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Cover image for How To Self-Publish Your First Book Part 1

How To Self-Publish Your First Book Part 1

recursivefaults profile image Ryan Latta ・4 min read

Friday I self-published my first book Land the Job. It is all the advice, techniques, and strategies I’ve accumulated over ten years of getting jobs in software and mentoring people to do the same.

Some of the stories are from the people I've mentored in the dev.to community!

I’m a bit in shock that it is real.

But, the reality is that writing a book is not mysterious or magical. So, here’s a bit behind the curtain of my journey writing a book.

By the Numbers

I wrote around fifty-two thousand words. That translates into 173 pages in a six by nine trade paperback format. I wrote almost all of those words during April in 2019.

I started writing on April 1st of 2019 and published to Leanpub and Amazon on January 23rd, 2020. Most of the time between that I was ignoring my manuscript and eventually finished editing.

My total costs to publish look like this:

  • 10 ISBN numbers $300
  • Line editing $540
  • Cover $35
  • Grammarly $49

Turns out, I was pretty lucky with the editing and cover fees.

Tools

Alright, so what was my tech stack for writing a book? Well here are the things I used:

  • Highland 2
  • Grammarly
  • Google Docs
  • Fiverr
  • Leanpub
  • Bowker
  • Amazon KDP

Highland 2 is a Markdown-based writing application. When I started writing I wanted something minimal but with a few specific features. Namely, I wanted to write in markdown since my blog uses Jekyll and Markdown. I wanted to use sprints to write according to time boxes. I also wanted the ability to keep invisible notes in my writing and work across multiple files. Highland nailed that.

Grammarly was to help me avoid a lot of stupid mistakes.

Google Docs was odd in that I only needed it to convert my manuscript to Word format so my editor could edit. I wrote all my chapters in separate Markdown files, so when I needed to get my manuscript in one file, I used cat, shoved it into Docs and exported as Word.

Fiverr is where I sourced a cover design. The process took about three days. Typically book covers cost around three hundred dollars. I’m delighted with what I got from Fiverr.

Leanpub is the authoring platform I use. It is very developer and author friendly. They consumed all my Markdown files straight out of Dropbox and created ebooks. Also, they offer eighty percent royalties, which is fantastic. I used Leanpub’s exports to get my book into Amazon.

Bowker is where all those ISBN numbers are registered. ISBNs are needed for each format your book is in. So I needed four for my book. The formats that each needed an ISBN are: EPub, Mobi, PDF, and print. If I go to audio I’ll need a fifth.

Amazon KDP is the self-publishing service. I put all my materials in there, and within a few hours my book is on the Amazon store. The royalties are much worse.

The Process

Alright, so how did I figure out how to write in a way that let me write a book? Well, I took a class. The class introduced me to a writing structure that I worked on every day for the eight weeks of the course. After those eight weeks it was normal and noticeably helped my writing.

5 Minutes - Think

Before I write I take about five minutes to gather my thoughts, get any resources I need handy. I’ll pick my topic and brainstorm a little. I don’t outline, so it floats in my head.

15 Minutes - Write

I shut my brain off and let my hands do their job. I just write. I don’t worry about if the words are good or even correct. I just write.

The only questions I allow in my head are:

  • Is there anything else I want to say about this?
  • Is what I’m writing better placed somewhere else?

Those two questions help me put thoughts in a closer grouping and keep me exploring ideas.

My inner-critic isn’t invited to these fifteen minutes.

5 Minutes - Edit

Alright, now I look at what I’ve done and begin to fix it. I’ll shove it into Grammarly and give it another read through. This pass is to get the words right and fix mistakes.

Repeat

It turns out in fifteen minutes I produce between 650 and 800 words. That is roughly one blog article. If I need to write more, I start another cycle.

For my book I would spend roughly three cycles a day to get to the target word count. Some days I’d end mid-sentence, but often I’d be at the end of a complete thought. The next day I’d look at where I left off and start my cycles again.

It Isn’t Magic

The reality is that writing a book involves sitting down, getting over myself, and writing. The rest is structure and discipline. If writing is something you’re interested in doing more of, maybe start a short fifteen-minute cycle. It’ll be awkward at first, but you’ll be writing.


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teresaholfeld profile image
Teresa Holfeld

Thank you so much, this article is gold! 👍
What class was it that you took? Is it an online course?