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If you haven’t published a book yet, you’ll be surprised at how much work it takes just to get a title to market. The production process, outlined in thise section, includes the following:

Writing the First Draft

This is often the easiest part. Fueled by inspiration, it involves getting an initial version of your story on paper. When writing your initial draft, don’t critique yourself and don’t aim for perfection. Just let the inspiration flow in all its messiness. You’ll have plenty of time to work on the rough edges later.


This part is hard work. Your goal is to transform the first rough draft into a story as inspiring to readers as it was to you when you first conceived it. You’ll likely rewrite big chunks of your story (or all of it) more than once.

You may get feedback from friends and beta readers during this phase, but be sure to heed your instincts when revising. If your gut conflicts with your readers’ comments, try to understand why your readers perceived things the way the did, but ultimately, go with your gut. It’s your story, and only you have the vision.


A beta reader, in case you don’t know, is someone whose judgment you trust, and ideally someone with good knowledge of your topic or genre. For example, if you’re writing mysteries, your beta readers can be other mystery readers or writers.

Professional Editing

Professional editing includes one or more rounds of developmental edits, a round of line editing, and a final proofreading pass. The editing page describes these steps in more detail.


After editing, you’ll need to design a cover and lay out your book’s interior. The design page includes more info about these steps.

Conversion and Formatting

Once you have a cover and interior, you’ll need to produce specially formatted files for printing and ebook publication. While Kindle Direct Publishing can take care of these steps for you by converting Word documents to print and Kindle formats, some authors want more control over the appearance of their books, and some publish through additional outlets such as Ingram Spark, Apple iBooks and Kobo.

Outside of KDP, conversion to print format means converting to PDF/X, which is enough of a pain in the ass to merit its own section in this guide.

While a number of online services will convert your title to Kindle, ePub and mobi formats, most either charge money or take a cut of your sales. E-book conversion is simpler than you might think, and a number of free tools exist to help you do it. If you have enough technical skill to format a good-looking Word document or Google doc, you’ll be able to convert your e-book on your own. See the e-book conversion page for more information.


ISBNs are International Standard Book Numbers. If you’re publishing entirely on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, you will not need to purchase an ISBN. Amazon will assign their own, and your book’s publisher will be listed as KDP.

You do need to purchase ISBNs if you plan on publishing outside of KDP, or if you want your KDP book to be listed under your own publishing imprint.

The only authorized ISBN seller in the US is Bowker. See the ISBN page for more info on what you’ll need to buy, and what information you’ll need to set up your book.


If you want to print paperback or hardback books through services other than Amazon’s KDP, you’ll need to set up an account (usually free) and configure your title information.

Whether you’re using KDP or not, part of the printing setup involves setting a proper price for your book. This is covered on the printing page, which also describes options for print distribution.

Audio Books

If you’re interested in making an audio version of your book, you’ll need to set aside several hours of personal time and allow the audio book producer several weeks of development time. The audio books page includes some basic information to get you started.

Ebook Distribution

While Amazon is by far the largest seller of e-books in the US, a number of other retailers exist. You may choose to list your title through several outlets, or you may want a service to manage all those listings for you. Check out the page on publishing and distribution for details.

Direct eBook Distribution

Do you want to sell directly to consumers without paying a substantial cut to a retailer? Do you want to have more direct access to your customers? Consider direct distribution options

Marketing Copy

At a minimum, your book should include an author bio, a back-cover summary, and a log line. See the marketing copy page for more on this.

In addition, you should always include blurbs about and links to your other titles in your book’s back matter. Readers who like one of your books will likely enjoy others as well. A link in the back of the book can take them directly to the purchase page for an easy sale.

You’re Still Not Done

Once you’ve completed all the steps listed above, you’ll have a product ready for sale. But how do you sell it?

Getting your book into the hands of readers, or even getting them to know it exists, takes as much work as the writing and production process.

You should have a basic marketing plan drawn up and underway before your book is available for sale. This may sound difficult and daunting, but if you break it down to simple steps and set aside time to do them, it’s not that hard.

As Woody Allen once said, “Showing up is 80 percent of life.” Make your plan, walk through it, and you’ll get there.

The marketing section of this guide will give you some concrete, actionable steps, so you can start making a to-do list.

Last update: 2022-02-15