As someone who is currently in the middle of writing my very first book, I have quite a bit of insider information on the process of becoming a self-published author. And since you’re here, I think it’s safe to say that at the very least you are thinking about embarking on this journey yourself. If you have a passion for writing and a message you believe others can benefit from hearing, then I say go for it… But understand that it’s not an easy process, and you will most likely have to invest quite a bit of money to produce a high-quality book that looks and feels professionally done. So in this article, I’ll share my process for writing my book, the expenses I’ve incurred so far, some of the things that I’ve had to think about while writing, and what my plans are, not only for my book but also for my future as an author.
So let’s start at the beginning with how and why I started. Initially, I just wanted to write. A book title popped in my head and I went with it. I would wake up early, set a 45-minute timer, and write every morning. Some mornings I would get into a flow and write for 90 minutes and on others, I would struggle to get 45. At the time, I didn’t even realize that creating an outline would’ve been the easiest and most organized way to start. I had no experience with writing professionally. I just had a dream of writing a book and I started where I was with what I had, and didn’t worry about the details. After about 4 months of writing consistently, I had 13 “completed” chapters and I thought I was nearing the end of my book-writing process. So I started looking into the self-publishing process.
This is when I realized that there were a lot of moving parts. You need an ISBN number, you need to copyright your book, you need to think about marketing, lead magnets, getting your ISBN into the library of congress, how to get into public libraries and book stores, editing, cover design, formatting, and the list goes on. It’s a LOT! During my search, I came across a free self-publishing training and created a Book Launch Checklist. You can find it here if you want a realistic idea of all things that need to be done before you’re ready to launch your book. After that, I knew for sure there was no way I could launch my book alone so I started looking into companies that could help me with the process. I did quite a bit of research, and honestly, I recommend that you do the same. It’s already difficult to write a book worth reading, the last thing you want is to pay for help and not feel like you’re receiving it. Of course, I can offer some advice in this area. First, I would consider the following factors:
- Are writing a fiction or non-fiction book?
- Do you want to write your book yourself or hire a ghost writer?
- What part of the book-writing process are you in?
- What do you want help with?
No matter what your answers are you will need to do your research and make sure you are hiring a reputable company that has been proven to deliver great results. During my research phase, I came across a site that proved to be a great resource – selfpublishingadvice.org. It’s basically a watchdog organization to help aspiring authors find legit self-publishing services. They created a comprehensive list of self-publishing services so this is definitely where I’d recommend you start if you want to know what your options are and want some unbiased reviews. This organization actually hires each company on their list, completes a project with them, and rates the service based on their experience. If you have questions about a specific company you can even email them. I can confirm that they do respond, and for me, it happened quickly. In the end, I chose to go with Book Launchers, and 3 months into working with them I can tell you that I made a great choice. I would highly recommend working with them if you are writing a non-fiction book. Unfortunately, if your book is fictional you will have to hire a different company because Book Launchers does not work with fiction authors.
Now, we’re getting into the nitty-gritty. How much does it cost to work with a self-publishing company? Again, that’s going to depend largely on the company you choose and which services you need, but what I can tell you definitively is that it’s not going to be cheap. No matter who you go with it’s going to cost quite a bit of money and for good reason. Think about it – you are hiring someone to help you create your vision, write your book, edit your book, design your book cover, figure out a marketing strategy, manage the publishing process, and organize the launch. That’s a lot of work. There’s no cheap option that will get all this done professionally. The first company I found charged a flat fee of $10,000 which was very steep. I definitely experienced some sticker shock when I heard that number. And after having a consultation with them and looking up reviews online I wasn’t 100% confident that their service would be a good fit for me. Then I found Book Launchers and not only did they have a great rating on Self Publishing Advice, but they also made a great first impression during our first meeting. Once they explained the process I felt assured that they had the staff, resources, and know-how to help me bring my book to life, and of course, I decided to go with them. I also liked the fact that they would not take any of my commissions like a traditional publisher would, they do not force you to sign a term contract which means you can end your dealings with them whenever you’re ready, and you pay monthly rather than a lump sum upfront.
There are two tiers for their services, so you can choose your tier based on how much help you need. If you’re starting at the very beginning or looking for ghostwriting services you’d want to choose the higher level service which is $2,500 monthly. If you’re like me and you expect to do most of the writing yourself then you would want to go with the lower tier which is $1,200 per month. Again, I know there’s probably still a bit of sticker shop because that’s still a lot of money. I get it. But if you want your book to be done right and you don’t have the experience to do it yourself then you kind of have to pay someone who can execute where you can’t.
Now that I’m working with Book Launchers I want to give you some insight into what that process looks like. The first step was to be assigned an Author Concierge and a Story Expert. The author concierge’s job is to make sure you are happy with the service you’re receiving, facilitate the process, answer any questions you have, and function as your main point of contact. The story expert helped me to create a hook for my book, define my target audience, and get the first few chapters moving in the right direction. My time with him lasted for about 2 months and I was able to get the first 4 chapters redone. To be completely transparent, this process looked a lot different than I thought it would. I thought that since I came into it with 13 pre-written chapters I was mostly done. That couldn’t have been farther from the truth. We had weekly calls and great, thought-provoking conversations. I ended up being challenged in a lot of ways I didn’t anticipate. I had to do a lot of re-writing, rearranging, and surprisingly, I also had to write a lot of new text. He would start by reading my work on his own. Then he’d email his critiques and I would work on new edits and email them back. Next, I would schedule a call with him, he’d review my edits and we’d brainstorm new ideas, discuss our thoughts, and he’d give me direction for my writing. That back and forth and having to really clarify my messaging is why it took 2 months. After all that was said and done I ended up with a completely different book than the one I started with, and that was a great thing.
Then it was time to move on to the second phase. Step 2 was (and still is) to work with a writing coach to go chapter by chapter and finish the book. I am currently in this phase but there’s still a lot to be said about it. Once I was assigned my writing coach there was a bit of an adjustment period because she was new to my book and my writing style, I was used to working with someone else and had become accustomed to their workflow, and it was just different. Her first step was to read those 4 chapters, give her honest opinion, and provide edits. This basically restarted the process because her perspective as a woman and a mom was different and she was able to offer some insights that weren’t necessarily there before. The process continued in a similar fashion – I write, my coach adds, rearranges, rewords, and leaves comments and critiques. Then, I go back and complete the edits based on her input. It’s a back and forth of creative minds trying to present the clearest and most engaging message possible to the reader so that they get the most out of the book, learn some new things, and are entertained.
What I’ve Learned
What I’ve learned so far is that even though I had the will and drive to become a self-published author I knew nothing about what it actually took. Even though I love writing and it comes easily to me, there’s still a lot to learn about writing a book. The focus needs to remain on the reader and how they will experience your book. And honestly, I would 100% recommend hiring someone to help you write and publish the best book possible. Use the resources that are available to you and don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to in order to feel comfortable enough to invest in your book. I also think that if you are planning to write your book yourself you should start with an outline because it makes it a lot easier to figure out the direction of your book and stay organized. I would also recommend writing a lot of it yourself to figure out your writing style and find your voice before you bring another person into the mix. Having pre-written chapters will also give your writing coach a starting point to work from rather than trying to plan out a book that only exists in your head. I’m kind of biased but I would definitely recommend Bok Launchers for non-fiction writers. I can vouch for the level of service and attention you’ll receive as an author. The one-on-one interaction makes me feel like I’m never alone in the process and my book is a priority. I am not getting paid to say this. I don’t even think they have a referral program. I just honestly love using their service because it’s making my book so much better and improving my skill level as a writer.
I know this post is already pretty long so I’ll end it here but if you have questions, please feel free to drop them below and I’ll be happy to answer them. I will continue to post about my experiences writing my book as I navigate each phase. I’ll talk to you soon. Bye!