By Karen Lynn Maher and Patty Pacelli

Successfully writing and publishing a nonfiction book is a journey through three distinct phases. No matter which publishing option you choose, you need to know that your manuscript is ready to advance. Recently over coffee I was meeting with colleagues Patty and Lonnie Pacelli ( to discuss the publishing process and we worked together to define the three phases. This article represents our collaboration.

Phase 1 – Content Ready

Here are the criteria for discerning a well-written manuscript:

  • Message has purpose and is clear — Know what you want to say and make it easy for your target audience to understand.
  • Message and content are relevant — Know your specific audience and write only to them with the purpose in mind.
  • Content is compelling — Set your book apart by evoking interest and attention. Make your message irresistible and fascinating to your readers. Address a problem they want to solve.
  • Content is well-researched — Avoid mistakes and inconsistencies by doing thorough research and fact checking for all aspects of your book.
  • Copyright is secure — Make sure everything is your own original idea. Obtain necessary permissions for any outside information and cite appropriately.

Phase 2 – Manuscript Ready

In this phase, you will work with peers and professionals to prepare your manuscript for publication.

  • Peer/audience review — Ask 3 to 5 colleagues or experts in the field to read a PDF copy of the book. Listen to their suggestions and then make changes as you see fit. Their job is to give advice about content based on their knowledge of the subject. They’re not looking for typos or doing copyediting.
  • Professional editing — This can be done before or after the peer review. It may involve developmental (big picture) editing, or only copy/line editing for grammar, punctuation and clarity.
  • Title choice — This important part of your book must be finalized before going into the next phase of production. Love your title.
  • Front and back matter written — Remember these extra parts of your book, such as acknowledgements, dedication, introduction, foreword, testimonials, author bio, and anything else you would like to put before and after the main body of the book.
  • Cover copy written — This is the text that will go on the back of the book cover and can be used for the book description on Amazon.
  • Author certainty — Make sure the content for your book is exactly how you want it. This is your last opportunity to make major content revisions.

Phase 3 – Production Ready

This phase is all about producing a high quality, professionally produced book that represents you and your company well. You’re an expert in your field, but you’re likely not a publishing expert. Hire people to guide you through making decisions about the look of your book and making it available for sale.

  • Trim size — Decide what size and shape you want your book, considering the content, number of pages, and the content of the cover.
  • Cover design — This includes the front, back, and spine and must be coordinated with the interior book design and follow specifications of your printer.
  • Interior design — Decide on typography fonts throughout book, paper color and other design features.
  • ISBNs assigned — Your publisher will have access to an International Standard Book Number, which must be assigned to all published books.
  • Professional proofreading — Hire a professional proofreader to read the final manuscript and cover content to catch last-minute errors.
  • Author approval to print — You are responsible for giving final approval that you are ready to print and publish your book.
  • Key words — If publishing on Amazon or any e-book platform, you will be asked for 5 to 7 key words. Do some research to find the best key words someone would use to find your book.
  • Establish book distribution accounts — You will set up author accounts with whatever online Print-on-Demand or e-book publisher you use. Your publisher can help with this.
  • Author and book marketing plan — Make a plan for how you will market and sell your book.

The Independent Book Publishers Association provides an Industry Standards Checklist for a Professional Published Book that will give you a good sense of the items needed to produce a professional caliber book.

For help or advice with any of these phases, please feel free to contact Karen or Patty. We both love to discuss book publishing. We’re here to help you.
Good luck with your writing and publishing!

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