27 Steps from Book Idea to Published

Ready to save years of research on what exact steps to take to get a book from idea to publication, inexpensively? I’ve saved you the trouble by outlining every action I took to write and self-publish my Rhythms & Muse novel and music CD, spending about $1,500 total. A real deal in the book publishing realm!

I recently related this information in my presentation Taking a Book from Idea to Publishing on a Budget at the Write Stuff conference at the Chandler Public Library.

The following 7 Book-Creation Phases, and 27 Action Steps, are those I identified (and got approved by a publishing coach) as necessary to self-publish a book.

7 Book-Creation Phases

  1. Research/writing
  2. Editing
  3. Positioning
  4. Production
  5. Publishing
  6. Distribution
  7. Marketing

27 Action Steps

Phase 1: Research/writing

1. Develop  your idea.

2. Create the best content possible through research and intuition.

3. Network!

  • Meet with a critique partner.

4. Clarify legal issues with a copyright lawyer: music lyrics, quotes, celebrity and trademarked names, recognized commercial verbiage, etc.

5. Read!

  • My fav’ for character development: Goal Motivation Conflict, Debra Dixon
  • My fav’ for plot development: The Writer’s Journey, Christopher Vogler

6. Make time to write, consistently.

Phase 2: Editing

7. Ask for feedback from other writers/prolific readers in your target market, on scenes as you write them and on your final manuscript.

8. Hire a professional editor. I found mine through the FictionThatSells listserv on Yahoo!

Phase 3: Positioning

9. Determine if you need an agent. Some publishers will not consider your manuscript without an agent.

  • Find out everything you need to know about the writing marketplace in the Writer’s Market publication available online, at libraries and book stores.
  • Check into agents, their histories, success rates and more at Agent Query.

10. Decide if you want to publish traditionally or self-publish. Pros and cons:

  • Traditional:
    • You have a team so you don’t have to do it all yourself
    • Offers some financial support
    • Less ROI Less control
    • You still do most of the marketing
  • Self:
    • You do it all yourself
    • Self-funded
    • More ROI
    • More control
    • You do all the marketing

Phase 4: Production

11. Decide if you want support from a virtual author’s assistant to accomplish steps 12–27.)

12. Obtain an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) from Bowker. A unique ISBN is required for each book format you use (hardback, softcover, e-book, audio book, etc.) You must buy blocks of 10 numbers. They cost about $125.

13. Obtain a bar code, also from Bowker. Required. This small image encrypts the cost, ISBN, and other information about each individual book.

14. Obtain a Library of Congress card number. Required only if you want your book to be available in libraries.

[Note: Steps 12–14 are available for free when publishing through CreateSpace, an Amazon company enabling do-it-yourself or with-help production and print-on-demand for media such as books, CDs, DVDs, MP3 files, video, and more), plus a broad distribution system.]

15. Obtain legal permissions, and licenses (for which you’ll pay royalties). This means you must check to see if the individual’s creation you’re using is available in the public domain, or whether you must pay for its use.

16. Decide if you want to officially copyright your work through the U.S. Copyright Office. This is optional, as anything you create is already technically your copyrighted material.

17. Decide whether to hire a designer or if you have the professional talent to create the “look” of your book by yourself.

18. Create images to use in the book creation. You MUST get a designer who understands the psychology of book purchasing, especially if you want your book on a main bookstore shelf. Options include:

19. Create the front and back covers, including the images developed in step 18. This can be accomplished using a graphic designer, a contest design site like Mycroburst, or CreateSpace templates.

20. Create the interior page layout. Consider the size of the book itself, margins, fonts, page numbers, graphic images, and more. A graphic designer can do this, or you can do it yourself using software programs like Word, Publisher or Pagemaker.)

Phase 5: Publishing

21. Determine how you want to get the book printed.

  • Traditional publishing house.
  • Independent publisher.  My finalist was Lightning Source, because other indie publishers outsource to them, and they are affiliated with Ingram, a leading distribution house.
  • Print-on-demand.  I decided to use CreateSpace for reasons including cost and easy tools to create the book and CD myself.

22. Identify what other formats you want to create:

  • E-book.  Smashwords takes your upload and formats it to fit all the available e-book formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad, and many more.
  • Audio book.  You can record your book relatively easily in the GarageBand software podcast function.

Phase 6: Distribution

23. Determine how your book will be distributed.

  • Traditional publisher
  • Fulfillment house, such as Lightning Source with its Ingram distribution arm
  • You and the post office
  • Amazon, through an account set up by you
  • A print-on-demand provider like CreateSpace, that sets up your Amazon page, a CreateSpace eStore page and, for $39, puts you into its expanded distribution into the computer systems of Barnes & Noble, Borders, and other national book sellers.

24. Consider the ease of your payment options and set up avenues for receiving:

  • Cash/check
  • Credit cards
  • PayPal (allows both EFT bank transfers or credit card payments)

25. Obtain sales tax forms from every city and state in which you sell your book.

26. Obtain inventory recording forms to report to the state.

Phase 7: Marketing
(This section could be another entire blog post, so I’ll just give you some pointers.)

27. Figure out how you plan to accomplish your marketing.

  • All you.
  • Traditional publisher.
  • A publicist. I lead a group of independent PR pros – the AZ Independent Communicators & Creatives Tribe – who are available to help you. Plus, I am willing to help any time. Just contact me to ask a question, bounce an idea, or ask for more help.

I also offer online resources, many of which are free or low cost on my vIDEAn Unlimited Web site, BizTribe blog, and ANVidean blog. If you are an established writer, you also might want to consider participating in my ALWAYS writers’ tribe.

Or, if you’d benefit from an in-depth Catch Your Dream strategic workshop to help you move forward in creating your book, give me a shout and I’ll provide you with a free one-hour consultation.


I would love to have your feedback and additions to this conversation as, obviously, this is just one person’s journey through the book creation process, and we can all stand to benefit from each others’ knowledge and experience. Cheers!

1 thought on “27 Steps from Book Idea to Published

  1. Pingback: Life’s Little Pleasures: Speech/Eagle/Art Adventure in Tempe « BizTribe

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