April 6

The book publishing process in 5 simple steps

    You know you want to write a book, but you aren’t 100% sure what the entire book publishing process looks like. How do you go from wanting to write a book to writing to having a published book in your hands? It seems a bit mysterious. Let’s break down the phases of the book publishing process together, and you’ll see that it’s actually totally doable.


    The first phase of the book publishing process is, of course, writing! So many authors want to skip right over this phase. They want to ask all the questions about formatting and ebooks and paperback books, and they don’t even have a finished manuscript, yet! So, before you can publish anything, you have to write!

    Writing should take about three months or so, assuming you don’t have tons of data collection or research to do. Imagine you’re writing a 50,000-word book. The average person can write about 1,000 words per hour, so you’re looking to schedule 50 hours of writing over a three-month time frame.

    I’d recommend that you plan to make regular progress because most writers experience a lot of emotional turmoil if they’re not making consistent gains in their word count. So, this might look like 5 hours of writing per week over 12 weeks, which lands you right around that 50 hours that you were aiming for. Some weeks, you might fall behind a bit, and some weeks, you might play catch up.

    Your goal in this writing phase is to get the first draft done. I consider a first draft complete when 90% of what you want to say is written down, not necessarily worded beautifully or even in the right order, just written in words. Then you can go on to editing and revising.

    Editing and Revising

    Here, you’re definitely going to want some help. I recommend planning for three revision phases.

    Revision #1: I actually recommend you do this first revision before you bring in an editor. Go back through your first draft and see if you can move chapters around to make the flow logical to the reader. Within each chapter, look at every paragraph. Is that paragraph necessary? Is it in the right location of the chapter? Should it be in a different chapter? Should you write any new paragraphs to explain a point more fully? Revise your first draft for its logic and structure, not worrying too much about grammar, at this point.

    Developmental editing: Bring in a developmental or substantive editor. This person will go through your book’s overall structure and make sure that it’s compelling from intro through conclusion. Your reader is going on a journey, beginning your book with some sort of problem or pain, and through the chapters of your book, you reader should emerge with a solution, epiphany, hope, or inspiration. The developmental editor is going to help you make sure the reader’s journey is beautiful and memorable—don’t skip this editing phase!

    Revision #2: Go through all of your developmental editor’s comments. There will probably be a lot of comments in the margins, suggestions, and feedback. Give yourself several weeks to re-work your draft.

    Copyediting: Bring in a copyeditor, who will go through each sentence of your book, making sure that they flow logically, that they are in your voice, and that they are a smooth reading experience. This is really where the voice and character of your book start to shine.

    Revision #3: Take a deep look at your copyeditor’s suggestions. It’s important that you don’t just “accept all” changes. Most of the time, your copyeditor will suggest a better way to word a sentence, but sometimes, when an editor makes a suggestion, it’s really just highlighting an area that has a problem. It’s not the copyeditor’s job to find the perfect wording. It’s your job, as the author, to go back to those sentences and decide, “Do I like what the copyeditor has suggested, or do I want to word that slightly differently?” Give yourself another couple of weeks for this revision.

    Proofreading: Bring in a proofreader (can be the same person who did copyediting) to check that everything is consistent—capitalizations, spellings, hyphens, punctuation, all that fun stuff. You usually just “accept all” changes to this phase.


    Every book needs a cover design and an interior design. The cover design is pretty obvious. If you don’t have a designer you already know and love, go for 99designs.com. They have amazing designers, and I’m consistently impressed by the quality of book covers they produce.

    But don’t forget about interior design! If you’re publishing as an ebook, paperback, and hardback (which I recommend, and here’s the article that talks about why [link to https://paperravenbooks.com/publish-first-book-ebook-paperback/]), you’ll need a Word Doc for the ebook and a PDF for the paperback and hardback.

    I definitely recommend that you work with a formatter because a Word Doc can be finicky and not everyone has the software to create a PDF, but here are some things you should be on the lookout for, whether you’re doing it yourself or outsourcing:

    • Pay attention to the heading levels. Your chapter titles will be an H1 level, your main headings within each chapter will be an H2 level, and if you have any sub-headings within a heading, those will be an H3 level. You might make a list of all your H1, H2, and H3 headings, just to make sure they’re formatted consistently.
    • Look closely at spacings. Look at the spacing between the chapter title and the beginning of the text, between paragraphs, and even between lines. You want the spacing to be consistent and to make the paragraphs easy on the eyes.
    • Choose typography that suits your book and brand. Don’t just use Times New Roman 12pt, please, for the love of all things literary.
    • Look at other books to decide how you want your page numbers, running headers, and chapter titles to look. Some books put page numbers in the top corner, the bottom corner, top middle, bottom middle. Some books have the title as a running head or the chapter title or the author’s name. Some books say “Chapter 1,” others just show the chapter title. Lots of decisions!
    • Don’t forget your Table of Contents! Remember to double-check that your chapters actually start where they say they’re going to start and that the title text matches exactly.


    We’re going to dive deeper into this next week, but here’s my short ’n sweet recommendation:

    Publish an ebook on Amazon.com, and make it available in all the Amazon global marketplaces.

    Publish a paperback through CreateSpace, and check the option to distribute it on Amazon.com

    Publish a hardback through IngramSpark. If you’re outside the US, publish a hardback and a paperback through IngramSpark. (They have printing locations in the US, UK, and AU.)

    For the full shebang discussion on printing your book, join the Paper Raven Books newsletter right here.


    There are so many considerations when launching a book, and as you publish books throughout your life, you’ll get better and more detailed in your launch plan. But let me describe a basic 30-day launch plan.

    First, a big part of why I recommend a 30-day launch plan is because, for the first 30 days that your book is live on Amazon Kindle, Amazon is watching your downloads and sales closely. If you have a burst of downloads over a short period (5 days), they’ll boost your ranking, and then you have visibility to a huge audience.

    Set your book at a promotional price for 5 days, either free or $.99.

    Let your family, friends, email list, and social media followers know that your book is coming out a few days before official launch day.

    During those 5 days, email your list and post on social media, with these calls to action: Download the book, leave a review, and share with your friends. You can nuance what to email and what to post, but that’s the basic idea.

    Some advanced strategies: pay for third-party promotion, plan for podcast interviews and guest blog posts to go live during your launch week, and set up a live book-signing event. But concentrate on the basic 5-day launch, first.

    Here are those five phases of the book publishing process:

    Writing, 3 months
    Editing and Revising, 2-3 months
    Design, 2 weeks
    Publication, 2 weeks
    Launching, 1 month

    Totally doable to go from “vague idea” to “book on a shelf” in less than 8 months!

    What do you think? What’s the most exciting part of the book publishing process to you? The most dreaded part?


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