How I Wrote a Book: Step by Step

1. Had the original idea for the book 2-3 years ago, but didn’t know it yet.

2. “The book” started off as a blog. That lasted for about 4 months until I ran out of gas to write it.

3. After a few months of dormancy, I thought “Hey, I should write a book.”

4. Book writing turned into overdrive once I read an inspirational post via James Altucher.

5. Started writing in Google Docs. Less than ideal, but I had a good start with writing about 250 words a day.

6. In trading emails with Aaron Goldfarb, he mentioned Scrivener. That changed everything. I couldn’t imagine writing the book without it. It’s possible, as many people have. But with all the organizing that took place, it would have been a major headache without a program that’s so easy to use.

7. Took everything in Google Docs and dropped it in Scrivener.

8. I was able to organize the chapters effortlessly. With a book of essays, this was incredibly valuable. Made it easy to rearrange and delete essays.

Scrivener Book

9. Set a goal of writing 250 words a day. I was able to keep up with that for the most part. Some days I wrote less. Some weekends I wrote 2,000 words in a day.

10. Once the first draft of the book was written, I had the extreme joy of going back to do edits (note: sarcasm).

11. Fixed typos and grammatical mistakes.

12. Sent off book to a friend for review.

13. Change structure slightly per friends feedback.

14. Came to the realization that I write too passively. Went through the entire book to make the writing more active. I think CS Lewis has advice on this. This process was grueling.

15. Took the cover photo pictures. The book cover was heavily influenced by The Domino Project books and the necessity of working around my strengths. I know good design, but I can’t design for squat. My wife is an excellent photographer though. So I decided that the cover for the ebook would use just her photo.

I wanted the cover to be focused on a singular thing. One image that represents the whole book. After brainstorming 20 different covers, I chose melting ice cream. After about 50 different pictures and getting ice cream all over my pants, we picked the photo below.

First World Problems Book Cover

16. Sent the book to my wife’s brother to review. He came back with a list of grammatical issues to fix.

17. Fixed grammar mistakes and gave the book another comb through.

18. Researched ebook conversion and CreateSpace conversion.

19. Decided I’d outsource the formatting through Odesk.

20. Placed an ad on Odesk and received about 10 applicants.

21. Picked a guy in the Philippines, sent him the files and patiently waited.

22. Got the ebook file back and requested a few tweaks.

23. Received the ebook with changes made. It was good enough, but I didn’t want to settle.

24. Decided to learn how to format the book myself with Scrivener. Couldn’t find any YouTube tutorials on so I decided to do some trial and error.

25. Within 30 minutes I figured out how to adjust the margins and spacing to my liking in Scrivener. The $89 on Odesk was largely useless.

26. Exported the book from Scrivener in .mobi format.

27. Signed up for Amazon Direct Publishing.

28. Added the cover, book description, previewed how the book looked.

29. Chose price of $3.

30. Hit submit and got an email 8 hours later saying the book was live in the Kindle Store.

See the comedic book on Amazon: First World Problems: 101 Reasons Why The Terrorists Hate Us

31. Hire an Editor. Do it. Don’t let your work be judge on grammar.

32. Resubmit to the Kindle Store.

That’s it. Definitely not easy to do the work in writing a book, but if you want to, you can. Writing a book is a grind, but publishing on Kindle is extremely easy.

Follow me on Twitter: @BenNesvig and read my book.

  • Dffdf

    And how much money did you make?

    • Ben Nesvig

      So far…enough to buy a venti latte at Starbucks. I decided to publish first – market second. We’ll see how things go once I make a big push behind it.

      • delosfuegos

        Great that you did this! I would really be interested to see how you plan and execute your marketing. Good luck!

      • Christopher Darby

        Another couple of bucks on its way to you.. i am in the middle of another book on my kindle so I won’t get to it for a week or so… but seeing as I am writing my own book based on my blog entries and arguments with people, and seeing how helpful your post was, it was worth the money without even reading the reviews!  

        I just read a review on Amazon… i think I might put my other book on hold for the moment and start yours.

        • Ben Nesvig

          Thanks Christopher!

          • Christopher Darby

            Oh and for the record.. i do like to switch things up occasionally.. there are times when a cookie with raisins hits just the right spot… although its rare!

          • Ben Nesvig

            ha! Liking the occasional raisin cookie is one thing…but biting into what you think is a chocolate chip cookie that turns out to be raisin is like going to Miami on spring break and landing in snow. Never pleasant when it happens by surprise.

          • Christopher Darby

            Just like getting a mouth full of cold coffee when you think its a glass of coke… that was a very unpleasant morning!

  • Abby

    “The battery in my key fab died” => should be “fob”.

    • Ben Nesvig

      Crap. I thought I double checked that, too. Thanks for catching it!

      • Abby

        Crowdsourced editing and fast revision cycles – two more pluses for self publishing.

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  • Mike Nereson

    I’m near step one or two. Writing a 101 xxxx Tips. I’ve listed out the main topic of about 85 of the tips. The last 16 are tough to come up with. And I have written a first draft for about a dozen of the topics.

    Good luck, Ben. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • jaltucher

    Great Post, Ben. And thanks for the mention. Self-publlishing is the way to go and my books have more than achieved my goals through this method (as opposed to my first five which I published through traditional publishers)

    • Ben Nesvig

      Looking forward to reading your upcoming books in 2012.

  • Conrad Egusa

    Great article Ben!

  • Oolone

    Step 31: Get on front page of Hacker News to help sell it. Done!

  • Jzet

    I´m not 100 % sure because I´m not a native english speaker but on the first spake there is the sentence: “A lot has change in the two years I spent writing …” but I think it is supposed to be “A lot has changeD in the two years I spent writing …”

    I didn´t read the book but I think it´s a great topic and I will definitely put it on my list of books I should read as soon as I have some more time!

    • Jzet

      Don´t know how this happened but I wanted to write “on the first page…” 😉

  • Anonymous

    I really like the ice cream image, attracted my eyes right away. However, I think you should put the title below it as well: Without the text my thought was “wow, cool image, but what the hell is this? A book? About what, ice creams?” If it said “First world problems: 101 reasons why terrorists hate us” below it I would have definitely clicked right away.

    Just my 2 cents.
    All the best with the book, hope you can soon buy truckloads of Venti Starbucks lattes!

    • Ben Nesvig

      Thanks for the feedback! I have a designer working on adding the title to the image for the paperback version. Depending on how it looks, I may choose to use it for the ebook version too.

  • Jay Liew

    Just to mention another option for prospective authors to publish an e-book sans the sucky parts: (YC startup)

  • Munir Ahmad

    Great post, thanks for taking the time to outlining the process. Now I want to write a book on something too someday, not sure yet, but given that it’s so easy to write and publish I want to :)

  • David Gonzales

    And now I’ve found myself a New Year’s Resolution.

  • Helpfulo Harry

    amazon abstract has ‘whether’ when you mean weather.

    • Ben Nesvig

      Can you send me a link to that? It is spelled correctly on

  • Neil Ginsberg

    Great info! Thanks so much!

  • Mickontgomery

    Awesome and very helpful post Ben! Thanks for sharing!

  • Anonymous

    what a completely stupid idea for a book, there’s only one reason why terrorists hate us, we bomb them, that’s it, it’s not about jealousy, it’s about revenge

    but then on another note, jealousy is what dumb liberals in this country have, and liberal media helps stir that up, but that’s not how normal people in other countries operate

    it’s hard to be hated when you prosper on your own and mind your own business

    • Ben Nesvig
      • Anonymous

        i try to be funny as much as anyone, but there’s nothing funny about being hated by terrorists

        • Jenna Elf

          Lots of things that satire tackles aren’t necessarily “funny”. …but I think that’s kind of the point. Taking an unfunny, uncomfortable topic and addressing it via humor, so that people LOOK at it instead of avoiding it.

          • Anonymous

            ok fine, you can make first world problems funny, i do that all the time myself, but they have nothing to do with why terrorists hate us, the title of the book is completely inappropriate

          • Ron Paul 1812!

            Here’s another first world problem:

            Being assailed by some opinionated idiot, who I’m sure is the first person to “defend liberty and personal freedom”

            The man wrote a book. He has the freedom to name it whatever the hell he wants. Or would you prefer he named it “First World Problems: Why fenom23’s sex with goats enrages the terrorists”?

          • Anonymous

            ok, you’ve nailed me as a ron paul supporter, are you one?

            ya the author can name his book whatever he wants, but by the same token, i can say that the title is inappropriate, it’s not even necessarily offensive, it’s just incorrect

            i’m not an idiot

    • beany7

      Did you read the book, or even the summary/description of the book on Amazon?  /facepalm

      • Anonymous

        i really didn’t want to read the description, seeing how stupid the title is, but i did anyway, and if the book is really just about first world rants, of which i do plenty as well, then don’t bring terrorists into this, the title of the book is completely inapproriate

  • Oscar Short

    I was just linked to this by Felicia Day, STRAIGHT after I print off my own novel 😀

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  • Catherien Grant

    Thank you for this post! I’m currently trying out Scrivener to see if I like it enough to purchase. I’ve been trying to shop around for a program that is easier to use than Word. Writing in Word was easy, but editing through 6 drafts was a pain in the ass. I’d frequently forget where I’d left off editing and end up duplicating work. I also have been editing my MS for passive voice after one of my writers group peers mentioned I had copious amounts of what I now fondly refer to as “fuzzy was’es.” (that is sarcasm) Nice to see I’m not the only one who finds it grueling.


    • Ben Nesvig

      That’s how I felt too. Writing in Word or Google Docs is very easy, but it’s the organization and navigating that drives you crazy. Scrivener made things pretty easy for me, especially for creating a Kindle ready version. Good luck with your book! It’s a grind, but you’ll be happy once you hit the finish line.

  • Aaron Sumner

    Thank you for sharing your process. I’m at the stage where I’m sick-of-the-blog-and-ready-to-write-the-book-version myself … nice to see what I’m getting myself into!

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  • Jade10106

    Just bought it as a gift for my brother. Sounds hilarious, and the topic is something I know he would appreciate.  Thanks!

    • Ben Nesvig

      Thanks, Jade!

  • Milan Jasny

    Awesome ! Great article, it is so motivating that I consider to think about to do the same thing sometimes in the future :) just wonder if amazon supports other languages too, dont you know ? Thanks again for this step by step tutorial !

  • RobinGood

    Thank you for sharing this useful info, resources and links. Truly appreciated indeed.

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  • Jeff Iblings

    Ben, great post.  I may have to take you out for a beer some time and pick your brain.  I’m in the process of writing a fiction novel, and had entertained self publishing, but didn’t really know too much about how to do it.

    You’ve hit the nail on the head about word.  Easy to write in, pain in the ass to edit in.

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  • Janet

    Im happy for your publishing success….writing a book isnt easy

    first off… can use for small tasks in various areas like video, audio, editing, writing etc

    second…what do you mean your first draft was passive?

    what is the difference between passive and active writing?

    All the best

    How to Make Ribbon Flowers

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  • Grit Springer

    great post. I am using Scrivener as well. Started using the trial version through last year’s NaNoWriMo and being a winner even gives me a discount on it. YAY! Love Scrivener so much. It’s great. Still, my biggest problem is keeping all my notes in check haha. I am so old school when it comes to doing story outlines and character sheets. Tons of loose paper notes and scribbles on paper napkins. 😀 

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  • Charmaine Clancy

    Awesome list

  • Western Fiction 2012

    Great tips regarding writing a book in a nice way… I’m also going to write a new book and definitely your suggestions would be very helpful while writing my new book.

  • Ttmbbaz

    Hey I bought the book, hba, good book though! Enjoyed it!

    • Ben Nesvig


  • Robb Bailey

    Love this, Ben – I think anyone who has a mess of papers, essays, blog posts, or incomplete white papers is onto a book topic… whether or not they know it or not.

    Mostly this first step of authorship has to do with chaos, a process I call “unpacking”. Thoughts go to paper (or another medium), no organizational thought or process involved. Just a clean excavation of everything that comes to mind on the topic.

    Next comes forming “buckets”, or grouping of topics. Some of the Scrivener features seem to help with the next steps there. The chaos quickly becomes organized and you’ve got a pretty rad base to work off of. Soon after, you’ve got a first draft of a book. :)

    Not all that hard really!


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  • Melanie Crutchfield

    “Don’t let your work be judge on grammar.” Snort.

    Thanks so much for sharing. I’ve really been enjoying your blog. Great stuff!