Thursday, March 27, 2014

Self Publishing Ready Reckoner

In my research into getting as thorough a background on self publishing as I could, I recently came across this book - Self Publishing Books 101 by Shelly Hitz. I specifically want to write about this book because it is one of the best books that I have read on the subject of self publishing, and it's so short that you can get through it in less than an hour.

Now if you're the sort of person whose interested in good English prose, then this may not be your cup of tea. To be perfectly frank, I felt that the author kept repeating information throughout the book. And I don't get what's with the constant upsell for CreateSpace.

CreateSpace is owned by Amazon, comes first in almost anyone's list and probably doesn't require any upsell from anyone. The book leaves you wondering why the author does this because it seems quite a stretch to think that she's actually getting something out of promoting CreateSpace.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not a professional book critic and I should probably be the last person to be criticizing any piece of literature, but in the interests of giving an honest review, I'm just writing down what struck me, and the impression that I came away with was that there is a lot of useful stuff in the book, but the book as such could do with a little more polishing.

And this is where I come to what I want to tell you all, which is that there really is a lot of good stuff in the book. It gives you all the information that you will want to know as a first time self-publisher, and you get it all quickly. You don't have to go through 200 pages of in-depth analysis, because you really don't need it. All you want is general information and that's what this book gives you.

I'm sure that no self respecting author (and I consider myself one) will ever just follow instructions given by another author without checking for themselves. In fact, most of the information available in the book is also freely available online. All you need is some time and you can get all the information that you want from your browser itself.

The problem is that until you publish your first book, you really don't know what to search for. You find the answers to one set of questions only to find another set of questions cropping up. This book is a sort of ready reckoner that gives you all the information in one place.

The parts that I really liked were the ones that gave me pricing details on how much it costs for everything. In fact, the author goes on to say how she published her first book for $7, and that too only because she bought her first copy herself. She tells you how you can basically publish your book without spending a dime for it, and as an author who doesn't have too much of cash lying around, this is very important to me.

You also get a lot of down to Earth advice on what you need to do to get your book published, and how you can format it. You also get a number of templates that the author gives for free if you are willing to subscribe to her newsletter, but then she tells you how to do it yourself. So unless you're really lazy, you don't even need to download the template.

Also the author gives you options on free software that you can use. Once again, this is in the interests of saving you money.

Granted, the book does not give you any in-depth details and barely skims the surface, but I really don't
need anything more. It did a good job of showing me the way, and I've been able to follow up on it.

For example the suggestion to use free software prompted me to do a bit of researching into the subject and it opened a whole new world up for me. I'll write about this later, but you get my meaning, right?

The book does not do any hand-holding. What it does is point you in the right direction and give you a shove.

And who could ask for anything more?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Should I send my book to a publisher?

Most die-hard self publishers will probably tell you an emphatic NO to this. Being a pragmatist, let us consider the merits of this question.

Why does a person send their work to a publisher? To get published of course.

Even in this day and age where self publishers have a lot going for them, not too many of them manage to make the kind of sales that the regular publishers do. So while self publishing may give you 10,000 sales with a 70% royalty on sales price, a publisher may manage 100,000 books sold with a 15% - 20% royalty on it. Ultimately the amount of money you make is probably the same. Of course you may very well sell 100,000 copies when you self publish, but not too many can hit this mark. I'm just being a realist without putting anyone or their work down.

So if it isn't the money, then why would you want to send your book to a publisher?

Whether you believe it or not, a publisher has his uses. Many of them will give you feedback on how you can improve your writing, or where they think you've got it wrong. Now this feedback may or may not be right, and it is after all their impression, but considering that their job relies on them finding a hot selling book, putting in some careful thought into their feedback will only benefit you.

Not all publishers do this, but then, everything comes down to your approach and how you interact with them. Even those who don't have a lot of time will still at least give you a one or two line feedback that will give you an industry person's perspective on your work.

This is important because I believe that before you go the self publishing route, you need to ask as many people as you can to go through it and give you their feedback. And the wider your sample size, the better the nature of your feedback. If you include a publisher or two into the mix, you'll have a lot of solid data that you can use to fine tune your book before you self publish.

Self publishing is a gamble where you throw the dice hoping for a 6. Doing this sampling just ensures that you have a better chance of hitting this than if you don't. That's all.

Once again, this is just my opinion, and there may be a number of people with different opinions. That's ok. Like I said, self publishing is a gamble and each person has their own way of trying to beat the odds. I think that this is a good idea which is why I'm telling you about it.

Monday, March 24, 2014

How to choose what to write on?

Each author is unique and each one has their own way, not only of writing, but of approaching the whole writing thing. There are some who decide on the title first and then start on the book. Others write the book and then put in a title that makes sense. Still others keep changing both their initial title and the body of the text itself.

And there are probably as many different ways of writing as there are authors out there. I am therefore going to tell you how I chose what to write on because that's the only thing that I can talk about.

Actually the decision for me to write my own book was not a difficult one to make. I've been writing for more than 5 years, although what I concentrated on was on website content. Here and there I did take up book writing projects, mostly for sale on Amazon. One of the unfortunate things with being a ghostwriter is that you don't retain any rights to your book and the buyer can pretty much do anything he or she wants with it. And so the title that I put in them may not be the same ones under which they are sold, nor can I even say that the body of the book will remain the same. It could very well have gone through innumerable edits/changes. I just didn't know.

So for a long time I really didn't know how good or bad a writer I was.

And then I wrote a book for a person who actually gave me feedback. He was a publisher and after I finished my book, he came back to me with just one request for edit, and that was to shorten my introduction a bit. Beyond that he was very happy with the book and told me that he has never had an author edit and proof their work so well that he did not have to do it himself.

Now this kind of feedback will obviously lift you up somewhat. I was on cloud 9 for a couple of days until I came back to Earth with a bump. And the bump was that I may be the very best writer out there, but it's not going to do me a bit of good till such a time as I write and publish under my own name.

And this is what prompted me to start writing a book. At this stage, there were a number of thoughts running in my mind on what to write on, and I hadn't decided on anything till I got an inquiry for a ghostwriting project to write a book on Diabetes. I did some research on the subject first before responding and what I found was fascinating.

The contract did not come through, but I had all the notes that I had made, and the subject also fascinated me. I've never been very interested in diabetes although there's been a history of the disease on both my parents' side. My first brush with reality came with my first child when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. It wasn't very high, but I had a tough time managing my sugar levels just with diet and exercise.

Now, I'm having my second child, and I've once again been diagnosed with gestational diabetes. This time however, it's much easier because I know more about the problem. Also I started being careful 5 yrs ago when I had my first child and this is paying me rich dividends now.

And unlike the last time, I still do have sugar, I have ice creams, chocolates and everything else that I want to eat. I just ensure that I manage my sugar intake in such a manner that my blood sugar does not spike to dangerous levels. And as of now (I'm in my 7th month) I've been fairly successful.

Anyway, that's beside the point. My decision to write the book was made at a time when my second child was not even a thought in either mine or my husband's minds. And the reason why I decided to write it is because so many people in my family have high blood sugar.

They all take medication as though it's a sort of panacea for their disease. You know, there's a world of difference between taking a pill because you feel a fever coming on, and you taking a pill because you feel that you blood sugar is going up. All of them know the dangers of having disease, including the long term effects, but for some reason the math just doesn't add up in their heads.

It's come to a point where they pop a pill when their blood sugar levels increase. And if it increases some more, that's no problem, there's the insulin pump which solves all problems. In fact these days people prefer the insulin pump to pills because it helps them manage their problem quite well. It's like technology is a replacement for good old fashioned common sense, and that technology solves all problems, including health related ones.

And this attitude isn't strange, nor is it rare. And I thought that the reason for this attitude is a lack of knowledge on the subject. And my idea is that if I can explain the why's and the what's of the disease, and if it helps even 10 people, I'd be happy.

I'm not saying that I don't want my book to be successful. Not at all. I'd be really thrilled if it became a best seller. But that is not in my hands. What is, is writing the best book on diabetes that I possibly can, and that's what I'm concentrating on doing right now.

If any of you have any questions, either on writing or on diabetes in general, please do leave a comment and I'll answer to the best of my ability. Maybe it will also help me identify a few more chapters that I need to include in my book. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Organizing my writing schedule

One of the most common problems that writers face is in organizing their writing schedule. Unless you have a schedule, you won't get any work done on time, but having a schedule means that you can basically call upon your writing “mood” whenever you are of a mind to.

I understand this very well. I've been writing for so long that I've probably gone through most phases that a writer possibly can. There have been days when my output will be twice that of any normal day while at the same time there have been days when I hardly get any work done.

Over the years though I've reached a sort of equilibrium point with regards to my writing. For so many years, my writing has been contract, work for hire. This means that I get paid only on the completion of a contract or when I send in so many articles of so many words each.

And just like any other job, I will have deadlines to adhere to and quality standards to meet. And unlike a regular job where a bad day means a shelling from your boss, for me it meant no income. A lost day means lost $$.

When you start working like this, you tend to structure your work so that you can accomplish so much per week. You start organizing your work so that you can be more effective with your time, than just working longer or harder.

This is not to say that I haven't done it. I have. But very soon I found that this just wasn't going to work. Not only did I not have time for my family, but my work too started to suffer. And when you're a contract worker, your work quality is of paramount importance. If it drops, you get dropped.

I believe that everyone needs to reach their equilibrium position. What this is, only you can find out. And the only way to find out is by writing.

I know that this advice seems a little weird, but in truth, it isn't. It's like cycling, or driving, or pretty much anything else. The only way for you to learn to do something is for you to actually do it. The analogy may not seem apt, but just think; you may very well have have been driving for years, even decades, but if you've only ever done short drives, nothing is going to prepare you for a drive of a few thousand miles. This doesn't mean that you don't know how to drive, just that driving a few hours a day is a whole different ball game from you driving day in and day out, weeks or months on end.

So a hobbyist driver may drive when the “mood” strikes him or her. The professional writer cannot afford to. Whether they can call upon this “mood” whenever they need it or they find some other way, the bottom line is that they DO find a way.

And what is my way?

Before I start writing, I sit quietly for a few minutes. Sometimes I read verses from the Bible, other times I just introspect. What I am looking for is for my mind to calm down.

If you think that this is easy, let me tell you, it isn't. I don't know about you, but for me, most of my peace of mind went out the window when I got married, and whatever little bit remained, I lost when I had my kid.

Don't take me wrong, I'm not bemoaning my lot in life. Not at all. It just isn't easy.

But I try, and I keep trying. And over time, I've reached a sort of equilibrium which means that I'm not at the positive extreme, but I'm certainly not at the negative extreme either.

Your position may seem very different from mine, but if you cut down to brass tacks, it isn't. The reason why you aren't able to get any work done is because you have a hundred other things going on inside your head. Your mind is constantly spinning at full speed and slowing it down takes a conscious effort of will.

This is what the experienced writer has that a novice doesn't. And what I have found out is that my best work comes out only when my mind is calm.

So before you open a calendar and organize a schedule, find out what your equilibrium position is. You may want to get through a hundred pages a day, but you should first find out if you can. There's no point in just setting yourself up for failure. At the same time there's no sense in you just jotting something down when the fancy takes you.

I've had my say, and now you can. I'd like to hear what you writers have to say about how you do your writing, and if there are any tips that you can give.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

How to train virtual assistants

Virtual Assistants are a God send to many, but most of us have to go through scores of people before we identify that one person that we can work with. The reason for this is that most of us do not understand how to work with virtual assistants and that there is a certain amount of training involved before they can start working to our expectations. VA's are not a software plugin that will start functioning as soon as you hire them. They need just as much hand holding as any normal hire would and I recently found a really good article on the subject in Chris Ducker's blog. I condensed it into bullet points for my reference and thought that I'll share it with you too.

How to train a VA.

1. Define a role – Tasks are different from Role and you need to hire for the role. Make sure that you understand EXACTLY what you need out of your VA before you start looking for one. Below we give you a few questions that will help you identify your VA.

What are the core responsibilities of the role that the VA will fill?

What skills or traits does he or she need to properly fill the role.

How will you measure success within this role?

2. Setting expectations – Expectations need to be set right at the very beginning and just as you will have expectations out of your VA, he/she too will have some of you. Below we give you a few things that you need to consider for this.

When will you pay – weekly, biweekly, monthly or at the completion of a project?

How much will you pay?

How will you track progress?

What is the response time that you expect for communication with your VA?

What will you do if the work is sub-standard?

3. Train, don't assume.
Make sure that you give your VA all the training that he/she will need in order to fulfill the role. Don't
rely on their common sense or ability to connect the dots to perform. All instructions should be clear, concise, detailed and easily understood.
Don't assume that they will ask for help if they don't understand anything – one of the biggest grouches with VA's.

4. Give written instructions.

Use plenty of bullet points.

Have one objective per email.

Use screenshots and links to give examples of what you need done.

5. Use audio recordings.

Be concise. Avoid rambling.

Create separate recordings for separate subjects, instructions, tasks etc.

Label each recording precisely.

6. Use video recordings.
This is the best way to train VA's because the combination of visual and audio instructions leaves very little room for confusion.

You can train at your own time without worrying about scheduling conflicts.

Each video will add to the overall training material which can be used to train future VA's.

Search on YouTube before you create your own video. You may find what you are looking for there.

7. Identify repetitive tasks.

Create a simple process flowchart that details what the VA needs to do.

8. Create an IFTTT cheat sheet (IF That happens, Then This)

Have a set of standard protocols to be followed for the most common situations that may arise.

9. Have clearly defined goals and needs.

The VA should save you time and money by taking some work out of your hands, not increase it by forcing you to micromanage them.

Once you invest in a little time to train your VA, then many of the problems that you will face as an employer will be minimized if not eliminated. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Will I need to have my book copyrighted?

The copyright conundrum is one of the biggest problems for people when they think of self-publishing. Most authors self publish with the hope of doing well in the market, and they really don't want somebody ripping off their work and publishing it under another name.

And yet, how many authors actually go to the extent of copyrighting their book.

Before we go into this, let's start at the basics. Is copyrighting my book really necessary? What will happen if I don't copyright it?

The short answer to this is that the copyright law just says out aloud, whatever is implied when you put your work forward for sale. When you write a book and publish it, you imply that this book is your own work and that you have not (deliberately at least) taken content out of another person's work. And if you have done this, then you at least have the grace to acknowledge the help that these other sources have been to you.

The copyrighting just ensures that you have a legal document to this effect. There is just one problem with this though. While a number of countries are ok with you having an implicit copyright, other countries are not. In fact, countries like the U.K, Australia and New Zealand don't even have a method to register your work and it is considered an automatic right. Other countries such as the U.S.A require that you register with the United States Copyright Office if you want to bring a claim in a US court.
So the final decision on whether you want to copyright or not rests with you. The only advice that we can give you is that you check what the particular law is with respects to your country and follow it.

There are however some things that you can do to keep yourself safe from copyright infringement even if you don't register your work and we explain this in detail in “How do I copyright my work?

How do I copyright my work?

Strictly speaking, copyrighting your work is not at all difficult. Basically, when you do some work, and you can prove somehow when exactly you did the work, this is sufficient. This means that all published work has copyright, even if you don't register your work.

In the case of unpublished work, some other method that can prove the date of completion of the work will do. Sealing up the manuscript and mailing it to yourself is probably the easiest way to do this and is called the poor man's copyright. Of course you need to keep it sealed and with the postmark because that is where the date will be.

You can also show it to friends and family and get them to sign on it with the date mentioned. As long as they can verify that the signature is theirs and that the book has not been tampered with, this too will suffice.

Submitting your work to the British Library so that they have a copy as part of their record of all published work is another idea. This can be done only with published work and within one month of publication.

Another simple way is to use the © Copyright symbol in the book. The use of the symbol shows that you understand what the copyright law is and that you are willing to protect your work. You can also include a short sentence after the symbol, explaining this in lay man's terms.

“© 2013, [your name]. Except as provided by the Copyright Act [date, etc.] no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.” is the simplest and most common format followed. The wording can and is altered by publishers, but the basic format remains the same.

Using a registration service is another way, although this may entail a certain amount of expenditure. How much and whether this is a one-time expenditure or a recurring one depends on the agency you go with and how comprehensive the copyright is that you are getting.

You can also directly register your work, such as at the US Copyright Office, where they allow you to upload a soft copy of your work. As mentioned in a previous article, this may not be possible in all countries though because some don't even have a method to do so.

Please do not use this article as the basis for making your decision on whether you want to obtain copyright or not. Laws in each country differ, and knowing the law of your land is important if you want to protect your work in court in the future.

Note: Copyright only protects the author's expression in whatever form he chooses to. It does not protect any idea, system, method, or even title. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Is having a well designed cover and illustration important?

If you have a book that you want to publish, there are two ways to do this. One is to go the traditional route and try to get a publisher interested in it. If this happens, you basically lose all control over your book, and the publishers take over everything connected to bringing the book to the market.

The other option is for you to go the self publishing route and in this case, you wonder whether there is any reason for you to spend any money in getting a good cover done for your book and include good illustrations on the inside.

Granted, self publishing doesn't cost too much money, but this doesn't mean that you won't have any expense. Especially if you are hoping for a good reception for your book.

Already you would have spent some money in getting a good editor to edit and proofread your book, and when it comes to cover design and illustration on the inside, you start to think if all this expense is worth it.

This is a difficult question to answer because there have been quite a few best sellers who never had either. There was no cover design to speak of, except perhaps different colors used for the title on the cover. And there were no illustrations or photos or visuals of any sort to relieve the monotony of the written content, on the inside.

This proves that a good book can and will sell, even without the frills.

Does this mean that you go this route?

I can't answer for everybody, but my opinion on this is that you should not risk it. Do a good cover and include visuals on the inside, whether they be simple charts, or pictures or diagrams or anything else that will break up the written content.

There are a few reasons for my saying this.

Firstly, science has proven that visuals do matter a lot. The old adage that one picture is equal to a thousand words still holds true and visuals really do matter.

Secondly, the cover is the only thing on the book that a person sees first. However great the content on the inside is, you need something to draw people to your book and get them to glance inside. Once they do this, the weight of your content will carry you through, but you still need that initial something to draw them in, and this is what the cover will do for you. Having a well designed cover that captures the interest of the reader will give you that initial push with regards to sales that every author is looking for.

Lastly, your book is a reflection of who you are, and just as your external appearance matters, so does the external cover for your book. You don't want people to start thinking that if you aren't interested enough to get a good cover done on your book, then how much effort would you have put into the content inside, do you?

Now this may be absolutely the farthest thing from the truth, but this is the impression that most people will get in their minds. Whether you believe it or not, most people are attracted by visuals, and ensuring that you have a good cover just means that you get more people to browse through the pages inside.

Of course, not everyone thinks the same, and some others may have different views on the subject. That's all right with me. I'm just giving my opinion for what it's worth, and if it helps anyone, then it's all to the good.

What are the usual problems faced by first time authors and what can you do about it?

Writing is not new for anybody. You spend 15 – 18 yrs doing nothing else in school.

Writing articles and other short stories too is not difficult. You write essays in school and articles are not that very different.

My belief is that anyone can write. You are conditioned to write since a very young age, and the more imaginative and inventive you were with your answers in school, the easier it is to write once you're grown up.

Of course, writing a book is a whole different ball game, but my point isn't to tell you that it is easy. Just that if you feel that you've absolutely no experience in writing, you're wrong. You do have. Quite a bit in fact.

And herein comes the biggest problem faced by first time authors – that they are not too confident about their writing ability. They don't feel that they can write well. They just think that they can. And there's a big difference between the two.

When you think that you're good, you're basically rationalizing the whole writing thing. On the other hand, when you feel that you're good, you know that you are. You may make mistakes, you may receive criticisms from others, but this will not alter the fact that you know that you can write well. You take the criticisms and come back stronger. You understand that mistakes are just what they are – mistakes. An error. An accident. Nothing more.

And you come back stronger the next time round.

So you have to feel deep within you that you can do it.

This kind of confidence comes only with one thing – success.

I know, it sounds like I'm giving you 10 different kinds of hogwash here, but it's true. The only way you will ever get the sort of confidence that you need to write your own book is if you have already met with success. The point is that this success need not be with other books.

And here we come to the next point that I am about to make. Don't start off with a book. Start small. Maybe you can create and maintain a blog or even guest post on other blogs. You can write informative articles that you can try to get published in your local newspaper or enewspaper. Or you can take up freelance writing work. Or ...

There are a number of things that you can do to start writing in a small way. Doing this helps you in two ways.

One, it gives you experience, which is just one word for “what readers expect in written content”.

Two, it removes a lot of the “romance” from writing. When you write professionally, you write on anything that you have to. You don't have the luxury of choice. This may sound a little weird, especially as I started off by saying that you need confidence, but doing this will ensure that you have both feet firmly planted on the ground when you write your book.

When you figure both these out and know that you are doing a fairly descent job for others, then you know that you can do as good a job, if not better, for yourself.

This may sound more like a five year plan, than one in which you spend a weekend writing a book and a couple of hours on Monday in publishing it, but it all boils down to how good you want to be. If you're interested in creating a name or a brand, it takes both hard work and time. It may be possible for you to shorten the time element a little by putting in a lot more hard work, but there is no substitute for trust, and trust is only gained with time.

And while talking about trust, I come to the third thing on my list, which is competency. Many authors don't think about a very important concept – VFM (Value For Money). Unfortunately, the whole world of commerce revolves round this concept. Nobody buys anything unless they find value in it, and they are definitely not going to recommend it to anyone else unless they find more value in it than the cost that they are paying for it. Many authors seem to think that because they are pricing their books at a dirt cheap “couple of dollars”, nobody should complain if their writing is not up to the level of books that sell for many times more.

Unfortunately readers invest not just their money, which may not even matter to them. They invest their time in reading your work, and in this day and age, time is more valuable than money. If they feel that they have just wasted so many hours of their time in reading your book, they aren't going to be happy.

And with the advent of social media, they aren't reticent about letting the whole world know exactly what they think of a person who does this to them.

Make sure that you give your readers value. Even if it is only fiction, and meant only for leisure reading, you have to make sure that they feel that their time has been spent well. Miss this and things are going to turn nasty on you.

The next thing that I want to give you is just a piece of commonsensical advice. However confident you feel in your own ability, take advice from as many people as you can. Of course, you don't have to follow it all, but getting 20 different points of view gives you a much broader horizon of view than 5.

Most first time authors just ask their family and friends, and decide that their manuscript is good enough to become a best seller. My point is that you need more variety in people who offer you advice.

Why do I say this?

Different people are different. They have different preferences and different tastes. If you want your book to be successful, you need as many of these different types of people to like your book as possible to ensure that you cast your net as widely as possible.

And how are you going to know the preferences of different types of people unless you talk to them and find out what their preferences are?

And lastly, I say, do your best. Writing is not a race where one person wins and everyone else loses. There's enough space for everyone up there if you are willing to sweat it out. Don't ever publish something that you are less than satisfied with because not only does it ensure that your book will fail, but you are spoiling your chances of future success too because past reviews can affect present books, just as how present reviews can affect past ones.

Tips on how to write your book

Ever since Amazon made it easy for people to publish their own work, self publishing has become a viable option for authors to write and publish their own work. Self publishing has become a hit with authors because when compared to traditional publishers, not only are the quality requirements of the work much more lax (There really isn't any. You can publish whatever you want as long as it meets the basics of ethical, moral and regional laws.), the author's share of the income pie is also much larger. Most self publishing platforms give the author up to 75% of the sales price as long as it meets certain requirements. Compare this to 15% by traditional publishers.

The problem is that, because there are no “quality requirements”, almost anybody can publish anything that they wish. This has ensured that if you go online and search for books in a certain niche, you get everything from utter nonsense, to really good work. You will however have to sift through the chaff for the wheat, and with more and more authors entering the scene, the sifting is getting more and more difficult.

There's nothing much that you can do about this, and if you are sure that you want to self publish, there's really no reason for you not to. You do however have to keep some things in mind because if not, you are just setting yourself up for failure.

Every author has a different style of writing, and I am not going to give you advice on how you go about the actual “writing”. What I am going to do instead is give you a guideline on what you have to keep in mind when you write your book.

One of the first things you do before you even start, is to know “what” you're going to write about. You cannot write on a topic that you don't know anything about, and especially if you are a first time author, it is very important that you stick to a topic that you are familiar with. Writing a book is hard enough without you taking on the added difficulty of choosing a topic on which you know nothing about.

This is the reason why most first time authors generally write fiction. It's the safest bet, and especially if it is romantic fiction which is perennially popular, is much easier to write than one that involves a deep plot.

One of the best ways to go about doing this is to jot down points as they occur to you. For me personally, this happens over a period of time. I even get ideas on topics to write on, while I write the book. I generally jot it down and periodically review it to ensure that I have covered everything that I wanted to.

Another advantage of this is that an idea for a chapter may strike you, but you may not know anything about it. Jotting it down ensures that you will do your research beforehand so that you get more familiar with the topic. More questions will occur to you as you look for answers to your first one, and slowly you build up on your knowledge on a subject.

Once you reach a point where you either don't have any questions or you are able to answer them all, it's time to start writing your book.

Don't however make the mistake of thinking that this will be your final version. My way is to never go back and read through what I have written till I've finished a couple of chapters. This ensures that I get everything down quickly, before I forget it. Also reviewing my work breaks my involvement in my writing and I don't want to do this.

When I read through it later, I edit both the style and the content to give it the flow that all books require. This may be anything from just correcting spelling and grammar mistakes to rearranging the content so that it reads well. And every single time, one single edit is never enough. You find mistakes, or a better way to express an idea each time you read your work, and you have to edit your book when this happens. You never stop till you feel that there is nothing more that you can do for the book.

When it comes to the actual writing, there are different styles that different people use. This is what differentiates authors. But whatever style you use, you have to make sure that the reading is easy.
For example, some people like to take you one step at a time, while others will start at the end and then go back to the beginning. It's not a question of which one is better, but in how well you use that technique.

Which style would be suitable for you? That's a question that only you can answer. For me personally, I take different styles and different voices for different subjects. But this is not consciously done. Before I start to write, I just sit quietly and imagine how I want my book to be. This gives me my introduction. Once I get my introduction, everything flows naturally from it.

To be honest, it isn't as easy as I tell it. In the beginning I used to struggle a bit, but with a bit of experience I found that it is only when I force my writing that I get into trouble. When I sit quietly and just think about what I want to write, I invariably get an idea. From then, it's only a matter of sticking to the blueprint that I have in my mind, and everything else just comes naturally.

Of course many of you may say that this “flowing naturally” thing just doesn't come to them. But let me tell you something. I know a person who has never written before. She used to help me now and then with research work and that's about it. One day, I needed help in finishing content for a website that I was developing content for, and I asked her to help me. Since it was about cooking which she is interested in, she said ok.

And the articles that she turned in were really really good. They were better than anything that I could have done, and this with absolutely no experience whatsoever. I received really good reviews for her work which prompted me to use her another time when I needed help with something else.
This time, the work was so bad that I had to almost completely rewrite them.

My point is that people give you really good work when they are interested in what they are doing. When they aren't, then their work suffers. This is true, not only of writing, but of almost any work that you care to name.

When it comes to writing, this is doubly important because unless you are yourself interested in what you're writing about, how can you get someone else interested? Basically, the only way for you to ensure the reader's involvement is to ensure the author's involvement when writing.

Once you finish the book to your satisfaction, do a bit of researching into the self-publishing theme. This way you know the basics of what you need to do to market your book so that you get at least those 10 or 20 sales initially. Good reviews by these will hopefully translate to future sales which is what you are looking for.

I know that the ideas given here are very general ones, but no one can give you more specific advice than this. If they do, then they are stifling you. You end up trying to write someone else's version of your book rather than yours, and this route is not one that you should be following.

Until now authors didn't have a choice and had to follow publishers' recommendations/guidelines/orders. Now, when you're self-publishing, there's no real reason for you not to turn in your work.

Your best one of course!