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You may be thinking something along the lines of…
Writing a book seems like a massive undertaking. It seems like something young people just should not do. It seems crazy to even consider it.
However, the reality is that when you break it down into smaller steps, it is actually not that big a deal!
I challenge you to consider writing your own book using the following method because, trust me, seeing your name on Amazon and knowing that people are actually paying for something you wrote is an amazing feeling!
So, here is my step-by-step guide to becoming a published author.
I came up with the idea while revising for my GCSEs in the summer of 2012. I was making revision notes and writing down tips for myself on where I was most likely to lose marks and I thought:
It is such a waste of time that everyone in the country is making (or at least should have been making) the same notes as me, writing down the same key information and highlighting the same tricky bits, which everyone finds hard.
I remember thinking:
Surely there must be a way to share this information with everyone else so that the revision process takes less time and is more efficient… After all, the less time you spend making notes that you need to learn, the more time you have to actually do the learning.
So, I initially thought about making a website, but I didn’t feel I would be able to design the website well enough to make it as useful as a book would be.
I decided to begin writing a book, initially planning to have around 8 of the core subjects in one book. However, yet again, I found that there was enough content for each subject to produce one book for each.
When I began writing, I was trying to juggle producing three or four books (for Chemistry, French, Spanish and Maths) all at once, all of which I was aiming to write alone.
In hindsight, this was a mistake. I simply did not have the time to write all of these at once and having written about 60% of all of them, but with the editing and proofing processes still to come, I began to realise that I needed to focus on one particular book and I chose to try to finish Exam Grade Booster: GCSE French.
After over a year of:
… I eventually completed the 108 page book.
This was one of the most time-consuming parts of the process as, given the book contains French, what I thought was the finished product inevitably contained errors in both the foreign language sections and my English.
These mistakes needed to be systematically corrected, before the book was then sent off to another ‘checker & approver’, who would search for more mistakes which needed eradicating while also giving me any final tips they thought ought to be added.
This process continued until the book had been checked by 6 French teachers and a number of my friends and family, as well as an English teacher for good measure!
Once I had a completed book interior, I then needed to find somewhere to publish it. Having approached a number of publishing companies, I eventually heard back from both Hodder Education and How to Books.
How to Books informed me that were they a more education-focused publisher, they would have seriously considered publishing my book, but that they were concerned about taking on the giants of the industry such as Hodder Education.
To be honest, without an agent to represent my book, with no experience of writing and with a fairly risky idea for a book, I was very conscious of the incredibly slim chance I had of getting anything published by a conventional publishing company.
So, when I heard back from Hodder Education I was very excited, discussions went rather well, and we reached a stage of them conducting market-research into taking on the by students for students idea.
However, from this research they found that students were worried about the accuracy and legitimacy of what would be included in a purely student-written guide, so I was ultimately rejected. This made me realise that I needed (as you will have seen in number 4) plenty of knowledgeable and experienced teaching professionals to check and approve my book, something which I made absolutely certain of!
So, I decided to self-publish my book via CreateSpace, a self-publishing company (an off-shoot of Amazon) because I liked the ease of access to world-wide Amazon distribution and the simple fact is: their royalties were by far the best of any publishing company I looked at!
However, due to the success of this first book, I have since set up my own independant publishing house under the name of Exam Grade Booster. This means that I print and distrubute my own books and has crucially allowed me to use colour instead of black & white for the book interiors. (More info at Step 11.)
Every book to be published on CreateSpace or by Exam Grade Booster must be formatted appropriately.
I first of all had to choose the size of my book. I went for Crown Quarto (roughly the size of an iPad) as I felt this would be easy to transport around as it is not too large, but it is also plenty large enough to fit plenty of information on every page.
In the book there are loads of text boxes and tables which all needed to be correctly formatted. I also had to ensure that the margins where the correct size, the page numbers were correctly formatted and that the contents page was correct.
In order to publish a book, you must also have a copyright page (which includes the ISBN numbers of your book) as the second page.
When this was all done I had to submit it to the CreateSpace publishing wizard that checked for any formatting errors that I could have missed. Once the wizard was happy that there were no errors in the formatting, the interior of the book was accepted! (I still use the CreateSpace publishing wizard now that I am an independent publisher because it’s great at picking up small errors that are easily missed.)
In order for any book to look professional and to appeal to its potential readers, it is crucial that it has a good-looking cover. I employed the help of one of my friends (Todd Gillespie) to do the nitty-gritty of this for me as I am nowhere near as good on Photoshop as he is.
We first came up with basic design ideas and gradually developed them into the final cover which is simple, matches our logo and brand colour scheme and stands out from other similar products.
It’s important to remember to leave some space on the back cover in the bottom right hand corner for the barcode which CreateSpace will automatically add to your cover design. I also had to write a blurb for the book and I must confess that this was one of the worst parts of the whole process because I had to sell myself as best I possibly could… It’s pretty horrible having to make yourself sound good!
Once both the interior and exterior were finally complete, I had to submit them to be checked once more by CreateSpace.
Once these were approved, I ordered myself a proof copy of the book (I would definitely recommend doing this, even though it is tempting not to) and in the meantime set up all of the pricing and various other pieces of information needed.
I wanted to make absolutely certain that I had got rid of as many errors as I possibly could. Therefore, I proof-read my own book again, noting changes I was making on the proof copy.
It turned out that there were so many revisions that I needed to order a second, updated proof copy. I had to make the changes to the original word document, then upload it to CreateSpace again before ordering the proof (well – I in fact ordered two copies!).
I then asked two of the checkers and approvers to give it a final read-through and they noted any changes that they thought needed to be made and I updated the word document.
At this stage I also had the idea of asking if the librarian at my school wouldn’t mind proof-reading it for me and it transpired that the assistant librarian does this a lot for various people including a few authors she knows! She agreed to give it a thorough look-through and – of course – found a whole host of errors!
I made these corrections, and at the same time made a few minor changes to the cover. I ordered yet another proof copy (but this time I chose the matte cover style instead of the glossy one I had used previously, just to see which I preferred).
Again, I found a number of errors which needed to be corrected, but eventually, after my sixth proof copy, I was happy that the book was 99.99% mistake-free, my cover looked great (in the end I decided glossy was best) and I approved the proof copy!
Since publishing the first edition of Exam Grade Booster: GCSE French via CreateSpace, I have decided that, in order to be able to compete with other educational publishers in the UK, I must begin to print Exam Grade Booster books in colour rather than in black and white.
This was not possible via CreateSpace as it would quite simply have made the products too expensive for customers to purchase. Therefore, I decided that the best option would be to start my own publishing house, Exam Grade Booster, so that I could remove CreateSpace from the process and print colour books at an affordable price.
Having changed the GCSE French book into a colour version, it is now available to purchase from Amazon too!
Please do comment below if you’d like to try and follow my step-by-step process to publishing your own book! I’d love to hear any ideas you might have, no matter how weird or wonderful.
If you are interested in writing a study guide or a blog post for us, please do also get in touch.
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Liam Porritt studies French and Spanish at Trinity College, University of Cambridge. In his most recent exams, he obtained a First and ranked third in his year. In his GCSEs, he achieved 12 A*s and in his A-levels 4 A*s. However, he is not a genius. He is just like you.
He is a firm believer in the power of building positive habits. While he accepts that some people may have a limited natural advantage over others when it comes to learning, he has no doubts that anyone can become ‘clever’ and succeed in their exams.