How to Write and Self-Publish a Book in a Nutshell

I love to read books. Especially books by someone who has some skill or knowledge that I would like to learn. I’m really fond of books that start with the words “how to.” What I like even more is when someone elegantly incorporates their philosophy of life into the book. Not by hitting me over the head with a 2 x 4, but by weaving clues into the text about what drives this person. Who is he or she?

Photo by neil conway via Flickr

I like some humor and inspiration. Make me laugh and give me confidence, and I’ll follow you anywhere.

Share Your Unique Experience With Others

You have something to say that no one else can say because your experience is unique. Your experience is a valuable example for others, something that they can learn from and perhaps copy and build on to improve their own lives.

In my first book, Fix ‘em Up, Rent ‘em Out, I wrote about my experiences repairing houses and renting them out. Since I had been doing this for 7 years and it had become a source of extra income and a font of inner satisfaction, I could write genuinely about my experiences.

You may think, “There are already a lot of books written on my topic, so there’s not much more to say.” The same could be said of love songs, but people keep writing them, and hopefully always will.

Yes, there are many books written, but I think the world would benefit from one by you. You can bring your authentic experience to the table, an experience that is unique and that connects with other people.

Your Book Meets a Need in Your Own Life

When you write a book, you not help others by sharing the lessons that life has taught you, but you also fill a need in your own life.

Writing your experiences and opinions on paper forces you to focus on what you have accomplished and learned. To put ideas into words on a page requires a thoughtful analysis of what you have done. This analysis deepens the experience for you and when written down, immortalizes the experience. Now it is forever etched in your mind and on the published pages.

Writing a book is not for the faint of heart, but I don’t think you will ever regret the time that you spend doing it. Writing a book requires such a great effort, to organize your thoughts, to edit & re-write, and to go through periods of doubt and mental stress. But by the time you finally finish, you feel a wave of relief and accomplishment wash over you. And that feeling never really goes away.

Meet Your Two New Best Friends

I encourage you to buy two things to get started:

  1. a new spiral bound notebook, and
  2. a new pen.

These are “special.” Use them only for recording information about your book. Take them with you everywhere you go. I take my notebook to doctor’s appointments, to lunch, to kids sporting events, to church, and it sits close to me when I am sleeping. Write down everything that comes to mind about your book.

Before you know it, ideas will start popping into your mind like popcorn in a microwave oven. You’ll read something in a magazine, or hear someone say something in conversation, or see something in a movie, that will spark ideas or quotes for you to note in your special notebook.

Why Self-publish Your Book

There are three reasons to self-publish:

1. Unlike a few years ago, it’s fairly easy to produce your own book.

Formerly, books could only be formatted by using specialized programs, but now anyone can write and format a book in Microsoft Word.

Printing companies, such as LightningSource.com, can inexpensively print your book, and automatically ship copies to Amazon, and other on-line book stores, for seamless sales. They even deposit royalties in your bank at the end of each month. What more could you ask for?

2. You keep more of the profits if you do everything yourself.

If your book was published by a traditional publishing company, you would typically receive a 10% royalty for each book sold. By self-publishing, I receive a 55% royalty for each book sold.

3. The unvarnished truth is that it’s unlikely a publishing company will want to publish your book.

They have bigger fish to fry. They’d rather publish a book by Justin Beiber. There’s something askew in a universe where memoirs are written by 16 year old boys.

However, just because your book is self-published, that doesn’t mean that you can’t sell a lot of copies, because you can and will. It’s primarily a matter of having a good message, and effective promotion.

Some Overlooked Ways to Promote Your Book

Internet promotion is one obvious piece of the promotion puzzle, but two often overlooked, yet highly effective pieces, are radio promotion and public speaking.

  1. Radio Shows. Radio shows have time to fill and authors have something to say — a perfect match. Although sometimes it takes some effort to actually contact the radio host, it’s nice to be able to do your interview via telephone from the comfort of your own house.
  2. Public Speaking. One component of public speaking is contacting clubs, organizations, and associations, all who are in need of speakers. A second component of public speaking involves making videos for YouTube.

Don’t Over-Think Promotion

The better people know you, the more they are likely to read your books and listen to what you have to say. Don’t be caught in paralysis by over analysis. Just accept radio and public speaking for what they are, which are tools for you to connect with people.

Douglas Adams said,

If you take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have on your hands is a non-working cat.

In my first video, I was so afraid I would make a mistake that I had my 12 year old son hold the script right next to the camera, so I just could just read it aloud.

Frankly, people don’t care if you make a mistake. They will listen to you anyway, if you just freely share your knowledge with them.

Let the Journey Begin

There are few things more rewarding than writing and publishing a book.

Mark Twain said,

Really great people make you feel that you can be great too.” When you write a book, you tell your readers, “I was successful in doing this, and you can do it too.

Don’t keep that book simmering inside of you. Let it out, where it belongs. Many people will have their lives enriched by the experiences that you share. You may change their world, and your own.

For more articles about writing a book and self-publishing, please visit Carve Out Your Niche.

About the Author

By , on Oct 8, 2011
Terry Sprouse
Terry Sprouse formerly worked at the University of Arizona for 10 years. During that time, he started a business in his spare time buying fixer-upper houses and turning them into rental properties. In addition to his real estate business, he also writes books about real estate investing and how to become self-reliant, rather than relying on a 9-5:00 job for security. He is the author of Fix em Up, Rent em Out, and most recently, Carve Out Your Niche. He also the author of Fix em Up Rent em Out.

Leave Your Comment (20 Comments)

  1. Terry says:

    Hi Charmaine,

    Thanks for that comment.

    I’m glad that you mentioned “The Artist’s Way,” by Julia Cameron. It is one of the best resources for igniting your creativity that I have come across. I keep a copy of the book next to my bed and read a little each night before going to sleep.

    One other book, that I hold in equally high regard in the area of motivation and creativity, is Steve Pressfield’s “The War of Art.”

    Casting modesty to the wind, I also humbly recommend my book on self-publishing entitled “Carve Out Your Niche.”

    I wish you the very best of luck in all your forthcoming creative endeavors!

  2. Charmaine says:

    Hi Terry
    Just by accident I stumbled upon your website. I was looking for ways to earn an extra income. Recently I did a course called ” The artist’s way” by julia cameron. Amazing what creativity can emerge from yourself. So I became interested in writing, painting and photography. I’m just starting out, so an ebook would be a great medium to write through. thanks for giving us the opportunity to “talk and share” on your website.

  3. Terry says:

    Wendy,

    I think you are on the right path.

    If I may make a suggestion, I have found the essay “Self Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson to be extremely inspiring, and a useful guide in trying to follow that small voice. Emerson refers to it as “intuition.”

    In my own experience, following my intuitive impulses has led me down exciting paths that I never imagined taking.

    Often, when I have had doubts about taking bold action, such as doing speaking engagements, or appearing on the radio or television, I would hesitate and think, “Am I really qualified to do this? Will they see right through me and tell me I’m crazy?”

    But invariably, I could feel my intuition telling me to do it, and I would remember, “I have to trust my intuition, it’s my truest guide, truer than my own nervous feelings.”

    The response to my new action would validate my choice to follow my intuition. The results usually exceeded my expectations, and I was one more step toward reaching my goals.

  4. Wendy Mays says:

    Thank you for this article. In your comments, you said something that spoke to me:

    “I may not be able to do everything, but I can do one small thing and do it well. From that solid foundation, I build my universe…

    Inside of all of us is a tiny voice that tells us how to live our lives. We don’t always hear this voice because we are busy doing other things.

    When we are working at a job that we don’t like or in an uncomfortable situation in life, we get the feeling that we are not on the right track. It’s that tiny voice again trying to communicate with us. In my case, I was trapped in a job that wasn’t all that bad, but I had the feeling that it just wasn’t what I was really meant to do.”

    I have found myself anxious and unsettled the past several months. What you have described above is the same message that keeps coming to me everywhere I turn. I have asked for, begged for, direction, for a clear message of what it is that is next for me. It has become clear that I am being called to something else – but what it is has not been clear or at least maybe I have not been listening.

    Message received! It is exciting and scary to be venturing into new territory. Thank you!

  5. Terry says:

    Thanks for those comments.

    You know, I think it’s actually much easier to market a book, despite the competition. With today’s technology, an author is able to reach a huge audience with relatiely little effort.

    With just a blog, YouTube videos, radio shows, and public speaking, an author can sell a good number of books each month.

    I think the harder part is to select a topic that will entice people to want to buy the book. Not only entice them, but so good that it will force them to buy your book.

  6. David Sneen says:

    I like your old-fashioned idea; use the basic notebook and pen method in creating a book. Especially, when creating an outline, there is only so much you can do with technology. The pen and paper allows greater freedom, and appears more natural.

    It is much easier to create a book. It is also much more difficult to market, because of competition.

    Although I do not anticipate creating a book, I plan to make a booklet. The concept of my blog is sufficiently unique and has enough merit, so I will be looking to take that step in the near future.

  7. Terry says:

    Lester,

    It’s ironic that most people don’t think about marketing until their book is written, yet, it takes at least as much time to successfully market a book as it does to write it.

    John Kremer said, “If you really had any true passion for your book, nothing would stop you. You would climb the highest mountain, if need be, so people would know about your book. Or you would parachute into Windsor Palace. Or you would stand in front of a speeding truck. You would die for your book.”

    While I’m not sure that I would die for my books, Kremer’s point hits the mark, so to speak, in terms of the passion that we must feel for the value of our book.

    Our passion is what drives us to tell anyone who will listen what we believe in so strongly. It drives us to do things that we may normally fear to do, like appear on radio and TV shows, or speak to groups of people.

    It forces us to become bigger than we were before.

  8. Lester says:

    This post made me realize that marketing is exciting when you know the reason why you’re doing the things that you do.
    Putting your customer first is the foundation of marketing but this is usually forgotten and seldom applied. Thanks for
    reminding me about this concept and may you have everything that your heart desire.

  9. Terry says:

    That’s a good question. I assume that your are planning to produce a version that can be used Kindle?

    So far, I haven’t ventured into the world of Kindle.

    I have published two paperbacks and sold them on Amazon, and I have an e-book that I sell through one of my blogs.

    Since my books are “how to” books, I have always thought that people would be more inclined to buy hard copies of my book, so that they could highlight the text, dog ear the pages, and that sort of thing.

    I’d be interested to know how you come out with your Kindle experience.

  10. Kyla de Vlieg says:

    Thank you Terry. I am fortunately very clear about the objective and content of the book, I have however five possible titles, none of which are ‘the one’. It’s extremely frustrating, however I will perseverewith brainstorming until I find the correct title. thank you for your input regarding the chapters. I have started writing my contents out which helped tremendously.

    My plan is to create an e-book first and test the waters that way, using Amazon.com and similar platforms to sell it. What do you think?

    Warm

  11. Terry says:

    Kyla,

    I think you need to have a title in mind before you start writing. That way you know that whatever you write should relate to what your title is. Of course, you can fine tune your title as you write your book, which is what I often do.

    After I have the title, I write down all the topics that I want to cover, and those topics become the chapters.

    If you’re not sure what your title should be, I suggest that you start writing “morning pages.” This is where you get up an hour early every morning and write 3 pages in a notebook (yes, with a pen) of “stream of consciousness.” Whatever comes to mind.

    At first, it may not seem like anything is happening, but soon you’ll find you are coming up with some insightful ideas for your book. It’s a way to connect to your creative consciousness.

    I started doing this after reading the book “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Carmeron.

    Keep writing, no matter what. That’s the only way to become an author!

  12. Kyla de Vlieg says:

    Thank you so much for your kind words Terry. I am having some difficulty viewing the video, but I will persevere.

    May I ask you a question? What comes first, the title or the book and do you write up your table of contents first and use that as a guide-line to work around?

    Many thanks for your kind assistance,
    Kyla

  13. Terry says:

    Kyla, I wish you the very best of luck. With the determination that is emanating from your comment, you are destined to succeed.

  14. Kyla de Vlieg says:

    Thank you for your valuable, honest and encouraging words. I’ve had a burning desire within me for as long as I can remember; a deep rooted feeling that I’m destined to do something meaningful with my life and recent events have propelled me to action. As a result I am now ready to start writing a book that I’ve known for a long time I will write. It’s a wonderful place to be. Your words have resonated with me and encouraged me further to step out and begin. It is no coincidence that I came across them today. I thank you.

    with love from South Africa,
    Kyla de Vlieg x

  15. Jenna says:

    @Terry Sprouse – Nope. Not sure if people would want to take financial advice from a 20 something with a marketing degree. Although Adaptu has a ton of great content it doesn’t come from me.

  16. Jenna,

    Have you ever thought of writing a book about the money manangement ideas on Adaptu? You have lots of useful information there.

  17. Jenna says:

    Have you check out Dave Ursillo? He just self published a book and blogged about the entire process. Definitely something worth checking out: http://www.daveursillo.com/

  18. Vincent says:

    You have a lot of good points here. This really relates closely to an eBook project we are working on. The best advice is to write about something you’re passionate about. Otherwise, completing your project is going to become a headache really quick.

  19. Briana,

    You bring up a good point.

    One key to writing “how to” books, as I do, is to have an abundance of knowledge or experience to share with your readers. If you don’t already have the experience, where do you start?

    Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

    I encourage you to become master your own niche.

    What is your niche?

    Your niche is the world that you carve out for yourself. It is some area where you become a recognized expert. It involves finding what your passion in life is, your soul’s purpose, becoming highly skilled in that area, then sharing your passion and your knowledge with others.

    Nothing happens by accident, or comes easily. You must take time to look inside yourself to find your mission in life. That is where your burning desire and strength to establish your niche will come from.

    What you do is not as important as attaching your passion to the solid rock of your core spiritual certainties. I never aspire to be a giant in the field. My goal is to carve out a niche, to do what wildly successful people do, but on a smaller stage. I may not be able to do everything, but I can do one small thing and do it well. From that solid foundation, I build my universe.

    As Mother Teresa said, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”

    Inside of all of us is a tiny voice that tells us how to live our lives. We don’t always hear this voice because we are busy doing other things.

    When we are working at a job that we don’t like or in an uncomfortable situation in life, we get the feeling that we are not on the right track. It’s that tiny voice again trying to communicate with us. In my case, I was trapped in a job that wasn’t all that bad, but I had the feeling that it just wasn’t what I was really meant to do. Eventually, external factors forced me to take control of my life—which

    I did by creating my own niche.

    A lot of people just bite the bullet and continue on in their job because at least it provides them with some measure of security. They sacrifice a roller coaster, mile-a-minute, spiritually illuminating, and thrilling life, for security.

    We all are dealt a hand of cards in life. We are a certain height, have a certain appearance, we owe our disposition and thoughts to our genetic makeup and to our social conditioning. But, that is only scratching the surface of who we are. Deeper down in our spirit, we are much more.

    As Ralph Waldo Emerson said,
    “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.”

  20. Briana says:

    I plan on writing my first book but I’m just not sure what I want it to be about yet. I do know I want it to educate people and help at least one person.

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