It's time: You've got an idea burning in your head and want to write a non-fiction book. But should you go the agent route or self-publish it on your own? I've had success with the latter, and would like to share how I did it. While others have written guides like this, the ones I've found tend to focus on fiction, which is a different animal than non-fiction like my own project.
For this guide, I'll share what I learned while writing and publishing my first book, Breakout: How Atari 8-Bit Computers Defined a Generation. Some of this advice is distilled from Guy Kawasaki's excellent APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur—How to Publish a Book, with an emphasis on non-fiction and the state of self-publishing today–which has advanced considerably in the five years since that book was written. If you want more detail, I recommend ordering a copy of Kawasaki's book as well as reading this guide.
Going in, I'm assuming you've got a handle on the writing of the book itself, and that you're debating how to proceed as a self-publisher. For my book, I used Scrivener, Microsoft Word, Amazon's CreateSpace service (for print), and Kindle Direct Publishing (for the Kindle version). Here's what I did; I learned many of the below tips the hard way.
Even if you've already decided you want to self-publish, it will help tremendously to put together a proposal as if you were pitching it to an agent or publisher. That means you'll look at the competitive landscape, summarize your book, figure out its key points, what will make people want to read your book in particular, and the potential target price, format(s), and audience size. It will also help you begin to hash out a rough outline for the book.
With any type of creative work, it helps to pit your own against "competing" works. Not that this is a zero sum game, as people interested in a subject will often buy and read multiple books, but checking out the competition lets see how others are designed, laid out, researched, and so on. This process will give you valuable clues as to how to set up your own book and the choices you want to make—which may well be quite different than similar books, but at least you're making informed decisions.
I initially wrote the book using Scrivener, and then transferred it to a double-spaced Microsoft Word document (which made tracking changes much easier when passing back and forth to my editor). I probably used 3 percent of Scrivener's features, since I wasn't plotting out characters; I simply used it because it let me create lots of pieces of text and rearrange them into chapters as I saw fit.
I probably tried out a dozen different layouts and narrative arcs before settling into a final list of chapters and subjects that worked well for the presentation, after discussing it with my editor numerous times. I couldn't have lived without Scrivener's Binder feature or its word-count-per-day tracker. (Note: You can achieve a Scrivener Binder-like design in Word, although it takes some footwork and still packs everything into the same file, which can get unwieldy as your book grows).Read More...
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