• Joel Ankney - Lawyer

How I Published My First Book

Updated: May 17, 2020

I published my first book in 2017. It's entitled, Here's the Deal: Everything You Wish a Lawyer Would Tell You About Buying a Small Business. You can get it at Amazon.

Since I published my book, many people have asked me how I did it. This post describes the 10 major steps I took.

  1. Picking a Topic and Purpose. For years, I planned on writing a book about the legal aspects of starting a business. I drafted several outlines, hashed out ideas with my wife, and started drafting some chapters. I never felt great about that book, but couldn't figure out why. Then we analyzed the types of projects I have done for clients in the past 10 years and searched Amazon to see what similar books existed. We discovered two things. First, many books about starting a business exist. Second, most of my legal work was to help clients buy and sell businesses and real estate. Another Amazon search indicated that not many books exist about the legal aspects of buying a small business. I chose my topic based on the convergence of my expertise and a need in the marketplace. I published my book to be used as a marketing piece for my law practice and to highlight my position as an expert in the field.

  2. Selecting the Title. My wife and I bounced a lot of ideas off each other. She noticed one night that I sometimes use the phrase "Here's the Deal" and suggested I use that as the title. We then worked up the subtitle to help describe what the book is about.

  3. Outlining. I created a detailed outline for the book. The original outline was about six pages long. I continued to add to the outline while I was drafting the book. I used the outline as a checklist to organize my thoughts and draft the book.

  4. Picking My Self-Publishing Platform. While I was outlining the book, I researched several self-publishing platforms. I decided to use CreateSpace because it is an Amazon affiliate (where I wanted my book to be sold) and was easy to use.

  5. Deciding What Services to Buy from CreateSpace. You can self-publish for free on CreateSpace, but your options are limited (e.g., you have to use one of CreateSpace's amateurish-looking covers). I decided to spend some money to make my book look more professional and polished. I paid CreateSpace to design my front and back cover, to format the interior (including creating the Table of Contents), to obtain my ISBN, to register my book with the Library of Congress, and to create an eBook version of my book. I paid about $800 for these services. I have never regretted that expense.

  6. Writing the Book. I took approximately six months to write the book. At first, I thought I would simply write at night, but I could never get started. My solution was to set aside one hour each morning when I got to my office - i.e., I spent the first hour of each work day writing. This was psychologically difficult because I always have multiple projects for clients waiting for my attention. But I forced myself to write during that dedicated time. I soon found that I was spending about 1 1/2 hours each morning writing because I would get in a groove and not want to stop. I finished writing the book during a week-long writing retreat at the beach. I wrote about two to four hours a day, then decompressed on the beach.

  7. Editing the Book. Next, I read the entire book to edit grammar, punctuation, clarity, and readability. My wife and I read and edited the draft so many times I got sick of it. I felt it would be helpful to have someone else edit the book who wasn't attached to it. Two women I go to church with had recently graduated from college with English degrees. Both want to be book editors. I engaged each of them as freelancers to edit the book. Each of them provided valuable input. Again, this was well worth the money I paid them for their services.

  8. Proofing Galley Copies. I never felt like the draft was perfect, but I got to a point where I felt like we had improved it enough for publication. I submitted the manuscript to CreateSpace for interior formatting. I also worked with a CreateSpace graphic designer to design my front and back covers. CreateSpace provided me with digital copies for proofing. We went through several rounds of proofing and revising (I even paid $75 for an additional round to fix a punctuation mistake I missed during all the editing and proofing). Once I approved the digital files, CreateSpace sent me an author's copy of the finished book for my review.

  9. Releasing the Book. I approved the author's copy and pushed the button to publish the book. CreateSpace added both the paperback version and Kindle version of the book to Amazon's store. It was amazing to see the culmination of my work!

  10. Promoting the Book. This has been the most challenging aspect of publishing the book. I had some rough ideas about how to promote the book. I targeted a number of business associations I thought might have members who would be interested in my book. My goal was to get invited to speak. I mailed letters and copies of the book to those associations. I also sent many copies of the book to my colleagues and clients. In addition, I sent copies of the book and a press release to business journalists at certain newspapers in Virginia. Inside Business, a local business newspaper, wrote a full-page, color article on my book. It was awesome! I spent about $300 for a press release campaign on PRWeb. That was a waste of money for me because it generated no interest. I spent money on a Google ad and a LinkedIn ad. Neither campaign seemed to have any impact on book sales or interest. It took some time and money to realize that I was mesmerized by the idea of selling copies of my book, rather than using it for its original purpose as a marketing piece. This realization has helped me better target my promotional efforts.

Publishing my book has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my professional life. I've already started outlining my next book. If you are thinking about writing a book, I hope my quick summary of the process will help you decide to go for it. If you want more information about my experience, please contact me.

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