Writing and Self Publishing a Book in 5 Difficult Steps

Recently I saw a blog about publishing that had the phrase “easy steps” in the title. I didn’t read it, but I can only assume that somewhere in there the writer admitted that “easy” was a joke.

No matter how you break them into small steps, very few parts of writing and publishing a book are easy. Here are the five essential, difficult steps.

1. Read The Art of Fiction by John Gardner and writing books by Sol Stein.

You will have less editing to do later if you read these books first. Sol Stein writes very clearly about tagging (he said, she said), plotting, and other nuts and bolts technique, and John Gardner talks about the deepest questions of character and storytelling. One thing that sticks with me from The Art of Fiction is to remember that some of your readers might be contemplating suicide, and you shouldn’t push them toward it.

There are thousands of writing books that you don’t need to bother with if you read these two. Okay, this step was relatively easy, but the rest are difficult.

2. Write.

Duh. I would tell you how to write, but I don’t have to because you already did step one. Right?

3. Find a critique group.

How can I say this delicately? Actually, I don’t have to. You do. Find a way to delicately decline being in writing groups with members who write terribly or sit around and complain more than they critique. The other members of my group were too weak to do so, and here I am in a group of people who are all more experienced than me. Ha ha.

4. Listen to your critique group.

They are probably right. Especially if you did step 3 properly. If you didn’t do step 3 properly, you’ll be left wondering whether to make the changes they suggest. I rarely have to say, “No, I’m sure it’s right,” because my group rocks. It’s always difficult to accept critique, but it won’t be as difficult with a good group. This step is otherwise known as “rewrite,” but nobody likes to hear that word.

5. Put your book on CreateSpace. (It’s free!)

Some people would pay to get their book edited before putting it on CreateSpace. That’s a great idea, but I didn’t have the money. Some people hire a cover artist. Also a great idea, and I also didn’t have the money. (I did use a very generous photographer friend for a couple of my covers.) So do those things if you want, and then take advantage of the free help from the CreateSpace staff to get your book formatted and up for sale. Three tips for formatting the paperback version: Use mirror margins, use page breaks at the end of a chapter, and do whatever you need to do with font size, margins, and blank pages in order to get your book over 131 pages. If it’s under 131, you can’t put writing on the spine and bookstores won’t sell it.

Happy writing! I have spent several years fine tuning this list. Please share if you found it helpful!

M.L. Millard



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