Self-Publishing: A Vital “Essentials” Checklist For Nonfiction

Are you a self-publishing author who’s publishing nonfiction? A checklist of essential elements may help. I created this checklist for my students; you may find it useful too.

Vital: please test all nonfiction ideas. Testing can save you months—even years.

Self-publishing: find problems and offer solutions—and TEST

We all have problems we’re not sure how to tackle. Or, perhaps we do know how to tackle a problem, but we want a simpler, better solution.

Self-publishing nonfiction books offers opportunities for any writer who can identify problems which many people have. The “many people” is key.

Testing an initial idea is key too. Rather than spending six months or a year writing a book you don’t know will sell, test.

Here’s how to test. Once you’ve found a problem, create an ebook, with one problem and one solution. Keep your ebook short. Think of it as creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP.) If your ebook sells, you can expand your initial ebook into a longer book, which you can offer in many formats:

  • Ebook;
  • Audio;
  • Print;
  • Translations…

Since you’ve tested your idea, you can be reasonably certain your expanded version will sell.

An “essentials” self-publishing checklist for nonfiction

Although I’ve numbered the various parts of the checklist, I haven’t numbered the tasks. You’ll do many of the tasks in a project sequentially, but some (like marketing) you’ll do in parallel with writing.

Part 1: Before you start writing

Find your problem.

Who has the problem? Find your audience. How will you reach them?

Competition? Do a few minutes of research on Amazon. How much competition? Ideally, you’re looking for a topic with a lot of competition; this means that people are buying books on the topic. You, of course, will develop a fresh slant on the topic.

Project assessment: is this project worth the investment of your time, or not? If any of the books on your topic are on bestseller lists, it’s usually worth it.

Part 2: Writing: create a schedule and follow it

Set a word count goal. Generally, nonfiction ebooks do well at somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 words. Over 25,000 words, you’re wandering into traditional publishing territory.

For your initial “test” ebook, consider writing up to 10,000 words.

Create a deadline: publication day.

Create a working title. Write your blurb (book description.) Yes, write an initial blurb NOW: it helps to keep you on track. Edit it later when your first draft is complete.

Write a short outline.

Start writing. To save time, do most of your research after you’ve completed your first draft.

Marketing: decide where and how you’ll market, and get started. Market your book while you’re writing to win readers and make sales.

Get a cover. If you’re creating a test version, use Amazon’s free Cover Creator.

Part 3. The road to self-publishing: keep marketing

Keep marketing: please don’t wait until publication day. Build anticipation for your nonfiction book NOW.

Your first draft is complete.

Revise it, rather than simply editing. Revising means “re-vision”. Check to see that you’ve met the promises you made in your blurb. Is your book “fit for purpose”? That is, will it help your readers?

Find beta readers. Try a writers’ forum, Twitter, Facebook…

Edit your book for beta readers. Compile your book as a PDF, and send it to your beta readers.

Revise, with your beta readers’ insights in mind.

Compile ARCs (Advance Reader Copies.) Send out ARCs to anyone who asks for one. Your hope is that after publication, some of these kind folk might give you a review. Hope, but please don’t demand. Reading a book takes time. Writing a review is a big commitment. Be grateful to anyone who gives you their time. Your aim is to get your name out there; nothing else. Reviews are a bonus.

Proofread your book. Yes, proof it yourself, first. Then send it to a proofreader.

Compile and format your ebook. You can do this easily enough yourself with a tool like Scrivener or Vellum, or hire someone to do it for you.

Part 4. Your biggest day in self-publishing: publication day

Set up your publication-day marketing.

Do a final revision.

All done? Do a final read through. Ask a beta reader to glance through it too. By this time, you’re heartily sick of your book, and …

Here you go! Publication day is here. Upload your book to Amazon KDP and to Draft2Digital.

Self-publishing: keep it simple

Many authors have a tendency to obsess: test instead of obsessing. Follow the checklist. Ignore your doubts.

To repeat: please test your idea first, with a short ebook, to ensure that your book will sell.

Good luck. 🙂

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