Step 1. Write a fabulous novel--duh!
2. Edit and proofread and spell check and grammar check, then ignore grammar check because it rarely gets it right. Repeat 500 hundred times.
3. Create a one paragraph synopsis that perfectly describes said 400,000 word manuscript.
4. Change title fifty million times.
5. Research agents. Find out what they like: their wants, hopes, dreams, how many children they have, their pets’ names, etc.
6. Query a million agents with innocent hope. Later (slightly jaded) settle into a well thought out form letter that can be tailored to each. “Yes, I love exactly everything you do. Let’s be pen pals!”
7. Chew fingernails to the quick and wait. And wait. And wait…
Stop here if you hook a big fish. I can help you no further!
8. Become morosely tired of hearing “No, you suck!” or the ever-popular void of silence.
9. Research self-publishing avenues. There are some amazing blogs out there with great tips. Read them!
10. Buy ISBN numbers for a tidy sum (not necessary for Amazon or iBooks).
11. Apply for copyright so B&N will sell your book outside the US (this takes 3-5 months people so get on it ASAP!) Remember, you are copywriting content. After thoroughly reading the literature provided by the US copyright agency, it appears your manuscript does not have to be perfect in all ways (I am not a lawyer, however, so don’t quote me). Again, Amazon and iBooks don’t care if you have one or not, bless their greedy little hearts!
12. Create a copyright page for your book even though you don't own one quite yet--shh, no one will check! Use similar, if not the same words/format employed by an author you deeply respect. *Make sure you're using the most current language available, as it covers every futuristic media-thieving scheme and scenario the craftiest of modern day lawyers can imagine—let me tell you those are some wily guys!
13. Create a cover. Some vendors, like B&N, have free pre-fab templates you can modify. Also there are wonderful freelancers with great ideas if you’ve got a few spare bucks lying around.
14. Decide through whom to sell your precious angel and follow their directions to the letter. Take a couple of chapters and dry-run them through the various publishing formats. Most vendors happily accept your documents in .doc or .docx format, so don’t freak out about understanding ePUB--that is until you want to publish on iBooks. Then feel free to freak out!! Please note: many independent writers choose to employ companies such as Smashwords to do all this for them in exchange for a percentage of the profits. I did not follow this route, so I can't speak to it. Please comment below with your experiences in this area!
15. Set up an independent bank account. Vendors require you give them a routing number so they can direct deposit your millions in royalties. Your lovely personal banker will be happy to assist you with this. Also, creating a dedicated account helps later when you're trying to off-shore your earnings. "No Mr. IRS man, sir, I only made $29.50 this year. Honest!"
16. Create a website, or at minimum a blog. Don’t worry, you’ll have something useful to say—you’re a writer! Just look at this blather. Your site should also be used to shamelessly promote your own work. And while you’re here, anyway…buy my book! Add links to all your vendors—make sure you connect these directly to your book! Sending readers to Amazon.com and expecting them to wade through thousands of titles to find yours is probably not your best business decision. Many blog and website makers are free. I used Weebly.com for this masterpiece and simply purchased the domain. (Think carefully as you choose that sucker!)
17. Create social media accounts on twitter, facebook, pinterest, tumblr, goodreads, whatever the hell else is out there, and get ready to market your book. Again, consider the names and handles you want to use. If there are a pile of Virginia Grays, for example, you might want to research that a little before committing your soul. Make Author Pages wherever possible (very helpful for your adoring fans). If you don't know how to do all of this, don't worry. Every fourteen-year old on the planet is a social media god. Grab one and make them your minion!
18. Explore options for selling the book yourself on said website-if you can figure out ePub (now you can beat yourself up for not earning that computer science degree from your local community college). Damn you ePub!!!! Also read about ways to boost your book's ranking on Vendor sites with techniques such as pre-sales and countdown deals. These have been very successful for many authors.
19. Bend over, grab your ankles, pray to the god of your choice, and click “Publish”!
Knock ‘em dead tiger!
*Disclaimer: This free advice is worth exactly as much as it cost you. Do your own research. It'll be well worth it in the long run, and people, this is a loooong run! Your career. Your future. So do it right!
**Also this list is woefully incomplete. Veterans, if you have any items to add, PLEASE leave a comment below. I will gleefully accept and share! New writers need these. We all need them!