Creating a Book from Scratch with N0 Experience!

January 09, 2017

Have you ever wondered what it might take to write your own book? Maybe there is a short story you always wanted to write, but decided against it due to the cost or time investment needed? Aspiring comic book writer? Children’s books? Novelization of life at your job? Maybe you have 100 jokes that you are dying to get out to the world?

I’ve spent the past year or so researching the process of publishing and am going to share with you in this series what my process is from start to finish! Follow me as I show you the ins and outs of a self-publishing venture, what to expect, what it will cost, and all the tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way!

The world of self-publishing has evolved to a point where anyone has access to the tools they need to publish their works, and there is enough of a market that it can be done for a very reasonable price - if you know what to do!

About this Article Series:

I’m David, and I’m not an artist. I’m not a writer or a creative professional of any sort. However, in the next year I will be releasing 6 issues of a Comic Book, a Children’s Book, releasing a new Web Comic, and as many collaborative projects as I can. I’m going to do all of this while working full time and spending time with family and friends as well - and I’m going to share with you how you can do the same!

This article series is going to help you understand how to execute your project, and I’m going to entertain you by showing you mine! We get to see the steps I am taking in order to produce something excellent while maintaining my lifestyle!

What should I do first?

Here are a few key steps that you can do today before you ever lay pen to the paper:

1. Develop your social media presence - this is going to be your main marketing tool. The best way to do this is to share your friends and colleagues' material. It’s a great way to reach people while doing your part to help your friends. That will be returned in kind when it’s your turn to produce something!

A great rule of thumb when you have a project that you want to talk about is a 10:1 ratio - basically for every 10 things you share of others’ projects and things, you can post one of your own. This prevents fatigue to your potential viewers, readers, and friends!

2. Study the best versions of the thing you’re going to do - If you are writing a comic, go read the best ones out there! Check out the most popular children’s books, or maybe a great novel. Learn what the best thing in your genre is so you can learn from it - what makes it great?

For my series, Traveler, I wanted to read a few great adventure fantasy comic books. The ones I checked out were Saga, Descender, and Fable. There have been many more, but those are the ones who I really found to be inspiring. In addition to the comics I read, the inspiration for my writing material and style comes from some of my favorite writers - Poe, Lovecraft, Tolkien, Carroll, and many more!

3. Find something that will set you apart - so many ideas have already been written, so make sure that you bring something to the table that makes you a special snowflake!

Take this article series for example - plenty of articles are already written about self-publishing by people with way more experience than me. What sets this one apart is that I am approaching it from the same angle you are - 0 experience! I think you’ll find a great way to relate to my process and steps, and I can help catch all of the early mistakes without getting so far into detail that we get lost!

4. Prepare to spend a lot of time on your project - between the actual work on the project that you will do, in addition to your research and training to improve as you go, your project will take time! But here’s the thing - you’ve waited this long to even start, so be patient and persistent and the results will show!

Next week we’re going to talk about time management and proper organization of your project! Come back to better understand how to integrate your project into your life!

6. Set a SMART Goal! - If you don’t have a goal, it’s hard to understand if you’ve achieved anything. SMART is an acronym Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable, and Time-Bound. Let’s set a goal to match to explain how it works:

My goal is to produce the first 40 page issue of Traveler in time for Free Comic Book Day in May 2017. (I have more goals with the rest of the series as well that I keep track of). This goal is:

  • Specific - there is no question or room for debate as to what I’m trying to do
  • Measurable - I will complete all 40 pages, and having that number also gives me a great look as to what I have NOT completed, sometimes just as important!
  • Achieveable- plenty of people before me have published their books, so I know I can too!
  • Reasonable - similar to achievable, basically someone has done this before. There’s no reason I can’t.
  • Time-Bound - you need to give yourself a deadline, or you’ll never do it! We certainly did that here, by aggressivley aiming to complete the project by May 2017!

That’s about it for items we can accomplish before beginning our project! Now let’s get to work!

OK, I did the stuff that isn’t my stuff, can I do my stuff now?

Yes! In fact, you should have started last week! The reality is, you can always be creating. Write a paragraph here, draw a sketch there. Chances are, you have a different full-time job already, and time is going to be at a premium. We’re going to talk about time management and planning later on, but for now it’s important to understand that you are going to have to squeeze in precious moments to craft your master design. Here are the steps that you’ll need to have accomplished in order to begin your project and start heading towards your SMART Goal.

Decide what your project is - You’ll choose what your medium will be, or how it will be distributed. Is it a paperback novel? A floppy comic book? Web Comic? Understanding what medium you believe your project will be best on is important in setting goals for it.

    • My project is called Traveler
    • It will be a comic book adventure series
    • Issues will be released via print and web
    • The first 6 issues will become a 140 page Graphic Novel

    Choose a name - You can change the name later, but it’s important to have a name for your project. Understand that the name is something you’re going to have to say and explain a lot, so doing that now will help you get a feel for whether or not you’ve chosen a winner. You don't want to talk about a book you wrote that has a name that makes you shiver! 

    Decide on your Tools - Note: This is NOT the cost of publishing or printing or anything associated with the production of your project, only the tools needed to create it.

    Often the tools will depend on your budget. As someone who doesn't have a ton of time and doesn't have an art background, I highly recommend a digital art platform. Creating art on traditional mediums such as paper or canvas has additional steps that would add time to my already strict schedule. For me, there is no other option than starting and finishing this project digitally. While there are many believers in traditional mediums when it comes to producing art, there is no argument that digital art is more efficient and thus less time consuming.

    Since I am going to be producing my work digitally only, writing a comic book requires me to have the following tools:

    • A Computer - I use a Lenovo Yoga Laptop running Windows 10. I prefer a laptop because it allows me to travel around and have flexibility to be mobile. I often will open up and jot down a frame in a spare 30 minutes. My laptop ran about $550 brand new, and it has everything I need and runs like a top 2 years later. (Special note, as I’m an IT Professional in another life, your computer is generally going to run well as long as you take care of it and manage it appropriately!). You could very easily build or buy a computer brand new in the $300 range and still be able to perform, though I recommend having a decent amount of RAM and a solid graphics card if you are going to be producing colored art.
    • A Drawing Tablet - I use a very simple Wacom Bamboo tablet. It’s about 5 years old and works like the day I bought it for $50. There are a ton of different tablets out there, and one of my rewards to myself once I complete my project will be to upgrade to a much nicer (and expensive) model. While Wacom is the best in the biz according to most professionals, there are very solid models offered at a better price point from Huion, Monoprice, and a few others. Just make sure you carefully read reviews, something I recommend no matter what you’re buying. Going strong after 5 years!
    • Creation Software - The gold standard in image illustration is Adobe Photoshop. I recommend Photoshop to anyone who asks where to start with software. That being said, I don’t use Photoshop! Instead, I use Manga Studio 5Ex, a program that is very similar to the Adobe offering but more focused on comic book creation. Manga Studio has offerings in the $50 range, and it could be had during the Holiday season for lesss than $20!

    Tip: Understand that the tools you will use if you are creating art need to be your own! I've found what works for me, but it may not work for you! I've tried many other things that were not my cup of tea - so feel free to ask me about other approaches I've taken!

    That’s it for materials! (for now) So far, I’ve invested $100 (the $550 laptop is something I needed to have for other purposes anyway) into my materials. Take a look at your project and start to understand what you’re going to need. If you are creating art on different mediums, determine now how many pages you’ll need, paints, inks, pens, and materials for your whole project. You might not need to buy it all now, but it’s very important to know what you’ll be looking at in the future and to plan to have stuff in advance. The last thing you want is to find a spare 3 hours to work on your project and run out of a material that blocks you! Amazon Prime is great, but sometimes 2 days is still too long!

    Come back next week and we’ll learn how to organize our project as well as an introduction to time management!


    About David Kanellis: 

    David is a ~30 year old business professional and aspiring artist who has had a love for gaming, fantasy, and sci-fi. Living in a small town in Upstate, NY, he loves to travel around this region and beyond to different events and cons. He is currently writing, illustrating, and publishing his own comic book, and wants to share the process of that creation with you!

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