Steps to Becoming an Author
WHAT IS YOUR GOAL? Deciding on a goal can determine what steps to take. A book just for your family does require you to create promotion materials, websites or publishing through a publishing house. Full time authors will want to sell their books, so they have more steps to follow to be prepared from the start. That is why a goal is important.
START WITH AN IDEA. An idea, thought, dilemma, dream, past experience, event that happened to you, or story someone shared. Anything can become the base for your writing. A book is not fully written in one sitting. A book is made out in pieces. One sentence, one paragraph, one story at a time.
START WRITING. Start writing, no matter how large the sentence or the paragraph, just write. Don’t worry about writing everything perfectly, just write it as you remember. Later you can do edits. You can set a goal for yourself of writing 300 words every day until you are done. For an autobiography, you can also provide an answer to a question everyday or every week on memories about your life.
ORGANIZE YOUR PIECES. Once you are done writing your book in pieces, then organize them in chronological order or the order that makes more sense based on the content. You should write an outline to make it easier to organize it. Remember, you can add more information later or move pieces around to create interest for the reader.
TAKE A BREAK. Before going back to read your book, take a break, let the writing rest for a week, maybe a month, then come back to it. By waiting, you let yourself start fresh again and catch any mistakes or rephrase sentences easier.
FIRST DRAFT. After you have your first draft ready, you can ask someone else to read it. This person doesn’t have to be an editor because it is likely that you will do more changes. Remember, this is your “creation.” This is personal and you want someone to provide you with a good honest opinion. Try not to go to family members for constructive criticism because they will feel the need to provide positive comments rather than hard judgment. You want your book to be clear. Does it flow? Does it make sense? Is it confusing? Does it need better transitions? Be clear with others beforehand if you don’t handle constructive criticism well. Be honest with yourself and others. Also, feel free to ask others to give you a book review or quote to use on the back cover as marketing for your book.
EDITING AND ILLUSTRATING. Before finding professionals for editing and illustrating, make sure that you have a clear good draft. Meaning that you won’t add a whole chapter. You don’t want to continue doing substantial changes unless they are necessary as indicated by the editor. Also, this is a good point at which finding an illustrator would work best and decide on page size for your book since they can do illustrations in different sizes. Professional editors are costly, so you don’t want to reach out to them unless you have a close to final version. Sometimes, a friend can help you do edits for free, just make sure you allow enough time for them to finish reading the whole book before pressuring them to finish the edits. For illustrators, you can find them everywhere in social media, websites and at events. Illustrators always showcast their past work. You will know who is the right one when you see their work.
DECIDE HOW TO PUBLISH. Now, you are ready to decide on a publishing house or platform. Based on your goal you can find a small publisher, big publisher, or self-publishing platform. In the past, some authors have indicated using self-publishing platforms such as Amazon KDP or IngramSpark. The benefits with self-publishing is the control over all the aspects of the process. If you have the time and don’t mind doing the research, then you can consider this option. A professional software for book design and layout is Adobe InDesign. There are great tutorials on this, but you need to invest in it. If you want to publish with a publisher please note that they have their own team including editors, illustrators, designers, public relations people, and marketing team. Also, you don’t have to worry about anything but writing. BIG note on this is to make sure you read and understand contracts and benefits from any publishing house. Some authors have had bad experiences with contracts to the point of losing rights to illustrations or losing the potential of making any profit out of their own books! Be careful.
PUBLISH YOUR BOOK. After deciding on the publishing house or platform, plan ahead by collecting all the materials you will need: Book cover and back cover details and illustrations, titles for chapters if needed, cost for your book if applicable, ISBN will be provided in the process (cost may vary), book genre(s), categories, author bio, photo of the author, book marketing statement, size for the book, format (usually paperback), book reviews or quotes, contributors, contact for this book and publishing date (usually same day as submission). Please note that a different ISBN is required for hardcover, paperback, eBooks and audiobooks. Book reviews or quotes can be written at the back cover or beginning pages of your book (these are key for readers when deciding to purchase the book). Remember that if you don’t want to sell your book, you might not need to do all these pieces. It seems overwhelming, but it is not since you already possess all this information. You just need to write it down and have it ready before sending the book to print.
At this point you are a published author, and you can adopt the title. Having your goal in mind, this is when you complete leaving a legacy and experience in writing or it is time to begin the next stage of your journey towards your career as an author.