From Idea to Print: Getting Your First Book Started


©copyright by Robert W. Lucas

In previous articles in this blog series, I have addressed how you get started as a book author and made some suggestions related to where to start your research about the publishing industry and in determining whether to pursue a major publisher or self-publish your work. As you may have started to realize, there is more to being an author than just writing words on a computer.


Successful authors have a vision or goal related to where they want to see themselves and their work once the writing is done. They also typically have something they want to say. This might be professional advice or a story they want to tell. No matter what your purpose, you have to gather together information and develop a plan before you attempt to find a publisher or write your book. Anything less will likely result in wasted effort and frustration and the possible extinction of your creative writing vision forever.

If you feel that you have the ability to communicate your message to others through printed or electronic means, then go for it. If you have the ideas or a tale you want to share and do not feel competent at writing it or simply do not have the time or patience, there are people who will do that for you. They are called ghost writers. Many professionals and celebrities use them to craft their story. You can find these people through an Internet search or through professional networking with a writers group.


Start your writing efforts by identifying a topic and a tentative book title. This will help you decide where you are going and provide a basis for what you will include. Once you have this in mind, it is a good idea to do an internet search for books on the topic or with the same or similar titles. Check Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million and just do a search for key words or titles related to the ones you have chosen.

I often purchase used copies of the books I’ve found similar to my own idea so that I can scan through them to gather ideas of formatting and what the competition is saying. An added value is that the books are tax deductible as reference materials if you plan to make writing a professional endeavor, rather than a hobby. Reviewing these books will allow you to put a different slant on the topic and help you imagine what your final book might look like.

In examining such references, think about the size of the competing books, page length, color, type and size of cover font, pricing, use of visuals and graphics, and other technical aspects. These will come in handy when you get to that stage of the developmental process if you are self-publishing. If you plan to seek a publisher, it will assist when making your proposal and creating a proposed marketing strategy, since they will want to know what books you believe are competitors and how you see it being marketed. Keep in mind that you will carry the brunt of the marketing effort no matter which route you take to publishing.


Based on your topic and how long you envision the book being, you should create a Table of Contents once you have gathered your materials and thoughts together. I typically put this together use it to stay on task as I write. You can always change chapter headings and rearrange their location as you move forward and start writing.

Once you have the initial steps in place, you can actually start putting your words into print. Give some thought to how long you can actually dedicate to writing. Many people use a calendar that they set up which has a completion date identified and then set aside the amount of time and days per week that they can realistically plan to write. Remember that you do not want to make this a task that you resent or avoid. Keep the time manageable and enjoy your writing journey, and then GET STARTED!

Bob Lucas B.S., M.A., M.A, CPLP is an internationally-known author and learning and performance professional. He has written and contributed to thirty-one books and compilations. He regularly conducts creative training, train-the-trainer, customer service, interpersonal communication and management and supervisory skills workshops. Bob can be reached at or through his website Follow his blog at and like him at


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