You can write, edit, proof, format, and publish a book for free.

Yesterday afternoon I was a guest presenter at a national event. My topic centered around writing and publishing a book for free – absolutely no money! I have written five books and self-published four of them. I have had over a dozen clients and published multiple books for several.

Writing is easy. Publishing can be complicated. Marketing is a jungle for someone not versed in the many areas of marketing and advertising. How do you write and publish a book for zero dollars?

Writing Start first with your reason, your why, for writing a book. When you have no firm goal in mind, you can give up at a moment’s notice. To help prevent that from happening, get an accountability partner to keep you focused and on schedule.

Titles cannot be copyrighted. The real value is in the subtitle – keywords that people who do not know your book have interest in the keywords that describe your book. An outline can give you the roadmap for your writing voyage. If you do not know where you are going, any road will get you there. It would be best to have a definitive path to ensure your book meets your intentions and expectations.

Incorporate stories into your book. Stories sell, and they keep the interest. Regardless of the type of book you want to write, stories should be included. Do not include names, places, companies, etc., in your book unless you have their legal release. Do not write long-hand only. Someone will have to type it to meet Amazon’s requirements. You are doing this for free – do not pay someone to type your book.

Know your audience. Spend a little time doing some market research. ( Get a photo of your audience. Post it on your computer when you are writing. You can see the person or group during your writing. What value are you offering that other authors have not included in their books?

There are several methods to do the writing. Some sit down and start typing. Other plan meticulous details; however, that method tends never to let the author get started or constantly interrupts the author to add more details. Some people love to talk, and there are many free voice-to-text software apps. You speak, and your machine gives you the written product. I prefer the interview structure for a book.

The interview style is one where you know the questions so well you can answer them without thinking. For example, ‘Tell me about the first car you owned.’ Select the questions that your audience needs to know the answers to. Your answers give them value – they provide solutions to their problems. The sit-down and write method tends to take a long time to edit. Interview style almost eliminates editing.

When you sit down and write, I suggest you use the 1-3-5-7-10 method. 1 is the main topic of your book. 3 represents the number of chapters. 5 is the number of subchapters. For example, let 1 equal a health and wellness type of book. 3 could be broken into chapters for eating, sleeping, and exercising. 5 subsections on eating could be calories, nutrition, carbs, fats, and proteins. The subsection for sleeping could include quality of sleep, blue lights, eating before bed, drinking before bed, and snooze alarms. Likewise, the 5 subsections for exercising might be cardio, strength training, flexibility, balance, and stretching.

7 is the sub-subchapters. The details that become the guts of your chapters. For instance, the topic of calories could include too few calories and related health issues, too many calories and health risks, plant-based, animal-based, bad calories vs. good calories, added salt, and toxins.

Familiarize yourself with Style Manuals (go to Google for these). ( You must know how to format capitalizations, numbers, dates, quotes, and a lot more. Google is your friend, as well as YouTube. You can use other books as examples of how to do things.

The first lines of paragraphs should be indented. Type in a font you can read quickly and is comfortable. It can be changed later. Write in single-space and paragraph spacing. Most people choose a 6″ X 9″ final paperback book size. The number of pages of single-spaced 8.5″ X 11″ typing yields doubles the number of pages – when your book is 100 pages of single-spaced 8.5″ X 11″, then your 6″ X 9″ book will be 200 pages. You need 104 pages to have a spine on your book.

All photos will be black and white in the paperback. Make sure your color photos have good contrast to make the black and white image pop. You must have a legal release for anyone in the images you use. There are many sources of free photos on the Internet.

Establish a schedule to write daily – number of words, number of minutes, etc. Isolate yourself from distractions. Ensure your lighting enhances your writing.
Save your work often. I add dates to the file name when saving every document. You can always recover from earlier files. Backup constantly and keep a separate copy on a flash drive.

Editing Use Microsoft Word spell checker. Some people think that M/S Publisher is better, but I have seen many problems because people have not mastered that software. Most of us are not masters of M/S Word either, but it is more intuitive than most.

Check for grammar, diction, syntax, comma splices, troubling words (who/whom, you/your/you’re, its/it’s, if/when, can/may, affect/effect, less/fewer, and more. Edit as if a twelve-year-old will read your book.

Use free grammar checkers. Grammarly has a good one. ( There are others available (for free). There are many editing checklists on Google (for free) you can use. ( Send your chapters to friends and family to have other eyes review your manuscript (for free). Provide them a checklist, so they are all operating from the same perspective.

M/S Word has a great ‘read aloud’ feature. I use it daily. You can read it aloud yourself also. Let any readings you do slip a week or two before reading. Our brains insert words we thought we had typed when we read something immediately after typing it.

Do a continuity check of your book. Is there a compelling reason to start a new chapter? Are there compelling reasons to continue reading each chapter? Do you have the right mix of stories? Avoid acronyms without clarification. Repeat acronym meanings when several chapters go by without the use of those acronyms.

Use more active voice than passive voice. It keeps people more interested in reading. Look for widows and orphans – a couple of words starting a sentence at the bottom of a page or a couple of words the end up on the top of the next page. Always single-space after periods. Avoid contractions unless it is the vernacular of a person speaking.

Ask your editors to give you their impression of the paragraph lengths. Sometimes we make our paragraphs too long. Does your book flow logically? Are there sufficient descriptions for people, places, and other pertinent activities?

Ask your editor (or proofreader) if they got bored reading. Have them circle the parts that need more spice. A final review should ensure that each chapter’s main point clearly brings out the focus of that chapter. Always verify page numbers and chapter/subchapter titles in the table of contents with the book’s contents.

Proofing Keep it free. Use friends and family, but not the same ones who did any editing. Keep their minds fresh. Set a time limit for them to finish the proofing. Ask where they got lost.

With any book writing aspect, editing, proofing, and publishing ask Google for the ‘how-to’ do it. Also, ask Google for the ‘things to avoid.’ You should know what items need to be checked and those that should not remain in a book when it is ready to publish.

Formatting Go to the source to ensure you meet the requirements of Kindle/Amazon for publishing. Formatting can be tricky on a good day if you are not well-versed in what needs to be done and how to do it.

Chapters start on the right side with odd-numbered pages. Use serif fonts for the body and sans-serif fonts for chapter titles and subtitles. Paragraphs are justified. Margins can be adjusted to tweak the final number of pages. A 100-page book should have a different gutter margin than a 500-page book. You have a lot of wiggle-room to determine your book’s length by font size, line spacing, paragraph spacing, and margins.

Use section breaks after the ends of chapters. Headers and footers can identify the author’s name and book title along with page numbers. The title page never has a page number. The front matter (copyright, dedication, table of contents, and maybe introduction) is usually in Roman numerals. The body of your book uses Arabic numbers. Ensure your copyright page has the correct disclaimers for your genre of book – see Google. Do you want to dedicate your book to someone? Do you want the introduction to be in the front matter or starting as Chapter 1? Do you want an About the Author chapter to let people know how to reach you?

Publishing Create your author account on KDP/Amazon (free). It is easy. Follow the yellow-brick-road. You can request a free ISBN for your book. Keep it free! The ISBN goes on your copyright page. Create your publishing company – your name or business as the publisher.

You will need a book description, author bio, the categories your book should represent, along with keywords that describe your book. Pricing and a few other things are boxes filled in when you get to the destination along the yellow-brick-road. Be prepared to input your IRS data and bank account information. Amazon needs it to send you a 1099 form and your royalty payments.

Download your manuscript into your author account. You can create a cover for free within your author account. Look at your competitor’s cover art and try to emulate them as much as you can. The system is intuitive, but you can make a lot of errors. You can always start over. You will need the author’s bio and photo for the back cover and a short book description.

Amazon runs a ‘preview’ of your book to ensure it meets the requirements for publishing. If there are any errors, fix them. Your book is ready to publish – for free!


This is a short summary of the basics to write, edit, proof, format, and publish your book for free. Get started and go to Google to resolve issues. It is easier than you think.

Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin –


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