Want to write a book

How to write a book


A couple people have asked me how to put a book together.

I will break it down into three acts. Act I, the writing. Act II, production. Act III, promotion and celebrating.

Act I – writing.

Here are the basic steps: If you’re not a naturally gifted writer then I would recommend that you read, On Writing, by Stephen King. He provides many tips and fundamentals about the basics to writing and also how to make it a habit.

  1. Write. Put your story down within a document, in a journal or in your phone notes. It doesn’t matter. You need to put a collective of words together to get your story going. Think about putting a heap of clay down on a pottery wheel. Put it on the table (a page) and start to shape it. Don’t be too precious initally, just write, and keep writing. You can make it neater later. Keep doing this until you have the frame of your story. Consider this the trunk of the tree or rough draft one. Well done!
  2. Re-write. Go back to your basic structure of your story and fix the obvious errors, gaps, sentences that you may not have written correctly. This is normal – God knows what was going through your mind at the time of writing draft one. Now you can also add some more detail to the story. Add colours, thoughts, smells, details to the scenes and characters. This should take a long time, so don’t be in a rush. For books that range between 30,000 to 100,000 words, this may take between three and eight months. Challenge yourself with your writing. Push your writing ability. I consider this step as adding the branches to the tree trunk. Draft two.
  3. Give it away – to someone who can critique it. Now you need another set of eyes to see if they can understand your story. They can also find gaps that you have overlooked. Don’t take a critique to heart; it’s there to challenge your story – keep it professional. 
  4. Re-write #2. Read and add to your story. Put in overlooked details. Cut unneeded words or sentences. You want a concise story to entertain your audience. Their time is precious, so make what you write interesting and worthwhile reading. You need tension in your story. You need tension in your story (yes I wrote this twice). Conflicts and differences of opinion, clashes in personalities and beliefs – they all count. It’s here you add leaves to the branches. Draft 3. 
  5. Give it away #2. Find a good editor. You may know one. If not you can find one online. I have used Guru services in the past (www.guru.com). Also Reedsy, Airtasker, Goodreads. There is a global audience waiting to read and improve your story. It will cost around $70-$300 AUD for a basic edit. If you want a top end edit, you could be up for $1,000 to $2,000. Be specific as to what you want to be completed in terms of changes, and turnaround time. I once had someone change the tense for the whole story, which was a huge waste of time. I’ve also had someone change these quotation marks from ” ” to ‘ “. #annoying
  6. Re-write #3. Correct the corrections from the editor. I found I agreed with about 95% of their recommended changes. Five percent required no change, thanks to personal preference with the story or the style you want to keep. Add more details to the story as required to enhance the piece of work. This is adding gloss to the leaves, also delete anything that is cumbersome or not required. Be efficient with words – I’m calling this pruning.
  7. Give it away #3. Get a fresh set of eyes on the project. Ask that they check for typos, or anything that is obviously missing. You would be surprised, even after several readers some mistakes can be undetected. It’s human error at its best. Ask this proofreader to give no attention to the story structure (this should have been sorted out earlier). After they have completed this task (usually ask for a 10-day turnaround (this is when you should have a break)), go through the changes and tick them off. The writing by this stage should be pretty solid. You have completed a few re-writes, which is what writing is about.

Act II – Production.

We need to get this document into a book format. I will explain the method for creating a hard-copy book. The ebook version can be adapted later.

  1. Find a typesetter or learn how to do it yourself. I would recommend finding a typesetter. They will format, add page numbers and title pages to convert your document into a very nice PDF. You can find a typesetter online. Try guru.com. Airtasker, or Reedsy. Allow about one week and between $100-$500. If you were to do it yourself, I would use Adobe Indesign, it should take you several days, but it depends on your experience. Save time and get access to the experienced typesetter if you can.
  2. Get a barcode / ISDN. You will need a barcode if you intend to make your book available through bookstores. Here is a link. This can be created quickly online. You will need to provide the barcode to your graphic designer. Cost is around $50 – which includes the barcode and ISBN number.
  3. Find a graphic designer. You will need to provide some type of creative-brief for a graphic designer. Take some time yourself to visit a bookstore or library and find covers that you like, which you may pass on some notes or photos onto your designer. You will need to communicate the genre, themes and type of book you have. Also you need to figure out how wide your spine of the book will be to give that info to your designer. Allow 14 days and around $120 – $300. You will probably go through three rounds of edits.
  4. Find a price. Go to the bookstores and research where the market is at with your type of book / genre. Keep your suggested retail price in-line with what the market suggests.
  5. Write the copyright. You want to protect your work. Look at other books and use similar copyright language. Also during the process of writing, make sure to email yourself different versions of your writing. This is evidence of you creating your work, in the event you ever had to go to court – unlikely.
  6. Add your credits page for those people who have helped you along the journey.
  7. Find a printer. Selecting a printer can be tricky. There are some big print houses that can turn-around an order in around four weeks. Make sure, and double check that they have your order. Some will offer an online quoting option. This is handy to calculate costs. Ask them for their printing requirements – particularly for the cover. You then will need to relay this to your graphic designer. You will end up paying in advance for x number of copies and will supply two PDF’s; the finished book and the cover with “bleeding” around the sides to allow for cutting the stock. Ask the printer about the type of stock (paper) to be used for printing and for the cover.

For an ebook. Just drop step 7 (and maybe step 2) and get the typesetter to convert to an ebook in both epub and mobi format. Then you just need to find an ebook distributor. I’ve used Smashwords in the past, they are professional. 

Act III – Promoting.

After all the writing and producing you are probably ready for a holiday. Sorry, it’s here you need to go again. If you have a friend who can assist, or some marketing budget then definitely get support.  You need to also allow for around eight weeks to put it all together.

  1. Have a book launch. Most people haven’t been to a book launch, so invite them. Send invites out around five weeks in advance. Mid-week is a better night to host one. Invite your list of contacts who live locally. Prepare your speech. You are there to entertain. Make it worth people’s time. Find an MC to share the speaking.
  2. Have a website to promote the book and provide a sample of the writing. Also, you may make available online sales. You can simply use PayPal as a payment platform. Find a web-designer ($200-500) or you could do a DYI if your digital skills are sharp. A WordPress site, URL and host would cost around ($150). There are SEO basics you could use to make sure your site is visible – google how to do that or ask an expert.
  3. Send emails to people who don’t live locally (otherwise know as EDM’s). Not too many though.
  4. Get Social. Get a Facebook page – and get friends to like. Post a video to the world. There are more people out there than you know. Tweet your latest news.
  5. Send free copies to newspapers, magazines and people of interest. Try to get a story. You need a 10 second (interesting) pitch to catch the key persons interest if you happen to speak to them. Know this in advance. Yes, more homework.
  6. Talk about it to your local cafe manager – people will overhear and buy a copy. This assumes the story is interesting and you’re genuinely passionate about the book. Ok, I have sold one copy indirectly using this method. But I love this fact.

It’s most likely you won’t sell thousands of books when you start your writing career. From my limited research, I think you need to write five quality books before you have established a significant audience who have an appetite for your writing.


A). Find a distributor. This may take three months (so do this at about step 7 of writing). You will need to send a sample of writing, a synopsis of the story, and a bio on yourself. The distributor will require a number of books and also exclusive distribution to bookstores (and retail network). You will also need to provide numerous samples for sales and marketing purposes. Benefit: broad distribution with no stress or need for logistics. Also, they have relationships to bookstores. Bookstores generally want to deal with existing publishers and distributors and not you (sorry). Limitation: Your revenue per book is significantly reduced.

B). Smile. Books take forever so don’t delay enjoying the process. It’s only a book – but we both know it’s more that this. 😉

C). Celebrate. After your book launch enjoy something knowing that Act I and II are complete. Then resort to B.



Billy Curry – Author of Unlonely Planet, and, No Time for Postcards, and Her Name Was Violet

To quote – George Harrison, “It’s gonna take time / A whole lot of precious time / It’s gonna take patience and time, um / To do it, to do it, to do it, to do it, to do it right.”