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
- How To Write a Book: FAQs
1. Develop Your Book Writing Skills
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.
2. Create a Dedicated Writing Space
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.
3. Decide Why You Want To Write a Book
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.
4. Commit to Writing Your Book
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.
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.
5. Research Your Ideal Reader
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.
6. Study Other Books in Your Niche or Genre
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.
7. Gather Your Book Ideas
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.
8. Establish What Your Book Is About
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.
9. Decide What Type of Author You Are
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.
10. Interview Experts for Nonfiction Books
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.
11. Set a Cutoff Date for Your Research
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.
12. Establish Your Book’s Controlling Idea
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.
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Collins, Bryan (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 224 Pages - 12/03/2017 (Publication Date) - Become a Writer Today (Publisher)
13. Select Your Book Writing Apps
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.
14. Outline Your Book
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.
15. Break Writing into Small Chunks
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.
16. Write Everyday (If You Can)
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.
17. Finish Your Messy First Draft … Fast
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.
18. Accept You'll Make Mistakes
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.
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.
19. Manage Your Book Writing Time
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.
20. Set a Deadline
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.
21. Fight Writer's Block
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.
22. Track Your Progress
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.
3. Before Editing Your Book, Let It Sit
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.
24. Write the Next Draft
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.
25. Budget for Self-Publishing Your Book
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.
26. Hire an Editor
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.
27. Hire a Proofreader
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.
28. Publish Your Book
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.
How To Write a Book This Year: The End
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
Can anyone write a book?
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.
How much does an author make per book?
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%.
Do you need a publisher to write a book?
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.
Is it better to write or type a book?
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.