What if you could conceive a book, write the book, and have physical copies in your hand in just two weeks? And what if it cost you nothing (other than the cost of the books)? I did this for my first self-published book. Here's how I did it, in 10 easy steps.
Step 1: Get Clear on the Content and Format
This first step is critical. Clarity will help with the writing and editing.
- Your book should provide the reader insights into your area of expertise. You must already be an expert and need to be able to talk about your topic for a few hours. For this to be written so quickly, you need to write a book based on your experience, not a book grounded in research.
- For this quick book, you want to create something that is concise and easily digestible. Shoot for a final length of 75 -100 pages.
- Identify an overarching framework. Most business books have some type of framework that can be incorporated into the book. This can serve as the table of contents or guide the writing process.
Step 2: Record a Speech...or Just Talk
Once you have your structure, you can of course start writing. But sometimes people find it easier to start with existing content. Many of us give presentations, do training, or facilitate workshops. Buy yourself a digital recorder or use an app on your phone to record a session. If you don't give speeches, you could record a conversation with another person. Sometimes the dialogue will help you identify content you hadn't previously considered. And if you don't want to involve others, just take your framework and talk to yourself. We speak about 7,500 to 9,000 words per hour. Given the book will be between 10,000 and 20,000 words, you ideally want two to four hours of talking to allow for less-than-useful content to be edited out. Feel free to transcribe old videos or podcasts you've already created. No need to reinvent the wheel!
Step 3: Transcribe Your Audio
There are so many services for transcription. Lately I've been using Otter.ai, as it is free for the first 600 minutes of audio and has some cool tools. But there are others, like Rev and Speechpad, that are more expensive (about $1 per minute of audio) but much more accurate. Decide what matters: money or time.
Step 4: Add Headings, Ask Questions, and Edit
Now we come to the most time-consuming part. First, try to find logical headings (Step 1 should help with this). The more, the better, as you can create a rich table of contents page. My self-published book was 75 tips on how to create a culture of innovation, broken down into three categories. My writing was facilitated by this "tips book" structure. Be sure to edit the text so that it reads like a book rather than a speech. Take your time. I use Scrivener as my writing/editing tool as it allows me to move the content around more easily.
Step 5: Get Feedback (optional)
I find it useful to print/email the manuscript (I go to Fedex.com for this) and get some friends to review it. Have them critique it. The objective is not to wordsmith but rather to make sure your colleagues understand the content. Choose people who are in your target market. Have them write down questions as they read it. Then, have a conversation with them where you answer those questions. Record and transcribe that conversation. Great insights will come from this step as you provide answers to their questions. Paste these refinements into the manuscript and do one more round of edits.
Step 6: Get an Editor (optional, but recommended)
If you want professional editors, you can use Upwork, WordsRU, Reedsy, or get a recommendation. My first version of the book was 15,000 words and cost about $200 for light editing/proofreading (and it was done quickly). Expect to pay more and wait longer if you want a solid copyediting job. My next book (which is not a two-week book!) cost over $2,000 for three rounds of edits for a 25,000 word book.
Step 7: Choose Your Book Format and Paste in Your Manuscript
You now need to layout the interior of the book. First, you need to determine the trim size of the book. I used 5.5" x 8.5" for my first book. It's convenient because it is an 8.5" x 11" piece of paper folded in half, so it is easy to preview your work. Next, you need to get a template for the interior, or hire someone to do it. For this you have a few options (I've tried all of them):
- Create your own template in MS Word based on other books you like.
- Buy a Word template from someone such as bookdesigntemplates.com.
- Hire someone on Fiverr, Upwork, 99Designs, or Reedsy's marketplace.
- Use Vellum, which will also format your e-book. (There is a cost, and it is for Mac only.)
- Use Reedsy's free book layout software.
Once you have your template created, you can now paste in the text from your manuscript.
Step 8: Find a Printer
There are literally hundreds of print-on-demand publishers out there. You may want to use Amazon's CreateSpace/KDP. For my first self-published book I was less interested in retail distribution so I used an independent digital printer. In the beginning, look for low/no set-up costs and small minimum print runs. My first self-published book was printed in batches of about 60 books each and cost me under $2.50 a copy for a 100-page book. With larger print runs, you can get it for less. For me, having the flexibility to change the book with each print run was important, so small batch sizes were critical.
Step 9: Create a Cover and Send to Printer
For the first version of the book, don't worry about getting it perfect. It can be plain and simple, with just your name and the title of the book. Your goal with the first version is to get some feedback. Make sure the dimensions (e.g., the spine) are correct. Your printer can help you with this. My first version of the cover I created myself (it was terrible, but it served its purpose). Eventually, I hired a freelancer to improve the cover. Once you have everything done, you prepare the book for the printer. Again, every printer will have their own requirements. Typically, you send two PDFs--one for the cover and one for the interior.
Step 10: Wait Until Your Books Arrive
Now is the most difficult step: waiting for your book to be printed and shipped. The printer I used sent a proof in just a few days after I sent in the PDF files.
If you follow the process above, in less than two weeks you can have a real book in your hands. If you used a free transcription service, did all of the graphics work yourself, and did not hire an editor, you will have spent nothing (other than the printing).
Give this first version to friends and colleagues for comments. Give them as gifts. Wait until the second version (with corrected typos and improved content and graphics) before you decide to sell the book. The content of my self-published book was updated a dozen times over two years. I even changed the title and cover after a few versions. Eventually the book was purchased by Penguin and I completely rewrote it, taking a lot longer than two weeks.
The goal of this book is not to create a work of art. My other books took months or years of work to create. But if you don't currently have a book and want to get one done quickly, this strategy can certainly help. Among other things, it can serve as a great brochure, for about the same price.
What to do with your book and how to market it will be topics for future articles.
P.S.: I do not get any kick-backs or royalties from the providers I mention. I am only sharing their names so that you can gain from my experience.