Writing A Book – The Idea

I write how-to books so for me the writing is about helping others to do a specific job, perform a task, or run a business. I write about what I know and have personally experienced. As I read posts, comments, articles, and even books, I notice that individuals have questions or sometimes I just notice that information seems complex and I can simplify it with my own information. This is how the idea begins and in the next posts I’ll cover how I take those ideas and apply them to my writing.

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More on Backing Up Your Work

For me, backups have to be controlled manually and they can’t be overdone. I can’t conceive of trusting years of my valuable data to anyone. I’m fairly certain that most individuals would consider my backup methods overkill. I have an original and two copies of all my data on external USB drives and none of it is in the cloud. I encourage others to to do the same because I know it’s critically important to take data backup seriously but there is another method.

Backup to the cloud has become quite popular and some companies provide an excellent service that promises automatic backups. All you do is configure it and then forget it. The forget it part worries me. If you choose to use a cloud based backup method I strongly encourage you to check your backups at regular intervals to make certain they are working as configured. Automatic is great but a small glitch could cause the backup process to stop and without notification you might never know until you really needed the backup and it wasn’t there. Take care of yourself by checking your backups regularly.

Doing It All Yourself

Can you handle every aspect of self publishing your books? The answer to that question depends on the individual. I believe you can and I have done that for almost all my books. I have used photographers rarely and a graphic artist once or twice but mostly I do it all myself.

It’s a lot of work but it does save money. For me the savings are important but what I value most is the direct control of every aspect. It allows me to make absolutely certain that I attain the level of quality I want and deliver the message clearly in my own voice.

You can get help for many aspects of publishing a book but it’s important to have an in depth knowledge of every aspect so you can evaluate the quality of the work. After all, you are the publisher and fully responsible for the end result, no matter who does the work.

Caution Using Word – Keep It Simple

The two previous posts cover using Word to outline and write your book. What I failed to cover were the problems that may be encountered with Word formatting. There is a tendency to set paragraphs, indents, styles, etc before beginning to type in the mistaken belief that this will make the final draft easier to format into a press ready document. Instead, this formatting makes things more complex and time consuming for the person facing the task of formatting your book.

Don’t attempt to format your book as you go along. Type with the Normal defaults until your entire book is completed. Once it is finished and edited then it will be ready to format by you or someone else. If you are doing it yourself, it can be done with Word but I prefer to import the entire document into a desktop publishing program such as PagePlus. Either way, the final formatting should be done after the writing and editing is complete.

This doesn’t preclude additional editing once the formatting is complete but it does keep it to a minimum and makes the final formatting much easier.

Use Your Outline To Guide Your Writing

Working from the outline, go through it and make certain it’s organized so each section is complete, flows well into the next section, and follows a sensible order. Everything should fit together, proceed through the entire book, and end logically. Make it as easy as possible for your reader to understand the material.

The application you choose for writing your book is entirely up to you. After writing several books I have developed a method that works well for me and I will share that with you. However, it’s not the only way and while I find it best for me, you may have something just as workable.

I create my outline using Microsoft Word but you could easily use OpenOffice, an excellent and completely free Office Suite. Or, you can use almost any word processing software. Wordpad, the useful word processor program that comes with Windows, is also a good tool for your draft. It saves the documents in the .rtf format, which is the format I suggest for saving your outline regardless of the word processing program you use. Word uses the .doc format and OpenOffice uses the .odf format but both allow you to save your document in the .rtf format. Rtf is short for “rich text format” and is compatible with almost all word processing applications whether Windows or Mac. This facilitates easily importing or exporting your work to another application if necessary.

Creating The Outline

The application you choose for writing your book is entirely up to you. After writing several books I have developed a method that works well for me and I will share that with you. However, it’s not the only way and while I find it best for me, you may have something just as workable and perhaps better.

I have used Word to create most of my outlines but am now using a program called Jarte. This is a free program that takes advantage of the Wordpad program that comes with all Windows operating systems including XP, Vista, and Windows 7. You can also use OpenOffice, an excellent and completely free Office Suite. Or, you can use almost any word processing software including Wordpad without the addition of Jarte. The advantage of Wordpad and Jarte is that it uses the .rtf file type which is compatible with almost all word processors whether Windows or MAC.

If you plan to create your final book on a word processing program then I definitely suggest that you use either Word or OpenOffice as they have the additional formatting options necessary to prepare your final book file. I don’t use them because my final files for either paperback or ebooks are prepared with a Desktop Publishing Program. There are many of these programs available but my favorite, which I have now used to create five books, is PagePlus made by Serif, a British software manufacturer. In future posts I will describe how it works and why I use it but for the next post I will describe how I create my outline for a book.

Writing The Book – Step One

The most important question to ask yourself before writing a book is why. This is important because it helps determine how to proceed. If you are like me, selling what you write is important. Some people write for the sheer joy of it and others simply have something to say and have no interest in marketing. If you plan to sell copies of your book then the first step has to be determining if there is an audience for your topic. Not much point in writing a book to sell if no one is interested in the topic.

Seek the potential readers and write your book for them. The more you know about your readers the more likely you are to have a book that sells. I suggest avoiding general topics that seem of interest to everyone and target a niche group. Once you have decided for whom you are writing, the process will be much easier.