. Your plan will help you stay accountable so you continue moving in the right direction.

“How do I pick my writing location?”

It’s very simple to pick where you should write: wherever you get writing done .

These are the general factors people consider when writing: ambient noise, temperature, view, comfort, and isolation. A universal “correct” place to write doesn’t exist. If you write well in coffee shops, do that. If you write well at a desk in your basement, do that. Wherever you are most creative, most functional, and most confident, write there.

Find the place and setting that works for you and then recreate that each day. If your initial location stops working for you after a while, acknowledge that, figure out what you need to change, and identify a new location.

“What book writing software do I use to write?”

It doesn’t matter what book writing software you use. Just don’t get fancy. Use what you know and what is easiest.

Step 3: Set a Specific Writing Goal (250 Words Per Day)

In addition to scheduling the time and place of each writing session, give yourself a specific writing goal for each session.

We recommend a goal of 250 words per hour of writing.

Why 250 words? It’s approximately the number of words per page in a printed book. So if you’re writing about 250 words, that’s about a page a day.

Yes, this is a very low goal. But a low goal is good. A low goal is not intimidating, so it will help you get started. It will also make you feel good when you surpass it, and that will entice you to keep writing.

This is a classic sales technique—lowering the quota to inspire action—that works wonderfully with writing. The best part is that it adds up quickly:

By writing just 250 words a day, you can get a 120-page (30,000-word) first draft done in about four months.

This also builds a writing habit. Humans are habitual creatures, and it’ll get easier as you go.

Step 4: Create Your Deadlines

Deadlines force action and demand accountability. Below is a rough outline of how to pace yourself, and you can adjust it to your schedule.

If you want to move fast, give yourself a deadline of about a chapter a week.

If you want to move at a reasonable speed, give yourself two weeks per chapter.

If you want to move slower, allow three weeks.

If you have a hectic life, do a chapter per month. And then question whether you have the time to even do this.

Step 5: Announce Your Book

To take accountability one step further: announce that you are starting your book .

Use whatever social media platform you prefer, but the point is to publicly claim your intention to people you care about. You’ll get a lot of positive feedback, which will help you start, and the fact that you have announced your intention will help you push through when you are wavering.

You can talk about what your book is about, who it will serve, what the working title is, what areas you plan to cover—it doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that you tell the world this is coming.

Step 6: Give Yourself a New Identity: Author

As soon as you finish your writing plan, and announced your book, it’s time to consider yourself an “Author.”

Yes, this is getting a little ahead of the game. You haven’t published your book yet. Nor have you even officially started writing.

But that’s OK. You’ve made the commitment, and believe it or not, wearing the identity will help you get started and get through all the problems that will inevitably come up.

All you need to do is something as simple as writing your name and “Author” beneath it to make it real.

writing on laptop

Write Your Book

Step 7: figure out your book objectives: why are you writing your book, and what do you want to get.

The first step in writing your book is what is called “positioning” in the book industry . Positioning is the most crucial part of both writing (and marketing) your book. What is book positioning? Simply stated:

Book positioning is the place your book occupies in the mind of your reader, and how that reader perceives your book as fulfilling their needs.

That is the technical, industry definition of positioning. But really, positioning is about answering the question readers ask about every book:

“Why should I read this book?”

It’s important to understand that you can’t write or market yourself out of a positioning problem . If you get it right, positioning makes both the writing and marketing of the book easy, and ensures you get what you want from your book.

If you do not take this seriously—if you get your positioning wrong—then almost nothing you can do will save your book or make it successful.

The best place to start book positioning is your objectives. This is because once you know what you want to accomplish with your book, it allows you to figure out the correct book to write.

This basic question helps authors discern the proper objectives:

“Imagine it’s a few years after your book has been published. What has the book helped you accomplish that made the effort worthwhile?”

There are an almost infinite array of benefits a book can get for an author, but most of them fall into one of these six popular objectives:

  • Raise Visibility/Profile: Books can increase visibility in any number of ways, like making it easier to gain media exposure or raise your profile in your niche.
  • Increase Authority/Credibility: Books help an author establish authority and gain credibility within their field.
  • Get New Clients/Opportunities: Books can easily help generate new business and other opportunities, across a variety of platforms and venues, in multiple ways.
  • Speaking Engagements: A book is almost a necessity for becoming a paid speaker, or often getting booked for any public speaking at all.
  • Leave a Legacy: A book can help establish a legacy and pass your story onto others.
  • Impact Others: There are a lot of ways to impact people , and for some authors, this is often the main benefit to them. They either do not care about what they’ll get from their book, or they care about that only as a secondary benefit.

Obviously, the details of each of these depend on your specific field and profession, but any of those objectives can be very realistic.

Examples of Book Objectives

From a book about learning faster and more effectively:

1. We have built our B2C business to over $10M a year, in large part by leveraging the free book funnel and the exposure of the book, despite the fact that I’m less involved in the business than ever

2. We’re doing over $1M a year in corporate and enterprise subscriptions, because of the exposure and credibility of the book and the event

3. We have sparked research, conversation, and debate about education reform, and are working on a few not-for-profit pilot initiatives to improve education

From a book that teaches women how to sell like men, but ethically and with heart:

1. I have a large following of female entrepreneurs and my brand is recognized and well-respected

2. I’m a sought-out speaker on the topic of sales and female empowerment. I have done a TEDx talk and been asked to speak at large, recognizable conferences like SXSW and Traffic & Conversion Summit.

3. I frequently get messages from people (women and men) who thank me for writing this book because it genuinely helped them

What Are Unrealistic Book Objectives?

Of course everyone secretly hopes their book will sell millions of copies and be a breakout success—but if you make that your objective, you are setting yourself up for failure. Those are not realistic goals. If you set realistic goals, you give your book a chance to actually succeed.

In fact, the most important thing you can do with this question is kill your fantasies and set objectives that are achievable. These are unrealistic objectives for most authors:

  • Sell a million copies the first year
  • Be asked to do a mainstage TED talk
  • Become a famous author
  • Be a New York Times bestselling author
  • Get on Oprah/Ellen
  • Fill an ill-defined emotional void

Here’s the thing about these objectives: they are not literally impossible. People have accomplished them all. We’ve had a few of our authors do them.

But they are exceedingly rare, and most books have no shot at these objectives. The more you focus on realistic objectives, the better your book will be at hitting the audience you need to hit in order to succeed.

Step 8: Figure Out Your Book Audience: Who Is Your Book for, and Why Will They Care?

You can absolutely write a book without caring who your audience is. But don’t expect it to do well.

In fact, there’s a name for a book that is written without an audience in mind— it’s called a diary .

If you want your book to be successful and reach the objectives you set out for it, you need an audience, and you need to think about and define that audience beforehand.

Let’s start with a definition of what an audience is (for the purposes of a book):

An audience is a single group of people who share the specific problem your book solves.

Why does this matter? Because the key to writing a good book is actually narrowing your audience down as much as possible to only the people your book is intended to help.

Some authors start by thinking their book can potentially reach everyone. They dream about the millions of people that “could possibly” find their book appealing.

Don’t do that. There is literally no book ever written with an audience of everyone.

Not the Bible. Not the Koran. Not Stephen King’s The Shining . Not 50 Shades or Harry Potter , or any other book.

If you think your book is for everyone, you are flat wrong. The fact is, the large majority of books are completely unappealing to most people.

And that’s perfectly okay.

Here’s exactly how to figure out who the audience for your book is:

Audience Question #1: Who is your Primary Audience?

We recommend starting with the smallest possible audience you must reach to make your book successful. For most authors, the smaller the better. Your total audience is a series of concentric circles; the primary audience is the bullseye.

By starting small, you can ensure that your book will definitely reach SOMEONE. This niche focus ensures that your audience will get excited about your ideas, they will implement your ideas, and they will share your ideas with their peers. This process is no more complicated than asking yourself a very basic question:

“Who MUST know about my book in order for it to get the results I want?”

This includes results for the reader and for you.

For example, if your objective is to help oil and gas executives make better decisions about where to drill, and you want to speak at a major oil and gas conferences and become the expert in this space, then your audience is the people who book the speakers for that specific conference (and the executives who attend).

If your objective is to help CTOs recruit engineers better and raise your authority in the CTO space to get clients for your CTO recruiting business that caters to small-to-midsize companies, then chief technology officers from SMBs are your primary audience.

If you want to help people deal with their back pain and get visibility in your community to drive clients to your chiropractic practice, then your audience includes the people in your community with the health problems that you can address.

Pretty simple.


  • “Chiropractors who own their own practices, looking for better ways to market their business.”
  • “Accredited investors looking for how to get into wine as an investment.”
  • “Women executives, aged 30-45, who want to have kids but don’t want to compromise their career.”


  • “Women 20-70, suffering, who want to feel better.”
  • “Any executive who wants to be a better leader.”
  • “Young men and women looking for something more in life.”

Audience Question #2: Describe a typical person in your Primary Audience (an avatar). What are they like?

This person is literally who you’re writing the book for. They are your perfect reader.

This should be a description of a specific person in your primary audience. It can be a real person who is representative of your audience, or it can be a made-up composite of several different people.

It’s essential that you describe a specific person, as it makes positioning your book more real. Don’t describe a group or a type or a set of characteristics: create an individual with a name and a story.

The point of doing it this way is to set you up for the next two questions, which are about digging into your audience’s pain and the benefits they will get from reading your book. Clearly understanding both serves as a yardstick against which you can measure the value of your content when you begin writing.

If possible, pick someone who energizes you—either a real person or a composite of real people. Someone you really want to help, maybe someone who reminds you of yourself before you knew everything you know now (the “younger you” can be a great ideal reader). The more you envision a real person who you can help, the more excited you will be about writing this book for them.

Audience Question #3: What pain is this person experiencing because they have not read your book?

This step is about expressing your reader’s pain. How are they suffering, what are they missing out on, what do they not have that they want? They are depressed and suffering—how, specifically, and why?

Your answer should only be about the problems they currently have, not the solutions. Your book is the cure, but we first have to know what ails them.

Sometimes Questions 3 and 4 overlap a little, and that is fine. In fact, you might have written the pain in the description of the person. If so, just cut and paste and move it here.

Audience Question #4: What transformation will occur because they read and implement your book?

Once this person reads your book and implements your ideas, what happens? Do they only stop experiencing the pain described above? Do they get more benefits, or both? What good things will happen as a result of reading your book and implementing your ideas?

Most importantly, what changes or transformation occur in their life? What is their new life like?

Example of an Audience Avatar

Who Is Your Primary Audience? An advanced practice nurse who is interested in starting a healthcare practice

Describe a typical person in your Primary Audience (an avatar). What are they like? Jennifer is an advanced practice nurse who currently works for a physician, hospital, or large practice. She doesn’t make as much money as she feels that she should, and she works long hours that take her away from her family.

In order to meet volume quotas and stay on schedule, Jennifer isn’t able to spend much time with her patients. This makes her feel rushed and stressed. She worries that she may be missing things or not providing the quality of care that would be possible if she had more time. Further, she’s not able to practice the type of preventative, relationship-based care that fuels her soul.

She is afraid of leaving the security of her current position, but isn’t sure she wants to keep practicing nursing if she doesn’t make a change. She wants to start her own practice, but doesn’t know where to start or what to do. She is looking for guidance and permission, but hasn’t found a book, resource, or mentor to help her.

What pain are they experiencing because they’ve not read your book? Jennifer feels stressed and rushed at her current job. She is unhappy, unfulfilled, and has considered leaving nursing completely.

She is afraid of starting her own practice because she doesn’t know where to start or what to do. She’s afraid she’ll fail. She’s afraid she won’t make any money. She’s a nurse, not an entrepreneur! She isn’t sure if she’s doing things right, which is scary because she likes to follow the rules. All of this uncertainty means it’s taking Jennifer a lot longer than it should to start her practice, leaving her in her current job where she is unhappy.

What benefit will they get because they read and implement your book? Jennifer will get a step-by-step guide to start her own practice. The process is no longer mysterious. It now seems achievable. She now knows the applicable laws and regulations, so she has peace of mind knowing she won’t be breaking any rules.

With a roadmap and examples of other APNs who have succeeded, Jennifer now has the confidence and permission to start her own practice.

Jennifer is less afraid of failure by she has strategies to mitigate the risk of starting a business.

Jennifer is now fast-tracked to get what she really wants—a better lifestyle (more time to take care of herself, flexibility to be available for family and/or friends); the freedom and autonomy to practice the type of medicine she loves, the ability to benefit from the fruits of her hard labor, and recognition as a leader in her community.

Step 9: Lock In Your Book Idea

Now it’s time for the fun part: nailing down your book idea .

Book ideas often shift once the objectives and audience become clear, so we leave this task for the end of the positioning process. It’s much easier now to get your idea right, because you know exactly what you want to accomplish and what audience you must attract with your book to reach your objectives.

Before you write down your book idea, be sure to avoid the biggest mistake that authors make:

Don’t write the book you think your audience “should” read. Instead, write the book your audience wants to read.

This is a subtle yet very important distinction. If you can answer the next two questions well, then it should be positioned properly.

In 200 words or less, describe your book.

Write a one-paragraph description of exactly what the book is about.

DO NOT worry about writing the perfect book description (that comes later in the publishing process). Just get something down in less than 200 words that answers these three questions:

  • What is the book about?
  • Who is the ideal reader for the book?
  • What will the ideal reader get?

You don’t have to get it perfect at first; you just need to get something down that gets you pointed in the right direction. You will have plenty of time to get it perfect later on.

For now, distill the book idea into 200 words or, better yet, less. If you can’t do it in 200 words, you don’t actually know what your book is about, who it’s for, or why they will care.

If you are struggling with this, then think about your favorite book. Tell me in a few sentences what your favorite book is about. Now, what would that be for your book?

Don’t fall victim to the classic trap of trying to combine two or three books into one. A book should be one idea only, not all your ideas.

Also remember that putting your story in your book is fine, but only the parts that are interesting or relevant to the reader.

Examples of Solid Book Ideas

Example 1: This book will be an informative, easy-to-digest guide to hand safety in construction and manufacturing workplaces. The author will share what companies can do to educate their teams on hand safety and how to reduce hand injuries amongst their employees outside of just purchasing gloves. He will explain the methodology and safety tips needed to prevent hand injuries before they happen, and what to do if they do happen to prevent them from coming up again. He will include case studies, helpful tips, and practical applications that safety managers can use to prevent the majority of hand injuries in these companies, which is a huge risk each day.

Example 2: This book explores a series of critical flaws that represent the most common root causes of poor performance in organizations and are the primary reasons why organizations fail to achieve peak performance. What’s challenging about these flaws is that they lie underneath the surface of poor performance, so many organizations are not aware of them. Even when people may be somewhat aware, they may not realize how deep they go. And if/when they realize, they may not want or be able to treat them—especially alone. This book is for C-Suite executives who lead organizations that aren’t performing as well as they need to or could. It will help them diagnose and cure these flaws in their organizations, thus positioning their organizations for optimal business results; scalable, sustainable growth; efficient and effective operations; happy and engaged employees; and satisfied customers. On a personal level, this book will help these executives become more effective, less stressed, and happier in their professional and personal lives.

After you read the examples above, you could explain to someone else what the book is about, who it is for, and what they will get out of it.

Example of a Poorly Written Book Idea

Jim Smith is known as the “Deal Maker of Business.” He got his start at the age of eighteen and hasn’t stopped since. Now, with seven bestsellers and a reputation for his success as a digital nomad, Jim is looking to become a big deal with entrepreneurs.

In his book, Jim will reveal his country roots and his struggle with education as a high school student to set the stage for his readers to understand that the only thing holding them back is their mindset. Though he is known as a real estate success and has written extensively about cornering that market, this book will pull back the curtain to reveal that Jim’s success isn’t about real estate alone—it’s about the self-awareness required to do well in all areas of life, not just business.

Jim will challenge his readers to give up their throne as the King of Dipshits, to surround themselves with people who challenge them, to identify and own the things they are not great at, and to stop working like $10/hour employees when they are running a million-dollar business. Most of all, Jim will use his experiences and his humor to bring fresh insight to entrepreneurs who want a life like his, but aren’t sure how to get it.

What’s this book about? Who is it for? What will they get? I couldn’t say with confidence, and I doubt you can, either.

Step 10: Outline Your Chapters

Your outline is the structure of your book, and thus incredibly important. If you start writing without a structure, the process will take forever and the product will be haphazard and incomplete.

Worse, having no outline often leads to not finishing your book at all .

The outline is also your best defense against fear, anxiety, procrastination, and writer’s block. With good positioning and a good outline, the actual writing of the book becomes fairly easy.

At Scribe, we have a complete outlining process that is very different than what most people teach. What makes our outline different is we only intend it to trigger the proper ideas and concepts for each chapter, so when you sit down to write, you know what to focus on.

You can download the full book outline template here.

Step 11: How to Start Your Book: Outlining the Introduction

You know why most readers—probably including you—skip book introductions?

Because most authors think the purpose of the introduction is to explain everything they will talk about in the book.

That is boring and wrong.

The purpose of a good book introduction is to engage the reader and get them to read the book.

Just because someone is reading an introduction does not mean they are going to finish the book. The thing that scares people off of books is NOT the price—it’s the commitment of time.

People don’t care about $10. They care about spending their time on something that is interesting and engaging to them.

That is the job of the introduction: prove to the reader this book is worth reading. A well-done introduction grabs the reader and compels them to keep reading. It pulls them through, and makes them excited to start the content, because the introduction has answered the most important question the reader has:

An Introduction Should:

  • Get the reader immediately interested in the book
  • Clearly lay out the pain the reader is facing
  • Paint a picture of a better future, or a benefit the reader can get
  • Outline briefly what the reader will learn in the book
  • Explain why the author is the expert and authority on this subject
  • Get the reader committed to reading the book

An Introduction Should Not:

  • Be a summary of the book
  • Try to tell the whole story of something that is already in the book
  • Tell the author’s whole life story
  • Tediously explain exactly what is coming in the book
  • Have a meandering story that the reader doesn’t care about
  • Have too much background
  • Be too long
  • Start at the beginning of the author’s life
  • Have too much autobiography
  • Be entirely about the author and what they want to talk about

Step 12: How to Finish Your Book: Outlining the Conclusion

Here’s the thing with book conclusions: if the reader got all the way to the conclusion, then it means they read the whole book, they liked it, and now they want to wrap this up.

So don’t ramble on and on. Give them what they want.

The goal of the conclusion is to tie everything together, neatly summarize your book, and then provide a specific call or calls to action for your reader.

Don’t overcomplicate the book conclusion —just let it do its job, and it’ll work great.

What a Conclusion Should Do:

  • A conclusion should clearly summarize the book. That’s the best thing you can do, not only to deliver value to the reader, but also to make the book memorable (and recommendable).
  • A conclusion should address any lingering issues, and close any open loops. The reader should feel like everything is wrapped up in a bow.
  • A conclusion should have a call to action of some sort. In essence, tell the reader what to do.
  • A conclusion should point them to any additional resources you have for them that could help them.

What a Conclusion Should Not Do:

  • A conclusion should NOT introduce any new content. This should only be summarization of what is in the book. You can have new stories or anecdotes, of course.
  • A conclusion should not be too long. The rule of thumb is that it should be the shortest chapter in your book.
  • A conclusion should not break faith with the reader. Don’t tell them “operators are standing by” or try to sell them in a preposterous way that turns them off.

Step 13: Get a Working Title

You do NOT need to know your book title at this stage, but I like to start thinking about my title at the latest when I am finishing my outline.

All you need to do now is come up with a “working” book title. That basically just means a temporary title. That’s it.

Even if you hate it, a working title is necessary.

A bad title will help you get to a good title, but having no title keeps you stuck.

So just put down whatever you have, and then move to the next step.

Step 14: Write the Vomit Draft of Your Book

What we’ve found working with thousands of authors is that almost all of them know how to write out their ideas. What they need most is what we’ve already gone over: defined book positioning and a clear book plan. From there, the writing itself is easy.

Where problems arise is in the mindset around writing . What happens in this stage is that authors get stuck.

But I can tell you how to avoid this very simply:

Give yourself permission to write a mediocre first draft.

Most beginning authors have this notion that professional writers put out amazing first drafts, or that their first draft has to be really good.

That is nonsense.

I can tell you, as a professional writer who has written four New York Times bestsellers, my first drafts are utter garbage. Worse than mediocre. They are terrible.

But that doesn’t bother me because I know I can edit them until they are not terrible. The Barbara Kingsolver quote tells it all:

“1. To begin, give yourself permission to write a bad book. 2. Revise until it’s not a bad book.”

Many people struggle with giving themselves permission to write a mediocre first draft, so we developed a concept called the “ vomit draft .”

We literally call the first draft the “vomit draft.”

This is because when you’re vomiting, you don’t care about looking beautiful. When you’re vomiting, you just want to get it all out, because that’s the only way to get it over with.

What’s cool about the vomit draft is, unlike vomiting in front of people, your vomit draft is ONLY for you. You are the only person who will ever see it, and you will edit this before even your editor sees it.

By focusing on just getting it out, it stops you from reading and editing as you go, which inevitably slows you down and stalls you.

When you write something you think is garbage, just say, “That’s a problem for Future Me!” and keep moving.

This might be the most important advice in this book, so pay attention:

Write your vomit draft as quickly as possible. Don’t stop. Don’t edit. Move forward without looking back until your vomit draft is done.

Let me repeat that and break it down to be very clear and to be sure you got it:

Write your vomit draft as quickly as possible.




I cannot be more serious or literal about this.

The quickest way to derail a vomit draft is to start editing before you finish. I don’t care who you are—if you start editing your vomit draft, you WILL get stuck.

If you edit during the vomit draft stage, the best case scenario is you double the amount of time it takes to write the book.

Using the Vomit Draft Method does two things:

1. It suspends your self-judgment. 2. It creates momentum through daily victories (getting 250 words per day and celebrating that adds up and reframes how you see yourself)

If you edit as you write, it totally derails your book. The bully in your brain, the part of you that is ridiculously hard on yourself, will start to second-guess you and shame you and will, at best, slow you down—if not kill your motivation altogether.

How long should your book be?

When our authors ask us about book length , we tell them it should be as short as possible, without leaving anything out.

You should not write thinking about length, but you should remember to keep your book as short and focused as possible. Shorter books are much better. They sell better, and they are more read, more engaged, and more impactful.

The data we have on this is very clear: books under 100 pages don’t sell as well (lower perception of value), books between 100 and 199 pages sell the best, books between 200 and 299 pages sell almost as well as the ones in the hundreds, and books over 300 pages sell the least (that length is a big investment of time).

As a rule of thumb, you can assume about 200 words per printed page, so 100-199 pages is 20k-40k words. And 5-20 chapters is usually what works best.

Step 15: Find Your Voice

For some reason, when it comes time to writing, lots of authors become obsessed with “finding their voice.”

I’ll often tease authors and ask them things like, “Hey, did you look behind your sofa? Your voice might be there.”

The joke is silly but the point is right—you don’t “find” your voice outside of yourself. Your voice is already a part of who you are. Your job as an author is to get out of the way and let it out.

The second thing authors do wrong, is try to mimic a voice. You can’t be Malcolm Gladwell. You can only be you, so don’t try to be anything else.

So how to do make sure it’s your voice in your book? There are two frames we recommend authors take:

Voice Frame #1: Conversation with a friend.

This is the most common mental frame that our authors use. When they sit down to write, they envision themselves talking to a friend.

This is literally the frame that I used to write this section—I pretended to explain this to a friend of mine.

Getting in that state of mind does several things:

  • It relieves any anxiety, because this is just a conversation with friends.
  • It helps keep my focus on the listener, because they’re a friend and I want to be attentive to them.
  • It helps me stay centered on providing value to the listener, because in a teaching-style conversation, I am only thinking about what the other person is learning and taking in.
  • It helps me keep momentum and motivation, because I want to make sure I am always helpful to my friend.

John Steinbeck says it best:

“Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death, and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person — a real person you know, or an imagined person, and write to that one.”

Voice Frame #2: Help a stranger heal the same pain you had.

This is very similar to the “conversation with a friend” frame, but it is also different in a few ways. If you envision yourself helping a stranger solve a painful problem, you do these things:

  • You make it much easier to be brave in your writing and get past any fear or anxiety, because you are focused on their pain.
  • You focus on specific and actionable information, which will make your book better and more meaningful to your readers.
  • It helps you keep momentum and motivation, because you are focused on alleviating their pain.

Uber Cool Trick: Combine the two. If you envision yourself talking to a friend AND helping them through something difficult you’ve already done, that might be the best of both worlds.

Both of these methods allow you to get out of your own way and let your voice come through naturally.

Because you aren’t actually thinking about voice. You are focused on the reader. Focusing on the reader, rather than on yourself, is a superpower technique you can use at every stage to create an effective, successful book.

Don’t worry about being a writer. Just help people, and your voice will take care of itself.

Step 16: Use Good Writing Principles

Remember writing essays in school with a minimum word count?

If you were like me, you were guilty of turning “ they said ” into “ they then proceeded to vocally exclaim …”

I can’t think of a worse way to learn to write.

I didn’t have five pages of thoughts about Paul Revere’s ride, but being forced to write that much forced me to write convoluted sentences packed with unnecessary words to pad my essay and hit the space requirement.

What I didn’t learn in school is how to write something people want to read . That is the key to non-fiction, and it’s never covered in school.

Great non-fiction is short, simple, direct, and about the reader. Follow these principles and you’ll be writing very solid prose.

Also, check out our post on writing tips for authors .

1. Make it short.

This is the most important principle. If you get this one right, the rest (usually) take care of themselves.

Keep your writing short on all levels. Short chapters (usually no more than 4k words). Short paragraphs (2-3 sentences). Short sentences (5-20 words). Even shorter words (less than 12 characters).

Brevity forces economy and effectiveness. When you put a space constraint on your writing, it compels you to focus on the essential and cut the rest.

One key point: make it as short as possible without leaving anything out . Short does not mean missing essential content.

2. Make it simple.

Simple is very similar to short, but not the same thing. You can write something that’s short but complex. That doesn’t work well.

Simple words and sentences force you to write in plain English. Even difficult and complex ideas can be broken down into small words and short sentences. As Richard Feynman said, if you cannot explain your idea simply, it probably means you don’t fully understand it (which is bad, if you’re writing a book).

3. Make it direct.

Most non-fiction writing is indirect in some way— passive voice , jargon, multiple clauses, heavy use of adjectives and adverbs.

Don’t do these things. If you’re doing them, stop. If you aren’t sure what they are, then do this:

Make each sentence a single, clear statement. Connect it to the sentence before and the sentence after. Do not put multiple thoughts in one sentence.

Make your writing as direct as it can be.

I have to explain passive and active voice, because most people don’t know what it is. Active voice means the subject of the sentence is performing the verb. Passive voice means the subject of the sentence receives the action. Even though they mean the same thing, the effect is very different. Example:

Active: Tucker wrote the book. Passive: The book was written by Tucker.

Active voice is much easier for people to read because they can picture the sentence. You can see Tucker writing a book.

But in the passive voice, there is another cognitive step. You have to first imagine a book, then think about Tucker writing that book.

This small cognitive step makes a huge difference in how people respond to your writing.

4. Make it about the reader.

Ask yourself this question about everything you write:

“Why does the reader care?”

This is the hardest principle to apply, because when you do this, you realize that most of your writing is for yourself—not the reader. You see your writing for what it probably is: selfish, indulgent, and grandiose.

If that happens, don’t get down on yourself. That is common. Only every author ever has had that problem. All you have to do is stop writing about things the reader doesn’t care about and focus on what they do.

Step 17: Beat Procrastination & Writer’s Block

Like almost everything that stops you from sitting down and writing, procrastination is a symptom of fear in another form.

If you find yourself procrastinating, then ask yourself if you believe in your plan and your outline. Sometimes procrastination is your subconscious telling you that something is wrong with your plan.

Look at your outline for your book again. Examine it, and ask yourself if you believe in each section. If you don’t, then fix wherever you see a problem and you should be good.

Also, another great way to beat procrastination is to use public accountability. When you are lagging on your book, post about it, and that will help you get support and make sure you find the will to keep going.

Every writer I’ve ever talked to or worked with (including myself) has dealt with writer’s block. In fact, some of the greatest writers of all time—Ralph Ellison, Harper Lee—battled with it for decades, and had it crush their careers (neither wrote a book other than their first).

After decades of writing books professionally, and working with thousands of authors to help them through these issues, I have developed an approach to writer’s block that is different than most, and—if applied correctly—almost always works.

When I am stuck, I ask myself the question: What am I afraid of?

Hint: it’s pretty much always some fear you don’t want to face.

Here’s the thing though—this won’t work if you aren’t honest with yourself. And of course, you have to be self-aware enough to know when you’re not being honest.

This works for me (most of the time), because I’ve spent many years in different forms of therapy, and I have gotten pretty decent at seeing my own head garbage (again, most of the time, not always).

If you’re not like that—and most people are not—this strategy won’t work. You’ll just spin up elaborate rationalizations to convince yourself that there is a REAL reason, and it’s not some fear you aren’t facing .

But if you do this, if you can actually understand the fear that driving your block, then you can solve it. I walk you through exactly how to beat your book writing fears in this piece .

There are absolutely times when writer’s block is not fear. Sometimes you’re just having a hard time, for other reasons, and for those times, these are the strategies I’ve found that work (both with me, and the thousands of authors we’ve helped write their books).

1. Talk it out: Writer’s block exists. There is no such thing as speaker’s block. You can always talk. If you really feel stuck, get someone to interview you on the thing you’re stuck about. Once you have to talk about it, the ideas and words flow.

2. Do something else: You know the saying about how “the phone only rings when you’re in the shower”? Well…go get in the shower. Metaphorically. Going for a walk works really well for me. As does playing with my kids. Basically taking your mind off of it allows your subconscious to work on the issue, and you can come back to it fresh later on.

3. Context switching: This has helped me before—I will change where I am writing. I’ll go to a coffee shop or a restaurant or anywhere else. It doesn’t matter where I go, as long as I change the context I am in.

4. Keep writing: I hate this, but sometimes it works. Many times I’ve been stuck, and I would keep writing, even if it was useless, and that got me going. Lack of momentum almost always has fear underneath it, but sometimes just getting moving is enough to get to something good.

These are the strategies I’ve seen work for myself and others.

But again, do what works for you. That’s the only rule for writing.

post-its on written pages

Editing Your Book

Step 18: celebrate finishing your vomit draft.

No seriously—once you finish your vomit draft, you need to stop and celebrate. This is a big deal.


It feels amazing to get through the first draft. Reward yourself with some time to rest and relax. The hardest part is over. You now have a real book in your hands, even if it is rough.

When I say take some time to rest and relax, I’m very serious. Set the entire thing aside for at least a week, ideally two. This will give you a valuable fresh perspective when you come back and begin editing.

It’s possible to begin editing immediately, but the result won’t be as good. This is part of why we tell you to schedule two months for your editing—to give you a buffer to rest your mind and come back at your manuscript fresh.

Step 19: Before You Edit, Remember Who the Book Is For

Yes of course the book is yours. Yes, it probably has a lot of your stories in it, in fact it should. Yes, the book is going to create benefits for you.

But as we discussed, if you want the book to help you, then the book has to provide value to the reader. In essence, to get what you want, you must give them what they want.

That is much easier said than done. Here are some facts about readers.

  • Ignorant (about your subject)

I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s just how all readers are (including you and me).

The reality is that, in a book, you are buying the attention of the reader ONE PARAGRAPH AT A TIME.

You can write the book without worrying about that fact, but once you start editing, it becomes very important.

The point is that as you write, you can think of yourself, but as you edit, you need to be thinking about your reader.

Step 20: Do the “Make It Right” Edit

We have three editing phases we recommend, and this should be the easiest and most simple editing pass. There are three goals to the “make it right” edit. You want to ensure that:

  • All content is in the book
  • In the right order
  • The structure and positioning all make sense

This is basically just making sure the book has everything in it so you can actually begin the deep editing. All the writing and stories that need to be in, are in, and they are in the right order, and it all makes sense.

That’s pretty much it. Don’t make this more complicated than it needs to be.

Step 21: Do the “Line-by-Line” Edit

This is the framework we use for our line-by-line editing. It’s simple to understand, but powerful if you do it right. It gives you the exact questions to ask yourself at each level of editing:

As you read every chapter , ask yourself these six questions:

  • What point am I making?
  • Is it necessary?
  • Is it as short as possible?
  • Is it as simple as possible?
  • Is it as direct as possible?

We mean this literally—ask yourself these questions, each time.

Yes, this is tedious. But if you do this exercise consistently, it becomes second nature. Once that happens, you’ll find that you can not only cut the fluff out of your book, you can also make your book sharper and more refined, and you’ll be able to hone in on what you are trying to say, and nail it.

Do it for each paragraph, then do it for each sentence. If you do this, you’ll have an excellent book.

Step 22: Do the “Read Aloud” Edit

This is an editing process that’s not commonly taught, but is a secret trick of numerous bestselling authors. Brené Brown, Neil Strauss, myself—we all do this.

When I wrote my first book, I had teams of proofreaders working through the book. I did not think that a single mistake would sneak by, and happily locked in the manuscript.

A few months later, I recorded my audiobook , and as I read through the manuscript out loud, I was horrified.

There were 100 tiny little mistakes and changes I only heard once I said them out loud. Not just spelling—there were very few of those. They were more word choice or phrasing mistakes.

It drove me NUTS.

Don’t make the mistake I made. Read your manuscript out loud and mark changes as you go.

If the words roll off your tongue, they’ll also flow smoothly in readers’ heads. Because I waited until so late in the process to read it out loud, it was too late to make edits to the book.

Learn from my mistake and read your manuscript out loud and make your changes before you start the publishing process.

If you find taking the time to sit and read out loud difficult (and a lot of authors do), we recommend having a friend help you out. If someone is sitting in the room with you, listening as you read through the manuscript, it’ll create the social pressure you need to actually do it.

If it’s something you would say out loud, then it reads clearly on the page. If it’s something you would never say to another person, it won’t read as clearly.

The reason reading your manuscript out loud works so well is because you will catch dozens of things you would have otherwise missed. Like Paul says, hearing yourself speak forces you to notice bad or strange phrasings—even if you don’t know why it’s off, you know it’s off.

If possible, read each chapter to a person. I know, that sounds awful and tedious, but reading to actual people forces you to really hear what is and is not working. It’s an incredible forcing function.

If you can’t do that, then set-up a microphone and record yourself as you read aloud.

You can delete the recording afterward. All that matters is that you are reading it OUT LOUD.

This is KEY to making this process work.

You have to read it to a real person, though. It doesn’t really work any other way.

Then you listen to what your words are saying—you’ll hear the errors.

Step 23: Stop Editing

Most first time authors fall into the “editing death spiral.” This is when they keep editing the same thing over and over, and cannot stop.

We see this all the time. They will do the first three rounds of edits fine, then they spend six months tinkering with it.

Not because they are making substantive changes. Instead they get lost in details, fretting over small word choices, making tiny edits and obsessing over obscure details. We almost have to pry the book out of their hands so we can finish it, even though they don’t really have anything left to change.

If you need a frame to help you decide when and if you are done editing, you can use what we call the Edit Stop Quiz . It’s two questions, and you can use it over and over again until you are done.

Edit Stop Quiz

Question #1: Is this the best book you can write, RIGHT NOW?

If the answer is yes, then send to publish.

If the answer is no, then go to question #2.

Question #2: What can you do RIGHT NOW to make it better?

If there is an answer, something you can do now, do it.

If there is nothing you can do now—if the answer is something like, “Become a better writer”—then send to publish.

The point of this is to get you out of your spiral of “Well, if I did a little more research …” and then two years later your book is still stuck. That is bullshit, and just procrastination to stop you from finishing your book.

This can be driven by many different forces, such as perfectionism, fear of publishing, fear of success, or fear of failure. There will always be more to work on, more to change, more to improve. That will kill your book.

There are two aphorisms we use to help get authors past this point:

“Perfect is the enemy of good, shipped is better than perfect.” —Seth Godin

“[Books] are never truly finished, only abandoned.” —Leonardo Da Vinci

Final Thoughts

This should be more than enough to help you not only get started, but actually finish your book.

Here’s the thing though: writing the book is only the first step (even though it’s a major one).

The next step is to actually publish your book and decide if you are going to go the self-publishing or traditional publishing route.

Please don’t be the person who writes 80% of the book and quits. Remember that at least one person, and probably many more, want to learn what your book will teach them. You have an obligation to yourself and to your audience to stop editing and put the book out.

Write up and publish your knowledge, even if it’s not perfect. They want and need it.

The Scribe Crew

Read this next.

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Last updated on Aug 08, 2022

How to Format a Book (the Free and Easy Way)

So, you've finished writing your book, and your editor has whipped your story and prose into shape. Now it's time to format that manuscript into a beautiful book that readers will want to devour from cover to cover.

In this post, we’ll show you how to use Reedsy's free Book Editor tool to prepare your book for publication. So – here's how you can format a book in six steps:

1. Import your fully-edited manuscript

2. format your chapter titles and paragraphs, 3. add images, endnotes, and page breaks, 4. upload your book cover in the correct size, 5. set your table of contents and copyright page, 6. finally, export your print and ebook files.

Sign up to the Reedsy Book Editor here to unlock it, and then let’s get to it! 

how to write a bok


The Reedsy Book Editor

Format your manuscript for print or EPUB with a single click.

Regardless of the writing software you've been using , you can use the .docx import function on the Reedsy Book Editor to continue working on manuscripts you started on any major word processor. To keep all your chapter breaks and headings, be sure to: 

  • Use "styles" for each chapter title and heading; or
  • Use "chapter …" at the beginning of every chapter. 

Another option is to copy-paste your book in the Reedsy Book Editor and then use our "chapter break" feature to split it into chapters. Throughout this process, you should note that Reedsy respects the existing formatting of your manuscript, which means that our software will retain elements like headings, links, and inline styles (italic/bold). Here’s what it looks like:

Once your manuscript is nestled comfortably into the editor, the formatting can begin!

One feature that makes our book production tool smart is the formatting bar: simply select the type of paragraph or character style you want to use, and the formatting will be applied.

The paragraph styling options are:

  • Default paragraph: your standard styling
  • Three levels of headings to structure your content (mainly for non-fiction books)
  • Two types of lists: bullet points and numbers

how to write a bok

Once you’ve defined your paragraphs’ styling, you can customize your font styling with the following options:

  • Link and cross-references

how to write a bok

You may also want to be aware of the existence of widows and orphans. No, not the Oliver Twist ones of the Dickens variety! In publishing speak, a widow is a word (or small group of words) that sits by itself at the bottom of a paragraph or page, and orphans are words leftover from a paragraph on the previous page. 

Orphans and widows

Format fact: The most common font size for books is 12-pt. However, ebook readers can customize their devices to display whatever size they find most comfortable.

You’ve mastered this step and are ready to get a little fancy. On to step 3...

Books that meet industry standards but are also unique and personal? Brilliant! The next step is to enrich your existing content with:

  • Images and captions
  • Scene breaks (for fiction)

ebook formatting - insert images, captions and scene breaks

You will find your endnotes in a dedicated chapter at the end of your book for reference:

How to format a book: Reedsy book editor endnotes

At this point, your manuscript’s interior is taken care of, and it’s time to focus on its exterior.

Note : the Reedsy book editor will take care of your page numbering — so no need to worry there!

You can now click on the Export icon, which will lead you to our Export page — where most of the magic happens.

The first thing you should do here is to upload your cover. Make sure you upload an image following the requirements of the ebook stores you use for distribution. For best results, we recommend your cover image use a ratio of 1:1.6 and measure at least 2500px on the longest side. But if unsure, check out our handy guide on choosing the right book cover dimensions .

Note that POD services will require a PDF with the full jacket and a separate PDF for the book’s interior for physical books. For the book’s jacket, we recommend working with a designer from the Reedsy marketplace who knows the requirements of different POD services and will be able to provide you with the right file.

Format fact: The most common paperback size in the US is 6"x9" — also known as a trade . Check out our post on standard book sizes to find out more.

“Front matter” refers to the parts of your manuscript that come before the actual content begins. This also applies to ebooks. With the Editor, you can manage your book's  front matter elements  in two sections: the   Copyright Page and Table of Contents.

how to write a bok

On this page, you can manage your:

  • Edition number
  • Year of publication
  • Collaborators
  • Publisher name and logo (if any)
  • Copyright clauses
  • ISBN number(s)

Note that you won’t need an ISBN for most ebook retailers, as they have their own identifying number. For instance, Amazon uses the Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN) and creates a new one for free every time you publish with Kindle Direct Publishing ( KDP ). Similarly, Apple iBooks no longer requires an ISBN .

There’s currently a debate about whether or not ISBNs still make sense, and you can read more about it here. For now, you’ll need an ISBN if you’re planning on printing POD versions, and most POD services will provide you with one for free.

Once your ISBN has been added, you can turn your attention to your table of contents.

Table of Contents

how to write a bok

This is where you can choose how detailed your table of contents will be. If you're writing a novel, you may only want to list the chapter titles in the table of contents (above). However, you can also choose to list your sub-headings as well (below).

how to write a bok

And once you're done with configuring your copyright page and table of contents, you're just about ready to export your book.

We’re getting closer! It’s now time to decide whether you want to create an ebook, print copies, or both. This will also determine whether you need an EPUB, or PDF file. Check out our guide to publishing file formats to learn more about these formats.

End note positioning for EPUB ebooks: at the end of the chapter or the book

For ebooks: download an EPUB file

EPUB files are compatible with the Kindle Store, Apple’s iBookstore, the Kobo Store, Nook Press, Google Play, and NetGalley.

Next, decide how you’d like to organize your endnotes (if applicable). You can position them at the end of every chapter or all together at the end of the book.

For print copies: download a PDF file

The files created are currently compatible with most POD services ( Lulu , KDP Print, IngramSpark , CPI, etc.). Again, the first step is to position your endnotes. For physical copies, you can decide whether you’d like them to be footnotes at the bottom of a page or actual endnotes at the end of your book.

Unlike ebooks, your physical copy needs to be set to a trim size ready for printing. Reedsy currently offers a few different options, based on popular industry standard sizes :

  • Pocket 4.25 x 6.87 in (10.80 x 17.45 cm)
  • Reedsy 5 x 8 in (12.7 x 20.32 cm)
  • Digest 5.5 x 8.5 in (13.97 x 21.59 cm)
  • Trade 6 x 9 in (15.24 x 22.86 cm)

Which trim size should you pick? There’s no clear-cut answer. Your choice depends on a few factors: the genre and audience of your book, the length of the manuscript , and, of course, your personal preference. To make a decision here, we recommend that you spend some time in a bookstore with a ruler to determine what makes the most sense for your future bestseller.

Here are a few pictures to give you a sense of what those different sizes look like:

How to make a book trim sizes examples for print books

Once you’ve selected your trim size, simply pick a template and hit the download button. Your moment of glory is only seconds away as the editor typesets your book and gets it ready to be downloaded!

As a bonus, we have a short video tutorial for formatting your manuscript in the Reedsy Book Editor.

ZF6MHRgMQIo Video Thumb

Head to our Reedsy Book Editor and format your book for free in just a few seconds. 

58 responses

Malaika Rose Stanley says:

29/07/2016 – 08:19

The Reedsy Book Editor really is an amazing resource for indie authors, as I know from experience! But I'd still like to see the option to add 'untitled' front matter, such as a quote... and an option to remove/change the formatting of lower case, italicised roman numerals page numbers, which I guess is a feature more common in the US than the UK.

↪️ Reedsy replied:

29/07/2016 – 09:04

Thank you for the testimonial! The front matter options are receiving a major revamp in the coming weeks, as we know they can be improved as you have suggested. There are infinite possibilities for customization when it comes to books, which overwhelms many authors. This is one of the reasons why we have kept a few things simple. Thank you for suggesting these ideas however, we will look into it :)

Colin Smith says:

03/08/2016 – 14:45

How does it handle footnotes? I have seen published novels where footnotes appear as pop-ups without having to navigate away from the page you're reading. That's the format I'd like for my work.

04/08/2016 – 08:17

Hi Colin, good question! Currently we handle footnotes on ePub by placing them at the end of each chapter, or in a chapter of their own at the end of the book. We have now moved to ePub3, which is the format that allows you to have these "popup footnotes", and while we have not yet optimized the export to accommodate these, it is definitely on our radar to support soon :)

Kate Gesch says:

14/09/2016 – 02:40

I'm working in the book editor right now, and there are significantly fewer options in the formatting bar than what is pictured above. My only choices are regular paragraph, headings 1,2,3, block quote, numbered list, bullets, bold, italic, underline, and hyperlink. I'm particularly looking for the sans paragraph font and the center text options, where did they go?

14/09/2016 – 09:07

Hi Kate, the formatting bar images on this post are slightly ahead of our roadmap — the alignment and sans paragraph font will come within an update of the Book Editor in a year or so (i.e. Oct 2017). Sorry about that!

Milk for Dead Hamsters says:

19/10/2016 – 12:31

I want to love Reedsy's ebook creator so badly. It has a beautiful interface and produces a nicely templated book. BUT it's light on one too many features. Section breaks do not work. Center adjustment isn't available. Hyperlinks on pictures would be useful. As someone mentioned, all of the "front matter" is considered chapters and roped into the Table of Contents. I'd like to be able to put a dedication and a teaser for another book before the ToC and not have it show up on that list. Any word on when the new features will be coming out?

↪️ Amber Deann replied:

19/01/2018 – 22:00

Milk for dead hamsters, I have a question. IN the past year have the problems you mentioned about been resolved. Can you deal with "front matter" with out it being part of Table of Contents? I have poetry in my manuscript. Hope I can get it formatted easily. Love any comments or suggestions you could give. amber

↪️ Milk for Dead Hamsters replied:

19/01/2018 – 23:37

Not sure. I never revisited this product. I went with vellum, which was a pretty penny, but did exactly what I needed it to do.

Gustavo Razzetti says:

29/04/2017 – 16:50

I'm about to submit my manuscript to an editor. Shall I uploaded on the Reedsy Book editor before or after is been edited? Most probably, I will be working with an editor from the Reedsy network so I want to understand if your editor use this tool for editing or is it something that authors use once the book has been edited? :)

01/05/2017 – 11:59

Hi Gustavo, at this point, the Reedsy Book Editor is not collaborative, so we recommend you only use it for the final steps: formatting to EPUB and print-ready PDF. Thanks for your question! :)

Joanna @ says:

08/09/2017 – 20:07

Is there an option to justify text in the Reedsy editor?

08/09/2017 – 20:34

Hi Joanna, Your text will be automatically justified when you export it. We give you the best experience to write and our tool takes care of the formatting itself at the end.

Elle Clouse says:

26/11/2017 – 20:18

This is a great tool. I'm working on formatting a paperback and I don't see where I can force chapter/title pages onto the right hand page. And alternatively the copyright notice needs to be left hand page. Is this something that can be done and I can't locate the functionality? Or is it a feature that's coming soon?

19/04/2018 – 08:59

This isn't a feature that's available. We don't allow for infinite customization as we really want to avoid users making basic typesetting mistakes. We'll probably add templates in the future though where chapter and title pages will be formatted differently.

Jason says:

29/01/2018 – 23:03

I'm wondering why the text for a typesetting/formatting software cuts off the last few characters of each line of the preceding explanatory website text. This blog entry was supposedly updated in September 2017. Has no one noticed this? Not a particularly good first impression. I guess you get what you pay for.

Lisa Santika Onggrid says:

19/04/2018 – 02:34

What do I do if it returns a failure on me whenever I try to export a book? There's not even a notice telling me the reason it fails.

19/04/2018 – 08:58

Our team is instantly notified whenever there's a failed export, so they can look into it. Please allow a few days until they get back to you and identify the issue.

I.P.A. Manning says:

13/06/2018 – 14:15

In downloading a word doc onto the ebook creator my endnotes come out numbered in Roman numerals in the text instead of in standard numbers ( I have many endnotes) and the reference appears at the end of the chapter instead of the end of the book. I also wish to hyperlink some of the URLS? How do I do I do all this?

13/06/2018 – 14:20

You can select the position of the endnotes on the export page, in the "End note positioning" section. For hyperlinking, just highlight the text you'd like to hyperlink, then click on the link symbol and fill in the link. Hope this helps!

↪️ I.P.A. Manning replied:

13/06/2018 – 14:26

Will give it a bash, thank you. What about changing the Roman numerals for 1,2.3. etc?

13/06/2018 – 14:36

That depends on the template, and right now our templates use Roman numerals, as it is more the standard for typesetting.

13/06/2018 – 16:33

Thanks. The endnotes insist on going to the end of the chapter? Woud appreciate a step by step guide as to how to persuade the endnotes stuck at the end of the chapter to move and join the herd of endnotes in a chapter at the end ? Many thanks.

14/06/2018 – 19:23

I have set the marker for the endnotes to appear at the end of the book, yet it continues to the end of the chapter. Any ideas?

Syntell Smith says:

22/08/2018 – 14:33

I can't insert scene breaks with a centered group of three asterisks. Is there a work around for this?

22/08/2018 – 23:03

You can add three-asterisk scene breaks by clicking on the plus sign in the top bar and then on "insert scene break"

Melanie Rambo says:

23/08/2018 – 09:30

I have a client that would like to convert her Weebly blog into a book with the hope of printing just 1-3 copies. Is Reedy a good place for me to come for that? Thanks for your time

Katie Lile says:

30/08/2018 – 17:38

I have a completely different formatting bar than the one that they show everywhere else.

03/09/2018 – 14:48

Great point. We created those mock-ups a short while ago with all the functions we want (and are perhaps going) to add to the editor. However, as you pointed out, it may be more useful to show how the toolbar *actually* looks — so we've updated the post to reflect that. Thanks :)

Lucretia Cargill says:

01/03/2019 – 16:11

I have been having an issue trying to double space my document. I have been trying to figure that out. But overall my book looks good! Any suggestion on how to double space?

08/05/2019 – 12:28

Sorry, we automatically remove double spacing, as that is not a standard in novels or trade non-fiction.

Alana Khan says:

I wrote in google docs, imported to word, then imported to Reedsy. Every single paragraph break (double spaced) was removed and replaced with a 3 space paragraph indent. I personally hate to read books formatted like this and also don't want to have to manually change every single paragraph break. Is there a fix to this? Thanks.

08/05/2019 – 12:29

Hi Alana, there's no fix to this as our Reedsy Book Editor automatically follows and defaults to standard typesetting rules. If you pick a book on your shelves, you'll see there are very few (if any) line breaks, and that all new paragraphs are indented. If you prefer not to follow typesetting standards, the Reedsy Book Editor is not a good option for you.

Glen Kenner says:

I've just tried to use the manuscript creator tool for the first time but it didn't work for me. I wrote my novel in Google Docs and saved it as a .docx file. When I try to import it into the tool, I get an error message "Manuscript has an invalid error type". Anyone know what I should do from here?

We're looking into it. For now, we recommend either copy-pasting your manuscript in the Editor, or saving your file first in MS Word or Open Office.

Tom Dorr says:

24/06/2019 – 12:29

Wow! I feel like a complete idiot. I joined Reedsy, have an account and have used this to hire a designer, yet i cannot find anything about the Reedsy Book Editor or a way to contact anybody at Reedsy. If you would be so kind as to help me in any way I would be very appreciative. Thanks

25/06/2019 – 11:58

Hi Tom, When you log in to Reedsy, you'll see an option in the sidebar that says "My Books" — if you tap on this and create a book, that will take you straight to the formatting tool. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us at [email protected] :)

Lannan says:

14/07/2019 – 01:41

I signed up to use the Reedsy editor almost a year ago, and have cracked it open again today to see how things are coming along - I didn't like it much for my fiction novel, and decided to try it for formatting a nonfiction guide book I've finished. In discovering this re-posted blog article, I see that there are some things that users asked for several years ago that have not been implemented yet - are there any plans on the horizon to allow for page-end or chapter-end notes? Also, when is it anticipated that the "editing" version of the editor (as opposed to the "writing" version) will be released?

↪️ Lannan replied:

14/07/2019 – 01:44

Ah, eating my words a bit - the notes function is hidden away in the "export" page. While the editor is a fantastic resource, there are a few basic things that could be improved upon a great deal - more transparency about how to accomplish these things might help! (Or at least a way to see many of these export-only formatting options from in the writing editor would help a lot.)

louise says:

16/08/2019 – 15:04

Hey, just considering using the editor interface and wondered if it's possible to resize an image? When I import an already small image, it makes it fit the width of the page? also is it possible to move it around the page? Thanks :)

↪️ Martin Cavannagh replied:

19/08/2019 – 09:01

Hi Louise, we only support full-width images at the moment, unfortunately. Smaller images get tricky for us to handle when we're dealing with a variety of screen sizes for epubs. To get a smaller image, you have to manually “pad” the image — add white/transparent space either side of it — and reupload. Hope that helps!

sean moore says:

16/08/2019 – 16:45

I can't find the actual blank place for me to download some book copy

19/08/2019 – 08:56

Hi Sean, if you're still having trouble could you email our team ([email protected]) — they should be able to sort it out for you :)

S Yhan says:

17/08/2019 – 03:22

How can I add a back cover of my book to the editor? I only see option to upload the front cover.

19/08/2019 – 08:55

If it's for the print version, almost all printers will ask you to upload your covers separately. Our print PDFs export with no cover at all for this reason. Hope that helps :)

Isobel says:

21/08/2019 – 07:54

Does the Book Editor support other languages and if so which ones? (for the text of the book I mean, not that the software itself)

23/08/2019 – 09:23

Currently, we only fully support English — but we're looking into adding other languages at some point in the future.

Peggy chappell says:

05/09/2019 – 21:48

Justifying margins is standard for most books and yet I see no way to do that. After working on my manuscript and wasting a couple of hours I discovered this. Anyone have any solution?

Adam Blumer says:

15/10/2019 – 13:48

Where should I post my book endorsements? I don't see that option in the front matter. Thanks.

15/10/2019 – 14:08

You can just add a new section/chapter and drag it into the front matter to use as any sort of section you like. Hope that helps

Nancy Richards says:

01/11/2019 – 01:04

I believe my book/workbook, which is intended to be filled out by the reader, would work better in a larger size. Are the given sizes the only sizes with which the Reedsy Book Editor can work?

01/11/2019 – 12:21

At the moment, we don't have any additional sized on offer with this app. If you're working on a fillable workbook, you might actually be looking at creating a book with a fixed format — and for that, you may want to have a look at working with a human book designer.

Khalil Assi says:

25/12/2019 – 18:04

Is it possible to write from Right to Left using reedsy

26/12/2019 – 11:35

I'm afraid this is not currently supported by the Reedsy Book Editor. We'll keep this in mind as we look to make it available in other languages.

↪️ Khalil Assi replied:

27/12/2019 – 22:36

Thank you Martin. When do you think such a support for other languages might be available? In my case I need Arabic support.

Sahara says:

25/02/2020 – 03:32

I don't want chapter numbers—can they be eliminated?

25/02/2020 – 09:15

Yes, you can! When you come to export the book, one of the options is to "Hide Chapter Numbers". If you want to see it, just tap the export/download button.

Eddie Lay says:

28/02/2020 – 00:31

I have a children's picture book. Can I get it formatted in landscape and double-page?

Comments are currently closed.

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How to Write a “How To” Book By Susan Bilheimer

November 6, 2002

Do you know that what you know can make you money? Many of the top-selling books on the market today are “How To” books. Our society devours instructional manuals about everything from relationships to dieting to crafts and cars! The best news is that e-books, which involve little-to-no cost to publish, are a prime vehicle for selling “How To” information. Writing a “How To” book is easy, if you divide the whole into a number of parts … and work on each one at a time. 1. Pick a subject What do you know that others don’t? You’d be surprised how many things you know how to do that others would love to learn. For instance, I recently won a Lemon Law suit against a major automobile manufacturer. Afterwards, I wrote a “How To” article about my experience for a national magazine! Surprisingly, many people haven’t got a clue about how to file such a suit, what defects are covered, and how to get help. I’m now planning an e-book on this topic. Business “How To” books are usually top sellers. However, a lack of business acumen shouldn’t stop you. Browse and to see successful “How To” books on every conceivable subject. People don’t just want to make money-they also want to learn how to accomplish goals and become proficient at hobbies. One consistent best-seller on is How to Make & Market Gel Candles That Sell Like Wildfire by Lynn A. Thomas. This is a perfect example of a successful “How To” e-book on making money through crafts. Make a list of five things you know how to do. Remember, even if there are experts on the subject, plenty of others don’t know where to begin. Here are some examples: Animal training, such as teaching tricks or even potty-training your cat Crafts, such as needlepoint, crochet, knitting Childcare, such as raising five children and staying sane, vacationing with kids Thrift shop buying Selling old stuff on consignment or holding a yard sale successfully Arts, such as painting, collage, playing an instrument, writing when you don’t even have an hour a day, selling your paintings online You get the idea. Look at the some non-fiction best seller lists to see what’s hot in the how-to genre these days. See:

After creating your list, try to find a niche. For instance, my e-book, How to Become a Technical Writer , is geared to those who have not yet had their first job in the field, after research uncovered that no existing books targeted this market. 2. Write an outline Writing an outline is essential, but the outline is not set in stone. Getting your ideas on paper will spur you to write the book. It’s just filling in the blanks. Although I was overwhelmed about where to begin on the subject of “breaking into technical writing,” noting the various components (Categories of technical writing, tools you will need, etc.), gave me a road map. 3. Research your subject You will, of course, want to locate facts and figures about your “How To” book subject. One of the most valuable aspects of e-books is that they allow the reader to link directly to the Internet from the text. So, if you are writing a “How To” book about paper airplanes, you will want to include links to web sites on subjects such as the history of paper airplanes, relationships to real airplanes, paper airplane contests and records, and other books. The more resources you give your readers, in addition to your own knowledge, the more satisfied they will be. 4. Write the book You don’t have to write the book from start to finish, in that order. That is the bliss of “How To” books. You already know the ending! In fact, I often found myself creating new chapters as I went along. To begin, pick the easiest chapter to write from your outline. Remember, you already know this information, and are simply passing your knowledge on to others. You don’t have to create it out of thin air! I want to make an additional comment about publishing your “How To” book in e-book format, if not exclusively, then in addition to a print version. You can easily update and edit an e-book. And, you should update annually. I cannot think of a subject that will not require the addition or deletion of information annually (e.g., a new web site containing great information, a link that no longer works, etc.). This means that some people may actually buy your book again, if the new information is valuable enough! The best way to start writing your first “How To” book is to get started now. So, go ahead and use the information you know to help others, while enhancing your writing career! Susan Bilheimer’s best-selling ebook, How to Become a Technical Writer, has been newly revised for 2003. Her article on how to win a Lemon Law case appeared in the November issue of AMI Auto World magazine . Currently, she is working on a “How To” meditation book for compulsive overeaters. Feel free to email Susan with questions at: [email protected] .

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Another Battle Royale in the Windsor War

In “Endgame,” Harry and Meghan’s sympathetic biographer, Omid Scobie, takes on the in-laws — and takes no prisoners.

The Windsors gather on a red, draped balcony, looking upward. From left: Prince Charles in military regalia, Prince Andrew, Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall in a white dress and hat, Queen Elizabeth II in a blue dress and hat, Meghan the Duchess of Sussex in a black dress and fascinator, Prince Harry in military uniform, Prince William in military uniform and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, in a pale-blue dress and pillbox hat.

By Eva Wolchover

Eva Wolchover is a writer and co-host of the podcast “Windsors & Losers.”

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When you purchase an independently reviewed book through our site, we earn an affiliate commission.

ENDGAME: Inside the Royal Family and the Monarchy’s Fight for Survival, by Omid Scobie

Early on in “Endgame,” the journalist and royal commentator Omid Scobie makes an enticing promise.

“In the past I, like others, have held back on revealing some of the darker truths at the heart of the institution of the British monarchy,” he writes. “Part of this book will burn my bridges for good. But to tell the full story, there’s no holding back. Not anymore. We’re in the endgame.”

However, readers hoping for a final death blow of gossip will be disappointed. We’ve heard much of it before. From Fergie, from Diana, from Charles, from Harry, from Harry, from Harry again.

The London-based Scobie’s 2020 book, “Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family” (written with Carolyn Durand), gave a sympathetic account of the couple’s exodus from Windsor, earning him the title of Sussex “mouthpiece.” It’s a term he vociferously rejects (although it was later confirmed that Meghan had given an aide permission to brief Scobie and Durand for their book).

Here Scobie picks up with the death of Queen Elizabeth II, questioning whether her hapless eldest son and his heirs have what it takes to run the family business. His book presents a critical view of palace machinations and the central players involved, and reflects on whether the monarchy should consider “standing back and watching the curtain slowly close” on a thousand years of British history.

“Tone-deaf, racist and financially reckless” are three charges hurled at the monarchy, “but when Queen Elizabeth II was at the helm she managed to keep much of it at bay,” he writes.

Over the course of her umpteen-year reign the queen earned a certain amount of good will for herself and “the Institution,” largely because her silence and inscrutability read as comparatively dignified.

With the dawn of the “Carolean Era” upon us (which, in the case of King Charles, may also well be its twilight), Scobie warns the Windsors must get a grip or face extinction in a Britain that’s at best apathetic and at worst offended by the notion of inherited power. Scobie cites falling approval ratings (down to 47 percent after the publication of Prince Harry’s “Spare”) and a smattering of protesters waving “Not My King” signs at Charles’s public engagements.

Sure, but cast our minds back to the time Charles was secretly recorded talking about becoming Camilla’s tampon (which Scobie somehow manages to resist bringing up for the first five pages of the book), or the aftermath of Diana’s death, and it’s hard not to find Scobie’s dire predictions a tad hyperbolic. These days, warts-and-all tell-alls seem to be as integral to the Windsor brand as weddings, jubilees and blockbuster funerals.

And Scobie’s take is not all that different from what Harry presented in “Spare,” or what Charles gave us 30-odd years ago in his own authorized, and interminable, tale of woe, “The Prince of Wales: A Biography.”

The new king comes in for a walloping here. As Scobie tells it, Charles is “often envious” of his sons’ popularity, and lets his own petty jealousies get in the way of harnessing star power when it presents itself: “His ineptitude surrounding the Harry and Meghan saga has effectively turned the couple into the disrupters they were feared to become in the first place.”

Then there’s the issue of race and “unconscious bias,” to use a careful phraseology borrowed from Harry. Here, Scobie sees an obvious opportunity for growth and cultural leadership. And yet, the royal family’s approach? “Myopic at best, willfully ignoring the issue at worst.”

Anyone with even a passing interest in the Windsor palaver will be familiar with Scobie’s descriptions of the Firm’s mutually parasitic dealings with the press. It’s a system in which courtiers big up their royal bosses by briefing, leaking and anonymously sourcing against one another in the pursuit of public favor. Father against son, brother against brother, duchess against duchess.

The book picks up pace when Scobie engages in the kind of tabloid fodder he makes us feel guilty for wanting, such as Prince William’s rumored affair with the Marchioness of Cholmondeley (a rumor he doesn’t do much to dispel).

Scobie reveals that a Kensington Palace aide tried to enlist his help in diverting The Sun newspaper away from the affair by offering up excerpts from “Finding Freedom.” “I had zero interest in collaborating with the tabloid,” Scobie writes.

Much of Scobie’s new book is devoted to setting the record straight on petty slights against the Sussexes: exactly who made whom cry at a dress fitting; the double standards applied to royal bridezillas brandishing air freshener. Let the record show that “when Kate filled Westminster Abbey with Jo Malone for her wedding, it was ‘sweet.’”

Speaking of Kate, she didn’t fare well in “Finding Freedom,” and neither does she here. Scobie obliquely accuses the princess — presented as cold and lacking in self-assurance — of copying Meghan’s effortless dress sense. And he notes that Kate’s Hold Still lockdown photo project is “reminiscent” of Meghan’s 2018 “Together” cookbook, a project she did with survivors of the Grenfell fire. The tabloids have rightfully been accused of pitching one royal bride against another, and so it jars when Scobie, whose tone throughout is one of moral high ground, employs a similar tactic.

He does, however, give Kate (who, Scobie notes, does actually like that nickname) credit for finally relaxing into her role. After all, he knows there’s a genuine Kate there because he once witnessed her descend “into a fit of muted giggles” at the sight of a rhino pooping while on a “mini-safari” in India. Hard to say if this is a feeble attempt at humanization or a skilled way of letting us know that he, Scobie, was the only reporter invited along.

Whether or not Scobie actively collaborated with Meghan and Harry for this book, he does them no favors. Their chapter reads like a press release cooked up by ChatGPT, and does little to shed light on them as humans. He says the couple — who used to focus on coverage of themselves — now remain blissfully unconcerned. Harry’s next chapter will focus, among other things, on philanthropic efforts in the “military space,” while Meghan (and here Scobie quotes an unnamed source) is “building ‘something more accessible … something rooted in her love of details, curating, hosting, life’s simple pleasures, and family.’”

Scobie defines the term “endgame” as “the final stages of a chess game after most of the pieces have been removed from the board.” Unless Charles and his heirs act quickly, Scobie underscores, they risk losing the crown, or at the very least, any remaining cultural relevance. But there’s a paradox here: As long as people are buying books like Scobie’s, they’re buying the whole lousy operation.

ENDGAME : Inside the Royal Family and the Monarchy’s Fight for Survival | By Omid Scobie | Dey Street | 403 pp. | $32

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Subscriber only, books | readers and writers: how barbara kingsolver’s daughter got her to team up to write first children’s book.

Barbara Kingsolver and her daughter Lily remember the day “Coyote’s Wild Home” was born at Barbara’s farm in the Appalachian region of southwestern Virginia.

Mary Ann Grossman

This beautiful new picture book will be published Tuesday by Emilie and Dana Buchwald’s Edina-based Gryphon Press , and it’s a coup for a small publisher to attract an author such as Kingsolver, winner of the 2023 Pulitzer Prize and the British Women’s Fiction Prize for her novel “ Demon Copperhead .”

Barbara Kingsolver

But Barbara didn’t want to talk about her previous literary honors during a conversation about “Coyote’s Wild Home,” co-written with Lily. She was concentrating on the new book and giving affectionate prompts to her daughter to help her tell their story.

“I had just written a letter to Emilie for my secretary to type saying I didn’t do picture books,” Kingsolver recalled of turning down Buchwald’s invitation to write a book for Gryphon Press.

Then Lily, who was visiting from her Florida home, came into her mother’s kitchen, and that letter never got sent.

Lily: “I thought this project sounded like so much fun.”

Barbara: “Then Lily poured out the whole story in a few minutes.”

“Coyote’s Wild Home” is Barbara Kingsolver’s first children’s book, Lily’s debut as an author, and their first collaboration.

Their story, illustrated with stunning digital paintings by former St. Paulite Paul Mirocha, is especially timely as we city/suburban folks are seeing more of the animals in our neighborhoods and don’t know what to do about them.

Book cover for "Coyote's Wild Home.

(The Gryphon Press)

An illustration by Paul Mirocha from the book, "Coyote's Wild Home.

An illustration by Paul Mirocha from the book, "Coyote's Wild Home. (The Gryphon Press)

An illustration by Paul Mirocha from the book, "Coyote's Wild Home.

In the book, two youngsters have adventures. A  coyote pup is being taught to hunt for the first time with his Auntie, and Diana is camping in the forest for the first time with Grandpa. Kingsolver’s lyrically written message is about co-existence, that we are all predators, and that wildlife have a right to live as much as humans do.

Lily Kingsolver

Auntie Coyote shows the little one how to use their hunting tools such as patience, camouflage, sharp teeth and quick legs. The hungry pup pounces on a vole, but misses. Meanwhile, Diana tries her hand at fishing, only to come up with weeds. Both youngsters need more teaching. And Grandpa does a good job as he shows Diana how to read animal and bird tracks and understand what scat (that’s poop) can teach about an animal.

“They’ve got no business with you and me,” Grandpa says of the forest’s wildlife. “They just want to stay safe. We’re visitors here, but this place is their whole world…”

Grandpa gently explains that animal predators like coyotes are not cruel, as in the age-old stories featuring creatures like the Big Bad Wolf. (In real life they are often shot, trapped, harassed, poisoned. In Wisconsin there is a controversial contest for the most dead coyotes. Minnesota’s 40,000 coyotes are unprotected and may be taken at any time by shooting or trapping.)

Like so many readers, Emilie and Dana are fans of Barbara Kingsolver’s books, especially “Prodigal Summer” (2016), in which one character is a forest ranger passionate about coyotes. So when the mother/daughter co-publishers decided to do a book about coyotes, Kingsolver was the writer they wanted.

“Coyotes are a very important subject for Barbara and ‘Prodigal Summer, in my opinion, is her most lyrical book,” Emilie said. “Barbara  wanted to do a book with her daughter and Dana and I wanted to do more books about whether we can co-exist with coyotes and other predators. We are faced with the fact we have totally ruined so much wilderness and wild land and more is taken every year. Where will wild beings go if they can’t share land with us? In ‘Coyote’s Wild Home’ there is reference to land taken and trees cut down in the wild Appalachian forest.”

Dana: “We are not saying people should interact with coyotes. They are not dogs. But this is a nuanced and complex issue. Killing is not the answer. Scientists know that if a lot of coyotes are killed the survivors just breed more.”

These are some of the issues Emilie wanted to explore when she established Gryphon Press in 2006 after retiring as publisher emeritus and co-founder of Minneapolis-based Milkweed Editions. Then she was joined by Dana, a lawyer, producer, director and theater performer as well as senior humane policy volunteer leader for the Humane Society of the United States.

Gryphon is dedicated to promoting the animal-human bond through publishing high-quality children’s picture books with topics ranging from the horrors of puppy mills to welcoming a new puppy and the need for spaying/neutering. The press’s motto: “A Voice for the Voiceless.”

“Coyote’s Wild Home” joins two other picture books in Gryphon’s series about wildlife, both written by prominent scientists.

“Jake and Ava: A Boy and a Fish” is by Jonathan Balcome, author of four books on the inner lives of animals, including “What a Fish Knows.” He has published more than 60 scientific papers and book chapters on animal behavior and animal protection. “A Warbler’s Journey” is by Scott Weidensaul, naturalist and author, finalist for the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for “Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds.”

“We had sent a copy of ‘A Warbler’s Journey’ that Lily admired,” Emilie says. “She loved the idea of a children’s picture book and had a way of doing it by making it a dual story, one that informed the lives of all concerned. It was a lovely idea.”

In the back of “Coyote’s Wild Home” are facts about coyote migration (they moved from southwest to northeast), their background, habits and lifestyles. There are also suggestions for how coyotes and humans can co-exist. Everyone involved in the project was adamant that it be scientifically correct so the Buchwalds had scientists do fact-checking, with special help from Project Coyote, an organization that advocates for the animals.

The Kingsolvers and Buchwalds give lots of credit for early critical success of “A Coyote’s Wild Home” to digital paintings by Paul Mirocha, who worked with both Barbara and Emilie in the past, creating covers for some Milkweed Edition books and interiors for a couple of Kingsolver’s books, including “Small Wonder” and “Prodigal Summer.”

Paul Mirocha

Mirocha, who says he grew up “in the woods in Como Park playing Tarzan and war games,” now lives surrounded by desert in Tucson, Ariz.

He and Kingsolver go back to the early 1980s when she was a science writer at the University of Arizona working on a doctorate and Paul was a graphic artist in science and land studies. “Barbara would bring me sketches of data charts on graph paper and I would draw them up nice and pretty for our scientific reports,” he recalls.

About a year ago, Emilie contacted Mirocha asking for his help in getting in touch with Kingsolver to see if she would be interested in doing a book on coyotes.

“I knew Barbara didn’t do kids books and said ‘no’ to almost everything but I agreed to help Emilie,” Mirocha recalls. “Barbara emailed me a month later (about the project) but I was busy and didn’t expect it to happen anyway. I would do anything for Barbara and she said, ‘We want to work with you.’ ” So did Emilie and Dana.

The first thing  Mirocha did after accepting the assignment was spend a week at the Kingsolvers’ cabin, where the Virginia landscape is so different from the arid Arizona desert.

“There are too many leaves here,” he joked to Barbara and her husband, Steven Hopp.

“I had a wonderful time walking around in those woods and the whole book came out of that week,” Mirocha recalled. “It was like scouting a movie. There were specific sites that inspired each scene in the book — stumps that are coyote dens, dense canopy, a dark tunnel with light at the end when Diana and Grandpa walk through it in the book, grassland, two different meadows. I freaked out about the diversity and exploding life. I felt like it was an enchanted place.”

To capture the motions of Auntie Coyote and the pup, Morcha studied photos, videos and movies showing the little ones jumping and playing.

“I also wanted to show why you don’t mess with Auntie Coyote,” he said. “She is formidable, powerful. but to the pup she is affectionate and protective. They have a warm emotional relationship. Her picture on the cover is both fierce and beautiful.”

Mirocha says the Navajo believe the coyote is a spirit animal and a recent encounter with one might have made him a believer.

“I was driving to the airport at 4 a.m. two blocks from my house in Tucson when a coyote crossed my path,” he recalled. “I thought, how often does that happen? I honked and the coyote slowed down. In the highlights it looked at me for a,micro-second across a parking lot. It was some kind of sign.”

Mirocha loved working on this book with the mother/daughter teams; Emilie and Dana, Barbara and Lily.

“There was something special about this book,” he said. “The visual and the language put together is what makes a picture book. Neither by itself is interesting. But integration of visuals and words make this book flow.”

“Coyote’s Wild Home” will launch at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 4, with a virtual event co-hosted by six bookstores around the country including Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul.  The program will feature Barbara Kingsolver and Lily Kingsolver talking about their book with New York Times bestselling author Eliot Schrefer, twice a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. He holds a master’s degree in animal studies and is on the faculty of the Fairleigh Dickinson and Hamline MFAs for creative writing. $24. For registration information go to .

The authors

Barbara Kingsolver trained as a biologist prior to her career as a writer of best-selling novels, poetry, and nonfiction. Her work has earned a devoted readership and major literary awards including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Humanities Medal. She and her husband live on a farm in the mountains of southwestern Virginia, which they share with sheep, poultry and countless wild creatures, including coyotes.

Lily Kingsolver grew up where the Appalachian Mountains ignited her passion for wild creatures and the places they live. She has shared her love of the wild as a naturalist and educator in state parks and zoos in Virginia and the Space Coast of Florida, where she is currently working on a graduate degree in environmental education.

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How a new book unearthed Francis Ford Coppola’s failed utopia

Francis Ford Coppola giving a press conference in Las Vegas in a black-and-white photo in front of a Las Vegas casino.

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On the Shelf

The Path to Paradise: A Francis Ford Coppola Story

By Sam Wasson Harper: 400 pages, $33 If you buy books linked on our site, The Times may earn a commission from , whose fees support independent bookstores.

Utopia is in the eye of the beholder. For Sir Thomas More , who coined the word for his 1516 book of the same name, it meant a fictional island society carved out in a satirical image of perfection. For various back-to-nature communities it has meant an embrace of agrarian life and a decision to leave industrial society behind. And for Francis Ford Coppola , the subject of Sam Wasson ’s new book, ” The Path to Paradise ,” utopia meant changing the rules of how movies are made: multitaskers, freed from the regimentation of studios, constantly reinventing with an eye toward the future.

And for a while, it actually worked. As Wasson writes, Coppola’s career has been “a colossal, lifelong project of experimental self-creation few filmmakers can afford — emotionally, financially — and none but he has undertaken.” As he was churning out his remarkable run of ’70s movies — “ The Godfather ” (1972), “ The Conversation ” (1974) and “The Godfather Part II” (1974) — he also was creating a sort of communal filmmaking fantasia, with ideas and technical innovations (and ideas for technical innovations) flowing forth faster than anyone could register (including, at times, Coppola himself).

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He dreamed of what he called an “electronic cinema,” by which a film could be edited as quickly as it was shot, with the director calling the shots from a mobile production facility. He welcomed aspiring filmmakers off the streets of San Francisco and into his American Zoetrope headquarters, a hive of chaos and creativity. It would all come crashing down after his famous flop of a musical, “ One From the Heart ” (1981). But even this production, undertaken after Coppola created his own Zoetrope studio in Hollywood, is described by many participants as a whirlwind of collaborative excitement, the likes of which can’t be repeated.

Francis Ford Coppola, a smiling man with an unruly beard and hair, stands on a beach wearing a fur coat.

In a recent video interview from his Los Angeles home, Wasson, whose previous books include the “Chinatown” study “The Big Goodbye” and, with his mentor Jeanine Basinger , “Hollywood: The Oral History ,” recalled how he pitched the project to Coppola: “This is the closest Icarus has come to the sun. No one else has come closer. So rather than frame this as a story about failure, which is how I think Hollywood sees it, let’s position this as a story of success with an asterisk.”

Growing up in L.A., Wasson heard stories about Coppola’s grand Zoetrope experiment. “It sounded like a fairy tale,” he says. Indeed, you could find all manner of visitors and participants roaming Zoetrope’s Hollywood shop: Gene Kelly (helping with musical numbers), David Lynch and Jean-Luc Godard (working on personal projects that never came to fruition), Warren Beatty (just there for the parties) and George Burns (whose old office was on the same lot).

Director Francis Ford Coppola advises his film crew as they set up to shoot a scene during the filming of the movie "Godfather III."

A conversation with Francis Ford Coppola

Dec. 7, 2012

As Burns’ cigar smoke blended with the aroma of Coppola’s pot, “One From the Heart” production designer Dean Tavoularis and an army of construction workers were hard at work building the movie’s dreamlike Las Vegas sets and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro sat and bathed in his ornate lighting design. Coppola’s young daughter, Sofia , had free run of the lot.

“The Path to Paradise” puts you there, and shows how Coppola got so close to the sun. Growing up in New York, he spent a year in bed with polio, becoming a dreamer. He came out of his shell as a theater student at Hofstra University, studied film at UCLA, befriended a quiet young man named George Lucas (he produced Lucas’ first two films) and grew determined to work outside of what he saw as an inefficient and superficial Hollywood system. He gambled everything making “ Apocalypse Now ” in the Philippines, and won; then he gambled everything making “One From the Heart” in Hollywood and lost. Deep in debt, he oversaw the dissolution of Zoetrope as he knew it.

He has spent much of his subsequent career as a director for hire, though still capable of gems (“Rumble Fish,” “ Bram Stoker’s Dracula ”). More recently Coppola threw himself into the modern indie scene he helped create, with “ Youth Without Youth ” (2007), “ Tetro ” (2009) and “ Twixt ” (2011). And still he dreams: He sank a reported $140 million of his own money into the long-gestating “ Megalopolis ,” an epic about an urban designer played by Adam Driver , now in postproduction following another allegedly chaotic process.

Wasson captures the extreme ups and downs with a combination of precision and imagination, often bringing an appropriately gonzo tone to the story. He imagined the book as a sort of biography of a dream, fueled, as he says, by questions: “How long do we have to sustain utopia before we can call it a success? If it lasts a second, does that mean it’s not a success? Francis’ might’ve only lasted a second, but no one can beat that record. I also wanted to ask: What is a studio now? Paramount is right down the street from me. They make five, 10 s— movies a year, and they sit on all that real estate. They’re just banks.”

Jacob Elordi and Cailee Spaeny in the movie "Priscilla."

Review: ‘Priscilla,’ Sofia Coppola’s best movie in years, shimmers with beauty and heartbreak

Actors Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi go to Graceland in director Sofia Coppola’s melancholy movie adapted from Priscilla Presley’s 1985 memoir.

Oct. 27, 2023

The portrait of Coppola painted in “The Path to Paradise” can be ugly; Wasson doesn’t look away from his subject’s warts. He frequently cheated on his wife, Eleanor (whose first-person book about the making of “Apocalypse Now,” “ Notes ,” and the subsequent documentary, “ Hearts of Darkness ,” are masterpieces in their own right). He often comes across as the world’s most disorganized boss. And he has endured grief far beyond the movie failures, losing his oldest son and creative confidante, Gio, in a 1986 boating accident .

"The Path to Paradise," by Sam Wasson

Sam Wasson’s latest book is “The Path to Paradise: A Francis Ford Coppola Story.” (Harper; Gary Copeland)

Wasson credits Coppola for sharing his notes, sitting for countless interviews, reading drafts and insisting the author tell the full story. “It’s not always flattering, but it finally is admiring,” Wasson says. “The human errors are all of ours, but none of us, or very few of us, lay claim to this kind of talent or ambition.”

When Wasson recently visited Coppola on the “Megalopolis” set, he found a man at peace. “He would sit there and he would say, ‘There’s no rush. There’s no rush.’ That’s a beautiful thing to see. For all he’s given the world and all he’s suffered, as a man who built and lost an empire, at 84 he can sit there and be exactly where he wants to be.”

Vognar is a freelance writer based in Houston.

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Irish writer Paul Lynch wins Booker Prize for dystopian novel 'Prophet Song'

The Associated Press

how to write a bok

Paul Lynch, winner of the 2023 Booker Prize, celebrates shortly after the announcement in London on Sunday. Alberto Pezzali/AP hide caption

Paul Lynch, winner of the 2023 Booker Prize, celebrates shortly after the announcement in London on Sunday.

LONDON — Irish writer Paul Lynch won the Booker Prize for fiction on Sunday with what judges called a "soul-shattering" novel about a woman's struggle to protect her family as Ireland collapses into totalitarianism and war.

Prophet Song , set in a dystopian fictional version of Dublin, was awarded the 50,000-pound ($63,000) literary prize at a ceremony in London. Canadian writer Esi Edugyan, who chaired the judging panel, said the book is "a triumph of emotional storytelling, bracing and brave" in which Lynch "pulls off feats of language that are stunning to witness."

Lynch, 46, had been the bookies' favorite to win the prestigious prize, which usually brings a big boost in sales. His book beat five other finalists from Ireland, the U.K., the U.S. and Canada, chosen from 163 novels submitted by publishers.

"This was not an easy book to write," Lynch said after being handed the Booker trophy. "The rational part of me believed I was dooming my career by writing this novel, though I had to write the book anyway. We do not have a choice in such matters."

Lynch has called Prophet Song , his fifth novel, an attempt at "radical empathy" that tries to plunge readers into the experience of living in a collapsing society.

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"I was trying to see into the modern chaos," he told the Booker website. "The unrest in Western democracies. The problem of Syria — the implosion of an entire nation, the scale of its refugee crisis and the West's indifference. ... I wanted to deepen the reader's immersion to such a degree that by the end of the book, they would not just know, but feel this problem for themselves."

The five prize judges met to pick the winner on Saturday, less than 48 hours after far-right violence erupted in Dublin following a stabbing attack on a group of children. Edugyan said that immediate events didn't directly influence the choice of winner.

Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka wins 2022 Booker Prize

Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka wins 2022 Booker Prize

Lynch said he was "astonished" by the riots "and at the same time I recognized the truth that this kind of energy is always there under the surface."

He said Prophet Song — written over four years starting in 2018 — "is a counterfactual novel. It's not a prophetic statement."

"I wrote the book to articulate the message that the things that are happening in this book are occurring timelessly throughout the ages and maybe we need to deepen our own responses to that," he told reporters.

The other finalists were Irish writer Paul Murray's The Bee Sting ; American novelist Paul Harding's This Other Eden ; Canadian author Sarah Bernstein's Study for Obedience ; U.S. writer Jonathan Escoffery's If I Survive You ; and British author Chetna Maroo's Western Lane.

Edugyan said the choice of winner wasn't unanimous, but the six-hour judges' meeting wasn't acrimonious.

"We all ultimately felt that this was the book that we wanted to present to the world and that this was truly a masterful work of fiction," she said.

Founded in 1969, the Booker Prize is open to English-language novels from any country published in the U.K. and Ireland and has a reputation for transforming writers' careers. Previous winners include Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie and Hilary Mantel.

Four Irish novelists and one from Northern Ireland have previously won the prize.

"It is with immense pleasure that I bring the Booker home to Ireland," Lynch said. Asked what he planned to do with the prize money, he said it would help him make payments on his tracker mortgage, which have soared along with inflation.

Lynch received his trophy from last year's winner, Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka , during a ceremony at Old Billingsgate, a grand former Victorian fish market in central London.

The evening included a speech from Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe , a British-Iranian woman who was jailed in Tehran for almost six years until 2022 on allegations of plotting the overthrow of Iran's government — a charge that she, her supporters and rights groups denied.

She talked about the books that sustained her in prison, recalling how inmates ran an underground library and circulated copies of Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale , set in an oppressive American theocracy.

"Books helped me to take refuge into the world of others when I was incapable of making one of my own," Zaghari-Ratcliffe said. "They salvaged me by being one of the very few tools I had, together with imagination, to escape the Evin (prison) walls without physically moving."


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  1. How to Write a Book: Complete Step-by-Step Guide

    1. Establish a consistent writing space. If you're going to write a great book, you're going to need a great space to write. It doesn't have to be a soundproof room with a stunning view. All you really need is a quiet place free of distractions where you can consistently get good writing done.

  2. How to Write a Book: 23 Simple Steps from a Bestseller

    Construct your outline. Set a firm writing schedule. Establish a sacred deadline. Embrace procrastination (really!). Eliminate distractions. Conduct your research. Start calling yourself a writer. Part 3: The Book-Writing Itself Think reader-first.

  3. How to Write a Book (with Tactics from Bestsellers)

    How to write a book: 1. Start with a book idea you love 2. Research by reading genre-prominent books 3. Outline the story 4. Write the opening sentence 5. Write the first draft 6. Set a schedule with achievable goals 7. Find a good writing space 8. Pick a "distraction-free" writing software 9. Finish your draft 10. Edit the manuscript 11.

  4. How to Write a Book: 15 Steps (with Pictures)

    1 Clarify why you're writing a book. Before you start writing, or typing, or even thinking too much about your book, be honest with yourself about your reasons for writing it. Are you hoping to become rich and famous? Is it a necessity for advancing your career? Do you dream of seeing your name on a book cover?

  5. How to Write a Book in 12 Simple Steps [Free Book Template]

    Learn how to write a book the right way with this guide that covers the basics of writing, publishing, and marketing your book. Find tips for success, tools, templates, and resources to help you write your book in 12 simple steps.

  6. Write Your First Book With Our 10-Step Guide

    2. Determine on an Overarching Idea for Your Book Many of our authors are doctors, CPAs, business leaders, and CEOs. Before we even get involved, authors should already have an overarching...

  7. How to Write a Book: The Ultimate Guide

    There's no one right way to write a book. Some people participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and end up with a bestseller. Others start with a meticulous outline and structured plan. Some (usually not novelists) can get a publication deal on a pitch alone.

  8. It's National Novel Writing Month. Here's how to write a book

    1. Carve out some time to write, and then start writing. Now, I bet a lot of you out there have said to yourselves, I'm gonna write my book someday. "And someday tends not to happen in...

  9. How to Start Writing a Book as a Beginner (10 Easy Steps)

    Here are 10 steps to follow while writing your first book — and hopefully a bestseller. 1. Make a plan. Writing requires time, dedication, and hard work, so you need a schedule if you want to write a book from start to finish. A book is at least 20,000 words long — for novellas. Novels are typically 50,000 words and up.

  10. How to Write a Book: The Ultimate Guide

    Create a structure for your book that will lead to the solution to the problem. You might need to set up background information first, for instance, or you might outline a step-by-step process. This structure will lend itself to forming chapters after you start writing, or you can include your chapters in your outline.

  11. How to Write a Book: 13 Steps From a Bestselling Author

    Have you ever had a book idea so captivating you just knew it would finally push you across the finish line?But, like most, you soon ran out of steam and had...

  12. Learn How to Write a Book in 8 Easy Steps

    1. Start with a "seed" of a book idea Believe it or not, you don't have to have the entire story figured out before you can start writing a book or short story. All great novels started as a spark or a "seed" of an idea. This could be an intriguing character, an ominous or magical setting, or a romantic or funny scene.

  13. How to Write a Book in 2023: The Ultimate Guide for Authors

    #1 Should you write a book? #2 Outline the Book #3 Write the Book #4 Edit the Book #5 Get Feedback #6 Publish & Market Your Book! Writing a book is a long process, but it doesn't have to be scary. Many writers benefit from having a checklist of things they need to do. Enter: This comprehensive guide.

  14. How to Write a Book: The Ultimate Guide (with Free ...

    The write process, you might say (sorry, I had to!). In this guide, we're going to learn everything about how to write a nonfiction book, from how to defeat procrastination and find writing time, all the way to revising and the editing process—and even to the publishing process.

  15. How to Write a Book in 10 Painless Steps [Free Guides Inside]

    The process of writing and publishing a book successfully is much more than just writing and pushing a button to publish on Amazon. In this post, I'll show you exactly how to write a book in a few simple steps, following a proven process that thousands of authors have used. - You can grab a free outline template below.

  16. How To Write A Book In 2023: A Proven Guide For New Authors

    1. Develop Your Book Writing Skills 2. Create a Dedicated Writing Space 3. Decide Why You Want To Write a Book 4. Commit to Writing Your Book 5. Research Your Ideal Reader 6. Study Other Books in Your Niche or Genre 7. Gather Your Book Ideas 8. Establish What Your Book Is About 9. Decide What Type of Author You Are 10.

  17. How to Write and Publish a Book: 14 Steps (with Pictures)

    An editor will also, at the end of the day, make your book look professional. 4. Do a final check to make sure you're ready to publish. After you and your editor have revised your book to its final form, make sure everything is in order. Make sure you have a good title you're ready to stick with.

  18. 23 Steps to Writing a Book Successfully, as a New Author

    Step 1: Set Proper Expectations for Yourself Most online guides to writing a new book begin with writing. But that doesn't work. If you wanted to cook dinner, you wouldn't start with the cooking, would you? No, of course not. You'd start by preparing your space and collecting the right ingredients.

  19. The Reedsy Book Editor: A FREE Online Writing Tool

    The Reedsy Book Editor is a free online writing tool allowing any author to format and create professional ePub and print-ready files in seconds. The @ReedsyHQ Book Editor allows you to write, format, edit and export - for free! reedsy. Connect. reedsy marketplace. Assemble a team of pros.

  20. How to Format a Book (the Free and Easy Way)

    In this post, we'll show you how to use Reedsy's free Book Editor tool to prepare your book for publication. So - here's how you can format a book in six steps: 1. Import your fully-edited manuscript. 2. Format your chapter titles and paragraphs. 3. Add images, endnotes, and page breaks.

  21. How to Write a Book

    Are you embarking on the journey of writing your first book? Here's a breakdown of the entire process!TIMESTAMPS0:00 - Intro0:59 - The idea1:35 - The prep2:2...

  22. How to Write a "How To" Book By Susan Bilheimer

    1. Pick a subject What do you know that others don't? You'd be surprised how many things you know how to do that others would love to learn. For instance, I recently won a Lemon Law suit against a major automobile manufacturer. Afterwards, I wrote a "How To" article about my experience for a national magazine!

  23. How To Write an Engaging Book Review

    A book review is its own piece of writing. By that, we mean your book review shouldn't just repeat the book's plot. It should add a new perspective about the book. 2. Be concise. Don't ramble in your book review. Keep it focused on your analysis of the book since that's the content your readers are looking for. 3.

  24. Book Review: 'Endgame,' by Omid Scobie

    The London-based Scobie's 2020 book, "Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family" (written with Carolyn Durand), gave a sympathetic account of the couple's ...

  25. Readers and writers: How Barbara Kingsolver's daughter got her to team

    In the book, two youngsters have adventures. A coyote pup is being taught to hunt for the first time with his Auntie, and Diana is camping in the forest for the first time with Grandpa.

  26. Francis Ford Coppola book 'Path to Paradise,' by Sam Wasson

    In order to write 'The Path to Paradise,' on Francis Ford Coppola's failed utopia, author Sam Wasson had to sell the director on 'success with an asterisk.'

  27. Irish writer Paul Lynch wins Booker Prize for dystopian novel 'Prophet

    His book beat five other finalists from Ireland, the U.K., the U.S. and Canada, chosen from 163 novels submitted by publishers. "This was not an easy book to write," Lynch said after being handed ...