5 Steps of the Book Publishing Process Explained


5 Steps of Nonfiction Book Self-Publishing Process Explained


In July 2023, Judy Lane-Bower of Audience Granted Ghostwriters and Ella Ritchie of Stellar Communications Houston talked in a webinar about the five steps of the book publishing process. They covered in greater depth the information in Ella’s blog post, What are the 5 Steps of the Book Publishing Process?, and answered questions from attendees. 

Show notes:

What are the 5 steps? 

Step 1: Materials Development

Step 2: Graphic Design 

Step 3: Printing 

Step 4: Distribution 

Step 5: Marking & Public Relations 

Q&A with Attendees

Overview of the 5 steps:

Step 1: Materials development: The hardest step. This step involves getting your written content and images in their best form. This includes big picture and line-by-line, word-by-word proofreading as well as having high-quality images (photos, illustrations, etc.) which are organized and captioned. 

Step 2: Graphic Design: The most fun step. This step is about the visual elements of a book: the front and back covers and layout. A graphic designer who knows about printing specifications and market trends is absolutely a worthwhile expense. 

Step 3: Printing: The most emotional step. This step involves deciding how you want your book printed. Offset and on-demand printers both have their advantages. There’s nothing like holding your completed book in your hands for the first time.

Step 4: Distribution: The most empowering step. This step is about getting your book into the hands of readers. On-demand technology allows authors to distribute with ease, professionalism, and a wider reach. 

Step 5: Marketing & Public Relations: The “a bit of everything” step. This step involves strategy, planning, and implementing book marketing and PR efforts. A book release isn’t the finish line, it’s a milestone, and selling books takes steady effort over the lifetime of your book. This step covers things like identifying and reaching your circle of influence, preparing your online presence, and navigating media, among others. 

Transcript of the webinar:

Judy: Today we’re talking to Ella Ritchie, the founder of Stellar Communications Houston, a team that publishes and promotes nonfiction books for self-publishing authors. Ella will share with us the 5-step nonfiction book publishing process. Ella, start by telling me how you got into book publishing.

Ella: Judy, thank you so much. It is my privilege to be here. It genuinely is an honor every time I get to talk to authors, because it’s my passion. And the reason why it’s my passion is because of my very first experience with books. 

I was invited to be a book editor for a high-profile client. And it went great. The problem is, soon after the book was published, that publisher folded, and along with him, went his authors and his authors’ books. And so they were very confused— really unhappy—they felt powerless over their own books. And a couple of them turned to me for help. And I decided to set out to help them, to solve the problems that had happened. And so took about a year; it was really difficult. But along the way, it ended up being this magical journey. To be honest, it was wonderful. 

One of those authors ended up winning a national award for the South U.S. region for his book. And then the other one, today is a dear friend; she is still an author and is still impacting people around her. 

And so what I realized for my own self is that books are actually my joy. I had been totally happy as a corporate editor and a business editor. But I suddenly realized that this is actually my joy. And so I pivoted, and my team set up a system that solved authors’ problems so that that would never happen again. 

And so that’s why I’m here today. I don’t want you to make the same mistakes that other authors have made before you. I want this to be an empowering journey. I want it to be joyful. And so today, I want to share the five steps of that publishing process; I want to share just some key takeaways from each step. But it all starts with just those five steps. So thank you, Judy, thanks so much. 

Judy: You’re most welcome. And as a writer myself, I really appreciate your heart and what you offer. Writing is such an intimate and emotional process. And it’s really nice to know that there are people like you out there that can sympathize, empathize, walk with us in a caring manner. And, you know, we’re not left to the cold corporate denizens, I guess.

Now, you mentioned that there are five stages; you break the publishing process into five stages. How do you break that down? What are the five stages? 

What are the 5 steps?

Ella: Yeah, so there’s five steps. Now, I do want to say that you may have heard that there are 7 steps, 10 steps, 15—the reality is that there are hundreds of choices that you need to make during a book. Each person is going to categorize them differently, organize them, label them differently. But it’s the same process. So I call it five steps. 

It doesn’t matter who you work with; it’s the same process. If you’re a fiction writer, if you’re a nonfiction writer, if you’re a children’s book writer, it’s all the same. I call it five steps. And my five steps are this:

Step One is materials development. And that is essentially everything that you need to do with your text and your images to get it book-ready. 

Step Two is graphic design. And that is taking your text and images and making them look good. That is your cover design, and your interior layout, or formatting. 

Step Three is printing. And that is getting your nice cover and your nice interior and getting it finally into book form. 

Step Four is distribution. And that is making your book accessible worldwide—for the whole world to reach.

Step Five is marketing and PR, and that is spreading the word about you and your book. 

So those are the five steps. But you know, Judy, it all starts with Step One, which is materials development. 

Judy: Correct. And so that includes the writing process. And that’s where someone like me would come in. I’m a ghostwriter and a writing coach. So some people, they really have a passion to write their book, but for whatever reason, they don’t have the bandwidth. They don’t have or they lack confidence, or they need accountability. And so they would hire somebody like me, a ghostwriter. Or I see Karen’s on here, Karen’s another ghostwriter.

They would hire somebody like us to help them get all their ideas organized, develop an outline, and then talk to them. I do it interview style. I call it “downloading” from the client’s brain. After we get the outline, then we go through each point on the outline and I download and then I write it up, I send it to them, they send it back to me with any comments or revisions and we go from there. 

Some people want to write it themselves, but they need that accountability and they need help with the organization. That’s what a writing coach does. We help you organize, we help you get your outline, set up a writing schedule for you, provide that accountability, and give you feedback on your writing and overcoming roadblocks or writer’s block as you go. And then there, of course, are many people who simply just sit down and write it out themselves. But that’s just writing; what all else is involved, besides the writing, in the materials-gathering stage?

Ella: The writing is actually the hardest part. I call materials development “the most challenging step,” because out of every 1000 writers, statistics say that only 30 are going to actually reach the finish line. And I believe it because I meet people every day who want to write a book, but very few attain that end goal and so accountability in this step is absolutely key: accountability and getting your words down. It can be with a writing coach, like Judy, or a ghostwriter, but find that accountability. 

Once you have your words on paper, though, it’s still a very challenging step, because there’s still a lot to shape it into its best form. So after you have it down on paper, then it undergoes developmental editing, which is looking at that big picture, and making sure that it’s in its best shape, the most cohesive, the most clear organization, and the most marketable shape that it can be. I love this step, it’s one of my favorite steps. 

Then, once you have that in place, it’s about line editing, copy editing, which is at that sentence level: transitions and cohesiveness and grammar. And then it goes through proofreading, which is just that meticulous combing of punctuation, and grammar. 

So it goes through the writing, developmental editing, line, and copy editing, proofreading, that’s all in this first step of materials development. 

And then don’t neglect your images, that’s a big factor here. A lot of authors don’t realize that their images need just as much attention because the images can really bring down your book, or really elevate your book, depending on quality. It’s really important to scan high-resolution images, or hire an amazing illustrator, or pay good money for a stock photo. It’s worth investing in your images. 

There are six ways that you can get an image into your book. And if you want to email me after I’m definitely happy to help you with that. But all of this is in Step One; it’s all materials development. 

Judy: Yes. And we’ll get to this in a little bit—I don’t want to skip ahead too far—but I had the wonderful opportunity to interview the cover designer who did all the Rich Dad, Poor Dad books a while back. And she talked about the same thing, how getting high-resolution photos, just the importance of having good quality photos, and how so many authors, unfortunately, don’t understand the importance of this step. 

So, now you’ve got your text written, you got it edited to the nth degree, and you have your images. What does the graphic designer do with all that? 

Step 2: Graphic Design

Ella: So this is the most fun step. If Step One is the most challenging, Step Two is the most fun. It’s fun for us, too. It’s all about working with a graphic designer to create an amazing cover design and an amazing interior layout—that interior formatting.

Judy: Okay. We’re talking the formatting and the cover design. Formatting is also called layout. Right? And can you tell us—I know you don’t want to get too much into the nitty gritty—we’re talking about how the chapters are laid out and what fonts you’re using; what else are we talking about there? 

Ella: It’s so important to work with an expert because they understand about line spacing, typography, margins, ornaments, widows, orphans, all of these technical aspects. We don’t realize it as readers, but all these little decisions go into making a really seamless, fluid, enjoyable read, and they know how to make it happen on each page of your book. Chapter titles, subtitles, call-out boxes, all of these things go into a really great read, a smooth read, for your audience. 

Judy: Right. It’s one of those things that unfortunately you don’t notice it unless it’s bad. Right? 

Ella: Right.

Judy: And then cover design. I know you and I’ve talked about this. And I know I’ve talked with other industry experts that, unfortunately, I think this is a step that people underestimate: your front and back cover. 

And I even reposted some of your posts a few months ago on this, because your cover—the front cover and the back cover, those are one of the—imagine these words in all caps—THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTORS in determining a book’s success. 

I watched a webinar with someone who used to work for E magazine. And she was in charge of looking through all the thousands of books that get sent to E—and this was to be featured in a magazine, it wasn’t even a publisher. I think she said she spent about six seconds per book, because the volume is just too high. And it’s the same thing with a publisher. Same thing with a book retailer.

There’s just such a high volume, that you really need to make sure that your cover is on point. And yet I hear people say, “I’ll just do it myself.” Or “I’ve got a friend who’s an artist.” What are your thoughts on that? 

Ella: I’ve actually seen a few DIY covers that are really impressive, so I know it’s possible. I would never take it on—and I love art and I’m in the industry. I personally wouldn’t take it on because they know things that we don’t know: they really know how much an eye can take in in a short amount of time. They’re just pros, and they study this day in and day out. So it’s really worth it; they are worth every penny of their cost. A really good cover designer is worth it. 

Judy: And I feel like anybody can probably research it, but they’re gonna know the trends too. 

Ella: Yes, market trends.

Judy: Just because you’re a great graphic designer or a great artist doesn’t mean you know what the trend is. When I talked to the Rich Dad, Poor Dad cover designer, she was telling me European artists like certain looks, age groups like different looks, British versus Australian versus American, they all have certain things that they prefer more. 

So you really want an expert, somebody who keeps up with all that so that—and this is another kind of side note: you need to know your audience, so that you can tell them what your audience is. But an expert, somebody who does it for a living, is keeping up with all of that, and they’re going to be able to get you a cover that’s going to give you a higher chance of success.

So this brings us to printing and what all does that involve? 

Step 3: Printing

Ella: Printing, Step Three, can be the most emotional process. And I say that because I’ve seen my authors go through the process. I thought I knew how they felt that moment that they actually unpackaged their book until I got my book for the first time. I slid to the floor and cried. I was overwhelmed by the relief, the joy, the exhaustion, I mean, I was just overwhelmed. It’s amazing and so it can be very emotional to see your book in your hands for the first time after months and years of effort.

 Step Three involves taking your text and your images and that awesome look, and actually getting it into book form, meaning actual ink and paper and binding. It involves uploading your files and ordering a print proof. Never skimp out on that print proof: just the one single copy of your book to make sure that everything is perfect and in place. And then placing your first book order.

Judy: That’s amazing. I recently had a friend who did that. She’s writing a 30/31 Day devotional for writers for NaNoWriMo which is really cool, and she had printed out two different proofs because she wasn’t sure which side she wanted. Just like her eyes, her voice, it was just this level of excitement that you could sense it coming off of her in waves. 

So what are the options for people at this stage, as far as self-publishing? 

Ella: That’s a good question. There are actually two different types of printers. There are offset printers and then there’s on-demand printers. And each one is good; there are pros and cons to each one. 

An offset printer is great at quality: sky’s the limit in terms of ink types and paper choices and bindings, leather-bound and etching. I use them when I need a really large bulk order for a company, for example, or if I want something really elegant. For example, if I’m doing a coffee table book, I always opt for an offset printer, because it’s just luxe and beautiful. 

The other kind of printer is on-demand printing. And the big value of on-demand printing is ease and affordability. So instead of needing a big bulk order and upfront costs, they can print on demand, whether it’s one copy or 1000 copies. It’s printed when you need it, anytime you need it, no upfront costs, which makes it amazing technology for us. It’s not as good in terms of quality. You’re limited in terms of your paper types, your sizes, your binding quality, so it’s not as good in the area of quality, but the ease beats all. And so that’s the kind of printer that most self-published authors use. 

Judy: Yeah, something like Amazon KDP. So now we’re to Step Four, which is distribution. So tell us what needs to happen at this stage. 

Step 4: Distribution

Ella: So Step Four is what I would say is your most empowering step, because it’s all about taking your book and making it accessible worldwide. And it doesn’t matter how often I prep my authors that it’s going to Amazon, it’s going to Barnesandnoble.com, them seeing it live on the website always just kind of blows them away. It’s extremely empowering that self-published authors now have access to amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. And so this step.

It’s about retail marketing, copy, accessibility, retail pricing. Library of Congress numbers is sometimes involved, copyright is sometimes involved, but it’s all about getting your book out there into the world. 

Judy, I also call this the most important step, and I’ll tell you why. This is the step that really determines who has control of your book for the lifetime of your book. At the start, I was telling you that authors had signed on with a publisher, and when he folded, they kind of went down with him. Whoever is listed on amazon.com as your publisher is the person or the company who owns your book, who controls that. It’s your property, it’s your text, it’s your ideas, but the actual product, the book—whoever is the publisher, controls that book. 

As an author you have many options. You can work with a traditional publisher, and they are listed as the publisher of your book. And if they foot the bill, they get to keep most of the royalties, and they control the book, and that’s fair. You might work as a self-published author, meaning that you foot the bill and you are the publisher of that book, and you get to keep 100% of royalties. And so nobody else controls the book, but you. And then there’s also hybrid publishing, where you pay some, they invest some, and it’s a partnership. They are listed as the publisher of the book. But be careful, because what happens is a lot of authors sign on with companies, that company gets to control the book, but you’ve paid for a bulk of the bill, you get to see very slim margins, and you are totally dependent on how that company is doing. So if they fold, if they go under, or if they have terrible service, you’re stuck for the lifetime of your boat. So be careful. 

Another word of warning is that Amazon KDP offers free ISBNs. I don’t advise free ISBNs at any time. Because really what they’re saying is “we get to be the publisher of your book.” Meaning that we’re going to be listed as the publisher, so if we ever go down, you go down with us. You don’t get to control your book. And so it’s a common problem that I see, that it’s “free ISBN!” and it seems exciting. It’s not worth it because they are listed as the controller of the book, and I don’t like that. So if you’re going to self-publish your book, make sure that you control your own book, that you are the owner, and that there’s no middleman. You don’t want a middleman between you and your book. 

Think really cautiously before you sign on with any company, or before you go with a free ISBN. 

Judy: And that brings up a couple of points. Two things that I have on the tip of my tongue here, but one is I do know two or three really good hybrid publishing options that will do their due diligence. They’ve been around a while, they’re going to aggressively market your book, they’re gonna give you a good deal.

But as you say, I have also heard of many others that they take your money, and yeah, you’ve got a book in print, but not much else.

The other thing is that I know that you have said that you can help authors set up their own imprint.

Ella: Yeah, so that’s a really good solution. I have authors tell me, “I want to manage my book, I want 100% royalties, I want to control it, but I don’t want to look like an amateur out there. I don’t want my name on amazon.com so that it kind of looks amateur.”

I totally get it. And so instead of putting your name as a publisher, you can choose a publishing name—have some kind of imprint—and list that instead. Nobody has to know that it’s you. With a really great cover, and a really nice layout, and a different name that’s not yours, it’s going to stand toe to toe next to other books, and no one’s going to know that it’s really you behind the scenes. 

Judy: That’s awesome. I like that. And the other thing, talking about the rights, I just wanted to give this as an example. This is talking about a traditionally published book, not a self-published or hybrid published, but I know for JK Rowling, who wrote the Harry Potter series, of course, that was kind of an issue because when they started writing these new movies, the prequel movies or whatever, she didn’t own the rights to any of those books, the original Harry Potter series. So that was a little bit of an interesting dynamic that she and the movie makers had to work with.

But she’s I think she’s written several other books in the in the—Karen probably knows more about this than me—but she’s written several other books in the Harry Potter universe, and then they’ve made these movies. But that was one thing that they had to think about and work around is that, yeah, she’s the author, but she doesn’t own the rights to her own books anymore. So that’s just an example that many people might identify with. 

So we are down to marketing and PR, so this is about getting the word out. And I know that you put this stage last, but I like to encourage my clients to start thinking about this and even working on it, as soon as you get clarity about what your core message is of your book, or your core premise. You know, people will say, “Well, I’m not exactly sure what I’m gonna write yet, like I kind of know, in general.” You can still start sending emails out or putting out on social media, hey, many of you know, I had this struggle with cancer. And it was, it was really hard because of whatever but I’ve come through it, and I’ve decided to write a book about it. And I just want your support. If any of you guys would like email updates, let me know.

It’s as simple as that. And then you can just talk, you don’t even have to be very far into your book, but just tell them regularly what’s going on in your writing world. I really had hit writer’s block, or, you know, I got through this stage of the book, and then I was stuck. 

The friend I mentioned, who’s doing the NaNoWriMo devotional, she was asking for prayer using her email list. If you’d like to pray for me regularly on this journey, please sign up, and I’ll send you email updates and remind you to pray for me

So there are a lot of things that you can do that way. And again, it’s on social media. It’s email. Obviously talking to people about it in person is always a good thing. There are great authors’ assistants and publishers who will help you set up an author’s website, and you can blog on it, if you’re inclined that way. Or podcasting about it. One of my current clients is starting a podcast. And so I told her, “you need to be mentioning your book on this regularly and incorporate it.” Because if you’re writing a book about something, chances are it’s relevant to whatever you’re podcasting or blogging about. So mention it. Build anticipation early, start generating interest, build your email list, or whatever it is. What can you tell us about the stage, Ella? 

Step 5: Book Marketing & Public Relations

Ella: Really great points, Judy. It’s called Step Five, because it’s going to take the whole lifetime of your book, but really, it should start at the very beginning. 

A book marketing plan and a PR plan are really about spreading the word for your book. It’s about understanding the book marketing landscape, identifying the possibilities that make sense for you and your book and your budget and your time commitment, and then setting out a clear plan of action. It’s not a day, it’s not three months, it’s not six months; it’s genuinely over the lifetime of your book. It’s a long commitment.

There are many aspects that I like to include in our marketing plan. It starts with the foundation of who you are as an author, what your brand is, who your target audience is, and what your goals are. And so, just like Judy said, it starts at the very beginning. At that manuscript stage with your identity and your goals: Who are you? And where are you going? And who are you talking to? 

The second aspect is your circle of influence.  It’s about taking the time to work to identify everyone in your circle of influence, at work, at home, at church, in your neighborhood: everyone that you’ve ever come in contact with. Think about a call to action for each of those people. How can you leverage them? How can you inspire them? How can you involve them in some way? Just really think about that. 

A third aspect of book marketing is your online presence, including your website, your emails, your social media, your online groups, and any ad campaigns that you might run. That all falls into that aspect. 

Another aspect is media: think about the podcasts that might be interested in you, as well as more traditional media: radio or newspapers that might be interested. It’s all about pitching them, appealing to their audiences, and scheduling those interviews. 

And then finally, it’s about keeping up the momentum. It’s about inviting speaking engagements, winning book awards, committing to content marketing: things that just keep the wheels spinning over time. All of these things, all of these aspects, make up a well-rounded marketing plan. And it’s just about finding the ideas that make sense for you, your time, and your budget. Book marketing and publishing, it’s going to take a steep investment. It’s either going to take your time or it’s going to take your money. It might take some of both, but it’s a big investment either way. 

Judy: Yes. And I noticed Karen’s on this call, thank you for being here, Karen. She’s an accomplished author and ghostwriter and editor. So she mentioned that it should be noted that when self-publishing, the author assumes all the responsibilities of a traditional publisher, including hiring professionals for editing and design. That can get expensive. The same can be said for every other stage really. I know there are great author’s assistants, virtual author’s assistants out there that you can hire by package or by the hour, that will do a lot of this for you.

And if you choose not to, again, my friend who is doing the devotional: she’s doing most of it herself. But she does have a really the advantage of having a job that allows her lots of free time, where she’s kind of sitting there waiting for calls and so she has free time. So she’s researched the heck out of every aspect, and she’s done a lot of herself. But the vast majority of us do not have that kind of time.

And fortunately, most of us in the industry, we know each other, and we can definitely hand you from one stage to good people in the next stage.

There are some publishers and agencies that will work with you, according to your budget, to help you with all of this. Can you just—I know this isn’t actually part of our script, but, we’re a little ahead of schedule, actually—do you mind Ella? How do you approach this with your agency?

Ella: We meet clients wherever they are. I have a lot of authors who approach me and know nothing about their options. So I spent a lot of time having this conversation, just educating them saying, “Look, it’s going to take a lot of time, or it’s going to take a lot of money, which one do you have more of? Which one do you want to spend: your time or your money?”

If it’s more money than time, a coach makes sense for them. Let someone guide you through the whole thing. It’s that step by step through those five steps of the process. 

You’re so right, though, it’s not, clear cut step one, and then we’re done. And then step two, and then we’re done. It’s all the steps at the same time. We just take them all the way from start to finish: from that manuscript stage all the way to marketing.

If they have more time than money, then I encourage them to really start attending webinars, attending classes, learn as much as they can, they can do it. Most of the people that I talk to do not have the time. Karen is spot on: it is way bigger of a commitment than a lot of authors realize. It’s huge; it’s a big commitment. Most of the authors who approach me aren’t quite ready for that big of a commitment, but some are, and more power to them if they are. So I usually consult with them to get themselves set up with their own imprint so that they can keep all the royalties, and I help them. But it’s a big task on your own. It’s doable, but it takes a lot of research and time.

Judy: Right. And there is one little tip that I got from an author here in the Austin area that I thought was kind of funny, but spot on. But again, this is still about time, it’s just a little bit of a different take. And he said he’s one of these crazy people that he’s like, “yeah, a friend of mine and I were having this contest, which we like, decided to write a book a week, for whole month,” or something. Like, wow, okay, I consider myself a pretty good writer, but I am not that fast. But anyway, he turns them out. And he was saying that, you know, for him, and for certain other authors, if you can keep that volume up, as long as it’s decent quality, and you’re getting your editing and proofreading and all of that done, well, he said, once you start getting books out there, they may not be very popular. But over time, you know, once you hit 30-40 books, that you write this one that for whatever reason, just gets really popular. And then all of a sudden, people are going “What else has he written?” 

I think that’s kind of what happened with Suzanne Collins, who wrote The Hunger Games. She’d written a whole series, I think, for young adult or teens. And not a lot of people knew about it. But once she wrote The Hunger Games, and it got very popular, and then they started doing the movies, people were saying, “What else has she written?” So that is one tactic. But again, that’s still a lot of time investment. 

And that’s one of the main things I tell people: writing a book is an investment. As you say, it’s going to either be time or money, or some of both. And you’ve got options along the way. And again, if you are committed, then you don’t have to do it all in the next six months. You can take it a stage at a time if you need to. But it takes a lot and I’m so glad that there are people out there like you that that help people through the process. 

And you mentioned things like social media and blogging and I know you mentioned your husband recently published his book, y’all were doing a book signing at a store, and so I know that you help set up things like that as well for people.

Ella: I do. We really offer everything that’s part of marketing. The one thing that I always tell my authors is it truly is a lifetime effort. Just take it easy, enjoy the process, don’t lose sight of your goals, and don’t keep moving those goalposts. 

One of my authors told me at the very start, when I asked her what her marketing goal was, she said, “I want to impact people about co-parenting. That’s my goal. I want to inspire people how to take the high road with co-parenting,” and I said “How will you measure your success?” 

And she had a very simple measure. Her measure was, “I’m gonna know that I’ve made it when a stranger, not a friend or family member, approaches me and says, ‘I’ve been touched by your book.’” And it happened last week! She called me and she said, “Guess what, some random woman that I’ve never met before approached me. And she said, ‘I loved your book, thank you so much.’” I got the goosebumps! I said, “Look, you’ve got years ahead of you, you’re gonna get a lot of speaking engagements over time, you’re gonna get a lot of milestones. Don’t lose sight of that, that most fundamental measure of success, which is just inspiring people you don’t know. That’s what it’s all about.” 

Judy: I don’t know if it’s just the people I’ve had the fortune to run into or what, but I have been very blessed by the fact that most people when I talk to them, the vast majority of people don’t want to write a book to make money. Most of them are in it to make an impact. And, interestingly enough, you mentioned doing public speaking engagements as a way to market the book. In fact, oftentimes, there are speaking engagements you cannot get unless you’ve written a book. So a lot of people do it for kind of the opposite reason: they write the book so that they have a way to get into public speaking engagements. 

For those of you who are interested in content to help market your book—as a ghostwriter, I offer those add-ons to my book packages—Ella, anything else about the process that you would like to add?

Ella: I would just say that it should be a joyful journey. It’s very rewarding. Take your time, make it worth it, make it quality, make it count, and just enjoy it—enjoy the ride.

Q&A with Attendees

Judy: Yes, yes, for sure. Thank you so much. I know we have at least one question that’s come in. Dee asks, “If you are on a tight budget, are there experts in cover design and printing who are fairly reasonable?”

Ella: Great question. I don’t know exactly what you mean by a tight budget. I do know a friend of mine has found on a freelance website a guy that he adores who has made all of his covers—I think he has five books. Each of his cover designs costs $250, which in my world is extremely reasonable. And his covers look great. So he’s really hit on someone really fantastic. 

If you’re on a tight budget, go on those freelance websites like Upwork and just browse those portfolios. Really take your time; make sure that their portfolios look really good. You can absolutely find good covers at it at a decent price. 

Judy: Yes. The two cover designers that I know quite a bit about, one of them is around $300-350 for front, back, and spine, and the other one is around $850. And I feel pretty good about the quality of both of their work. So there’s a bit of a range there. 

And then we have Linda who asks, “For the publishing name, can it just be a DBA?”

Ella: Absolutely. Just make sure to check that nobody else has that name. Use it, it is so worth it. Because it just makes you look more professional. 

Judy: All right. Does anybody else if you do have a question, you’re welcome to just unmute. 

Kim: Yeah, thank you so much, Ella and Judy, this is really interesting. I have a question, Ella, about what patterns you might have noticed in your experience running your business in Houston, just in terms of a common theme that the most successful nonfiction books have. Not necessarily in terms of content. Or your favorite clients, or the clients that seem to have had the most success in terms of garnering interest in their books.

Ella: I think a person’s heart shows. And so memoir clients tend to get a really good response, just because it’s something that’s deeply personal to them; it generally pushes them to a place that’s very vulnerable. It forces them out of their comfort zones. I don’t think I’ve ever had a memoir client not cry at some point during this process, because it’s so intimate, and it really causes you just to get real about how much you want to tell the world—and it’s usually more than what they want to say, and it forces them to heal through the process, too. So, memoir clients tend to get a really good response because their friends and family appreciate how raw and real they are. It’s just a transformative journey for them. And I get to watch the whole thing, just a front-row seat to it. So it’s always really special for me to see memoir come to life.

Kim: Thank you so much. 

Judy:  Another participant asks, “Does a book need to have a minimum or maximum number of pages?”

Ella: It does. There is a minimum number of pages at certain printers. They print their file requirements online, and you can see what that is. It’s never been a problem for my clients. Once you get your frontmatter, your backmatter, copyright page, title page, all of your body in there, it’s honestly never been a problem.

Judy: Yeah, and I would say on that just industry standards: typically nonfiction books tend to run 35,000 to 50,000 words, which I know if you’re not used to talking about writing books, or word count may sound like a weird way to do it. But it’s because of what Ella was saying about the different formats and margins and spacings and fonts. The same-sized page might have different amounts of words, depending on what font and layouts are being used. So the industry uses word counts. So typically a nonfiction book is 35,000 to 50,000, if I remember correctly. And a fiction book, I’ve heard 50,000 to 80,000 and I’ve also heard up to as high as 100,000. I know right now I’m reading through the Wheel of Time series. And those are immense tomes. They’re like 400-some-odd pages; I think that’s well over 100,000 words per book. 

And Karen just weighed in: for those who write fiction there are genre guidelines. But that doesn’t make it a rule. It’s a guideline. I also know I’ve seen a lot of interest in books about 60 to 100 pages—so between 15,000 to 30,000 words—and that’s a “mini-book,” I believe. There’s been a lot more interest in writing those recently. I’ve had two or three people talk to me about that. And those are nonfiction. Have you heard much about the mini books, Ella?

Ella: No, not too much. I will say this: I do have a lot of authors who do feel insecure about their manuscripts being too short. And nowadays people are not bothered by a short book. We don’t have a lot of time anymore, and so a short book is actually kind of a selling point nowadays, it’s really not a problem. 

Judy: Awesome. Any other questions? Anyone have any? Any further questions? Thank you, Ella so much for being on here. And for anyone who is interested, I will also be posting the replay next week. So thank you all. We’ll see you guys.

Ella: Thank you. 


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