It took just less than 11 months from start to finish to write my first book.  It’s truly been an unbelievable journey to self-publish – one that re-enforced for me the importance of getting the right accountability group, and a great teacher.  Ever wanted an honest look at what it takes to write a book?

I take you through 11 steps to writing a book, and how you can get it done too! There are many pro’s and con’s for self-publishing. One of the hardest is navigating the industry – which still has a bias towards traditional publishing.

Show Notes

  • [1:35] Step 1:  Get a coach! And pay money that hurts…
    • A coach and an accountability group are key to your success. They pull you through when you want to quit
  • [2:40] Step 2:  Finding your unique story
    • This is the most crucial part of the journey. There’s no new concept really – just unique stories and different ways of seeing concepts
  • [5:32] Step 3:  Organise your thoughts
  • [7:42] Step 4:  Write, and NEVER look back
    • The formula for how I wrote the first manuscript in 28 Days!!
  • [10:27] Step 5:  The Heartbreak!!!!
  • [12:33] Step 6:  The team of editors
    • Truly, one of the most crucial parts of any form of publishing, particularly self-publishing… a good team of editors
  • [14:02] Step 7:  An illustrator that gets you
  • [15:11] Step 8:  The cover and interior layout
    • Oh goodness I underestimated this!!!
  • [17:03] Step 9:  The final editor??!!!
  • [17:30] Step 10:  Distribution
    • It’s fine if you only want the US or UK market, and the rest are secondary to your goal… but my market is global because of my podcast
  • [19:25] Step 11:  The soft launch

Related Episodes and Links

Get the first two chapters of my book FREE

You can get the first two chapters of my book free HERE

Get my book

  • If you want a paperback copy and you’re in South Africa, visit my site
  • If you want a Kindle copy or a paperback anywhere in the world, visit Amazon

Transcript – self-publishing my book

Goodness, it’s been the most fantastic week out.  My self-published book launched officially on Monday – though pre-orders had been going since last week Wednesday.

I can’t begin to describe the feeling as those first people who got their books started reading and sending me messages of the parts that resonated with them.  It’s soo exciting as I’ve been like a child waiting for their final exam marks – did they like it, didn’t they like it, and what resonated with them.

So I thought today I’d do a little behind the scenes of the journey to writing the book.

The first step was to get a coach

I’ve always maintained that if you want to get something done, you need to find the best teacher, and pay a LOT of money for accountability.  When that money deeply hurts your back pocket, you’re likely to get it done.

So that’s what I did.  I found THE most amazing coach, Azul Terronez, and handed over the cash, and joined a small accountability group of four of us plus Azul.

And, I made sure I made every single session for the five month period it took to write the book, doing every single piece of homework given – regardless of how busy I was.

The next step was to decide what to write on and find your story

Now this was truly hard for me.

My fellow book writers knew exactly what they wanted to write about.  I wasn’t convinced.  My going in position was to write something about money – and so my whole first mind-map was about that.  But as I talked my mind map through with my coach individually, we worked out that that wasn’t the story I wanted to tell.

That story was about a journey and transformation towards living your Best Life.

So I redid the mind maps, the timelines, the drawings, and just brain dumped everything I wanted to say.

Yip, for the first month we never physically typed a word.  We drew pictures, connected mind maps, drew bubble diagrams, timelines, as our coach then coaxed out the uniqueness of our stories.

You see, his perspective was that there is nothing new in the world concept wise.  What is new and unique is how our story transforms the content into a journey that will move the reader through their own personal transformation.

I have to confess to slightly struggling with this process as I’m much more of a spreadsheet or words person, and not too big on koki marker pens and big A3 sheets of drawing paper.

But that’s the great thing that comes with taking due diligence of the coach, and paying a ton of money.  When they say jump, you trust the process and say ‘how high’.

In hindsight, that first month (September 2019) was just perfect.  My coach is dyslexic, and I have some dyslexia too.  So the process worked to extract the most unique story from me.

The third step was to organise our thoughts

The second month was spent organising our thoughts onto a Word document. 

Clusters of thoughts were bulleted and organised, until a flow became evident.  It was quite an amazing process when I saw these pictures and bubbles and squares all become the skeleton outline of the book.

It was like it was creating itself as I typed.

By now I was starting to get to know my group, and that also provided a spirit of fun and a special comradery that can only be had by people who know exactly what you’re going through.  Gerry was writing a book on his near death experience, Steve on his personal journey exploring being gay and Donald on sales.  So you couldn’t possibly get a more different group of authors if you tried.

This was also so amazing.  There was just a ton of encouragement – and when you had a bad week, there was always someone to spur you on.

Step four was to write, and never look back

It then came time to write.  As a self-published author, you have to set your own deadlines – nobody chases you. So finding a writing process that works is key

We were given 30 days to write our book with the following rules

  1. You have to write every day.  Even if it’s total junk.  Just write
  2. You cannot go backwards.  No deleting, no editing.  Just write forward.
  3. Don’t overthink ANYTHING.

We were set the target of a 50,000 word piece of writing – the average for non-fiction.  We calculated the number of words a day – for me taking into account I don’t work Sundays.

And I wrote.  And wrote, and wrote, and wrote.

The process is amazing.  Because you’re not overthinking, and are pushing for word count, there was no writers block.  I have two screens on my desk, so the one had the skeleton, and the other had my blank page.

As I wrote, the story started to evolve.

I had the transcripts from my podcast episodes to pull from, and the feedback from the courses I’d run where I’d taught the material.  But integrating all of it into a cohesive piece of thinking was the challenge.

And then towards the middle of writing, it all came together.  It was like I’d transformed myself through the journey, and I knew exactly what I wanted to say.  And then the speed and flow just increased dramatically as my fingers struggled to keep up.

But it was also an unbelievably hectic time.  November in the Southern Hemisphere is just before our big summer vacation, and the end of the school and financial year.  So my work itself was unbelievably hectic.  And I’d had massive colon surgery in August and was still unable to sit properly.  Without that personal and financial commitment to my coach and book group, I would have NEVER achieved this massive milestone.

Within 28 days, the first manuscript was ready.

Step 5 was heart-breaking

The next step was the end-to-end read through.

Our instructions were to get someone to read the entire manuscript to you, end to end.  And you were to sit and listen, and only write brief notes to yourself.

Having come off the huge high of finishing the book, and that second half just flowing, to say that this was a ground thumping reality check is the understatement of the year.  It felt like falling from international rock-star to smashed egg.

I had gone through an amazing transformation mid way through the book.  But to say the first half was worse than shocking is truly no joke.

But, because I’d paid someone to read it to me for the whole six hours, I was forced to sit and listen to the entire reading of the book.  And that was just genius.  My coach was right – you needed to hear someone else read it to you, to hear the whole thing end to end, to resist the temptation to run and change it.

To this day I feel embarrassed that poor Ang was subjected to that first draft.  But being forced to see the whole picture in one 6 hour read meant that when I did eventually get out of my depressed hole about a week later, and put my little fingers into action again, I could see the entire story and knew how to change that first half.

If I’d stopped her and started redrafting from the beginning, I would have lost the whole context and it wouldn’t have worked out.

So, I spent two weeks re-writing and editing it, and managed to hand it in to the first editor the day I went on my summer vacation.  The timing couldn’t have been better – as they reviewed it whilst I was having a wonderful break from it, and couldn’t do a thing on it.

Step six was the editing

Most self-published authors NEVER pay enough attention (or money) to getting professional help. It’s crucial!!!

Having never written a book, or been involved with one, I never knew how many editors were involved in this whole thing or how the process worked.

So, I again invested money in a team that works with self-publishing authors to manage the process the traditional publishing house would have taken care of.

The first editor is a developmental editor.  They’re the big picture people who tell you if you actually have a book or not.  In my mind, until they say yes, you have a whole herd of words.  They look at story structure, how it hangs together, if the ideas flow, and if there’s a reader transformation.

As the time drew near for my developmental editor’s comments to come back (which coincided with the end of my vacation), I have to say I was like a little child waiting for her teacher to come back with her grade for an exam!

Fortunately for me, the developmental editor gave it the green light, and had very few developmental comments, and so decided to start with the copy editing.  It’s the next level down, which focuses on the more detailed flow of the sentences, paragraphs and chapters. 

Having done the changes she suggested, the actual copy-editor was also able to look at a deeper level to use of words, grammar, references etc. 

Two editors down, it then went to a third editor, who did the line editing.

The seventh step was to find an illustrator

I think in pictures, mostly stick men or diagrams, so had drawn pictures to explain the concepts and frameworks I’d developed.

I thought finding an illustrator would be the easiest task.  But it turned out to be torture.  But I’m so glad I stuck to my guns because when I did find Sonja, it was like I’d met my stick figure soul-mate.  She was amazing, and was able to transform my awful scribbles into exactly what I wanted.

She also knew when something was more powerful than a stick figure, and needed more of an illustration. 

If I’d known this would take so long to find, I’d have definitely started this WAY earlier. And if I wasn’t self-published, there may have been one on tap. But in the end, I’m so glad I had the flexibility to find one that worked for me.

Step 8 was to finalise the book cover and interior layout

Oh my shattered nerves, this nearly killed me. Again, this is a task that most self-published authors often get wrong. It’s crucial you have a professional cover and a good interior design,

I did a huge amount of research, and went with a ton of ideas as to what I did and didn’t like.  And to be fair to the first cover designer, they did exactly what I asked.

But it wasn’t a slam dunk.

I had created an inner-circle facebook group of people to give some ideas on decisions I needed to make, and they too were split 50:50 between two designers.

So, I listened to my gut and we got a third designer.  And I gave her only one brief:  clean and simple.  None of this 15 page brief stuff.  And she came back with the design I have today.

At the same time we were finalising the interior. 

When I first saw the PDF of it looking like a book, I nearly fell over.  It was transforming before my eyes!!!!!  It felt really real.

But it also felt daunting.

Again, one doubts oneself so much with the process as you’ve never done it before.  It just didn’t look good.  It felt too squashed, too wordy, not enough space to breathe.  And the font felt too complicated.

Step 9 – another editor

Yip, you betcha… there was a final editor – the proofreader.  They’re the person who looks at the whole thing before it goes to print to make sure that every single page is perfect.  They are those unbelievable humans with incredible attention to detail. Anther element a lot of self-published authors get wrong

Step 10 – Distribution

If writing a book was a challenge, sorting out distribution is a whole new ballgame as a self-published author.  And multi-country distribution is a whole new league.

My podcast audience is situated 50% in America; 25% in the UK, Aus and other countries, and 25% in South Africa.  So I needed to make sure that my book was available at the same time in all those countries.

So whilst my friends in my Author’s Group mainly used KDP or Kindle Direct Publishing (amazon’s publishing house), that wasn’t such an obvious option for me.

In the end I chose to go with IngramSparks – as they had better coverage of physical book stores in the US, UK and Australia, and would upload my eBook version to Kindle, Apple and other major eBook offerings.

But, that left South Africa.

Oh boy.  Now there’s a challenge.  I don’t think self-publishing is as mainstream in the South African book industry as it is in the US and UK.  So I’m still trying to navigate that.  But I wanted to go live this week, and so decided that it was definitely a longer road to find someone to distribute my book for me to the bookstores here, and so I would go with selling the paperback off my website.

Which meant building a whole website.  In a week. 

The final step – soft launch!!!

So that just left launching the book. And with Covid-19, my plans were all squashed. Self-Published authors rely on themselves only to market and launch a book – and with social distancing, this is proving a challenge!

Well, I’m thinking of it as a soft launch.  No advertising, no PR, just starting to get it out there to the people closest to me.  People like you.

As each of the steps came online – Amazon paperback, Kindle, and my own website, I started letting people know that pre-orders were ready.  And today, was the bigger splash.

Its been the most wonderful journey.  I decided to write a hand-written note to everyone who bought the book – and it was a precious time spent thanking those who’d parted with their hard earned cash.

And as people started receiving their books via kindle and the early paperback orders, it has been so wonderful to receive messages of Ah-Ha moments for them, stories they loved, frameworks they new would be useful.

My hope for the book

As I mentioned in last week’s episode when Dr. Abby Medcalf interviewed me, my hope for this book is that it becomes the foundation of my mission.  That is to engage, equip and empower a million women to transform their lives. 

I believe with all my heart this book can do it, and I can’t wait for you to get it.  It’s easy to read, has many stories and diagrams to help explain the concept, and will take you on a journey to ensure that the next half of your life is way better than the first.

So, if you want to download the kindle version, it’s available on Amazon.  And if you want a paperback copy, it’s available in South Africa via my website, Lisa or everywhere else, via Kindle.