The Easy Way to Write and Self-Publish a Book

Have you ever wanted to write a book, but didn't know where to begin?

Perhaps you don't think you know enough to write an entire book by yourself. The good news is, you don’t have to — you can lighten the writing load by collaborating with others.

One caution right up front, though: If you spearhead the project, you will be spending more time on planning, organizing, and communicating than you would on a solo project.

My first book was one I wrote with 11 other people, 15 Concise Strategies for Improved Communication. I learned many valuable lessons in the process. I’d like to share some of them with you …

My story began when I joined the PowerTalk Toastmasters Club in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. This advanced club specializes in professional speaking. Most members either have their own businesses or experience as a business professional.

I had an idea for a collective book project so I proposed it to the club. Eleven people rose to the challenge.

To get started, you need a purpose for the book.

Is the purpose to create a marketing piece used in promotions? To elevate or create your expert status? To build a following for a book series? Strictly for sales volume? Only for family and friends? Or a combination? Or something else?

Whatever purpose you choose, all authors need to agree with it. Otherwise, the chapter contents won't sync very well with one another.

You also have to have a story or Big Idea compelling enough to sustain you and others until the book is completed. And everyone needs to have the same vision of what the Big Idea message is.

We decided to focus on various aspects of communication, which would help busy professionals get bite-size doses of useful communication strategies. Each person wrote one chapter with a target of 1,000 words. I wrote three additional chapters, giving us a total of 15 chapters.

How many people should be part of your project?

This depends on your Big Idea and your purpose. You want as a many as necessary to meet your objective, but not so many the project becomes unwieldy.

If your purpose is to promote a cause, then several like-minded individuals could collaborate with you.

Perhaps a group of copywriters with various niches want to market themselves collectively and gain sales in the process.

Or, perhaps you would like to use it as a networking tool to attract prospects or to break into new territory.

You can be creative. As the leader, you will also be showcasing your ability to lead, collaborate, organize, plan, and execute.

Regardless of how many people are involved in the project, you should have a written agreement to avoid problems during or after the project.

What details should you include in the business agreement?

You can include as many items as the group decides are necessary. Some points to consider are:

  • Effective Date — the date when the agreement begins.
  • Description of Services — outlines the responsibilities for each contributor.
  • Payment for Services — stipulates what each contributor will receive in exchange for their contributions. Will contributors receive money, copies of printed books, a discount on future printed books, or something else? Who handles the money? How is it to be disbursed and when?
  • Termination Terms — what are the requirements for terminating the agreement?
  • Relationship of Involved Parties — independent contractors or employees or other?
  • Work Product Ownership — who owns the intellectual property and licensing rights? Is this by chapter or for the entire book?
  • Indemnification — who is responsible for claims regarding any material within the book?
  • Entire Agreement Interpretation — are all contributors agreeing to the entire business agreement. How are changes made at a later date to be handled?
  • Severability — when would any part of the agreement be considered invalid?
  • Applicable Law — which state's laws are to be used?
  • Signature of Each Contributor — print each name under the corresponding signature line.

You could also include social media considerations, publicity efforts, or any other items the authors would like to address.

Make sure you get unanimous consent of all involved parties. You may want to have the agreement reviewed by an attorney. Be sure to give each contributor a copy of the signed agreement for their records.

Depending on your intent for the book, you may want to consider forming an LLC for the project. If you expect the income from the book to be significant, or you plan to do multiple projects with the same people, the extra cost and time to have an LLC may be beneficial.

How do you organize a collective book project?

  1. Think of your book title and marketing description first. Get everybody to contribute by initiating ideas or by commenting on ideas given by others. Your book title could be complete as is or could also have a sub-title. The marketing description would be akin to an elevator pitch. It appears on the back cover of a printed book or in the web description for an e-book.

    This piece is crucial because it will create the focal point for everything you write. If each author simply wrote without knowing the goal, your work would be haphazard at best.

  2. Assign or suggest and then confirm chapter content for each contributor. Let everyone know what everyone else will be doing. Decide on the final order of the chapters after they have been completed.
  3. Designate a deadline for the first draft of the chapters. Expect that some people will miss the deadline. Follow up as needed, so timelines can be met. Offer to help if anyone is stuck.
  4. Edit. If you are editing, you can use the Track Changes in Word to monitor all changes. You can also use Google Docs, especially if you have multiple reviewers and editors.
  5. Repeat Steps 3 and 4 for subsequent rewrites until you and the author agree on a final version of his or her chapter. You may consider making two copies of the final version for your records. Sign one copy for the author. Have the author sign one copy for you.
  6. Meanwhile, you can be thinking of and creating the front matter: dedication, table of contents, copyright notice. You can suggest elements that will provide consistency to the book, like a quote under each chapter title, how author information will be displayed (after each chapter, for example), what author information will be displayed, and so forth. You can start on the back matter like acknowledgments. You can also get agreement as to which names will appear on the front cover. Would it be your name, et al.? Would you show all of the authors' names? Would you put et al. on the front cover and all names on the back cover for a printed version?
  7. Decide where you will publish your book. Amazon's Kindle publishing site is Amazon's printed book site is I chose to use CreateSpace first because of the phone number I could call for questions. I found CreateSpace's site to be very user-friendly.

    Although you can display multiple authors, Amazon rules may only allow one entity or person to be listed for the royalties.

    Unless you choose the option for publishing with Amazon exclusively, you could also format your e-book for other e-readers with Smashwords or another e-book service.

    Formatting for e-books differs from that of the printed version. If you don't want to do this yourself, there are people you can hire to do it for you.

  8. Decide on a price. E-book services provide suggestions for pricing. You could also research what other comparable books cost.

    Keep in mind that adding photos, illustrations, or color may increase the price of production, which you may not be able to recoup in the selling price.

  9. Plan your marketing strategy. Will there be a book signing, press releases, or radio interviews? Will you create a landing page on your website or use social media? Will you need extra copies for back-of-room sales? Will you need to order extra books for all the contributors?
  10. Once the parts of your book have been written, edited, and formatted to your satisfaction, order a proof copy. Show it to the other contributors. When satisfied with the proof, take your book live! You will have self-published a book through collaboration with others.

I cannot stress the importance of communication enough. The more you communicate with the other contributors, the better your outcome will be. Fewer problems will result because you will have shaped everyone's expectations realistically.

Collaborating with others can be a fun and rewarding experience, and allow you to get your first book out much more quickly than trying to do it all on your own. Give it a try!

This article, The Easy Way to Write and Self-Publish a Book, was originally published by B2B Writing Success.

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Published: September 10, 2015

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