Have you always wondered what it would be like to publish a book? Seeing your name on the cover of a book that you wrote is a thrill that never wears off. Career Self-Care is my fifth published book, and it's still exciting. A book can also raise your profile and accelerate your business, especially if you're a consultant or otherwise sell your expertise.

Getting from the concept or idea of a book you'd like to write to a finished product is a long journey, and like any journey, it begins with some simple first steps. To help you get started, here are some questions that will help you figure out which steps to take.

1. What do you want from your book?

People write books for a lot of different reasons. You may have something that you want to express. You may want to help others by sharing the knowledge you've acquired. You may want to establish your expertise in a given field, perhaps to help boost a consulting or speaking business. Or, you might be hoping to earn a lot of money from the book itself. (While this is certainly possible, there are much easier ways to make money.)

Take the time to give some thought to these questions and decide what your specific goals are for your book. Deciding exactly what your goal is for your book will help you find the right answers to the rest of these questions.

2. Will you seek a traditional publisher or will you self-publish?

If your aim is to establish expertise and credibility, selling your book to a traditional publisher might be a good goal. (You can always consider self-publishing if no traditional publisher buys your book.) On the other hand, if you're good at marketing and sales and your aim is to make as much money as possible, self-publishing might be the right approach from the start.

If you decide to approach a traditional publisher, it will help enormously to have an agent representing you, and you will almost certainly need to create a book proposal for your book. This should include information on why people would buy the book, its likely audience, and a list of competitive books and complementary books (i.e., books whose success suggest yours will be successful too). You will need to explain how you intend to market the book, list your planned chapters with a short description of each, and include your background and credentials for writing the book. You will also need to include a sample chapter so that the publisher can see your writing style.

With self-publishing, you can skip all of the above. On the other hand, it's important to educate yourself about the world of self-publishing, because there are many different approaches and many different companies that will offer to publish your book, some of which are better than others. With self-publishing, you will be responsible for nearly all of the decisions about the book, and all of its marketing and promotion.

3. How will you market and sell the book?

Which leads me to the next question you need to answer. In today's world, even if you find a traditional publisher, you will be expected to promote the book and the publisher will depend on you to help sell it through speaking and other events. Most publishers will want to know early in the process how much public speaking you do. 

There are, of course, many different ways to sell a book. If you have a successful consumer-facing business, you can likely sell your book to existing customers. If you speak, you can certainly sell it to your audiences. If you have a solid social media following, if you contribute articles to publications and websites, if you appear on podcasts and so on, all of these are effective ways to get your book into the public eye ... and ultimately onto people's bookshelves.

4. What kind of help will you need?

Getting expert help is a great idea in most situations, and it's particularly important if you're setting out to publish a book, especially if you've never done it before. But even seasoned professional writers -- including me -- look for all kinds of help when publishing a book.

If you're not an experienced writer, you can hire someone to help you write the book, or the book proposal. Or, you can get an editor or book doctor to review your manuscript, help tighten your writing style, and make suggestions for improvements.

If you're self-publishing, it's still important to work with an editor, so that the finished product reads well and comes across as professional. You will likely also need help with things like cover art and layout. A traditional publisher will supply all of this, but is likely to give you less control. For example, the publisher will make the final choice about the book's cover, and possibly even its title.

Once the book comes out, you may want to hire a publicist or PR professional who can help you raise the profile of the book. This is true even if you work with a traditional publisher, as most publishers' publicity departments will give you only a limited amount of support. A good publicist can help a lot when it comes to getting attention for your book in a crowded marketplace.

Writing and publishing a book and then seeing it out in the world is an incredible feeling -- there's really nothing else like it. If you want to take that same journey, finding answers to these questions can help start you on your way.