101 Tips for First-Time Non-Fiction Book Authors

This blog is overflowing with tips that can keep you reading for hours. But because I realize how overwhelming the mere thought of writing and publishing your first book can be, I thought it would be helpful if I distilled my favorite tips into a single post and limited it to a list of 101.

So here it is-the list of the best 101 tips for first-time authors that covers everything from planning and writing to publishing and selling your book with orange links to additional posts for more information. Some of this you may have read before on the blog, but I’ve included some new information that even my most dedicated blog followers have not yet seen.

  1. PLAN Your BookBe honest with yourself about your publishing goals. There is nothing wrong with wanting to publish a book just to “see what happens,” but if you have any desire to publish a profitable book, understand that you will need to have a great book, a great marketing plan and a platform to reach this kind of goal.
  2. PLAN Your Book-If you want to have a profitable self-published book, wait until you have a mailing list-or e-mailing list-of at least 1,000 who are already interested in you and/or your message, or until you are connected with someone else who has 1,000 people on their mailing list and they are willing to promote your book to that list. Social media followers do not count.
  3. PLAN Your Book-Focus your book’s message on something you know well or at least on something that you have thoroughly researched.
  4. PLAN Your Book-Publishing with a traditional publishing company allows you to partner with book industry professionals who have the expertise, contacts, money and a financial interest in helping you make your book successful, but self-publishing gives you the most control over how your book will be designed and sold and gives you a  higher percentage of the sales price. Choose the option you want to pursue carefully.
  5. PLAN Your Book-The most profitable authors are those who use a combination of self-publishing and traditional publishing companies for their titles. And it is not uncommon for authors to self-publish a title to quickly release it and then sell it to a traditional publishing company months or even years later.
  6. PLAN Your Book-Don’t let prices deter you from self-publishing. If you are willing to teach yourself new skills using DIY resources, you can publish for free. However, it will take time to produce a quality book on your own that does not look like a book that was published by a first-time author.
  7. PLAN Your Book-If you prefer to build a publishing success team instead of making your book a DIY adventure and your budget is limited, the top three things to prioritize in your budget are the book cover design, professional editing and the interior design.
  8. PLAN Your Book-There are dozens of self-publishing companies that will gladly publish your book for you after you pay them, but if you choose to hire one of these companies, makes sure you understand: 1) all of the ways they get paid, 2) how you get paid,  3) which parts of the book design they own and how you can buy the design if you ever decide to leave that company, and 4) the limitations of their distribution options.
  9. PLAN Your Book-Book publishing is not easy money, but it is possible to automate your book promotion and sales process to keep it simple.
  10. PLAN Your Book-Book publishing is not fast money, so if you are in need of immediate funds, this is not your best option.
  11. PLAN Your Book-You can use crowdfunding sites like Pubslush.com, Authr.com, Indiegogo.com and Kickstarter.com to allow supports to sow money into your project while you are still writing and publishing the book. This is a great way to fund your research and publication.
  12. PLAN Your Book-You can use pre-orders to help you cover your publication and printing costs.
  13. PLAN Your Book-If you self-publish with a print-on-demand (POD) company, readers can pay for their books through a website and have the POD company print and ship the book to them and then electronically deposit your sales profits to your account.
  14. PLAN Your Book-Your one book can be published as a print book, e-book, and/or audiobook, so choose the format(s) that your target audience is most likely to buy.
  15. PLAN Your Book-Quality editing is essential to publishing a quality book that builds your reputation instead of tarnishing it because of careless mistakes.
  16. PLAN Your Book-If you have a business or non-profit and you want to use your book to promote what you do, make sure the content is closely related to your product/services.
  17. PLAN Your Book-Great endorsements go a long way towards helping you sell your book, so think carefully about whose endorsement will mean the most to your readers.
  18. PLAN Your Book-If you have a business or a non-profit, think of ways you can use your book to fill in gaps of knowledge of your potential clients/people you serve.
  19. PLAN Your Book-Think about any existing files you have on your computer, pictures or other existing information that you can incorporate into your book.
  20. PLAN Your Book-Think about any experts, professionals or other people you can interview to get additional quality content for your book.
  21. PLAN Your Book-Think about any specific things you may want to research to help you build a stronger argument in your book.
  22. PLAN Your Book-Think of any ways you can practice or test the message in your book with more people before you finish writing and publishing it.
  23. PLAN Your Book-Think about any unique ways you can sell your books in bulk directly to businesses or other organizations that may benefit from it.
  24. PLAN Your Book-Think of any businesses, organizations or individuals who would add value to your book if you co-author it with them.
  25. PLAN Your Book-Think about any additional information products you can create with your book content and how you can use them to help promote the book. For example, you can turn your book content into a website, blog, newsletter, magazine, seminar, lecture series, online course, webinar series, audio course or even a conference.
  26. PLAN Your Book-Think of any annual events or campaigns you can tie to your book content and/or marketing that will easily incorporate your book into current practices.
  27. WRITE Your BookDecide which specific problem your book will solve. This will help you keep your writing focused.
  28. WRITE Your Book-Brainstorm and research the different ways people with that specific problem handle it now.
  29. WRITE Your Book-Visit Amazon and find 2-3 titles similar to the book you want to write. Preview each book and read the reviews. Then list each title and how yours will be different.
  30. WRITE Your Book-Decide what you want your readers to think, feel or do after reading your book. Keep this in mind while you edit your book.
  31. WRITE Your Book-Before you write your book, write a list of key messages you want to get across through your book.
  32. WRITE Your Book-Before you write your book, think about any information your readers must understand before they put your key messages into action.
  33. WRITE Your Book-Write a description of the training and/or experience you have had that qualifies you to address the topics covered by your book. There is a story behind every author, and your readers will become more interested in what you have to say when they understand more about you.
  34. WRITE Your Book-Before you write your book, be specific about the type of readers you want to attract. “Everyone” is not a target audience, but “young men without a positive male role model in the home” is. It’s easier to write an engaging book when you have a clear understanding about who is in your audience.
  35. WRITE Your Book-Before you write your book, think about the special features that will make your book more current, original, easy-to-follow or funnier than your competitors.
  36. WRITE Your Book-The industries that attract the most money are: motivation, leadership, money management, business, marketing, relationships, spirituality, home design and organizing topics, and life management, so find ways to connect your message to as many of these as possible without diluting your message.
  37. WRITE Your Book-Make writing and editing your book simple and focused by starting with a two to three sentence summary of your book’s message. If you are struggling to summarize your message, you will struggle even more to write it in detail. And if you cannot capture 90% of your book’s message in the first sentence, you are probably trying to include too much information in the book.
  38. WRITE Your Book-It’s easier to write when you have a specific writing location(s) dedicated solely to book writing. The designated work space makes it easier to develop your writing system and discipline.
  39. WRITE Your Book-Schedule “writing appointments” in your calendar that are set aside specifically for researching, writing and editing your book. They can be as short as 30 minutes or as long as 2 hours. This goes a long way towards building your writing system.
  40. WRITE Your Book-Invite family, friends, members of your target audience and professional editors to give you feedback about your book. (This also helps you generate excitement about your book.)
  41. WRITE Your Book-Use the table of contents (TOC) of two or three of your competitors’ books you find on Amazon to help you draft your own TOC to help you draft an outline of your book before you write it.
  42. WRITE Your Book-Write your TOC first, and then use the chapters to help you organize any existing content you have into a single rough draft.
  43. WRITE Your Book-Consider recording interviews and then transcribing the audio file to generate your book content.
  44. WRITE Your Book-Consider dictating your book content to avoid writing or to make the most of your time away from your favorite writing tools. If you don’t want to transcribe, you can always hire someone else to do it.
  45. WRITE Your Book-If you would rather partner with a professional, you can always work with a ghostwriter or developmental editor to create your book content.
  46. WRITE Your Book-There are three levels of editing: developmental editing, copyediting (aka line editing), and proofreading. Developmental editing will help you organize your ideas into a solid manuscript that carefully balances your enthusiasm for your message with the needs and interests of your readers. Copyeditors analyze the words in each line of your manuscript for accuracy, word choice, tone, grammar and punctuation. Proofreaders review for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors in the final manuscript before it is printed.
  47. WRITE Your Book-Expect to go through at least three rounds of editing. This will include at least one round of each of the three levels of editing listed above.
  48. WRITE Your Book-You can find an editor by asking your publisher for recommendations or hiring freelancer who is associated with a national association like Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) or National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE).
  49. WRITE Your Book-If you want to use a picture, text, image or other content that you do not own the copyright for, ask the author to sign a copyright permission form to make it less likely that you will become the defendant in a lawsuit.
  50. WRITE Your Book-If you want to use your book to help a non-profit, lawyers and accountants generally recommend that you keep the copyright and simply send them the money you want them to have instead of signing over the copyright to a non-profit organization.
  51. PUBLISH Your BookYou and I both know that your book is great, but readers will be much more convinced after reading a list of raving endorsements on the back cover or on one of the first pages in the book.
  52. PUBLISH Your Book-Before you publish your book, design a book launch that generates excitement with your family, friends, and target audience.
  53. PUBLISH Your Book-Write an elevator pitch that you can use to describe your book in a way that makes listeners curious enough to learn more and buy it.
  54. PUBLISH Your Book-If you are self-publishing, research the book criteria for the POD or distributor you want to use to sell your books. For example, if you want your distributor to make your book available to libraries, there is a specific code that must be printed on your copyright page.
  55. PUBLISH Your Book-Study the cover designs of your competitors before finalizing your design.
  56. PUBLISH Your Book-If you want to sell your book to a traditional publishing company, you will need to get a literary agent first.
  57. PUBLISH Your Book-Most US books have a trim size of 5.5″ x 8.5″, but if you have a thicker book or  an impressively designed cover, you may prefer a 6″ x 9″ trim.
  58. PUBLISH Your Book-Choose your trim size before you design your book interior.
  59. PUBLISH Your Book-You can hire a professional to record your audiobook, but the listeners will prefer to hear the author’s voice.
  60. PUBLISH Your Book-Your print book, e-book and audiobook do not all need to have the same cover, but if you make the designs very similar it will be easier to recognize them as the same title.
  61. PUBLISH Your Book-Your book’s interior designer is a visual artist, not an editor, so make sure you have completed your edits before they start designing the interior.
  62. PUBLISH Your Book-It would be wise to proofread a printed copy of the book design before approving the final design for printing.
  63. PUBLISH Your Book-While your book interior and cover are begin designed, find reviewers who will accept emailed copies. Reviews are an extremely helpful promotional tools.
  64. PUBLISH Your Book-Update all your branding essentials to include information about your book. Your branding essentials include your email address, email signature, business cards, websites/blog, and social media profiles.
  65. PUBLISH Your Book-Create an online media kit that makes it easy for reviewers, bloggers and journalists to learn about and write about your book.
  66. PUBLISH Your Book-Before you set the price for your book, think about: 1) how much it cost you to write, publish, promote and print each book, 2) how much of a discount you are giving to the distributors and resellers, and 3) how much your readers are willing to pay.
  67. PUBLISH Your Book-The top three POD companies for DIY self-publishers are Createpace, Ingram Spark and Lightning Source. Blurb is an honorable mention, and Lulu is the original POD.
  68. PUBLISH Your Book-Six non-bookstore markets to consider while choosing distribution options are: 1) book clubs, catalogs and newsletters, 2) libraries, 3) academic institutions, 4) non-profit and corporate buyers, 5) niche market partners and 6) niche market direct sales.
  69. PUBLISH Your Book-Have your lawyer ready any contracts before you sign them to avoid entering an agreement that puts any unnecessary limitations on your rights.
  70. PUBLISH Your Book-Beware of the distribution limitations that often come with free assigned ISBN numbers.
  71. PUBLISH Your Book-Make  the most of the US copyright laws by registering for your copyright within 6 months of publication. This entitles you to an award that covers legal fees if you ever need to confront a plagiarist in court.
  72. PUBLISH Your Book-Don’t shy away from using publicity to promote your book. Press releases sent to news outlets are okay, but interviews are better.
  73. PUBLISH Your Book-If you have a website, make sure people are able to buy your book through your website, or at least learn where they can go to buy it.
  74. PUBLISH Your Book-Save backups of each of your book files in at least two places. Don’t be afraid of using a secured cloud for this.
  75. PUBLISH Your Book-Consider booking free public speaking gigs to tap about your book’s message and offer your book for sale at the back of the room.
  76. SELL Your BookOnline advertising and promotions are cheaper than offline versions, so it will be smart to focus attention online.
  77. SELL Your BookSearch engines love blogs and large websites that constantly provide new content, so consider starting a blog that features book excerpts, stories left out of the book, behind the scenes information about the book, and other information your readers will find interesting.
  78. SELL Your BookDon’t forget to tell everyone on your mailing list about your book.
  79. SELL Your Book-Online book sales are driven by reviews, so encourage everyone you meet to buy their copy online and post honest reviews on the site where they bought it.
  80. SELL Your Book-Once a week, invite a guest to post on your blog or post on someone else’s blog to get in front of new audiences.
  81. SELL Your Book-YouTube is one of the top online search engines because people love to search it for answers to their problems. Publish a series of videos that promote your message and your book.
  82. SELL Your Book-Find bloggers who write on your topic and invite them to review your book.
  83. SELL Your Book-If your book content can be easily translated into a course, consider publishing an online course with Udemy.
  84. SELL Your Book-Promote your book to bookstores using group mailing programs like Indiebound’s Advance Access program.
  85. SELL Your Book-Find ways to package your book with other products or services.
  86. SELL Your Book-Use Amazon’s free Author Central website to track your global book sales. It’s also a good way to drive traffic to your website.
  87. SELL Your Book-Use excerpts from your book as status updates on your social media accounts to generate interest. This works best if you include a link to a page where people can buy the book or learn more about it.
  88. SELL Your Book-Subscribe to book marketing guru Brian Jud’s “Marketing Matters Newsletter” to learn the latest prone sales strategies. Visit bookmarketingworks.com to learn more.
  89. SELL Your Book-Participate in the webinars by the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS) to learn and ask questions of Brian Jud and other experts. Visit spanner.org for more information.
  90. SELL Your Book-If you want to hire a book sales team that specializes in bulk sales, visit PremiumBookCompany.com to learn more.
  91. SELL Your Book-Every 90 days, review your book marketing/promotion strategies and create a new 90-day plan based on your results.
  92. SELL Your Book-Use book content as inspiration for original articles you can submit to offline and online magazines, newspapers, and blogs.
  93. SELL Your Book-Online marketing is cheaper than offline, but content marketing is one of the least expensive forms of online marketing.
  94. SELL Your Book-Automate and delegate as much as possible.
  95. SELL Your Book-Consider giving books away for free or at an extremely low price to encourage more people to read and talk about your book.
  96. SELL Your Book-Look for opportunities to do joint ventures with other individuals, organizations or businesses that allow you to sell your book.
  97. SELL Your Book-Use a drop card to sell downloads of your audiobook or e-book at in-person events. They look like gift cards and buyers can reveal the hidden code on the back that grants them access to a single download when they enter it online.
  98. SELL Your Book-If you’re not afraid of publicity, hire Steve Harrison’s Radio-TV Interview Report to help you get interviews on the nations largest talk shows. You can get this at a discount if you are a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA). They also have a National Publicity Summit that attracts over 100 journalist and producers to one place to give you promotional tips and the opportunity to pitch your book.
  99. SELL Your Book-Submit your book to contests. Awards help the book stand out from competitors and are newsworthy PR topics.
  100. SELL Your Book-Smith Publicity is one of the best book publicity companies used by traditional publishing companies, authors who are published with a traditional publishing company, and self-published authors.
  101. SELL Your Book-Take advantage of every opportunity to talk about your book.
Image Attribution: "Numéro 101, Rue du Château (Paris)" by Jean-François Gornet from Paris, France - Numéro 101Uploaded by paris 17. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Num%C3%A9ro_101,_Rue_du_Ch%C3%A2teau_(Paris).jpg#mediaviewer/File:Num%C3%A9ro_101,_Rue_du_Ch%C3%A2teau_(Paris).jpg

Danielle Fetherson

Danielle helps aspiring authors become published authors. She believes that everyone has at least one book on the inside of them that can make a positive impact on someone else's life. If you have been thinking about writing a book, learn how to start your book today with the free resources at DanielleFetherson.com.