If you dream of publishing your own book, where should you begin? We asked Financial Post writer and bestselling young adult novelist, Melissa Leong for some advice. She self-published two paranormal adventure novels, What Kills Me and I Am Forever, written under the pen name Wynne Channing; they've sold more than 50,000 copies and have soared to #1 on a number of bestseller lists on Amazon.

How do you approach writing a book?

There are different approaches to writing a book, whether you're just writing by the seat of your pants or following a very carefully mapped plot line or chapter guide.

Personally, I approach writing books like I would any goal -- by breaking it into bite-sized mini goals. If, for example, you want to save $1,200 for vacation in a year, you need to set aside $100 every month.

You need to put the time and effort into that. The same goes for finishing a book. I knew that I wanted to write a 60,000-word novel in six months. That's about 2,500 words a week. I made sure I wrote a certain amount every week day. A page of the worst writing that you've ever done is better than a blank page.

According to studies, you're also more likely to achieve your goals if you have peer support. I had a buddy, fellow novelist and writing coach, S.M. Boyce, and we reported our word counts to each other at the end of each week.

So you've finished writing. What are the next steps to getting your book into the hands of readers?

First, I would congratulate anyone who has had the determination to finish a book and who now has the bravery to share it with the world. Your work, however, is just beginning.

You've put a lot of work into your manuscript, now you have to make sure that it is the best it can be. I highly recommend investing money into an editor.

This person, like Rumpelstlitskin will spin your hay into gold. This person will also make sure that there are no embarrassing errors in your manuscript. There's nothing like a bunch of typos that will turn your reader off. Check out Editors Canada to look for an editor and get a couple of quotes.

You'll also need a book cover and contrary to the saying, people DO judge a book by its cover so consider hiring a graphic designer to create the best face for your book. Some online services will sell you a ready-made cover which could work for you.

Otherwise, I've had great success finding artists on Deviantart, an online social community for artists. Make sure you get a couple of quotes and find out if the price includes revisions.

Can you give us an idea of what kinds of platforms or publishers are out there to publish your ebook?

I would be wary of any ebook publisher that charges you a lot of money to publish your book. If you just do a little research, you can do a lot of these steps yourself and save yourself some cash.

My favourite ebook publishers are Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and Kobo Writing Life. These do-it-yourself publishing portals are user friendly and will walk you through the steps of getting your book to its readers. It also allows you to set the price of your book and provides information on where in the world your e-books are being sold.

If you want a physical copy, I've had a good experience with Amazon's Createspace. With these services, you simply upload your manuscript and cover to the program and away you go.

Now, there are other platforms like Lulu and Smashwords which will publish your books and distribute them to retailers such as iBooks, Barnes & Noble. Each has pros and cons so just do a bit of research to see what will suit your needs best.

Wattpad has been called the Youtube of writing because you are sharing your work with and also engaging with a community. It's a great way to get a following and instant feedback on your work.

But you can't make book sales directly from this platform because it's all free. It's more of a tool to meet others, promote your work and get feedback on your work.

How do you market your book and get it noticed?

If you're serious about the success of your book, you need to treat this like a business. If you were with a traditional publisher, it would have a marketing department behind you. But if you're self-publishing, you are your own marketing department. And I've found that the success of my book directly matches the effort I put into publicity and marketing.

So what do you do? Put a banner on a website? Hand out bookmarks at the library? A lot of it is trial and error, but I'd like to share a few tips that have worked for me

  • Word of mouth is key so you want to put your book in the hands of influencers -- people who have a lot of social media followers, people whose opinion matters. In my case, I gave out hundreds of free copies in exchange for reviews on blogs, on Goodreads, etc.
  • I also pitched 200 book bloggers, asking them to write about my book. You also want to target the right audience. I paid a company to organize an online tour with bloggers who specifically write about paranormal teen novels. I also paid to be mentioned in direct email marketing blasts.
  • Get active on social media. There are so many platforms whether it's Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube and it can be overwhelming. I'd pick two that you're comfortable with and be very present and engaged on those, rather than spreading yourself too thin.

Can you make any money off ebooks?

Absolutely. The wonderful thing about self-publishing is that you are in the driver's seat. You set the price of your books and you stand to make a bigger slice of the pie.

I've heard of traditionally published authors receiving 7 per cent of royalties on their books. With Amazon's self-publishing platform, for example, you receive 70 per cent of royalties at $2.99 and 35 per cent for anything under.

Your ebook can also stay on the shelf forever. It's not subject to any stores taking it down due to poor sales. I've heard of some self-published ebooks suddenly taking off some time down the road.

This is your self-publishing journey. You're paddling the boat. So put some muscle into it and don't be afraid of choppy waters -- just keep paddling.