How to write and publish a book

A small intro

There are several reasons to write a book. Some of them are:

  • to show your expertise

  • to make money

  • to communicate your ideas and thoughts

  • to help you learn

  • to make a point

  • just because you can

  • to create something

In my case, I wanted to write a book and make a point.

Depending on the goal, more or less steps are needed.

For example, if you want to make money from your book, you need to think on a way to:

  • Sell it (for example publish it on Amazon or another store, create a website, set a price),

  • publish it with a ISBN (International Serial Book Number, one ISBN required per format),

  • do some interviews and guest posts,

  • launch your book,

  • build a good landing page,

  • write a remarkable blurb (the text you read as description, which should hook you up)

and so on.

If you just want to write and publish a book for your close ones, some friends, your family, as personal goal or something in between, it requires the same energy and time, without the „selling“ part.

This article is about all of that except from selling it.

First you need to get an idea and, in my opinion, almost any idea works for a start. We will review this point in another time in another post, but it is really important to highlight that your idea will mutate while you are writing your book.

Then you need to choose a tool. Here I will stop. Pick a tool. I don't see so many people writing about this, maybe because it seems easy. Many write about motivation, processes, publishing, pricing, maybe writing style and so on. I have found, for my personal projects, that picking the tool has been by far the most difficult task I have faced. Maybe I'm just picky regarding the tools I use. I have tried:

  • Microsoft Word/ LibreOffice,

  • Reedsy (awesome platform in its own. If you are not a designer, nor a technical person, I would recommend this one to you),

  • LeanPub (and Markua),

  • plain Markdown,

  • Illustrator (yes, I wrote the second version of Zen Stories in Illustrator, and no, it was never released),

  • Scrivener (I bought it and tested it as everyone writes about how awesome it was, and it is, but its workflow it's just not for me),

  • Ulysses (my personal favourite for now, just a step behind the next one), and

  • Plain AsciiDoc. This is by far the best workflow I have used for writing.

I wrote (and rewrote) the book La destrucción de la razón in each of the tools I mentioned before, without ever releasing it to the public. The first version I released from that book was the one I transcribed in Ulysses and I printed with Amazon (yes, the do print and, in my opinion, with better quality than Lulu.com).

Let’s break this into steps

Step 0: Pick the right tool

As I wrote before, I’m pretty picky with the tools I use. The main reason is that they should be able to support any change of mind from me, meaning that maybe I want to write a book for Kindle now, but I want to be able to also publish it in PDF, EPUB and other formats.

My recommendation after having tried all these tools, if you want one, would be as follows:

Reedsy

You just want to write and get a book in print and digital format.

You prefer not to mess with formatting, or backups, or anything. Just use a browser and write. Everything is in Reedsy and stays there. Reedsy might be by far the most easy way to write and get your book out there, if you are ok with your book having a small note mentioning Reedsy as the tool used. If that is ok with you, just create an account, create a new project, and start writing. The tool allows you to create chapters, add author information and typeset (export) to a Print-ready PDF and an EPUB file.

They also have great resources and articles for authors and a fascinating marketplace with professional editor, book designers and everything you might need.

Ulysses

You want to write without caring about styles (but caring about structure) until the very end. But you want some flexibility and are not afraid of some css-like syntax.

If you are willing to learn Markdown (or if you are using it already) and you want to have a normal Book Layout, then go with Ulysses. There are many free styles for the PDF export, but if you want to customize the styles, you can edit them by reading their great Styles Reference If you encounter any problem, just use the support contact form. They do answer, and they even sent you the code you need to solve a particular problem which, in my case, worked like a charm (Thank you, Lisa!).

As a bonus, I have to say, from all the options in this list, this is the most mobile-friendly solution (if you use an iPhone and/ or an iPad, as the app is for Apple Devices only).

Scrivener

You want to learn the most „powerful“ and „multipurpose“ tool (as many articles, websites and posts say) and then write something.

This is an outstanding tool, but be prepared to first learn the tool and then write. There are even courses available to learn how to use scrivener to write. You can export a book to many formats and has many integrated tools, which I deem not so necessary for a normal book without lots of research. (I may also be wrong).

AsciiDoc

You want to have all the flexibility when writing, you like to code, you like to hack things together and are not afraid of investing many hours setting everything up. AND you want to use GIT to version your writing.

Leanpub

Markdown with a platform alas Lean Startup (write, publish, get feedback, repeat). You are a fan of the LEAN Methodology.

I haven’t used this one yet (but I did try it), but it is mainly a version of Markdown. The whole advantage is the platform to distribute your book, with the idea of "continuous delivery" of new versions following the idea of Lean, meaning write a bit, publish, get feedback, improve and keep writing. This is similar to what many startups do when launching a new product or service (AKA Lean Startup).

Step 1: Write, just write

I learned it the hard way that all those post available on the web have a bit a truth. First one has to write, without editing, and then keep writing. When you feel you have a few pages, chapters or something similar, then you do a backup, and read what you wrote, not before and definitely not during writing. You will find many mistakes, and some things may not make sense at all, but just keep writing. After a while, some things will start to make sense. Keep writing until you are satisfied with the content, the message and the length.

You just have to know that the content will change many times in the next steps, but your core idea should still be there.

Step 2: Edit and Proofread

Proofread : to read and correct a piece of written work

Edit: to make changes to a text or film, deciding what will be removed and what will be kept in, in order to prepare it for being printed or shown

(Cambridge Dictionary)

Now you have to read what you wrote, and re-read, and re-read. You can also ask your friends or family to read the book and give you feedback. I printed a few copies and asked for written feedback. Then fixed the mistakes and rewrote some parts. And then again, many times.

I also found that some parts were not as I imagined them to be and completely rewrote them again.

You may also hire a professional editor and a professional proofreader for this, and it should make everything easier and faster (if you like this alternative I would recommend Reedsy, as they also have a marketplace for related services). I didn’t, but I learned a lot :)

Step 3: Make or check the layout (AKA design the interior)

This means deciding on how the book will look inside. Do you want page numbers, a header, a footer, 1 column, 2 columns, an image before each chapter, an index? These are things you should also think before selecting the tool. For example, it is not possible to auto-create a table of content (ToC) in Ulysses (I used Calibre to edit the EPUB file to add ToC, and for the printed version I just added one manually). Reedsy allows you to add a ToC as well as Scrivener and AsciiDoc.

Depending on the tool you chose, you might want to first check the available layout and formats, or build one just for you. Here is important to define which format you want to have.

  • Digital formats such as EPUB and mobi are way easier than PDF, mainly because they are not pixel-perfect and are not so flexible in regard to the layout. In a Kindle (or any e-book reader) you can change the font, the font size and many other settings while reading, so as long as the titles and elements on the book are ok you will get a good result.

  • Print books are more work. Here you need a Print-Ready PDF (this is different from a normal PDF) which has to be in the right dimensions (for example 5,5 in x 8,5 in) and which has to be supported by the provider you chose (more on this in Step 5: Choose a provider for print-on-demand (POD)).

Step 4: Design a cover (make it look good on the outside)

A book should have a cover, and if it looks great, even better. I made the cover of my book (in Spanish) La destrucción de la razón using Fiverr. You can also hire a designer in some other place, design it yourself, ask a friend to design it, or use one of the cover-creators the above providers have available. I chose Fiverr, and I am happy with the result. If you decide to hire a designer, please ask them to also design the back-cover if you intend to print it. They do a much better job and looks far better than using the cover in the cover-creator from the provider and „manually add“ a back cover without design. I tried… and I found it „unprofessional“.

Step 5: Choose a provider for print-on-demand (POD)

Here starts the fun part. You will export your book for the desired format (Step 3) and order a proof-copy (if available). Some providers I would recommend trying are

I ordered copies from Amazon and from Lulu, and I found Amazon to have better quality. I have yet to order from IngramSpark and Blurb, but I have read good reviews about them.

Step 6: Order a copy, check it out, make corrections and order another one

Order a copy, find mistakes and stuff you don’t like, fix them and order a new copy.

Repeat until you are happy with the result.

Final words

You should always remember that the book is for you and your closed ones, so it should look great for YOU and YOU have to be happy with it.

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