It’s time: You’ve got an idea burning in your head and want to write a non-fiction book. But should you go the agent route or self-publish it on your own? I’ve had success with the latter, and would like to share how I did it. While others have written guides like this, the ones I’ve found tend to focus on fiction, which is a different animal than non-fiction like my own project.
For this guide, I’ll share what I learned while writing and publishing my first book, Breakout: How Atari 8-Bit Computers Defined a Generation. Some of this advice is distilled from Guy Kawasaki’s excellent APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur—How to Publish a Book, with an emphasis on non-fiction and the state of self-publishing today–which has advanced considerably in the five years since that book was written. If you want more detail, I recommend ordering a copy of Kawasaki’s book as well as reading this guide.
Going in, I’m assuming you’ve got a handle on the writing of the book itself, and that you’re debating how to proceed as a self-publisher. For my book, I used Scrivener, Microsoft Word, Amazon’s CreateSpace service (for print), and Kindle Direct Publishing (for the Kindle version). Here’s what I did; I learned many of the below tips the hard way.
Write a Proposal and Outline
Even if you’ve already decided you want to self-publish, it will help tremendously to put together a proposal as if you were pitching it to an agent or publisher. That means you’ll look at the competitive landscape, summarize your book, figure out its key points, what will make people want to read your book in particular, and the potential target price, format(s), and audience size. It will also help you begin to hash out a rough outline for the book.
Check Out Comparison Books
With any type of creative work, it helps to pit your own against “competing” works. Not that this is a zero sum game, as people interested in a subject will often buy and read multiple books, but checking out the competition lets…