You may have heard (probably from me) that I’ve just published a new book, The HOW TO WRITE A BOOK Book, It’s Not about the Writing.
Thank you sincerely for the congrats, comments, and reviews!
I self-published and wanted to share my experience.
First, let me acknowledge that I had a headstart. I had lots of source material from blogs and newsletters I have written. This content needed to be reviewed and updated, but it did shorten the time it took me to finish writing.
I followed my own advice and created an outline to organize the information and order the chapters and subsections. I wanted the information to be chronological as much as possible, the chapters mirroring the stages of an author’s actual process. Here, I could see what information was missing and what further research I needed to fill in the gaps.
The whole process took about nine months working at it part-time. I couldn’t work on my book exclusively because the client (me) wasn’t paying! I spent several weeks on the outline, then edited the content and wrote new sections.
The HOW TO WRITE A BOOK Book, It’s Not about the Writing, is approximately 30,000 words (that’s on the short side of average). Nonfiction books are, on average, between 20,000-60,000 words, depending on the genre.
Love it or hate it, the title was my working title, and maybe I just got used to it, but I decided to go with it. After all, it can’t be a bad thing to have the word Book and Write or Writing more than once on the cover! At one point, I did consider using the subtitle, It’s Not about the Writing, as the main title. Instead, I opted for the title to be the broad subject and the subtitle the more specific—the hook, if you will. It expresses the book’s thesis: one doesn’t need to “be a writer” to write a successful nonfiction book.
Self-publishing doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. With this book, other professionals provided two key components—a graphic designer for the covers and a proofreader for the text.
The cover is the work of Jon Gillette of Gillette & Associates. We have worked together for decades! Not only did he design the front and back cover of the paperback (and the same cover for the digital), but he created the art files required by Amazon so that the book cover (and especially that spine!) fit the book and didn’t wrap around or cut off. To do this, I provided him with the book size, the number of pages (about 250 words per page in a 6”x9” book). The number of pages impacts the thickness of the book and so the depth of the spine. And I gave him the title, subtitle and back cover blurb. I usually recommend providing a creative brief to a designer. Still, Jon and I have worked together for so long; I think the only creative direction was “no images of a typewriter, pen, or computer screen on the cover.” (and I was keen on pink and orange working together!)
The Canadian flag alongside my name on the cover was a late addition. But, as I used Canadian resources, examples, and information where possible, I thought it was worth advertising. I wrote it in Canadian English.
I also hired a proofreader, pro editor Jo Calvert. Although I told her the book was Canadian spelling, she did ask what style guide or dictionary was my preferred authority. Even in Canada, there are differences in the guidelines offered in different style books. Jo corrected punctuation and grammar errors (making nouns and verbs agree, for instance) and flagged editing suggestions, such as re-organizing sentences to make them clearer. The manuscript she received was pretty clean; I had already spell-checked and self-edited it. But a second pair of eyes is essential!
Although I fact-checked quotes and titles, Jo did make a few corrections that I had missed. She noted that the document I provided had a combination of smart quotes and apostrophes and straight quotes and apostrophes. That came from combining Word docs with Google docs. Also, the formatting was inconsistent—some headers in Calibri, some in Arial, some 12pt, some 14pt.
I did the formatting for the guts of the book. I fixed the quotes and apostrophes issue and made the heads and subheads consistent in size and font.
Once these issues had been fixed, the single manuscript became two: one for digital, with hyperlinks in the body and the Table of Contents, and another manuscript for print, with page numbers and no hyperlinks. With the print version, formatting also includes setting the page size and the margins so that the text doesn’t run off the page!