So you’ve always dreamed about writing a book. You imagine sitting with your laptop under a tree as the beautiful prose pours from your soul onto the pages, turning you into an overnight sensation. Once that happens, you can sip on delicious wines while reading fan mail. Ah! That’s the life, right? Let’s be honest, we’ve all secretly dreamed about that. However, after a little bit of investigation, many authors are scared away by the realities of writing a book. In this how to write a book on a budget guide, I’m going to show you that it IS indeed possible to not only write a book in 90 days, but to also become published (guaranteed!) and live the life of your dreams as a best-selling author.
With so much (mis)information scattered all around the interwebs, I decided to create this one-stop guide with all the links you need to access all the information and perspective you need from trusted, reliable sources to help you write a book. This article and the accompanying resource guide is aimed at authors who want to learn how to write a book, publish it and market it effectively from scratch, hence, it is a TON of information. The good news is that you don’t have to scour the internet Googling how to write a book, how to publish a book and how to market a book – I’ve done all the research for you and added to that my experience and that of other industry professionals.
Before you continue: You don’t HAVE to do everything in this guide to write a book. In fact, most writers simply wing it. When they are done writing a book, they either get lucky by finding an agent and publisher who loves their work (more on that below), or they hire professional editors and digital publishers to handle it all for them. Inevitably, manuscripts still require work and rewrites, even after the editor is done with it. If you have the confidence, time, money, and inclination to write a book, put your work out there, and leave it to the professionals – go for it!
Don’t be fooled into thinking it is a breeze to write a book. It takes a lot of work, no matter which publishing option you choose. You may as well start off on the right foot and save yourself time and money.
All it will take is 45 minutes to read this guide attentively.
If you want to know:
- How to put together a book blueprint
- How to write concisely
- How to beat writer’s block
- How to find an editor (and save on editing costs!)
- How to choose between digital publishing or traditional publishing
- How to fund your writing (not everyone who has a book in him or her can afford the time it takes to write it!)
- How to effectively market your book
- And much, much more…
It’s all in this document, in the Companion Guide, or in the suggested resources.
BONUS OFFER: Download the FREE Companion to the Ultimate Book Writing Toolkit: Your [FREE] Guide to Writing a Book on a Budget, which contains additional content and a list of all the resources mentioned in this post.
How to Write a Book
Getting Started: Steps on How to Write a Book – I’m going to provide insightful writer’s tips, tools and resources to help you get started on your journey.
The Secret to Making a Living as a Writer – Find out how to churn out books as fast as all the best-selling authors.
Finalizing Your Manuscript: Editing & Proofreading Secrets – Find out how you can save time and money on the final stages (and the biggest job!) of your writing process.
Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing: Weighing up the facts – How to choose the best option for you based on costs, efforts, reputation and facts. The truth in this section might surprise you!
Marketing Your Book: Best-sellers don’t just happen… Let me show you a few simple ways to market your book.
Writing a Book Step-by-Step
To write a book is an admirable goal, but do you have a purpose for writing a book? You might feel that being an author is your life’s purpose, but you must come up with a book idea that will offer value to your readers. Don’t make the mistake of starting to write a book and hoping it leads somewhere.
“A clear vision, backed by definite plans, gives you a tremendous feeling of confidence and personal power.” ― Brian Tracy, The Gift of Self-Confidence
So you want to write a book, but how do you decide on a topic?
Pick your genre before you write a book: Historical romance, self-help, hard-core self-help, children’s book… Which will it be?
“When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story. Your stuff starts out being just for you, but then it goes out.” – Stephen King
Start with the end in mind: What is the most memorable part of any book? The ending, of course! Most first-time writers will agree that the ending is the hardest part to craft. Before you do anything else, figure out how your book will end.
Create a blueprint: Working according to a set blueprint will help you stay on track with your plot developments and it should help with the pacing of your story as well.
“I have a number of writers I work with regularly. I write an outline for a book. The outlines are very specific about what each scene is supposed to accomplish.” – James Patterson
Create your characters: Rich characters are what make your book a pleasure to read. The most superfluous of plots can be carried by well-developed characters. When it comes to writing your character biographies, ask yourself: What motivates my characters? While you may be exceptionally proud of your characters, remember that change is pivotal to a successful character arc (development throughout the story) and the struggle.
Do your research!: I can’t stress this enough. Proper research ensures that you come across as an authority in your field. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, read plenty other books on the topic or do research online.
Write your first draft: It’s finally time to sit down and start typing. Let the story flow from your fingers and don’t worry too much about grammar and spelling right now. Let the ideas develop, and if you become lost in new story-lines, let it be. When you run out of ideas, return to your trusty blueprint for guidance. That is one of the perfect ways to avoid writer’s block.
The FREE Companion to the Ultimate Book Writing Toolkit: Your [FREE] Guide to Writing a Book on a Budget contains a detailed breakdown on how to approach each of these elements. [Including FREE resources to help with research while you write a book. You won’t believe the difference they will make to your book!]
The Secret to Making a Living as a Writer
In 2016, Amazon reported that 1,600 independent authors were earning more than $25k from book sales on the platform, one thousand of whom published their first books in the last three years. That’s nothing to be sneezed at, especially since making a career as an author means you don’t have to have a boss breathing down your neck.
Now, I don’t mean to be a prophet of doom. Of course you can become a best-selling author within a week of your book launch, but it is not the norm. A few minutes of scouring the local library, bookshops and online book stores will give you a better idea of your realistic expectations. Also bear in mind that the 10 or 20 bestsellers on the list are not necessarily first-time authors. Open to the page titled “author of these books” and you’re bound to find several other books penned by the same author.
So how do you secure your spot in the sun? Options (and opinions!) vary from creating a real zinger of a book to writing lots and lots of books to get your name out there. Both are good options. Later on, we will discuss your marketing options, but for now, let’s focus on how to churn out books in record time, like Shola Kaye who completed the first draft of her book How to be a DIVA at Public Speaking: The step by step system to engage your audience and present with confidence in just 7 weeks amidst her other commitments as a Motown singer, public speaker and presentation skills coach.
“I tried to write for 2-3 hours each morning. I’d say that the first draft was completed in 7 weeks and then I added bits and tried to streamline it after that.” – Shola Kaye
You Can Write a Book in the Blink of an Eye
Would you like to learn how to write FAST? Chandler Bolt, 6-time bestselling author (who wrote his first 200+ page book in only 1 week!), created the Self Publishing School – the #1 online resource for writing and self publishing your first book. What’s so exciting about that? Well, only the fact that he’s offering YOU the opportunity to learn everything he knows about writing and publishing your book in only 90 days in a limited time FREE WORKSHOP. <<- Go save your spot now!
I have worked with several of Chandler’s students and can state unequivocally that they have a solid grasp of the process. Inevitably, their books are of superior quality compared to most writers who go it alone.
Commitment and discipline are two of they key components to achieving success in anything, including writing a book once-off or making a living as an author. No matter how busy you are, you can find the time to build your future.
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” – Stephen King
- If you have a job,you can find time to write even 500 words in the morning before work, at lunchtime, or before you go to bed at night. Sacrifice 30 minutes of Netflix binge-watching and you will be surprised at how quickly you progress.
- If you don’t have to work a day-job, you’re in the perfect situation to create a career as an author.
- If you should be looking for a job, you can still write a book in your spare time or at night.
Need to pay the bills, but you don’t want a job and you’re not a best-selling author (yet)? Consider making money online via selling advertising or affiliate products or services on your website, or starting a part time business. If you’re skilled at graphic design or web development, sign up for an online job portal to market your services. This will provide the freedom you need while still affording you the time to write a book.
If you live in South Africa, learn how you can get paid for referrals and even earn a free car. Seriously!
The Companion Guide provides more helpful tips for authors who wish to earn money while pursuing their dream careers. Request it here.
Write a Book: Editing & Proofreading Secrets
So you’ve completed your first draft. Well done!
However, you can’t sit back just yet. You still have a few steps left before you can publish your book.
“Edit your manuscript until your fingers bleed and you have memorized every last word. Then, when you are certain you are on the verge of insanity…edit one more time!” ― C.K. Webb
- Do your first rewrite
When most writers complete their first draft, they assume they are done. They submit it to editors (sometimes) and expect a quick 3-hour edit to turn a messy manuscript into a best-seller. They are shocked to receive an eye-popping editing quote for a comprehensive edit. Most often, they are insulted at the editor’s audacity to try profit off of their intellectual property.
What they don’t realize is:
- Editing is charged based on a (usually) accurately-estimated hourly basis. Editing can take almost as long as it does to write a book.
- The type of editing required (proofread, light edit, copy edit or comprehensive edit) is clearly defined, and each level includes certain corrections. Packages vary by editor or editing company. EXAMPLES
- A good rewrite – completed a few weeks after finishing the first draft – will reduce that editing bill significantly!
So how do you do a rewrite of your first draft?
Give yourself a good couple of weeks of ‘creative distance’ from your book. We tend to be too close to our own work to truly notice errors, especially with syntax, word use, bias, and colloquialisms. However, you can probably reduce a good number of issues by asking yourself the following:
- Are my characters convincing?
- Does my plot make sense?
- Is the pace in line with best-sellers in my genre, and is it consistent?
- How can I make my writing more concise?
- Would I buy this book?
Your rewrite will probably take about as long as the first draft. Take heart. You’ll be glad you did it because:
- Your editing bill will be lower.
- Your readers will love you.
- Do your first self-edit
Another step many writers miss, is self-editing. You might think that the editor will take care of it anyway, so why should you? Again, the more work you put into your manuscript now, the more money you will save on your edit later.
Before submitting your manuscript to your editor, check the following:
- Does your word-count fall within the appropriate range for your chosen genre?
- Have you removed most of the ‘deadweight’?
- Does your timeline flow logically?
- Does your point-of-view transition clearly throughout the manuscript?
- Is your manuscript technically accurate? (This is why thorough research – before you start and while you write a book – is so important!)
- Find an editor
Once you near the end of your second draft or rewrite, it is time to start looking for an editor.
Yes, every book should be edited because as a writer, you are too close to your work to be objective. First impressions matter, especially if you want to create a readership for your future books.
“Self editing is the path to the dark side. Self editing leads to self delusion, self delusion leads to missed mistakes, missed mistakes lead to bad reviews. Bad reviews are the tools of the dark side.” ― Eric T. Benoit
You can choose the level of editing you want from your professional manuscript editor –
- Basic Editing,
- Copy Editing, or
- Comprehensive Editing.
Yes, the type of editing your book requires will determine the editing costs.
“But my beta-readers love my book and say it’s perfect!”
In the Companion Guide, we discuss the difference between editing and proofreading in detail. Download it here.
What to Look for in an Editor
When it comes to choosing an editor, it is important to find one who can align with your goals for your manuscript. Consider:
- The type of editing you need vs. what the editor offers. [Types of editing include manuscript review, proofreading, basic editing, content editing and comprehensive editing, each with a sub-set of focus areas that your manuscript editor will focus on.]
- Your budget vs the type of editing you need. (You may have to do another round of self-edits if you can’t afford a comprehensive edit. Use the 33 editing tips contained in the Companion Guide to make this a doddle!)
- Whether you want an editor who follows popular style manuals or one with a more creative flair?
- Asking for an editing sample.
Where to find an editor
These days, everyone instantly becomes ‘an editor’ when a friend on Facebook says they’re looking for an editor. Don’t trust just anyone with your life’s work. Instead, opt for recommendations from legitimate sources:
- Use the Self Publishing School’s rolodex (only available to subscribed students)
- Do a Google search for editors.
- Invite professional editors via the Upwork freelancer search.
- Ask for referrals from published authors.
“Chandler founded a self-publishing school which reignited in me the courage to find and follow my lost dreams of being a published author. Chandler’s self-publishing school opened the doors to an amazing community of encouragement and spectacular connections like the amazing editor and owner of EditingQueen.co.za, Lizette Balsdon; she guided me through the editing process of my book and brought me another step closer to realizing my dream of being a published author.” – Carolyn Colleen, F.I.E.R.C.E.: Transform Your Life in the Face of Adversity, 5 Minutes at a Time!
Remember, you don’t have to hire the only editor in your town. Expand your horizons and hire the best international talent from anywhere in the globe. Who cares about time zones? With email you don’t even have to ever talk on the phone, and online portals such as Upwork keep things legit. [You don’t HAVE to hire someone on a hiring platform if you want to save on fees, provided you find a legit manuscript editor.]
Use the initial contact you have with a book editor to establish:
- how professional and personable s/he is at communicating via email
- request a sample edit and assess how you feel about his / her work
- request a firm editing quote.
At this point, don’t expect the editor to provide a high level of insightful feedback that will turn your book into the next How to Kill a Mockingbird or 50 Shades of Grey… They receive dozens of inquiries a month, mostly from writers who never intend to hire an editor but instead want to “be discovered”.
If this is you, you’d do well to hire an editor to help shape your manuscript up first, and then submit it to traditional publishers. Bear in mind that their editors will probably change it significantly. However, having it edited upfront will improve the likelihood of them even approving the manuscript in the first place.
In the Companion Guide, I expose the 3 things you can learn about an editor from the editing sample… If you have not yet downloaded the Companion, do it now!
Assessing the Editing Quote
Book editing rates vary significantly from one book editor to the next. It comes down to the amount of time that will be spent on your book, the type of editing and the editor’s qualifications. It’s important to understand that neither the price nor qualifications are a guaranteed indication (nice contradiction – haha!) of quality. The best indicator of quality editing will be the editing sample.
According to the Editorial Freelancers Association, editing rates can range from $30 per hour to $65/hour. Further independent research showed that per word rates can range from .75 to 2 cents per word for proofreading, up to 4 cents per word for editing, and highly qualified editors charge between 2 – 6 cents per word. Affordability will clearly be a huge determining factor.
The EditingQueen does not charge anywhere near that, so does that mean she sucks? Well, that’s all relative, isn’t it? 🙂 We all suck at something. But I understand the concept of yield management.
“Yield management is a variable pricing strategy, based on understanding, anticipating and influencing consumer behavior in order to maximize revenue or profits from a fixed, time-limited resource (such as airline seats or hotel room reservations or advertising inventory).” – Wikipedia
In short: You need an affordable editor for your book (and you may well be the next James Patterson!) and I need to put food on the table for my family. By combining our efforts, we both get to do what we need to do. Yes, I have to work extra hard to provide the same – or hopefully better – value you would receive from an less cost-sensitive editor, but hopefully one day, I’ll be able to say “I edited his / her book” when I watch the movie with my grand kids…
Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing: Weighing up the facts
When it comes to publishing, you have two choices: Self Publishing or Traditional Publishing. There’s a third option too, Hybrid Publishing, which allows you to use both options. Let’s look at how that works.
What it is: The age-old method of publishing involves submitting your manuscript to agents, who submit it to publishers. Your manuscript will then be edited and eventually, published. If you work well under significant guidance of people in leadership positions, and you’re happy to accept creative direction from industry experts, this is the option for you.
Advantages of traditional publishing include:
Validation – If you’re insecure as to whether your work is ‘good enough’, traditional publishing will provide you with the kudos and prestige you crave. Provided you survive the rejection, which is par for the cause, naturally.
Easier print distribution – Traditional publishing has an advantage in terms of print distribution in bookstores. Bear in mind the fact that only perennial sellers remain in stores for longer than a month.
Single point of contact – You will work with one team of editors, formatters and cover designers. Some will also set you up with marketing if that’s part of the contract. You should bear in mind that marketing is an important key to your success as an author.
No upfront costs – You may receive an advance against your royalties (a percentage of sales – you won’t get more money until book sales exceed the advance) and you should not pay any upfront costs. If you are charged upfront, you’re probably dealing with a vanity publisher, in which case you should grab your manuscript and move on fast.
Disadvantages of traditional publishing include:
Lengthy process – It can take up to 5 years to complete the process of finding an agent, securing a publishing deal, and then getting your book launched.
Loss of creative control – You will have little to no say about how your book is edited, designed and marketed. It’s all in the contract.
Sneaky contract clauses – Some agencies annex a percentage of all your works, whether it is sold by them, or not. They may even stop you from publishing anything else using your same author name, the same characters, or in a similar setting for the duration of your contract under a ‘do not compete’ clause.
Marketing control – Agents typically favor writers with a significant platform, because they will expect you to do your own marketing.
Low royalties – Your nett royalties are determined based on a percentage of book sales. Before you receive your income, all marketing costs, sales discounts, returns and other overheads will be deducted. Traditional publishing royalties vary from approximately 7-25% and by format.
What it is: Self-publishing is a method of independently publishing your book digitally. It allows you to maintain full control over the entire process and reach a wider global audience in as little as 60 days. You can decide just how much help you require to turn your ideas into published books. The process involves hiring independent editors, book cover designers, manuscript formatters, and digital publishers – if those are skills you require – to get your book published. I’ve you’re a maverick walking to the march of your own drum, and you like to do your book YOUR way, then you should definitely opt for self publishing…
Disadvantages of self publishing include:
Investment – The author invests all the upfront costs, such as editing, design, formatting and marketing.
Building a team – Unless you have all the skills you need to complete the process, you will have to find contractors (or a digital publisher) to handle all the related tasks.
Local distribution in major bookstores – It may be hard to get your book into major local bookstores, but there’s a huge bonus you probably will not get with traditional publishing. [keep reading!]
Advantages of self publishing include:
Creative control – You maintain 100% of the creative control over all aspects of the design, publishing, pricing, marketing and distribution processes.
Rights – You maintain all the rights and decisions relating to your book.
Fast process – You control the timeline of events within your abilities. Obviously, if you hire contractors to handle editing, design, formatting or digital publishing on your behalf, you will have some time constraints, but it will still take a blink of an eye compared to traditional publishing.
No rejection! – If you feel that your book is of value to readers and the writing quality is up to par, you can be self-published.
More royalties! – Self publishing authors get 60-70% of each book sale, compared to the average of 10% traditionally published authors get.
Don’t be fooled out of your dreams by self-publishing-phobes. When someone tells you that you can’t make a living as an author, just refer them to the success stories of E.L. James (Fifty Shades) and others.
Why use a digital publisher to help you self-publish?
“Selling your eBook online can be a complex exercise, especially as an African author. As a self-published author you will need every available advantage to set your work apart from that of your international competitors.” – David Henderson, MYeBook
Marketing Your Book: Best-sellers don’t just happen…
Independent books are typically published on the two biggest platforms, namely:
Each offers a range of online bookstores (Barnes & Noble, etc.) where you may distribute your ebook. In addition, Amazon offers a print-on-demand option, which is a great way to reach print book readers, especially if you use their marketing and ranking tools.
A Word of Caution: Be sure to familiarize yourself with the systems properly if you wish to pursue this on your own. Being penny wise and pound foolish can cost you dearly!
Write a Book, But Don’t Forget to Market It
In the case of traditionally published and self-published books alike, you will have to market your book if you want it to sell. Here are a few suggestions:
As soon as you start writing a new book, start mentioning it (casually) on your social media networks to create an interests. (Who doesn’t want to be able to say they are friends with a famous author?)
Create an official Facebook Page for your book
When you’re roughly half-way through your book, create a Facebook Page through which you can share announcements that will keep your fans excited about your progress. Be sure to share:
- a picture when you finally write ‘The End’
- updates throughout your self-editing process
- your excitement as you send it off to the editor
- a sample of possible book cover designs
- reviews from your beta-readers
- the official publishing date
- pre-order details
- and everything else that is relevant and has potential to build excitement.
Create an author website and blog
It needn’t be a fancy, expensive site. Just have a place where readers can learn about you and your book. A blog is a handy tool to share more info regarding the writing process and experience. Once your first readers buy your book and love it, they are bound to research you online. Having a blog is a great way to build a strong following.
Grab your copy of my Companion Guide for an unmissable exclusive offer on an Author Website and blog from our partners at QuickSolve. Also, do not to miss the important information about website content covered in the Companion Guide, which will ensure you don’t miss out on thousands of book sales as many other authors have done…
vacation DIY book tour
Plan your annual vacation around your book’s launch date, and use that as an opportunity to try visit bookstores and local radio stations along the route. Book your visits in advance so as to avoid wasting time by showing up unannounced. It would be a good idea to order a few copies of your book – at cost – from the Print-on-Demand service to have hand.
Distribute a few copies for free
Depending on your genre, it would be a good idea to distribute a few free copies to your local church, hospital, and school libraries. Be sure to stamp your contact details inside the book in case anyone wants to contact you to buy their own copy.
For more advice on how to market your ebook, read the following posts:
- 3 Simple Marketing Ideas for Self- Publishing Authors
- #1 on Amazon: An Ebook Marketing Guide for Self Publishers
- 5 Surefire Strategies for Marketing Your eBook
- Sign up with Hubspot Academy to learn more about marketing.
Are you a South African looking to publish on Amazon? Wondering how you can collect your author royalties? The Companion Guide contains some powerful information from David Henderson, owner of MYeBook. You don’t want to miss it!
Remember that becoming a published author is a process, and becoming a bestseller is no sprint. It takes time and effort to write a book, as every worthwhile endeavour does. I hope that this guide and the FREE Companion to the Ultimate Book Writing Toolkit: Your [FREE] Guide to Writing a Book on a Budget will provide you with all the information you need, or at least point you in the direction you need to go to help make your dream a reality.
Please feel free to peruse my site and get in touch with me if you need any assistance on your journey, even while you write a book. I can put you in touch with all the professionals you need to help you along the journey of writing a book, obtaining a free editing quote, and becoming digitally published. I wish you all the best!