For first-time authors, the book publishing process can be a daunting one. Writing and publishing a book is not just a creative endeavor, it’s a job. As with any new job, there’s a learning curve. So to help you over the hump, the following is a step-by-step approach to the book publishing timeline:

Step One

You may be surprised to learn that the first step is not to write your book. We at Wheatmark encourage authors, even before they fire up their computer and crack their knuckles, to think seriously about who they believe is going to buy and read their book.

We sometimes hear, “This is a book anyone would want to read.” This is false. The best way to market your book commercially is to figure out your niche of readers first. There’s often an obvious answer for nonfiction books. For example, a book about succeeding in sales is likely to appeal to business people involved in sales. The most obvious readers are going to be managers looking for new training skill sets or sales people looking to hone their techniques to better serve their clients and their organizations.

With fiction books, the audience may be harder to figure out. But it isn’t just who may like to read your book. It may be who will talk about and buy your book. For example, if you’ve written a horror fiction novel, the obvious target market is people who like that genre. However, maybe your main character is a spooky cat vampire. So now you can tailor your marketing down even further to people who like cats or vampires and horror fiction.

If you need help figuring out who your target audience is, consider joining the Authors Academy and watching “The 3 Pillars of Marketing Success” in the 4-part presentation series “Secrets of Highly Paid, Highly Successful Authors.” It’s an invaluable guide to helping authors understand the audience for their books.

This is also the time to start developing your book marketing plan. For more help with developing your marketing plan, check out “How to Create a Strategic Marketing Plan for Your Book,” also inside the Authors Academy members-only site.

Step Two

Now you write the book. This step can be incredibly challenging. It’s one thing to have an idea, another to know who you want to sell it to, but to finish the project all the way to “The End” can be very hard. Many writer websites recommend setting page or time goals to help you stay on track. We also provide several articles on writing on our blog.

One way to help you structure your book is to create an outline first. Then fill in those outlined blocks. That way, when you get stuck in one section, you can write in another predetermined section. Sometimes the later chapters will inform the early chapters!

Step Three

Edit, edit, edit your book! For many authors, this is the part that breaks their will to go on. Wheatmark offers several editing services, including developmental editing, to help you through this stage. Many authors feel comfortable figuring out where their book needs work, but for others, a developmental edit can help show them places to elaborate or to cut. We recommend that all manuscripts go through a professional copyedit at the very minimum. The investment will be worth it.

Step Four

If you’re going to try to publish your book through a “traditional” (rights-licensing) publisher, you’ll likely need a literary agent. Most publishing houses have submission mandates that you must adhere to. Before sending out your manuscript, make sure you follow the publishing house’s guidelines. On the same note, most literary agents require submissions be done in a certain way. By not following guidelines, you damage your chances at finding representation.

If you’re considering different methods or companies for publishing your book, don’t make any major decisions until your read our free special report, The Author’s Guide to Choosing a Publishing Service. You’ll be very glad you did!

Step Five

If you decide to work with a publishing service to publish your book, which is what most first-time authors will elect to do (and for most authors, this is the correct approach to take—see “The Author’s Guide to Choosing a Publishing Service” at the link above for more detail on why), various things will happen next. Ideally, you’ll be discussing your goals, interior layout ideas, and cover design concepts with your publishing service. Depending on the type of book, the book layout and cover design process will then take a few weeks to a few months.

Step Six

After the layout and design phase, most companies provide their author clients with an electronic file of the book block to review. This is a very important step because it’s your opportunity to go through the book with a fine-toothed comb one last time. Even if your book has been copyedited, going through the book line-by-line is essential to making sure that every typo has been caught, every sentence is properly punctuated, and that the book is exactly the way you want it to be. Often, this author review period will go on for quite some time: it takes as long as it takes.

Make sure that you’ve set aside plenty of time in your marketing calendar for this stage so that you’ll be able to receive your finished books in time for any scheduled marketing events such as book signings!

Step Seven

Market your book. Based on the work you did in Step One, ideally you should already have a very good idea of how and to whom you plan to market your book. Hopefully you’ve been generating buzz for your project throughout the publishing process and can now really hit the gas and get your marketing plan kicked into high gear. Of course, even if you’ve hired someone to help you, such as a publicist, they’ll still want you to do some work on marketing your book as well!

If you’re looking for a team of publishing professionals to help take the pain out of the publishing for you, click here to tell us about your project.