How To Write A Book

Welcome to my “Write a book” series.  Here are all the articles:Create-Space

One of the first steps to writing a book is to decide on a topic.  I wrote a very long post about picking a book topic.  As I discussed, material you have blogged about might make a good book topic.  If you don’t have a blog, then you will have to come up with a topic from scratch.  I would strongly suggest that you blog about your topic for a while before attempting to put a book together.

The reasons for doing this are:

  • See if you really like writing the topic
  • Is there enough material for a book?
  • Is there any interest in the topic from search engine visitors?

The best resource for writing a book and self-publishing is Aiming for Amazon by Alan Shepard.  The link is to a free pdf download of the book.  I strongly recommend it.

Plan the book

The next step is to plan your book.  By this I mean that you should think up all the areas within your topic you want to cover and write them down.  When I did my book, I started with general ideas and worked my way down to specific ideas.  Once you are completed the planning stage, you should have a list of topics to do which are basically blog posts (and can double as such).

Let’s say you want to write about a particular type of investment account – let’s call it an IA account.

Your initial plan might look like this (I’m loosely basing this on my book):

  • Why you might want to open an IA – or benefits of an IA
  • Some drawbacks of the IA
  • How to open an IA
  • Where to open an IA
  • Rules for opening an IA
  • Contribution rules
  • Withdrawal rules
  • Tax issues/rules while money is in the IA

Ok, so that is the basic outline.  You can change the order later on.

Now, look at each topic and start coming up with more specific topics:

ie Contribution rules might have the following sub-topics:

  • What are the contribution rules/limits/penalties for over contributing
  • Are there age minimums/limits
  • Is there any kind of matching grant?

For each rule, you could potentially have an example illustrating the rule.

Don’t worry too much about completeness at this step.  As you work on your plan, you will think of new topics to add to the book.  When you start writing, more topics/concepts will also come to you.  It is also likely that during the process, you will delete sections as well.

Shop your plan around

If you are planning to look for a publishing deal, then this is the time you need to get an agent and try pitching your book proposal to the agent and/or publishing companies.  The reason you need to shop the book now, is so that if you can’t get a deal – you will save yourself the trouble of writing a whole book and then getting rejected.

If you are self-publishing, then this might be a good time to show the book plan to other authors/bloggers/friends/neighbours – anyone who you think might provide some good feedback on the book.  I didn’t do this step with my recent book, because I had a very clear idea about what the book would be about and the content that would be in it.  I can definitely see for future books however, that I might look for guidance if I’m not so sure about the content.

Start writing

Once you have your book organized and all the various sub-topics are clear, then you can start writing.  I just started at the first sub-topic and kept going until I got to the end.   I didn’t try to finish each topic/chapter perfectly – if there was a point I wasn’t clear about then I’d mark it in red with a note to do more research.


If you have sources you want to refer to, then put them in the text as you write.  Sources should be footnotes.  I put links right into the text, but they can be footnotes as well.

I put the links “as is” in my text and I even referred to them as links

see the following link:

which doesn’t make a lot of sense.  At the very least I should have called them “urls” – not links.

JD Roth of GRS used an interesting approach to documenting links in his book, he created tiny urls for all the links and published those.  I like the idea, but I’m not sure that most readers will have enough faith to type out those urls and visit the site.

What I’m planning to do for future books is the following:

  • Create a link page on my main blog for each book:
  • For every link I want to refer to in the book – I’ll put a link name, description and clickable link.

For example let’s say there is a document on the Government of Canada website which shows all the RESP promoters who offer additional grants.  In the book, I’ll say something like

To see the list of promoters who offer additional grants please visit, scroll down to the “Additional grant promoter list” section and click on the link provided.

Of course they will still have to type in the url to the book links, but that is a lot shorter than a lot of the urls I included in my book.  They can also bookmark the link page as well for easy reference as they read the book.

Layout the book

At some point you need to layout the book into chapters and then include various sections such as a table of contents, title page, index etc.

When I wrote my book, I created the chapters after writing all the text and doing some editing.  I would suggest putting the material into chapters as soon as possible so that you can more easily reference the chapters appropriately.

Alan Sheppard’s book has some great advice on this step.  Another thing to do is to look at some books from your bookshelf and see how they are formatted.  How did they format their chapter pages?  Do they have an index?  Where do you put the acknowledgements?


This was a long step.  My approach was to read through the book and see what I had to fix or complete.  Anything that is not complete is marked in red so I can find it easily.  JD Roth recommends reading your material aloud, which I have to admit I’ve never done.

I gave copies of the book to a number of volunteers to get their thoughts.  Some people did some actual editing, some people just gave their opinion of the book and some didn’t say anything at all.  🙂

The final editing step was to hire someone to do a proper grammar check.  The person I hired cost $200 and spent 8 hours going through the document with a fine-tooth comb.

Alan Sheppard recommends putting the book aside for a month and then re-read it and edit.  Repeat until you don’t make any major changes.  This advice is ok, but I had the feeling that I would never finish, since I always see things I’d like to change.

Format for publisher if self-publishing

Regardless of who you use for self-publishing, you will need to format the document to certain specifications.  I don’t have any advice on this step since I hired someone else to do it for me.  I don’t regret outsourcing, but I don’t plan to do it again, since it made it really difficult to get small changes made near the end of the project.

Proof copy of your book

I won’t get into how to register with a publishing/printer company since Alan Sheppard does it so well.  Plus the company website will have instructions for this step.

Once your book is uploaded and processed, then you will have to order a proof copy.  This is a real live version of your book and will be mailed to your house.  The idea of the proof copy is to be able to verify the actual book.  You should take a good look at the cover and take a good read through the book and make sure you are ok with the results.  If you want to make changes, then you will have to submit a revision which costs money.  I had a problem with my cover and it cost $40 to submit a revised copy.  I should point out that the cover problem was plainly evident in the uploaded files so the problem was that I didn’t look at the book cover file close enough before uploading.

Once you are happy with the proof copy, you approve it and then that’s it.  The book will be available for order at the publishing company and the book info will be sent to Amazon.  It will take a while for it to show up on Amazon – anywhere from 5 days to 5 weeks according to Mike Piper who has published quite a few books.


At this point the book is “live” and all you have to do is promote it – which will be the topic for another post.

Stay tuned – the next posts in this series will be:

  • Traditional publishing vs self-publishing
  • Picking a self-publishing company – Lightning Source vs Lulu
  • Promoting your book


One Response to “How To Write A Book”

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