How to Write a Book: 14 Steps to Put You on the Path Towards Becoming a Bestseller
I think you’ll agree with me when I say we all have a great book idea burning inside of us.
In fact, most of us dream about learning how to write a book.
We imagine how writing a bestseller will change our lives. How it will advance our careers. How it will make us an authority.
According to writer Joseph Epstein, “81 percent of Americans feel that they have a book in them — and should write it.”
The catch is many don’t actually make it to the writing phase.
The epic ideas, thoughts, and stories they wish to tell never come to fruition because of the inability to act on this dream.
This inability to act can manifest as writer’s block, but could also be more deeply rooted in limiting beliefs having to do with readiness or imposter syndrome.
As a veteran author with numerous published books, I understand how hard it can be to overcome to take that first step.
We get caught up in questions like:
- How long does it take to write a book?
- How much does it cost to write a book?
- Am I even capable of writing a book?
But if you’ve ever dreamed of becoming a published author, now is the time to act.
No matter whether you are just starting out or are a seasoned author, the following book writing and publishing guide outlines the most important steps you can take to plan, produce, and launch your own bestseller. So, let’s dive in!
Reasons You Should Learn How To Write A Book
If you have a great idea for a book, you should write it. It’s as simple as that.
Not only are you doing your future readers a disservice by not sharing your creation, but you are also holding yourself back from reaching your full potential.
Here are just three of my favorite reasons why writing a book will change your life in ways you never even imagined:
- Writing a book is the fastest way to gain credibility
- Writing a book provides a great opportunity to share something meaningful with you
- Writing a book is a way to help others improve their lives
This sounds simple enough, right? So then the real question becomes, “why don’t more people start writing?”
This is a tough question to answer, but I believe much of it has to do with direction…or lack of it.
For most people, writing and publishing a book may seem like an insurmountable task. Figuring out how to stay motivated when writing your book can be challenging, especially if you do not have the right processes and guides in place.
However, just like any other seemingly insurmountable task, the journey from start to finish is best handled one step at a time. Through regular, focused writing practice, you can begin to put pen to paper to compile your piece one page at a time.
How To Start Writing Your Book
Once you make the decision that you should write your book, all that’s left to do is get the pen rolling or your fingers typing!
Follow these steps to learn how to start the writing process and find your creative flow.
Dedicate The Time To Be A Better Writer
The first rule of being a writer is that you simply write. There are no other requirements. Period.
There are many myths out there that claim that you must have a Master’s degree in English or be a prodigy at spinning words in order to be accepted into this community. That is not the case.
The truth is that writers come from all walks of life, and some of the most successful authors in the world often lived half their life with no real intention of ever writing a book.
Although there is no set formula for how to be a good writer, the difference between average writers and good writers comes down to the way they approach their craft.
Being a good writer requires you to:
Great writing stems from consistency and regularity. If you can establish a daily writing routine, you will be well on your way to making significant strides toward finishing your book.
Getting started may seem complicated, but the best thing you can do is to find a structure that works for you.
First, set the scene. Find a place where you know you will be able to do your best work. This will vary for every aspiring author. Some people enjoy having a little background noise to write along with. Others prefer a quiet, tranquil space that will allow them to get their thoughts down on paper.
Second, choose an ideal time to write. If you have the most unstructured time available to you in the early morning, perhaps that timeframe could be devoted to your craft.
On the flip side, if the idea of putting pen to paper before winding down for the evening seems more appealing, an evening practice might be more suitable.
And, last but not least, set a goal for how much you’d like to write every day. It doesn’t have to be a lot. You might also aim to give yourself a target word range to hit, perhaps something between 250-500 words.
Regardless of the structure, you create, make sure that it provides you with the most freedom and flexibility to succeed at writing more often.
Whether you love horror or hate it, Stephen King is widely recognized as one of the most successful authors in the genre. With almost 70 novels and hundreds of short stories under his belt, King has built a life on the foundation of sharing spooky stories that have captivated millions.
In his book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, King describes his writing process and offers tips for aspiring novelists. One of the biggest pieces of often-overlooked wisdom he offers focuses on the importance of being an avid reader in order to be a sensational writer.
On this topic, he says, “Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
I honestly couldn’t have said it better myself.
But, if you don’t want to take King’s word for it, here are some other reasons why reading more makes you a better writer:
- It is a learning opportunity to study the works of other creatives in the same field.
- The more styles of writing you read, the more you’ll be able to recognize and borrow certain strategies and weave them into your own writing process.
- It can help you source ideas for different languages and vocabulary to use.
- It can help you fine-tune your own unique writing style and voice.
And as a final note, walking a mile in a reader’s shoes can also help you feel more connected with your audience.
If you invest your time in reading more of your genre, you will begin to understand firsthand what motivates readers to continue reading.
You’ll discover the answers to questions like:
- What answers are they searching for?
- What problems do they hope to resolve by the end of the book?
- How do specific sections of the story mirror pieces of their own life?
- What makes the information or the characters so relatable?
Get to Know Your Target Audience
Aside from understanding the works of other authors in your genre—and why your audience continues to read these pieces—it is important to understand your audience in order to continue to successfully create new pieces of your work they can’t wait to get their hands on.
This is perhaps the most important step in the process of how to write a book. Because when you write, the book is never about you. It’s about what you can share with the audience you wish to serve.
To determine your target audience, it is first important to consider:
- Which genre you’d like to write for
- Which books within that genre you’d like to be compared to
- Who your ideal reader might be
Once you’ve determined your unique answers to these questions, you can begin sourcing information from people within your network.
There is a chance that your personal or professional network could be very closely aligned with the audience you wish to reach. You could even begin with this audience and expand or revise it as you continue to edit and change portions of your soon-to-be bestseller.
All in all, being a better writer doesn’t happen overnight. It takes work, but all of that work is what will make your book great.
In order to be a successful writer, all you have to do is choose a story to tell and learn how and who to tell it to.
Choose the Right Book Topic For You and Your Audience
Once you have committed to being a better writer and have identified your target audience, now it’s time to choose an appropriate topic or a story for the audience you’ve selected.
It is critical that the topic be unique enough to set your book apart but general enough to appeal to a wider group of people that still fall within the same umbrella as your audience.
Take the idea of a book on social media marketing, for example. It’s general enough for your audience to understand, but you need to pitch it from a different perspective.
Perhaps your book could be focused on a specific theory on why you should only post to social media on Tuesdays. (Now, this is a very unique train of thought, so if you choose this route, be sure that you can back up your ideas in grounded evidence as to why you believe this…but you get my point.)
And most importantly, choosing the right book topic for your audience is meaningless unless you are passionate about the topic yourself.
Not only is it much easier and more natural to write about something you actively believe in, but it is also more entertaining for your reader because they’ll be able to feel your level of involvement and interest in the topic just by scanning a couple of sentences.
Simply put, your audience won’t believe what you’re saying unless you believe it first.
Organize Your Thoughts For Your Book In A Book Outline
I bet you’re dying to start writing, but there are a couple more steps to consider first before you start writing page one of what will be the greatest novel of all time.
The first step is knowing how to write a book outline.
Finding a way to organize all of your thoughts at the start of your writing process will guarantee your success later. This sounds like a tedious step, but trust me, knowing how to write a book outline can make or break the direction you take your piece or how much time it will take you to complete.
A book outline is essentially a map that guides authors to the end of their book-writing journey as smoothly and seamlessly as possible. A good outline should help set the stage, organize the scenes, and clarify how the entire story or message comes together. It also will eventually form the table of contents for your book.
How much planning you end up doing is largely up to you. Some authors prefer to have a detailed outline that is well fleshed out from start to finish while others barely have an outline at all, preferring instead to let the book unfold as they write it.
Regardless of the outline you choose to create, once you build your outline piece by piece, you will then be ready to write your book page by page, and, eventually, you’ll have a finished product!
Transfer Your Book Outline To A Book Template
Assuming you do decide to create an outline for your book – which is recommended, especially for first-time authors – you’re going to need a template to start with. The good news is there are many book design templates available to help you create an outline that suits your needs.
These templates typically provide you with a skeleton overview of how to map out specific pages of your book. You will then be able to expand upon this information to create your bestseller.
Write Your Book!
You’ve done the research, you’ve organized your thoughts, you know your audience, and you’ve learned how to write a book. Now all that’s left to do is to start writing your book!
How to Publish A Book
Learning how to write a book is only half the battle.
Once you’ve written your piece, the next step is to get it in front of the people you wrote it for. That’s right. I’m talking about publishing.
When you write that last word and all your “i’s” are dotted and your “t’s” are crossed, you must begin to think about how you will get your book into the hands of the people you want to read it.
In the past, this meant convincing publishing companies to look at your work and like it enough to publish it under their name.
Of course, this is much easier said than done, and even the world’s most successful authors, such as J.K. Rowling, had to deal with countless rejections and years of waiting before they were able to finally publish their book.
In many ways, though, this process is a thing of the past. Here are some of the best options you can use to publish your book once you’ve written it:
Self-publishing is the practice of publishing a book without the help of a traditional publishing company. Choosing this option might sound challenging, but in fact, there are a variety of convenient options that make publishing a book quick and easy.
When it comes to self-publishing, you have a few options at your disposal. You can pay for and arrange all aspects of the publishing process on your own, or work with a company that handles some of these tasks for you. Just note that if you work with a non-traditional self-publishing company, you may need to pay for specific services and/or turn over some rights to your book.
Another common question I often get is “How much does it cost to write a book?”
Though the answer to that question varies, self-publishing is the more affordable option for those who are focused on the financial aspect of bringing a book into the world.
The process of self-publishing a book is actually quite simple, and, if you take the time to do it right, the results can be just as effective and spectacular as any book published by one of the major publishing companies.
As mentioned before, a publishing company is an entity that is responsible for handling the printing, distribution, and storage of an author’s book.
Within the publishing company, there is typically a publisher who is tasked with finding books that are likely to sell well. They act as the direct line of communication between the author and the publishing company and are responsible for creating contracts with authors they would like to sign. Once a publisher has signed a contract with an author, the publisher will move forward with the process of printing the book and preparing it for sale.
There are two specific kinds of publishing companies that an author could consider – traditional book publishing companies and self-publishing book companies. Each operates in a different way and offers aspiring authors their own unique set of processes, services, and contracts for the work they are seeking to publish.
Traditional Book Publishing Companies
Traditional book publishing companies have been around for years. They used to be the sole gatekeepers that one would need to impress in order to get a book published. The process involved pitching your creative work to a company or publisher who would then make a final decision on whether or not to take a chance on your book.
Oftentimes, this process was long and tedious, and the author might have to pitch to multiple companies in order to get their book in front of their audience.
Though times have changed, and some of these companies have adapted well to the digital age, their essential roles remain the same.
Some of today’s most well-known traditional book publishing companies include Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster.
Self-publishing companies are less established and take a different approach to the publishing process than traditional publishing companies.
Their primary role is to assist authors with the process of publishing books independently. These companies help with printing or digital preparation, as well as the distribution of works.
Some of the best self-publishing companies include Kindle Direct Publishing, Kobo, and Xlibris. However, a number of other options are also available.
Some alternative self-publishing companies include:
How to Publish a Book on Amazon
The benefits of Amazon’s book publishing platform have appealed to many authors in recent years.
Amazon’s self-publishing has made it incredibly easy for anyone to market their book on the largest book-selling platform in the world. Through the variety of services that Amazon offers, you can publish your book in digital, print, and even audio format.
Really, the only parts of the publishing process that Amazon doesn’t have a hand in are the cover design and formatting (although it does have a built-in cover creator).
A few standout perks that set Amazon’s publishing platform apart from the competitors are:
- The ability to easily reach millions of readers
- A free way to publish e-books and paperbacks
- A quick and efficient way to publish books in only a few days
How to Make Your Book a Bestseller
Obviously, there is no cookie-cutter formula for how to make your book a bestseller. However, this does not stop many new authors from aspiring to achieve this goal.
Many have had that vision. And, while there is no way to guarantee that your book will make it on the bestseller list, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances.
Choose a Book Topic People Will Engage With
Writing a bestseller has a lot to do with trending topics of interest at the time. So if you are seeking the glory that comes along with making it on that coveted list, it may benefit you to consider choosing a topic or story that people will feel invested in and want to engage with.
Before you choose your topic, it may benefit you to look at the books that are currently on the bestseller list. Once you spend some time examining them, ask yourself the following questions:
- What topics are they written on?
- Do they have any common themes?
- Why are these books as successful as they are?
Then, take a look at your proposed topic and ask yourself:
- How does my idea measure up?
- Does it fit into one of these popular category topics/themes?
- Does it tell a great story?
By honestly answering all of these questions, you will begin to get an idea of how to craft your own book in such a way that it becomes more likely to be an overnight success.
Network With Other Published Authors
The best way to get the word out about the great work you have just created – or are in the process of creating – is to network with other seasoned authors.
Since they have been through the process of taking a book from ideation to creation numerous times, they are a wealth of knowledge and can offer you expert guidance and tips about any step in the process.
Assuming they are a talented, successful writer, this is almost always a good thing and will put you on track to becoming a bestseller yourself.
Plus, reading and familiarizing yourself with the works of other bestselling authors that you look up to is one of the best ways to develop your writing skills.
By getting to know the works of authors in your own genre, you’ll develop a knack for understanding different successful writing formulas and be able to begin piecing together engaging stories that readers cannot wait to get their hands on.
On top of that, you’ll also begin to recognize stylistic patterns that specific authors use to define their work and stand out from the crowd.
Best case scenario, you will pick up some of their writing tips & tricks to use in your own works. Worst case scenario, you may be struck with some additional inspiration on how to approach and alter your own writing techniques and style choices.
Either way, you can’t lose.
Determine What Bestseller List You Want to Be On
So, you want to be a bestseller. But do you know what kind of bestseller do you want to be?
For example, do you see yourself topping the digital charts on Amazon? What about clinching the top spot on the New York Times list? Or perhaps sitting pretty high up the book list that is put out by the Wall Street Journal?
There are so many bestseller lists that it is impossible to track how many there are. To make matters more confusing, each one also has different criteria for determining which books make the cut and which do not.
Some bestseller lists measure the number of sales of a certain book over a specific period of time, while others are curated by a specific group of people responsible for choosing which titles should make their list.
In any case, if you are trying to be recognized as a bestseller, you should come into the process with an idea of which list you’d like to be on. From there, you can perform research to better understand the qualifications you will need to meet to be considered for a ranking.
Learn more tips on how to become a bestseller in my short video:
Other Bestseller Considerations
While the above considerations should be the main priority when thinking about ways to make any bestseller list, you’ll also want to keep a few other things in the back of your mind while creating.
One of those things is the quality of your writing. To make a book a bestseller, it is essential that your writing is both clear and captivating. While the story you tell is certainly important, so is the way you tell it.
Your prose doesn’t necessarily have to sing like Shakespeare’s, but it does need to be polished enough that people thoroughly enjoy reading what you write.
You’ll also want to take a look at your marketing strategy. Is there anything you could change in order to get more eyes on your work?
Consider what places your audience usually shops for books of this nature, if your potential buyers are on social media or if they prefer to see most of their ads via billboards, fliers, or in a newspaper.
Additional Tips for Writing Your Book and Becoming a Better Author
You might be wondering, “Well, all of this sounds great. You’ve addressed how to write a book and how to become a bestseller. But how do I actually make my unique work come to life? And how will I ensure that I can create the best novel that I’m capable of?”
As a published author of over 70 books, I’m here to help you take that first leap. A question I hear a lot is, “Brian, how do you write a book multiple times each year?”
To be honest, sometimes I take a step back and ask myself how I actually write as much as I do.
But the answer is always the same:
I follow the same guide and process every time… AND I write quickly!
Once you’ve started putting pen to paper, try using a few of my favorite tips for how to write a book to speed up the process:
1. Write Feverishly and Edit Meticulously
When you first start writing a new page or a new chapter, it should come as an uninterrupted flow of conscience.
Don’t worry about how good it sounds or how many mistakes there are – simply write. Write feverishly until that page or chapter or whatever section you are working on is done. This is also a good way to combat writer’s block.
Later, you can go back and carefully edit your work, pruning away unnecessary content, polishing your writing, and weeding out mistakes. In the beginning, though, it’s getting your thoughts onto paper that is the most important.
2. Take Writing Classes
Few things will help you better fast-track your writing skills than taking one or more quality writing courses. Thankfully, there is no shortage of these courses available for you to choose from. Pick one with a stellar reputation and use it to hone your skills as a writer.
3. Dedicate Extra Time to Working On Your Book Title
You should assume 80% of people will read your book title, while only 20% will end up reading it. That means you should spend extra time working on an emotional and impactful title. Learn more about how to write a perfect book title here, or check out my free guide below.
My Secret List of Additional Book Writing Tips for Quick Reference
- Read books in the genre you are writing
- Write feverishly, edit meticulously
- Consider taking writing classes
- Spend extra time working on your book title
- Use a book writing template
- Follow a proven system
- Create a writing space at home
- Commit yourself to create at least one page per day
- Experiment with writer’s block hacks to find one that works
- Stay focused by reading and watching tips on writing motivation
Want even more advice?
Be sure to check out my author resource page for more writing tips, too!
My final piece of advice for your book-writing journey is to tell you to go for it!
The main difference between those who are published authors and those who are not is that published authors actually followed through with their dreams, taking it one step at a time using a proven book writing guide.
If you can do that, you’re on the verge of seeing your name on the front of a bestselling book. Be sure to visit this article frequently to keep your writing motivation revved up!
What would your book be about? How will you get started writing it? Leave a comment below. For step-by-step guidance on how to bring your bestselling book to life, check out my Book Writing Template.
About Brian Tracy — Brian is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today. He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement. Brian's goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and Youtube.