May 7, 2022

#AskMeAnything: What does the publishing process look like?

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This month I’m answering all of the questions you have about publishing! Many people think it’s a straightforward manufacturing process—closer to producing zippers or bubble gum or anything else we use and hold every day. But the truth is, publishing is much more complicated than that. With publishing, you’re not just creating a physical object, something to be used or consumed. You’ve entered into an abstract world of ideas, where discourse, art, entertainment, thought leadership, science, persuasion, and inspiration collide and fuse with the more tangible business systems of consumerism and manufacturing. It’s a constantly-evolving ecosystem of tensions, gray areas, competing priorities, and complicated analytics.

If you have a question about publishing that you’d like answered, feel free to email me ( If I don’t know the answer, I know someone who does and I’ll find out for you!

The Publishing Process

One of the most common questions I get, especially from authors at the start of the writing process, is, “What does the publishing process look like?” They’re already thinking beyond the idea itself, considering how they’ll get the message out into the world, to as large an audience as possible. You probably know that publishing your book isn’t easy. In this post, I’ll take you step-by-step through the major phases of creating a book. It isn’t magic—although sometimes it feels like it!

Refining Your Idea

This is the obvious starting point for a book! You have an idea that feels exciting. You have a story in your soul that needs an outlet, and a message that you want to share with the world. This is an amazing place to be!

The first step is to decide if your nonfiction book will be a memoir (a story about your personal transformation through an experience in your life) or a personal development book (a book written to achieve a specific transformation for your reader).

Next, you should think about the four qualities of bestselling book ideas (for personal development books):

  1. They have a distinct audience.
  2. They solve a sticky problem.
  3. They offer a novel approach to solving that problem.
  4. They deliver on their promises with simple genius.

If you’re hoping to write a memoir, then you should ask yourself:

  • Am I ready to write this book?
  • Have I done all the healing I need to in order to tell the story?
  • Do I know where the story starts, and where it ends?
  • What have I learned through this experience that I want to share with the world.

At this stage in the process, I recommend two things:

  • Try writing 5-10 pages (stream of consciousness is ok!) of your book. See how that feels. You’ll undoubtedly start to refine your thinking through this process. Do you want to keep going? If so, then…
  • Hire a book coach! A book coach can guide you through the next phase in the process.

Book Planning or Pitching a Proposal

Book proposals and book plans fulfill the same purpose of helping you figure out how you’ll make the book successful. Regardless of whether you’re hoping to traditionally publish or self-publish, you need to think through how you’ll support your book, before you get too far down the road! I truly believe that creating a robust plan for your book before you get knee-deep in the writing will save you countless headaches and help you create a MUCH stronger book. This is why I always say that EVERY author needs a book proposal/plan.

Where book proposals differ from plans is that a proposal is submitted to a publisher, and is used to help the publisher evaluate whether your book will be a good investment for them. A book plan, on the other hand, is used by authors who are self-publishing, since they’ll be taking on the role of publisher for their own work.

A book proposal/plan should think through four key pieces:

  • Project: What’s the idea? How will you develop it throughout a whole book?
  • Positioning: How does your book idea compare to other similar books?
  • Platform: What systems do you have in place for getting your message out to an audience of eager readers?
  • Promotion:  How will you leverage your platform to promote this book?

Your proposal/plan should also include an outline that shows you’ve thought through how the book will unfold throughout the chapters. How will you guide your reader through the transformation? Publishers will also ask you to submit sample chapters (about 10-15% of the manuscript) with your proposal.

I highly recommend NOT going through this alone. Creating a plan is basically thinking through every aspect of your book in advance, and that is not easy to do! A book coach can help you anticipate challenges you might encounter along the way, problem solve in advance, use phrases/wording that will catch publishers’ (and readers’) attention, and craft a comprehensive outline so you know exactly what to write. I offer book coaching, and I also know several incredible book coaches that I’d love to recommend, so if I’m not a good fit, we’ll find someone who is!


Once you have your plan, you are ready to actually write the book! Getting your thoughts on paper will be so much easier since you already know where you’re going. Still, it takes discipline and fortitude to getting 50,000-ish coherent words out there!

The most successful authors I know adopt some of the following strategies:

  • Wake up early and write before you do anything else.
  • Set aside time every day for writing.
  • Write morning pages before you do your book writing.
  • Join a writing group, coaching program, or mastermind.
  • Set a daily/weekly writing goal in the form of either a word count goal or time spent writing.
  • Reward yourself for hitting key milestones.

No matter how well you plan ahead, you will inevitably encounter resistance. When you do, keep these reminders on hand.

And when you finally finish your manuscript… take a break! You’ve been swimming in the deep waters of your manuscript for so long, you need to come up for air. Give yourself at least a couple weeks to think about something else and rest before moving on to the next phase.


When you come back to your manuscript, I recommend that you read through the whole thing before sending it to an editor. Try reading parts of it out loud and fixing whatever easy, obvious improvements appear to you. Again, you’ve spent so much time with the material and the story at this point that you won’t catch everything—and you shouldn’t! I recommend bringing in the help of an expert again, an editor you trust to help you improve the raw draft and turn it into a masterpiece. If you hired a book coach to help you with your proposal or plan, it’s likely they also provide editing services and can give you feedback.

Editors usually provide three services for editing manuscripts, and they should be done in this order:

  • Manuscript review – Your editor will read the entire manuscript and give you a high-level review of improvements that should be made. This is a macro-edit of the draft, and the goal is to equip you to make overarching improvements.
  • Developmental Edit – After you’ve addressed the high-level feedback, the next step is a developmental edit, which takes an in-depth look at the structure of each chapter, section, and paragraph, helping you achieve clarity, coherence, consistency, and concision in your writing. This is where you can expect your manuscript to come back covered in red edits. It can be a little overwhelming! Take a deep breath and know that this is part of the process, and try viewing your manuscript in “Simply markup mode,” if you use Microsoft Word. You’ll likely go through at least two rounds of developmental editing.
  • Copyediting – After developmental editing, there will still be more minute changes that need to be made. A copyeditor will read through the manuscript for grammar, punctuation, syntax, formatting, references, and other micro-level details. At this point, a copyeditor should not have to worry about fixing larger issues, so make sure you don’t begin copyediting until you’ve got the content solidified.

As with coaching, I offer these editing services and, if I’m not available or not the best fit, I have several excellent editors I’d love to refer you to!

Copyediting concludes all of the stages related to developing the content of the book. From here on out, the more production-oriented pieces of the process often happen concurrently. If you are traditionally publishing, then your publisher will take care of most of these steps in the process. If you are self-publishing, you can either hire out each of the following pieces, or you can hire a self-publishing company like Market Refined Media or Typewriter Creative Co. to take care of the process for you!


Once the manuscript has been cleaned up, it’s time to transform that word document into a print-ready PDF. Typesetting requires special software and an eye for designing the interior pages of the book. At the end of typesetting, you can expect to receive a formatted PDF called a “proof.”


Proofreading, then, involves reviewing the PDF for any mistakes that might have been introduced in the typesetting process—misformatted images or tables, grammar mistakes, spacing issues, heading styles unclear, etc. You should proofread the PDF, and ideally (if you’re not working with a self-publishing company), you should also hire a freelancer to read it to catch things you won’t.

Cover Design

While the typesetting and proofreading is happening, you can also be working with a designer to create a beautiful, compelling cover for your book! This can be a lot of fun (and a little stressful!), so you should work with a professional who can guide you to the right direction for your audience and message.

Marketing Planning

This is also a good time to start planning how you’ll support your book with marketing. You might consider setting the following plans in motion:

  • Gathering endorsements from high-profile names who will support your work
  • Creating a pre-order page on your website and starting to collect pre-orders
  • Creating pre-order incentives
  • Posting sneak peeks of the book cover and chapters on social media
  • Lining up podcast interviews and book reviewers

Go back to the promotion plan you created as part of your proposal/book plan and decide what makes the most sense to put into action now.


When the proofreading is complete, it’ll be time to get it printed and upload it to various ebook distributors like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. There are a variety of courses and tutorials on Youtube that can guide you through this process, as well as platforms like Self-Publishing School.


After all of this, the day will come when your book officially publishes! For traditional publishers, books always publish on a Tuesday. For self-publishers, you get to decide when the book starts shipping to customers. This is a beautiful moment to celebrate your accomplishment and share the good news with the world!

Ongoing Support

In many ways, this is just the beginning. Book publishing has been compared to the birthing process, and the analogy continues after your book has been “birthed” into the world. Now is the time when the real work starts: supporting the book with ongoing marketing support. At this point, you may be exhausted from the effort and ready to just relax, but for everyone else in the world, this is just the start! It takes perseverance and determination to keep promoting your message for all the world to hear. You can continue to support your book with speaking engagements, podcast interviews, book review campaigns, and email outreach.

Clearly, publishing is a complicated process with many moving pieces. What questions does this raise for you? Email me to let me know!