Monday, March 7, 2016

4 Steps to Self-Publishing

Every day within our industry people are creating new programs, safer solutions, and more efficient means of completing tasks. These innovations and improvements, however, are confined to their specific organization. Often, this is not by choice, but just is.  You may hear about the new program if you see the individual at a conference and ask him about it, but other than that, you may never know of the tool or system that could improve your performance or enhance your operations.  

In the fire protection/life safety industry, we are better together.  We have gotten were we are today only by sharing what we have learned through solving problems. There is a lot of wisdom and knowledge that is being "left on the table" that could be beneficial to the industry at large. 

How can we get the word out? How can we effectively spread our ideas and innovations? The best way for your new idea, program, tool, system, or solution to spread is through the written word.  The internet has made it possible for anyone to self-publish and share their ideas. There is an abundance of tools and resources that make this process simple and affordable.

When you sit down to put your idea on paper there is a lot to consider. These considerations will range from developing the content, designing the book, formatting the text, technical issues, and selecting a publishing platform.  These thoughts can easily become overwhelming. 

Through my own trial-and-error I have established the following 4 step system for self-publishing.  These 4 steps will help to clear your mind, sharpen your focus, and serve as your guide through the process.

Content is king. The most important part of publishing for your idea to spread is the content itself. Make sure you are clear on what you want to say and who you want to say it to. Know your message and your audience.  Your message is what you are passionate about. This is what led to your idea in the first place.  Your audience will be those individuals that serve to gain the most from your idea.  

The first step in writing is to organize your thoughts.  Create an outline of your content and what you want to share.  This will become your table of contents.  The second step is to write the content for each of the sections or outline points.  You do not want to sit down with the idea to just write as much as you can.  Most will find that too difficult.  Simply focus on writing a small section at a time.  I like to use Google Docs for this as work can be recovered and accessed from any computer.

Once you have completed writing the content, assemble and organize the sections, add photos and references, and update your table of contents. Review the completed work and make any necessary changes.  You will see items that need to be changed, deleted, added, or re-organized.  After you have reviewed the material have a third party review, proofread, and make notes on your document.  After making any suggested changes, your manuscript is complete.

For more on how to write, or for the non-writer I recommend, The Book in a Box Method: The New Way to Quickly and Easily Write Your Book (Even If You're Not a Writer)

At this stage you will have to decide how you will want your book to look.  What size will it be? This will change the page count and book thickness. How will the pages be oriented? Landscape or portrait. This information is critical for the design of the book cover. 

In a separate document write your back cover copy.  What do you want the back cover to say? What are the important selling points of your back? What problems does it solve and how? The cover is what you book will first be judged by, so make it count. For more information on good book design I recommend,  Dan Poynter's Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print, and Sell Your Own Book.

There are several options for cover design.  You can design it yourself, you can use pre-made templates that the publishing platform offers, or you can have it created for you.  I have tried, and do not recommend, the first two options.  I have had great success with using a semi-professional to design my covers.  I recommend, Fiverr ( for finding these designers.  Just search, 'book cover' and you will receive a long list of results. Look through their work samples and find a style that you like.  You can have a nice cover design for around $50. You will want the front, spine, and back cover.  You will want them delivered in .pdf and .jpeg files.  You will also want separate a separate file for each, front and back cover.

Note: You can also use Fiverr to find an editor that will review and correct your manuscript.

Will you want your final book to be digital only (e-book), print only, or both? This decision will be driven by how you choose to use the book and what your audience will accept. The best option usually is to make both available. There are several platforms for publishing in both formats. These platforms vary in cost (how much they take per digital sale, and how much they charge for printed copies). Research these to find what best meets your needs.  

Here are few sites to check:

Gumroad (digital products only)
Amazon - KDP (digital); CreateSpace (print)

Your book's content will need to be properly formatted so that it can fit within the page sizes that you have selected, so that it will be readable on digital devices (ereaders, kindle, ipad, etc.), and so that the table of contents will be clickable for navigation. If you are computer savvy you can do this. However, do not spend your time trying to figure this out (see how my first try ended up). I use Fiverr for formatting. Pricing is affordable and based on the number of pages.

We are now on the final stretch. Your manuscript is complete, your book cover has been designed, and you have selected a format for your book.  Now you have to finalize your decision on which publishing platform you are going with (see above options in 'Format'). Each platform offers step-by-step instructions for completing your book.  

For ease of use, sales, availability and pricing I recommend using Amazon. You will have to establish an account on Amazon KDP for your digital version, and an account on Amazon CreateSpace for the print version.  Simply upload the prompted files (cover, manuscript, etc.), insert the requested information, set your price and publish. Your innovation and idea is now published and available for all.  

The only thing left to do is share. Tell the world about your idea.  Show them what you have created.  Utilize your social media channels to spread the availability of your printed work.  Order print copies (CreateSpace makes this easy and affordable) to hand out and distribute. Teach a class or give a presentation on its content.  Tell what you know! We are only better as we work and build together.

If you need assistance or have any questions related to this process, I am available for contact at

You can get my book (published with this method) for FREE at,