Have an idea? Make a book - it's easy! That's what they say. I'm going to walk you through the process (my personal process) of how a book is made. If you're thinking of going the Indie route for writing books, or if you're just curious as to what goes into writing them - carry on, and get some answers. Just remember, everyone has their own way of doing things. Some of the things I do in this step-by-step process are skipped by other people. Those steps that are skipped are generally things they will have to pay more out-of-pocket costs for (formatting, cover and internal art design) because they hire other people to do them.
Step one - an idea.
This may seem obvious, but sometimes books are born at the oddest moments - like while I'm driving and daydreaming or in the shower. Then I have to try to remember the idea before it poofs away. Yes, even the best ideas poof away - though they usually come back to me, eventually. It could be a sight, sound, or smell that triggers a simple what-if scenario in my mind. Then my brain is off and running and before I know it there's a story to be told. Once in a while when I'm doing image searches for book covers and ads I will find a person (or thing) that intrigues me and a story forms around it/them. Other times, I write a secondary character in another book who decides to tell me their story, and they will not shut up until I write it down.
What does this step cost? Time. Just time. Remember though, time is precious especially when you have kids, a day job, a pet, and need to remember to take care of yourself somewhere in there as well. ;)
Step two - write it down.
I take a moment (if I can) when an idea hits and I write everything down that comes to mind. Usually, looking back, it looks like a jumbled mass of crap. ;) I then take that crap and form it into a little synopsis - a shortened Cliff's Notes version of the book it will become. Sometimes I pause and work on the book cover here. Other times that comes first or last. Honestly, book covers will get placed in this step-by-step process at a certain juncture, but in reality they sometimes happen at any point during the process.
What does this step cost? Time, and usually very little of it.
Step three - Outline.
Not every author outlines a book. I have written books with zero outline, just flying by the seat of my pants the entire time. When I do it this way, it usually takes me a LOT longer to write a book, because I lose track of where I have been and where I'm supposed to go. Writer's block happens using this method, because at some point I will panic and go, "What's next? Oh my God, I don't know what's next!" The moment that happens I know I can just toss the manuscript aside and wait. Writer's block sucks!
To combat that - I outline. My outlines can range from just naming the chapters (the names usually tell me what will happen in the chapter) or have a couple lines beneath each chapter head. When I'm really into certain things that will be happening I sometimes end up with pages of dialogue in my outline/notes too. Occasionally, I will realize that I need a backstory on certain things/people and I will add those in too. If I used a hand written outline (which I do most of the time) then I will type the outline into the word document as I set it up. Most of my books have images with chapter heads, I set all that in place in the word file then add the outline information.
What does this step cost? Again, the cost is your time.
Step Four - Document setup
This helps me to not have as much to do on the backend when the writing is complete. I start with a Microsoft Word file template for the size book I plan on publishing. It already has all of my formatting in it. I'm lazy where I can be - why re-do that same stuff each time? There are other time consuming pieces to this book making puzzle, so save where you can.
You can see in the image how the headers, chapter heads, POV images, and the paragraph formatting are all set, then I add in my outlines. As I write each chapter I will delete the outline information, and adjust the rest of my outline for any changes where I may have deviated from what I originally planned. It happens. The great thing about outlines is that they are guidelines for you. They don't have to be steadfast rules for your writing.
What does this step cost? Time & Investment. I save time by using a template I snagged early on. This process is also involved in step six though with the internal art (Chapter heads/POV change images/ story break images). Investment for this is the money spent on MS Word program. $120 per year.
Step Six - Book Cover and internal art
I do this step myself nine out of ten times. I find images I like and sometimes lose hours to scrolling through looking for the best ones. Then I work in Photoshop and Lightroom to turn my idea into a functioning book cover. I have to make both paperback and ebook covers. For the audiobooks - another cover is made.
What does this step cost? Time, Investment, and cost of fonts and images.
Investment for programs = $120 per year.
Cost for images = (depends on images) Some images I only spend a few dollars on others several hundred dollars. Total for images for this year will be somewhere in the ballpark of several thousand dollars due to the type of licensing I purchase for them, and the quantity.
Cost of fonts = several hundred dollars
Step Five - WRITE
Once my outline is complete (or when I feel like it, if I have forgone the outline on a particular story) I start writing that story. This is pretty self explanatory.
What does this step cost? Time. I can write a first draft, full-length novel in about one to two weeks time while working roughly 10-16 hour days. I CAN do that. I don't usually. It sucks to write that much in such a short time. I do it with some books because that's the way it pours out of me, and then I pay for it. My fingers, back, and eyes ache. My dog is giving me the side-eye because he held it too long and is about to burst, my kids start calling me "the weird lady in the corner" instead of mom because we haven't interacted. So, like I said, the 1-2 weeks is not the ideal. Generally, I like to have about a month to write each book. (You'll see from my writing schedule this year that I am sitting somewhere in between at about 2-3 weeks per book). Again - it costs time, health issues, and my family's distance in some cases to get through.
TIME - if we work off of just the average US minimum wage for hours worked, it breaks down like this: (average US minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, by the way and time and a half is necessary for anything over 40 hours in a week). I work an average of 84 hours a week on books stuff (not counting chatting on FB). That equals: $768.28 per week that I need to make back in book sales for just my time at minimum wage standards. I don't know about you guys, but when I do work day jobs they are above min. wage thanks to experience. BUT - we'll stick with that number, so that you get the gist of what a person should be paid for the books they produce, or why they stop producing books because they aren't earning enough.
Step Six - Read-through
I re-read everything I've written. I do not look for mistakes/typos. I look for story flow, readability, and anything I may be lacking. This is generally where I fill in some blanks on things I left as I wrote out the big part of the story. Character detail, clothing descriptions, and settings get filled in better at this stage, because when I'm in writing mode with the story I sometimes skip past these things. It's easy for me to do that as I write the bulk of the story.
What does this step cost? Time.
Step Seven - First Edits
This is me using basic spell/grammar check (they are not always right! If you are relying on them to be correct, you are a fool). I also use Grammarly to help out with this stage. Then once I've done a full sweep that way, I read through the manuscript again and fix anything that jumps out at me that wasn't caught by the basic tools.
What does this step cost? TIME
Step Eight - Editor
The manuscript goes to the editor and I work on something else! This is generally 2-4 weeks worth of work (because I have a dedicated editor with no other clients at the moment). THIS is the part of the process that usually clogs up the works the worst. Some authors have to wait on this process for months. So, when you are stressing about why a book hasn't come out yet, this is probably the hold up. ;)
What does this step cost? Investment & maybe frustration and life lessons. I personally pay about $600 for each step in the edits process per book. That number is usually higher depending on the level and type of editing a person is getting for their books. I get the family/experience discount, because I was tired of sending money to outside editors who either did a crap job, ran off with my money, or kept pushing deadlines after they accepted too much work from other authors.
Step Nine - Applying edits and suggestions
This is where I get edits back and apply or disregard edits and suggestions from the editor. This may take several rounds back and forth.
Step Ten - Formatting
As you all know, there are many versions of books. I have to format for the paperback (which is basically what I was doing in step four) and then I have to format for mobi files (kindle), epubs (pretty much all other e-readers), and then a pdf file will also be made from the word document. Each of these has extra steps that go on in the background beyond what you can see as well. They also each get different links set in them depending on where you will be purchasing them from.
What does this step cost? Time and investment. I had to purchase special software to help format my books. This was a one time cost of about $60, but every couple years I update that software. I do not trust the places that "autoformat" for you, because I have internal art that tends to get messed up when they do that. Many authors pay anywhere from $50 to several hundred dollars for formatting from outside sources, especially if they have internal artwork.
Step Eleven - Publishing (finally)
This is the point where the completed book file gets uploaded to each place. I upload to Amazon, Smashwords (which sends the books to B&N, iBooks, Scribd, Overdrive, and a couple other places), Kobo, and Draft 2 Digital (Playster and somewhere else).
What does this step cost? Time
Step Twelve - Yes, there's more... Accuracy Check This is the time when I have to make sure that all the other places that officially list my books are correct (Author Central - Amazon Author pages), being one. Unfortunately, Amazon doesn't automatically add our books to our author pages (which is stupid) and we have to go "claim" our books. I also have to check places like Goodreads, Library Thing, and Bookbub to make sure the books showed up there and everything is accurate. Then there are the social sites that need to be updated (Linked In, Facebook, Instagram, etc.).
What does this step cost? Time
Step Thirteen - Advertising
Self-explanatory to a point. I have to post ads in places I think will best showcase my books to the people who would want to read them.
I also do online book events and giveaways to help promote books. This involves not just the time online, but ordering books, packaging, mailing, etc.
Then I work on setting up book tour stuff too so I get to meet people in person. Again, this is where I put on my travel planner hat, and get busy making travel plans, making sure I have promotional items made/purchased/ready.
What does this step cost? Time and MONEY
This year my advertising costs are well into the thousands of dollars so far. You have to find the advertising methods that work for you and your budget. As your sales increase, your ad budget should too. They feed off of one another. My costs for book events (especially those I'm traveling for) are ridiculous and we won't speak of them here. ;)
Step Fourteen - The website and newsletter
I'm still not done when all I want to do is write the next story.
I have to update the website with information, then send out a newsletter (which I am horrible about remembering to do). Then I have to go promote the newsletter too. ;)
What does this step cost? Time & Investment I own my URL so I pay for it. I pay for website efficiency and the storefront I use for sales, as well as the newsletters I send. Currently, I pay about $800 a year for all things involved with the website and newsletters. This amount varies depending on a person's skill level and what they want to offer. It can be lower or far higher.
Step fifteen - Audiobook
This is a new step for me as I only have one audiobook currently available and one in production. This is also an expensive step as each audiobook cost quite a lot to produce. I do not hold up ebook and paperback releases for the audiobook, because you get the ebooks as soon as they are ready. I hate waiting for books too. If I made you wait for the audiobooks, I would only be releasing books every 4-6 months. That would suck.
What does this step cost? $175 per finished hour per audiobook (average cost). This can also be much higher or a little lower depending on the voice actors/production team's costs/fees. Per finished hour = every 9,000 words written. So a 125,000 word novel would be 13.8 finished hours. $2,415 total for a book that size at the price suggested here (on top of original costs/time to produce the paper/ebook).
Step fifteen - START ALL OVER
In 2019 I have currently released 7 books (as of this post) with number 8 coming this week and number 9 not far behind that. I have about 10-15 more books planned to publish by the end of the year. I'm able to do this because I had the outlining process done for most (definitely not all) of them before the year started, and because I have that dedicated editor. Without the dedicated editor I would probably have only been able to publish maybe five books total this year due to time constraints.
If you're thinking about getting into the publishing game, I have certainly given you plenty to think about. There are plenty of up-and-coming authors and groups out there who are willing to trade services with you to help lighten the financial burden since getting started in the business can be a huge gamble. Just remember, it still has a cost. Those services you are trading will still cost you time away from your own projects. If it works for you - go for it. Experiment a lot until you find what does work for you. Also, and I can't stress this enough, KNOW YOUR LIMITS and ABILITIES. If your book covers look like something a toddler could throw together, get help! And no, you absolutely cannot under any circumstance, edit your own book. It is not possible! Yes, you can work on edits. No, you will never catch what you need to just doing it solo. As an INDIE AUTHOR this is very important. I read traditionally published novels that are chalk full of editing mistakes that no one ever nitpicks in reviews because they came from a major publisher (and I guess people are afraid to call them out). They will not go lightly on you as an INDIE. We are expected to breed perfection in our work without the same resources or money to back us as traditionally published works have at their disposal. Even if your book is edited better than one of those books - you will hear about the mistakes they do find. No matter they pay half the price for your books as the traditional ones or that you crank out three times the volume it will happen.
Which brings me to my last piece of advice for those of you considering traveling this road. Grow a thick skin and remember, people are very diverse and their reactions to your work will be too. One person may hate a specific thing about your book, but it will be the element that makes another person fall in love with it. Take the constructive hits and learn from them, but ignore the opinions. My dad once left me with this advice and it holds true to this day: "opinions are like assholes, everyone has one". I'm sure he received that advice from someone else too, but there you go. A rule to live by as you work on thickening your skin for a business where you are ALWAYS judged.
On that note... HAPPY WRITING! For those of you who were just curious, happy reading! ;)