Writing and Publishing

The Indie Book Publishing Checklist

Here are the key steps to write and indie publish a book.

  1. Develop your initial concept and vision. This step includes market research into competitive titles to gauge the book’s marketability. 
  2. Write the first draft for the entire book.
  3. Do your first edits. Continue to fine-tune until you feel you’re ready for feedback.
  4. Run spell and grammar check.
  5. Get feedback from beta readers or critique groups and fine-tune your book, though this step can also happen after step eight.
  6. Run spell and grammar check, again.
  7. Get a developmental edit. Some people call this edit a book critique, while others call it a substantial edit. But these labels can also refer to different services. What you want is big-picture feedback. At this stage, you need someone to give you an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of your book. They should address how it flows, its overall arc, and identify anything that’s out of place, missing, or not needed. You also want someone to point out shortcomings in your writing style—we all have them, but we can’t see them until someone tells us.
  8. Incorporate the feedback of your developmental edit, as appropriate, into your book. Evaluate every recommendation, but don’t feel you need to accept each one. When you feel you’ve implemented all the relevant changes, proceed to the next step.
  9. Run spell and grammar check, a third time.
  10. Have someone copy edit your book. This edit looks at writing at the sentence level.
  11. Again, discerning what advice to follow and what to dismiss, make the needed changes.
  12. Do a fourth spell and grammar check.
  13. Have someone proofread your book. This edit addresses grammar and punctuation. It focuses on details. Though many authors separate copy editing and proofreading into two steps, most of the editors I work with do both at the same time. This saves money and shaves weeks off the publishing timeline.
  14. Make a final read through the book yourself and do a final spell and grammar check. Since you’ve already had professionals review your book, make changes with great care at this point. If in doubt, leave it as is.
  15. Format your book for mobi and epub (the formats needed for e-books). I do this formatting myself using a free online tool from Draft2Digital. If you use Scrivener, it can also format e-books. 
  16. Once you’ve formatted your e-book, verify that everything looks the way you want it to.
  17. Concurrent to the copy edit and proofread phases, design your book cover. Unless you have graphic software and the skill to produce a cover equal to or better than traditional publishers, hire a cover designer.
  18. Upload your e-book to your publisher or publishing aggregator or both. Though an incomplete list, these are the publishing outlets I use:
    • Amazon, to reach the US audience, you must be on Amazon
    • Kobo, which is great for other countries, such as Canada
    • Draft2Digital, a publishing aggregator, which can also do Amazon
    • Publish Drive, a publishing aggregator, which can also do Amazon
    • StreetLib, a newer publishing aggregator, with a wide reach
  19. If you want to also do a paperback version, which I recommend, hire someone to do the interior layout. Yes, you can do this step yourself, but it’s tedious and frustrating. (I have spent over twenty hours trying to do the internal formatting myself. So now I pay someone else to do it.) They will provide a PDF file of your book. Note that Amazon and IngramSpark have different file expectations, so you need two files, one for each publisher.
  20. Verify that everything in your PDF is correct.
  21. Upload your paperback version to your publisher or publishers.
    • Amazon
    • IngramSpark
  22. Now it’s time to launch and market your book. Marketing gives us a whole new topic to deal with.

Since I’ve written and published many books, I made my own checklist (on which the above list is based) to make sure I cover everything and don’t miss a step. As more options become available and I learn more about the writing and publishing process, I will continue to fine-tune my list. If you plan on being a multi-book author, I suggest you make your own checklist too.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Healthcare Call Centers

Who Signs Your Paycheck?

Knowing Who You Work for Helps You Do a Better Job

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Do you know who signs your paycheck? Whose signature is it that authorizes payment for the work you do? This, of course, is a theoretical question because most workers today receive their compensation electronically. It shows up in their bank account each payday, without a knowledge of who authorized the transfer.

When I ask who signs your paycheck, however, I don’t mean in a literal sense but in a broader, holistic way. That is, who is responsible for the money you make? Who do you work for? Let’s consider the options:

Your Employer

First on the list is the company you work for, your employer. They hired you, trained you, and pay you for your work. Regardless of the size of the organization you work for, however, there are numerous facets to employment.

First is your boss, and the managers and supervisors she has in place to oversee your work. Larger organizations have a hierarchy. There is your bosses’ boss and maybe even their boss. There could be officers and a Board of Directors. A corporation has stockholders, who own the company. You work for them all. In effect, each one signs your paycheck.

What about your coworkers? In a well-functioning organization, everyone works together to meet a common goal: serving callers. And if you’re in a position of authority, you have people working under you. In a way, you work for them, too, by providing support, encouragement, and direction. If they succeed in their jobs, you succeed in yours.

Your Clients

If you’re employed in an outsource call center, where you handle calls for other companies, you work for them too. Serve them well to retain their business, and you will continue to have a job. Serve them poorly, and they’ll cancel service. If this happens too often, your future employment is at risk. In this way, you work for your clients as much as you work for your employer.

Your Callers

Regardless of the type of call center you’re in, you work for your callers too. Without callers, you would have nothing to do. They’re critical to your ongoing employment success as well. 

Though most people who work in call centers have an inherent desire to do their best to help callers, not everyone is so service-oriented. Do your best to take care of them, which is what your company hired you to do. Then you will continue to have a job.


In addition to your employer, clients, and callers, you also work for yourself. You work to earn a living. It’s in your best interest to handle calls with excellence, thereby keeping your job.


In practice, you don’t work for one person, but for many. They are who signs your paycheck. Though there’s an obvious priority, strive to give your best work to each one of them, including yourself.

Don’t let this thought of working for everyone overwhelm you. Instead let it motivate you to give your best to your job every day, on every call.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat and Medical Call Center News, covering the healthcare call center industry.

Writing and Publishing

Is Assisted Book Publishing Right for You?

Assisted publishing or subsidy publishing is paying a company (or a person) to publish your book for you. I don’t have any experience using assisted publishing, because it’s not the right option for me. 

If you go this route, check references, ask a lot of questions, and treat it like a business decision—because it is. Some companies are good, some are not, and some are rip-offs. I’ve heard of rates from several hundred dollars to over ten thousand. And that’s a lot of money to pay for something you can do yourself if you indie publishes your book.

Now, my statement about doing everything yourself if you indie publishes is an oversimplification. In truth, we hire experts to handle various aspects for us. In this way, we act as a general contractor on a building project. 

For example, I hire editors, cover designers, and marketing people. I coordinate their work to move toward a finished project: a published book. This approach is very much a business process.

Whichever publishing option you pick, I wish you the best

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Writing and Publishing

Tips for Query Letters, One Sheets, and Book Proposals

Early in my career, I thought a query and a proposal were two names for the same document. Boy, was I confused?

A query letter is a short communication to get an agent or publisher’s attention. If your query letter succeeds, they’ll ask for a book proposal. A proposal is a lengthy, detailed document that shares key elements of your book in organized sections. If they like your proposal, they’ll ask to see the full book (for fiction) or encourage you to move forward in writing the book (for nonfiction).

The Query Letter: There’s a lot of information online about writing a query letter. Unfortunately, there’s disagreement over what to do. It seems to be as much art as science. Despite differing opinions on the specific content and order, here are the pointers I’ve picked up and use:

  • Address it to a specific agent, following the agent’s guidelines and making sure they accept queries in your genre.
  • Open with a concise connection to the agent (sincere and non-embellished), followed by a great hook, sell your idea, and then sell yourself (including your platform). This should take four paragraphs. Making it longer makes it too long.
  • Keep it to one normal page (even though you will email it as text).
  • Don’t ask them to click a link or download an attachment. I understand most will skip your link and few will download an attachment unless they know you and requested that you attach a document.
  • Keep it professional. Avoid being cute, clever, or gimmicky.
  • Spell-check and proofread carefully.

Note that in the non-book world, some periodical and online publishers also want you to query them first. Others just want to see the finished work. If they ask for a query, the preceding discussion applies.

A-One Sheet: Something like a query letter is a one-sheet (sometimes called a one-pager). It’s a document that you might hand to an interested agent or publisher whom you meet at a writing conference. It contains much the same information as a query but can include more, as much as comfortably fits on one page. A one-sheet can also include relevant graphics and professional formatting, which you should avoid in a straight-text query letter.

A Book Proposal: Whether you have a fiction or nonfiction book, agents and publishers who like your query letter will expect you to send a book proposal next, even if the book is complete. There are many courses and books that teach how to draft a book proposal, so I won’t try to cram all this information into a brief overview. 

Do an online search, and you’ll receive more matches than you have time to read. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with the expectations for a book proposal and some contradict each other. Focus on recommendations from successful agents and authors who have sold a lot of books to traditional publishers. You will benefit from their experience.

Here are the sections I include in my nonfiction book proposals: 

  • book title
  • synopsis
  • hook
  • target audience
  • table of contents
  • detailed outline
  • about the author
  • author platform
  • competitive titles
  • sample chapters

Though I’ve never done a fiction book proposal, the sections are about the same. The main difference is that, instead of including a chapter-by-chapter detailed outline, a fiction proposal needs a concise summary of the entire book, including any spoilers. Don’t hold back. Condense your book into a couple of pages. 

Search online for specific examples of nonfiction and fiction book proposals to further guide your work on your own proposal. 

Make the best proposal you can. Some agents and publishers will tell you what they expect in a book proposal. Follow their instructions exactly. 

If your proposal follows their format, it’s easier for them to evaluate. And if it doesn’t meet their expectations, it’s easier for them to reject, because they know you’re a person who won’t follow directions or doesn’t think the instructions apply. You will be a challenging writer to work with. No one wants that.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Writing and Publishing

Should You Write a Book or Blog?

Many writers starting out try to blog and write a book at the same time. They end up doing neither one well. Or they try to write a book before they’re ready. Then they end up with something not suitable for publication, waste a lot of time, and endure much frustration. That assumes they finish the book. But they’re more apt to give up before they finish—because they’re not yet ready to write a book.

Unless you’ve done a lot of writing—say about one million words—and invested about 10,000 hours honing your skill (see “10,000 Hours”), I recommend you start with blogging or writing short articles, essays, or flash fiction. Blogging (and short pieces) offer several advantages: 

  • Blog posts are quick and easy to write.
  • Blogging is a great way to hone our writing skills and find our voice.
  • Feedback is fast.
  • Errors are easy to fix.
  • Bloggers develop a habit of writing regularly, even when they don’t feel like it.
  • Blogging according to a schedule—which is what all bloggers should do—trains us to meet deadlines.
  • Blogging prepares us to write longer pieces.

There are many other benefits associated with blogging, but these outcomes are some of the key ones, which is why I recommend starting out with blogging or writing other short pieces. Save the book for later (see “Work Up to Writing a Book”).

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.