TLDR: I’m not an author but here’s how I wrote a book in 9 months by working at least 5 minutes each day. I did this with the sole purpose of publishing a book.
I Wrote a Book
I recently wrote a book, it took me about 10 months to publish. This was my first book. I did it because I wanted to publish a book, I just wanted to complete things. Maybe you do too. Or maybe you just want to get your first one done to learn about it and then see if becoming an author is for you.
My book was about personal finance, something I had previous experience in my career and have done a lot of reading on. So I had the content in me. I wrote a very short and poorly edited version of this book years ago that maybe was 15k words. My finished product was close to 40k words, 150 pages. A little on the short side but I think that was the theme of the book too, short, concise, actionable advice.
The most important thing I found was to STICK TO IT. I made it a goal to just do 5 minutes of work at a minimum every morning, Monday through Saturday. There were plenty of times, I mean like 70% or more, where I had no interest in working on the book that morning. But I stuck to the 5 minute rule. Some of those days I simply did the 5 minutes and then stopped, others it turned into 10, 20, or 60 minutes of work. I can’t emphasize enough how being consistent and focused on this as my only project outside of work helped me finish.
Finishing this project was my goal.
How I Wrote and Published a Book in 9 Months
Here is the process I took.
The key to the 5 minutes a day strategy is knowing where exactly you left off. This makes the context switching so much easier. At the beginning of the project I created a free Trello board with a few columns. I used Active, To Do, Backlog, Nice To Do, and Done. I tried to keep only 1 or 2 cards in Active. To Do was a list of things to do next, in sequential order. Backlog were things I needed to do but not yet on my radar. And Nice To Do were ideas I had that I didn’t want to forget but were not vital to completing the book.
The 6 Step Process from Idea to Published Book
On my Trello board, I broke the process up into 6 major phases. I have no idea how other people writing books do it, but this felt good for me. I made a bunch of cards for each step and slowly added to the board over time as needed. When I would start my 5 minutes each day I always knew the Active card was where I left off.
- Brainstorm – What was my unique big idea that I want people to get out of this book? Who is my audience and what is my book’s purpose? What would I want to teach my kids about this subject? I journaled these questions for a day or two to help me focus on my overall message and themes I wanted to cover.
- Outline – Based on the above, I started listing out the topics I wanted to cover. Once they were listed in a Google Doc I organized them into chapters or sections that made sense. Using this outline as a map it became easier to fill in the rest of the book.
- Merge outline with my old notes – I had about 10 or 15k words from years ago where I attempted to write a book. So I took the time to see what could be salvaged from there and how this would fit in with my new book. I salvaged maybe 5-8k words or so from here.
- Writing – I made a Trello card for each chapter and did it one at a time. For each chapter I’d copy the outline from the main outline and try filling in subpoints. I’d do some research to elaborate on a sub point. Then I would just write as fast and ugly as I could. Once I’d finish a section or the chapter, I’d go back for a second pass to clean up my draft. I used Google Docs, one Doc per outline and one per draft for each chapter.
- Editing – I could have spent more time here but I wanted to finish this project. If you care about becoming an author or selling a lot of copies, you should hire a proofreader at least and maybe even an editor as well. For me, I didn’t care about anything other than completing the project so I was my editor and proofreader, and it shows :). I used a combination of proofreading, Grammarly, and the Hemmingway App to help me edit.
- Publishing – This part was completely new to me. Once I had my finished manuscript, I still needed a cover, to format it for print, various front and back matter chapters, a book description, an author bio, and to finalize my title. I’ll expand on this part in the next section.
Actually Publishing the Finished Manuscript
There were a lot of parts to do once the book was finished. This phase took about 5 weeks, but your time may be different. I did have an issue with the formatting software I chose that cost me about 2 weeks of work. Here are the rough steps I used here.
- Pick a Publisher – I went with KDP. I wanted something I could print on demand, this seemed the easiest for me.
- Format – There are a lot of tools to use here. Depending on what you wrote your book in, I used Google Docs, some software may work better than others. I initially used Atticus.io but had several issues here. The biggest pain was that their cloud app would randomly not save my changes. I would come in the next day to do my 5 minutes and see that the work I did yesterday was never saved. I think the app has potential but maybe in a year or so. They eventually refunded me after 2 weeks of back and forth with support. Vellum if you use Mac seemed like a great option. KDP has their own tool as well you could try. Reedsy and Scrivener are other options. Next time I would try Reedsy or Vellum.
- Front & Back Matter – You’re not quite done writing. Your formatting software can help here but you’ll need to add a few sections to your book. I added a disclaimer, copyright, table of contents, and additional resources page. I also had to format the end notes for each chapter that cited my sources.
- Cover – I decided to hire someone here and went with a budget option of 100 Covers. They were a bit slow but got the job done. After releasing I saw another book with almost an identical cover to mine. I contacted them and they created me a new cover when I asked for free. I appreciate that, this was a great budget friendly option. Canva and KDP are free DIY options.
- Book Description – This is needed for the back of the book and your sales page. My biggest tip here is to just answer the question, “what do my readers want?”. Try to hook them and then list out what they will get from your book.
- Author Bio – Again for the back of the book and sales page. I kept it short and sweet. I also chose to use a pen name. I’m not intending to become an author and I didn’t want to blend my professional life in tech with this non-fiction book about personal finance.
- ISBN – I also bought my own ISBN numbers instead of using the free ones from KDP. This was pretty easy but it cost $300 for 10 ISBNs. You’ll need one for each edition of your book.
Once all that was done, it was just a matter of uploading the cover and manuscript to KDP. You can get a few preview copies before releasing. Once released you can buy some author copies at cost. I did zero marketing because my goal was to just finish this book and hold it in my hands. Mission accomplished.
How to Get Started
If you want to write a book, it’s a time consuming undertaking but know that there likely will never be a time where you are ready or have the time to do so. If it’s important to you, make the time. Promise yourself you’ll work on it for a few minutes each day no matter what. You’ll be amazed how small steps over a long period of time create big things.