Many people dream of writing a book and either finding a publisher or self-publishing their work, but most will never do so. They might possess knowledge and experience that could provide suitable content for a book, but aspiring authors often experience self-doubt. They might question whether they have anything of value to share with other people. They might fear criticism, rejection and failure. Such concerns are normal and many authors struggle to overcome them.

Millions of books are published each year and in a crowded market no one can guarantee they will find an audience. You could try to write a book that you would want to read and which you believe will appeal to other people. The contents of your book should be sufficiently researched, well organised and correctly formatted. Important elements include a suitable title and eye catching book cover, along with opening text that draws people in, so that they want to read more.

This guide is based upon my personal experience, observations and what I learned from other people. However, I do not claim expertise or promise specific results. I hope that this information will be useful for those considering writing and self-publishing their first book. You might lack self-confidence or feel discouraged by others questioning your decision to write a book. Understanding your motivation and what you hope to achieve could help you to overcome such doubts.

Writing Your First Book


Before you begin writing your first book, you should know what you want to write about and who your intended audience will be. Non-fiction readers might be looking for factual information that will provide them with solutions to problems, improve their quality of life or advance their career. Fiction focuses more on characters, plot and entertaining readers. However, non-fiction writers can also use the art of storytelling, to create work that has a narrative flow and interesting character development.

Human beings are social creatures and throughout history people have wanted to pass on stories, sharing their knowledge and experience with others. For centuries books have played an important cultural role. Some people feel an inner drive to write and they will do so even if it brings them little in the way of recognition or financial rewards. They might be motivated by the need to express outwardly ideas within them, or want to hold in their hands and see on their shelves something tangible they have created.

An author of fiction might invest many years learning how to write interesting characters and engaging plots. An artist, designer or artisan, might possess knowledge and experience that others could learn from. However, they will need to write a book that readers find both informative and engaging. A well written book could promote the work of an artist or artisan and lead to new opportunities. In addition to a sense of personal achievement, writing could help them to reflect upon their work and find a fresh perspective.

Writing a book can take months or years and you could experience set-backs, but remain open to learning from your mistakes. You could begin by writing a blog, producing a newsletter or contributing articles to online publications. This would provide you with an opportunity to practice your writing skills, receive feedback from other people and perhaps establish a following online. Building an opt-in email list of engaged followers could attract an audience of people who might purchase and review your book.

Writing a Book Proposal

Before the growth in popularity of self-publishing, aspiring authors often competed to find an agent who would represent them and a publishing house prepared to publish and market their book. Unless a book was already written, an author who had what they thought was a good idea for a book would typically write a proposal. If they did not have an agent, they would send the book proposal unsolicited to publishers. As a self-published author you might not need to write a book proposal to get a publishing deal. However, writing a proposal could help you to better understand the potential for the book that you want to write.

Within a proposal an author would provide an overview of the book subject matter, identify the target audience and introduce themselves as an author, describing why they wanted to write the book. In addition to a book title and a paragraph summarising each chapter, they might also supply the first chapter of the book. Many people begin writing a book but loose their way and never complete the manuscript, while others complete their book, but fail to publish it. Writing a book proposal might help an author to avoid such a situation. Authors who find the confidence to publish and market their first book might find a receptive audience. Having learned from the experience of writing their first book, they could then go on to write more.

Audience Research

Unlike many writers who might struggle to find a topic to write about, you might have the advantage of intending to cover a subject you are familiar with, such as an art or craft. However, you will still need to provide readers with a book that they will want to read and that they would be prepared to recommend to others. Having identified the purpose and central concept of your book, you could talk to a representative sample of your target audience. You should take the time to understand what they look for in the books that they choose to read, which could help to find unmet demand and differentiate your book from others on the market.

Look on popular book selling websites to find books similar to that which you intend to write, in terms of subject matter and target audience. Compare the good and bad reviews for each book and read some of the books, so that you can evaluate them yourself. Consider what you like or dislike about each of the books that you read and ask yourself whether you could write something which will better meet the needs of your intended audience. Could you write from an original perspective, provide fresh insights, bring greater understanding to a subject, or deliver content in a more engaging manner. Ask yourself how sharing your knowledge and experience could benefit other people.

Researching Your Book

Before you begin writing your book, you should gather relevant information that you will need by carrying out the necessary research. This could involve sorting through material related to your work that you have accumulated over months and years, in addition to reading books or magazines on the topic that you will be writing about. You might also decide to interview other people, such as colleagues and clients. This research stage might last for several months and will likely require an efficient system to organise the material that you will later want to refer to. Some writers use software on their computer or other digital devices which enables them to store, link and retrieve text, images, audio and video. Other writers prefer to use physical media, such as cards, notebooks and highlighted or commented sections of text.

Creating a Book Outline

At some point you must decide that you have enough material to end the research phase and begin creating an outline for your book. However, you could also gather additional information at a later stage if required. Having immersed yourself in the subject matter of your book, you could take a pen and paper and begin writing freely, allowing ideas to surface and jotting them down. This might help you to develop an overview, which could be broken down into the main topics you intend writing about and could then form the basis of the chapters and sections of your book. Some people like to write ideas on pieces of paper, place them on a large surface such as a table and then move them around until they form into a logical sequence. Over a period of days or weeks this could enable you to create the outline of your book.

The Writing Process

Each person should find a way of writing that best suits them, as over time they develop their own distinctive style. Some people need to carefully plan what they are going to write. They might devote months to researching and organising information and establishing a structure that they will then follow during the writing process. Other people prefer to take a more stream of consciousness approach and write as though inspired by some hidden force, allowing their ideas to tumble out onto the page. You could try both approaches to writing and decide which feels most natural to you, as you practice and develop your skills as a writer. Eventually a style of writing that you prefer could arise naturally. Regardless of the approach you take, the most important thing is that you put the necessary time and effort into the writing process, which means sitting down and starting to write.

Writing The First Draft

When writing the first draft of your book, do not worry about it being well written. Your objective is simply to get your thoughts written down on the page in a rough form. Do not feel overwhelmed by the blank page or screen in front of you and the thought of the thousands of words that you will need to write to complete the book. Instead just write something to get the process going and allow the momentum to build from there. You can refer to the book outline that you created previously, to guide you through the process of writing the first draft. Ideally you will find a quite place, where you will not be disturbed or distracted, allowing you to focus your mind on what you are doing. Some people find it helpful to record their ideas on an audio device and play them back later or use software that converts speech to text.

Writing Time

The demands of life and work might limit the time that you have available for writing, so that you are only able to spare a few hours each week and cannot write every day. Some people benefit from setting a target for how many words they plan to write each day, the length of the completed book and the amount of time they expect this will take. For example, if you intend writing a seventy thousand word book and aim to write one thousand words each day, that will equal seventy days to write the first draft of your book. When writing your first book, it can be difficult maintaining the discipline to write each day, though you might find it easier to write early in the morning or late at night.

If you decide upon set hours for each day that you will be writing, ensure that any one you live with is aware of this. Planning ahead by marking in your diary when you will be writing will make it easier to manage your time efficiently. Politely ask people not to disturb you during this time, unless it is for something essential, but try not to upset other people by neglecting or letting them down. Establishing a routine should make it easier to write at set times and feel mentally prepared to do so. When writing their first draft of a book, some people like to keep a record of their writing progress by noting the number of words written each day and how long they wrote for, which could be done using a notepad or spreadsheet.

Writing Additional Drafts

You should feel a sense of achievement when you complete the first draft of your book. Now put it away and spend some time doing other things, such as socialising, going on a trip, working on your art or craft or enjoying a hobby. When you feel ready, choose a time and place where you can sit down quietly, and in a relaxed state read with fresh eyes a printed first draft of your book. Use a coloured pen to make notes or highlight on each page any corrections or changes that need to be made. Refer to these notes when you write the second draft, repeating the process for a third and if necessary a fourth draft.

Rather than worrying about daily word counts, your aim with the second and third drafts should be to get closer to a manuscript that is ready for publication. Between each draft take a break of at least a few days, so that you return better able to spot any issues that you did not notice previously. You could ask family and friends to read the manuscript and pass on any comments or criticisms that they might have. Politeness might make them reluctant to be overly critical, but honesty rather than false praise is important, as you work to improve the manuscript with each draft. Within an acknowledgment or dedication page in your book, you could thank those people who have helped you.

The process of rewriting is likely to last several months. Review the overall structure and how it could be improved by adding or removing content. Consider whether what you have written could be made clearer, perhaps by including relevant examples or pictures that illustrate the text. Ask yourself how effectively you have achieved your writing objectives. Review each sentence, paragraph and chapter. Remove content that is repetitive, confusing or which distracts from what you are trying to communicate. When you are satisfied with the overall quality of the manuscript, you can look at details such as improving chapter or section titles and writing a good introduction.

Professional Editors and Proof-readers

Although you might have edited and proof read the text of your book, possibly with the assistance of family and friends, you could benefit from the services of a professional editor and proof-reader. When an experienced editor reads your manuscript they will typically spot errors that you have missed and offer advice on how the text can be improved. Don’t take their criticism personally, as it is their job to help you improve the manuscript. The assistance that you receive from a professional editor might improve your skills as a writer, as you develop your own writing style. They might also be able to offer some advice regarding the publishing of your book. An experienced proof reader will often spot typographical errors that you have overlooked.

You should seek relevant references from an editor and expect to pay them anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, pounds or euros for their services. If you have the available budget, then you might for example decide to hire an editor after you have written the second or third draft of your book. With their help your book might be more likely to appeal to your target audience and the earlier in the writing process that you employ their services the sooner you might complete your book. Depending upon the length of your manuscript, hiring a proof-reader could cost a few hundred dollars, pounds or euros. Once it has been properly edited and proof-read, the completed manuscript of your book can then be prepared for publishing.

Finishing Your Book

It is important to know when you have finished writing your book and are ready to move on to the next stage, so that you can get your book ready to be published. With each draft of your book, the text should have improved. However, you will reach a point of diminishing returns, after which any slight improvements you can achieve on your own are unlikely to be worth the time and effort involved. This can be difficult, as you will have lived with your book for months, perhaps even years and might not feel ready to end the writing process. However, perfection can never be achieved and trying to do so causes some people to delay completion of their manuscript far longer than necessary, wasting time that could be put to better use.