The Indie Author’s Guide To Writing & Self-Publishing A Novel

Hey Scribe! We're all writers here, right? And while my case study on writing and publishing my debut series is an epic in depth play-by-play on what I did specifically, I wanted to also offer a roadmap writing-wise in a sort of checklist. So here it is - the Indie Author's Guide To Writing & Publishing A Novel.

Keep in mind that everybody writes differently. The content within this guide is very much based on my own process and what I've observed from other author friends. Everybody has their own process and what works for one author may not work for every author.

So, why are processes important? Productivity and less guess work.

This guide is divided into 7 phases from the original idea of a story to post-publications. It may take one author two months to complete the entire round and it may take another author two years.

Each phase contains multiple steps that builds to the next. I'll also include links to related content for each step. As my own process and the content on this site grows, this guide will expand will be updated right along with me.

Let's jump in!

The 7 Phases Overview

1) Planning

2) Prewriting

3) Structure & Outlining

4) Drafting

5) Editing & Revision

6) Publishing

7) Marketing


Phase 1 - Planning

  1. Identify your "why" (motivation / reason to write).
    • And keep it in sight while writing your novel)
  2. Define your ideal reader (who is this book for?).
    • Hint - It's not everyone.
  3. Decide on a genre.
  4. Find your big idea.
    • Brainstorm plot ideas. Something I like to do is keep a running list of plots, characters, scene ideas, and inspiration settings. Pinterest is a great source of inspiration and a fun organization tool, too.
    • Choose the winning story idea.
  5. Do your market research.
    • What's popular right now? What is the market hungry for? What gaps are there and how can you fill them?

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Phase 2 - Prewriting

  1. Write a 2-sentence pitch. (Your plot summarized in 15-30 words.)
  2. Expand on your idea.
    • Nail down the big-picture details on your novel
      • Theme?
      • Stand alone or series?
      • Write a book summary. (300 words or less)
  3. Assemble your cast - who are the key players?
  4. Create the world.
    • Sketch out a map for easy reference, if applicable.
  5. Decide on POV.
  6. Put together a novel binder or file system.

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Phase 3 - Structure and Outlining

  1. Outline your plot arc.
    • Research the plot arcs and decide on which best fits your story.
  2. ​Outline your character arcs.
    • Research character arcs and decide which will be used for each major character.
  3. Decide on a plot structure.
    • Research different plot structures and become familiar with it's beats.
  4. Outline your story's beats.
  5. Brainstorm the scenes to fill the gaps.
  6. Make a spreadsheet outline of each scene based on step 4 & 5.
  7. Write scene summaries or do simple scene blocking.

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Phase 4 - Drafting

  1. ​Develop a daily writing practice.
    • Decide on a daily or weekly word count goal.
  2. ​Write a fast first draft using your outline as a guide.
  3. No editing!
  4. Once the first draft is finished, let the manuscript rest if you find it helpful.

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Phase 5 - Editing & Revision

  1. Revision one - fast read through.
    • Read through manuscript one time, jotting down anything that comes to mind.
  2. Revision two - developmental focus
  3. Go through novel with critique partner, if you use one.
  4. Revision three - focus on details, flow, and style
  5. Revision four - line editing
  6. Send novel to beta readers if using them.
  7. Send novel to a professional editor.
  8. Revision five - proofreading
  9. Apply changes, repeat phase 5 as needed. Although, typically, one pass if efficient.

Phase 6 - Publishing

  1. Decide on which version to release - ebook, paperback, hard cover?
  2. Format novel as needed.
  3. Have book cover finalized.
    • This should be commissioned well in advance.
  4. Upload to publishing provider.
  5. Order proof.
  6. Develop book launch plan.

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Phase 7 - Marketing

  1. Share sneak peeks + updates to create hype.
  2. Compile a media kit to send out to reviewers, book bloggers, and the press.
  3. Update your author website with your book information.
  4. Announce your book on your author newsletter.
    • If you haven't started one yet, now is the time!
  5. Send out ARCs and review copies.
  6. Organize and update street team.
  7. Hold a book launch party!
  8. Hold a giveaway.
  9. Design your sales funnel.
  10. Stay active and present on social media.
    • Pick your favorite platform and stick with it!

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