The 8 Steps on My Publishing Journey

by | Jun 18, 2012

by Alan Shelton (@AlanEShelton)

It was quite a pleasure to work with leadership coach Alan Shelton on his new book. I won’t tell you any more of the story because Alan does a terrific job of that. But his process is one that represents a pretty high level of self-publishing, and here he goes into the details of what it took to get his book into print.

I was delighted when Joel Friedlander asked me to contribute my story of writing a book. At first it seemed obvious to me that I should wait until the book was published and then write the story in its entirety. I have done just that as the book was released on May 7, 2012. The book is entitled Awakened Leadership: Beyond Self-Mastery. It is intended as a message for both corporate leaders and those who are on the seeker’s journey. How did I get here?

The Backstory

My life has included two apparently diverse experiences. I have excelled in a corporate career beginning as a merger and acquisition expert with a CPA and managed various companies as a CEO, CFO, and COO. While engaged as a corporate warrior I have also spent years in my own personal search, including stints of years with masters in India seeking some truth that I could barely describe.

The culmination of these two activities now has me in the corporate world as a leadership consultant working with the development of executives and management teams. As my personal search flourished and my business life expanded, I was able to see that these two activities were actually one in the same.

My motivation to write came from the hope that I could create a book that would be a resource to any corporate or spiritual seeker wrestling with life in the same way that I have. And so I began.

Now you may think that writing a book would come as second nature to a seasoned business executive. And you would be wrong. I knew nothing about the business of producing books and further had no reputation in any industry that could be considered book related. I just had a passionate need to express something that might help others.

So what did I do? I went to my handy Google machine and typed, writing and publishing books. One of the first entries I found was to the 50 best publishing blogs written by some guy named Joel in Marin County, California. Now I’m from California and actually a product of the 60s, so an intellectual living in Marin County who knew about books was good enough for me.

Step 1: Get an Editor!

By the time I found Joel and his 50 blogs I had already made two intelligent decisions:

  1. I had written a fair amount of the book and,
  2. Before I even started I had hired an excellent editor.

I had not written much of anything beyond a business plan since my sophomore year of college. The jury was out as to whether I could write at all. So a good editor was a must and Elianne Obadia—known as The Writer’s Midwife—was the first in what was to become a parade of people necessary to produce a book.

I diligently perused the 50 or so blogs that Joel listed as resources. I also was able to click on some handy video of Joel explaining whether to find a publisher or become a self-published author. And as I listened to that fine counsel it was obvious that I had neither the patience nor the time to be real published author. For if I could publish my book by the age of 59 I really couldn’t afford the extra two years that a formal publisher would need for their process.

When I found out that publishers would compromise an author’s writing in service of their own market position, I immediately knew that my message would brook no such interference. Joel had made these important points in his videos and I took him at his word. Thus I was left with 50 blogs full of resources seemingly designed for an old stubborn Irishman just like me.

Step 2: Get an Advisor!

The first thing I needed to understand was the immensity of all of the tiny detailed particulars in a book. They all needed to be addressed. And so I found a wonderful book consultant in Patricia Benesh at, who was one of Joel’s 50 blogs.

Patricia is an incredible resource. She gave me a step-by-step understanding of what issues I needed to face in creating a book. But more importantly she ran me through an exercise of collaboration in which we identified the mission of the book and where in the market my book might fit. But this was just the beginning.

Step 3: Get a designer!

Awakened LeadershipOne of the first things we needed to do was to locate both an interior designer for the book as well as a designer to create the cover, and we were lucky enough to land Joel Friedlander himself to do the interior. We also located a cover designer who created the first cover.

One of the big surprises of the project was that many things we did were outgrown later in the process as the mission of the book became more clear. It wasn’t that the first cover wasn’t a good cover, but as the book took shape it was clear we needed a cover that better matched the book that was developing.

We finally landed a cover on our 20th try or so, but that wasn’t the only change. At first we thought we would be creating a trade paperback. We later discovered the book would be better as a hardcover. So Joel was stuck with formatting the book the first time to match the trade paperback definition, then asked to toss that formatting aside and do a new version for a hard cover format.

Step 4: Get a marketing company!

Early on Patricia had told me that social marketing would be important to the launch of my new book. Of course, I knew nothing about social marketing. As I was perusing Joel’s blogs I noticed a company called This group is headed by a man named Jonathan Fields and they delivered a nine-week web class aimed at marketing a book.

It was in this class that I was introduced to Jayme Johnson of Worthy Marketing Group in Atlanta. I had to convince Jayme that my book was worth her effort for her company hadn’t yet taken on a self-published author. Luckily, Jayme felt that my book was a worthwhile exercise.

Step 5: Start the execution!

Jayme created a document she called a roadmap, which was a week-by-week action summary for the next 6-months. It included getting endorsements, selecting book covers, social media objectives, connecting with bloggers, and even managing the various iterations of the book.

Many of you may not know that when you write a book the first version is an advance review copy. In my case this was a book with no cover design, no foreword, and printed in a quantity of about 100 at These books are sent out to endorsers who hopefully will write something influential about the book that will compel readers to want to read your work.

But that is not all. There is a second version of the advance review book that in my case did include a cover and a little more material that was distributed to bloggers and mainstream outlets in advance of the final publishing. And finally there was the printing of the final. In each of these versions a manuscript must be updated and reworked and your designer is called on again and again.

Step 6: Get a website designer!

You’ll also need an author website. This will be your platform for your book and for your efforts to reach into the world of social media so that readers will know you’re there. It might include your blog, biographical information, book information, and the way for readers to buy the book.

In my case Patricia put me in touch with a wonderful company called Monkey C Media in San Diego, California headed up by Jeniffer Thompson. They specialize in creating author websites and soon I had a beautiful platform. But once again this was not the final act in the website space. Once we’d created the original website we realized that the book was resonating in a different way than we had anticipated. So Jeniffer, a website guru, got to redo the entire site in a different motif.

Step 7: Social media, are you kidding me?

For those who know nothing about social media, get used to these words: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs etc. etc. By the time you are done learning about social media you will know enough to get you labeled as a geek in any crowd. In addition to knowing about social media get prepared to interact and engage in conversations in a variety of forms you didn’t even know existed.

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of writing the book is how today I longingly look back on the actual writing of the book as the quiet period of the whole exercise.

Step 8: The Finish!

Because my book was gaining interest in the market, I selected Rob Nissen. A publicist is someone who routes you and your work into the mainstream media spotlight. For me that meant exposing me to Forbes, Bloomberg, fast Company, Psychology Today and so on.

The Big Picture

The book came out in early May, 2012. I’m now sending out books both hardcopy and digital as fast as I possibly can. These are going to leadership influencers and other folks who can help expose the book to a larger market. In addition, I am currently writing some 8 to 10 articles weekly for blogs and magazines. I also spend a lot of time each day commenting on responses to my articles and on other blog articles relevant to my subject.

The task has become so big that I have hired a couple of social media people to help me get everything done. One of those is Stephen Katz who is in charge of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest etc. He also helps me execute on any e-mail campaign to influencers from our social media experience. Benita Peters exclusively handles Amazon reviews and my author’s page in addition to Goodreads. Her job is to create reviews and build followers through that channel.

The book journey could fill a book itself. From ISBN numbers to getting permissions to the excruciation of the editing process the detail is more than can be remembered. I have lived with the people I have listed above. They are more than resources. They are my family. We all work like donkeys and then come back the next day and do it again. I relish the adventure and would gladly do it again.

But make no mistake; this is not an adventure for the timid. You will be called on again and again to make decisions. You will then tear those decisions down and rebuild them only to discard those as well. You will make decisions about distribution, marketing, and budgets that are the equal of running any entrepreneurial venture. You will climb a mountain with no end in sight!

I am sure that I have missed a lot of the detail that goes into creating a book. The one thing I must tell you is that writing a book will dominate your life. If you are not prepared to sacrifice most everything that you have known up until this point, then I would advise you to think again.

In the world of books and authors there is no such thing as enough effort. Every day at the end of the day I can safely say there is more to do than what I have accomplished that day. Writing a book is an experience that lives you. It is not an experience that you get to live.

Alan SheltonAlan Shelton is a leadership coach, consultant and the author of Awakened Leadership: Beyond Self Mastery. He lives in a refurbished fire station in Oceanside, California, with his wife Justine and their three family dogs.

Amazon links are affiliate links.

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Jacqueline SImonds

    I am Alan’s distributor, so I have a different take than many who contributed here. In the course of my business, I work with “all DIY” self-publishers, writers who hire some help in the process, and authors who write the book, then hire a team to make the published product happen. There is no one path to success for everyone. If that were so, then everybody would simply do that, and Shazam everyone would have a best-seller (which isn’t a possibility in the real world). The only difference I’ve found with those who hire a team is that they treat the book (and any after it) like a business. Maybe that’s because they have more invested, maybe it’s because they aren’t having to do everything themselves. I don’t know. But it’s a business model I encourage those who are interested to try it. Warning, it is not for the faint of wallet. All of those I work with who are doing this have raided their home equity, retirement savings and kid’s college funds to make this work.

    Alan has a chance of making a very large market with his book, not just in the retail world, but the corporate world. Given where he came from and where he’s going, he is a model to admire… not throw spitballs at.

    • Karl

      Making significant income through a self-published book is an extremely rare occurrence. Happily, however, self-publishing is something that can be done with very modest expenditure.

      From those two facts it follows that the sensible way to do things is to “invest” modestly, especially on one’s first books. Investing lavishly could be compared to “investing” in several hundred lottery tickets in the hopes that you’ll win more than you lose.

      Some folks can afford to spend their money like that. Whether or not it’s a sensible thing to do is another question.

  2. James Navé

    Thanks for your comments. Like you, I grew up in a working class family, outside Asheville, NC in the fifties. Since then, I’ve seen my share of the world. No matter where I’ve roamed, I’ve always heard the fiddle tunes my father used to play.

    Here’s to the music in how we live our lives . . .


  3. Katie McAleece

    Wow, so much to read and learn here. But you couldn’t have broken it down into any more detail for us- it’s extremely helpful. And I’ll go ahead and speak on behalf of everyone reading: We appreciate it!

  4. Alan Shelton

    In reading the comments it could lead one to believe that I do indeed live in an ‘alternative’ universe. But here are some of the constraints and decisions that I had to make and you will too.

    I wrote the book while I continued to work full time at my corporate leadership practice. There was no way I could do everything myself and I knew that. I also have a very short runway left in my career (I just turned 59) so I needed to make my move fast and I knew that too.

    I borrowed over half of my entire budget and took the rest from my savings and cash flow. It had an effect on my family life and what we got to do for a couple of years. The good news is that my family was willing to sacrifice to see this project done.

    My wife is a yoga teacher and healer. That’s important because many of my resources weren’t expensive. Benita, who handles Amazon and Goodreads, is a yoga teacher. She does work for me on the side and not for a lot. Steven Katz, my social media director, is a 25 year old Michigan graduate who wanted wants a career in digital field. He had done some work for Yoga Vista, the studio where my wife teaches, and this is his first job in social media. He isn’t incredibly expensive.

    If you have more time than I did you could do my entire project with the guidance of Joel’s seminars, Tribal Author Marketing and Patricia Benesh which wouldn’t cost a lot. There isn’t a way to get around the editing process and because I am a first time author I didn’t have a choice here. I also don’t know how to build websites so I needed that expertise.

    The reason I go into such detail is to dispel the notion that somehow I did this the easy way while living far from what a normal self published author would experience. Like all of us I had to make choices, many of them hard and that affected my family. Those choices did, as in most cases, create the need to work like I haven’t worked in many years. That said I have loved the journey and would gladly do it again. But my message is to know, going in, that it is a mountain you will be climbing. And while it might be easy to classify someone as having the ‘easy road’, don’t believe it for a second. You will be called on to make decisions based on your resources and capabilities. And they will stretch you! They sure did me.


    • James

      I’m glad you highlighted on your backstory in your response. When your post caught my eye yesterday, I printed it. This morning while looking across the Taos mesa, I read it. The information was stellar.

      If you decide to flesh out your 8-Step article, I would encourage you to add some some of your back story, like you borrowed over half your budget. That one detail personalized your story plus made it more democratic.

      Suddenly, I’m no longer thinking, this guy is a corporate guy, fifty thousand bucks to him is like a café latte to me. Instead, now I’m thinking, damn this guy took a chance, had some courage, put his money on the table, didn’t fold when the game began.

      “So much depends on the red wheelbarrow,” as Williams said.

      I too followed Mr. Friedlander’s lessons, also Ms. Penn at The Creative Penn. My book Looking at Light: Fighting Cancer with Poetry (200 copies) arrives tomorrow. I wrote 100 poems in 100 days starting in the hospital the day after prostrate surgery, April 1, 2011. All is well now.

      Like you, I borrowed money to make the book happen.

      Cheers, James Navé

      • Alan Shelton


        Thanks for the input. I think I was so eager to expose the execution and resource portion of our journey that it didn’t occur to me to put the personal touch on it. I came form a lower middle class background and even though I am polished as a corporate guy, my roots are not in that space. My friend make fun of me saying that if I had a million dollars that I would still be a hick, just with a million dollars! So doing projects the hard way with little or no resources has become an entrepreneurial artform. BTW I love the theme of your book!


  5. Turndog Millionaire

    Wow, talk about detail. You really went to town with this, good job :)

    So daunting too, for a newbie like me. Always so much to learn, but it’s a good journey :)

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

  6. karensdifferentcorners

    Hi Joel
    I had to laugh at #7. My nephew is a website designer and he called me on Saturday, telling me one of his customers wanted him to post something on facebook and he didn’t know how. I told him he really needs to work on the social media (not that I mind helping) But just hoping to land on page one of Google search doesn’t always work. I also told him to tell his customers to add share buttons to all their sites. I’m the type of person, that if I find something interesting, I love to share and that’s what I’m headed off to do now, Share your blog! Have a great day!

  7. Ilana Waters

    Ha-ha: “Social media–are you kidding me?” That’s exactly the way I felt at first, but it’s been fun so far. And yes, sometimes we do look back with nostalgia on the actual “book writing” as the most peaceful part of all!

  8. Nan Bush

    What Mr. Shelton has described is an exciting journey in an alternate universe. It is the high-end universe in which every aspiring author has the financial resources to hire nine knowledgeable people do what those without such resources have to do for themselves. It seems a foregone conclusion that he will do better in less time, making the right contacts and the right moves, than if he had had to do the work mostly alone.

    Also, I can’t help but feel that hiring someone to get Amazon reviews and make my social media connections is not a business model I would choose to follow. Which is no doubt a contributing factor to why that is, for me, an alternate universe.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Nan, thanks for your comment.

      I agree that “self-publishers” fall into lots of different categories depending on how they choose to bring their books to market. Alan’s path is quite different from most do-it-yourselfers but quite common for people who come from a corporate background or who are using their books as a vehicle for their business development.

      These self-publishers can spend from $10,000 – 50,000 or more and, for many of them, it’s a sound business decision. This is one reason why it’s so important for authors to know about these different options and to match their own goals and assets to the path they intend to take.

    • Karl

      Agreed. This article was a long-winded exercise in “watch this rich person spending absurd amounts of money while playing at his little hobby.” This isn’t self-publishing, this is old-fashioned vanity publishing; a self-indulgent game for people with more money than sense.

      • Joel Friedlander

        Karl, perhaps your experience of self-publishing is limited to people with tiny budgets or do-it-yourselfers, but this type of publishing has been around for a very long time. As I said, it can be a sound business decision because a high-profile book can have amazing effects in enhancing authority, broadening the audience for your ideas, and increasing revenue from speaking and other sources.

        And it is definitely not “vanity” publishing, which completely depends on sales of books to the author for the vanity publisher’s income. In Alan’s case there is no vanity publisher, and he will sell the vast majority of books to the public.

  9. BettyMingLiu

    Thanks for this post about your exciting journey. You’ve managed to both inspire me and scare me! What does hiring all these consultants cost??? Congrats and good luck. : )

  10. Michael N. Marcus

    Alan’s project was apparently executed extremely well. The cover is attractive and the reviews on Amazon are impressive. It would be useful to know how much he spent and how many copies he’ll have to sell to break even.

    I fear that the numbers may discourage other would-be independent publishers.

    A search for books on “leadership” on Amazon shows more than 80,000 entries — more than twice as many as “Abraham Lincoln” or “self-publishing” and seven times as many as “auto repair.” This may indicate that leadership is a very popular topic — or that there are already too many books about leadership. It could be very costly to achieve major market share even for an extremely good book as Alan’s seems to be.

    Michael N. Marcus



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