My name is Ashley Olafsen, I’m 19 years old, and last week I just published my first ever book!

It’s called Survival of the Prettiest and is all about self-esteem, body image, mental health, media, relationships, and pretty much everything I wish people were talking about while I was growing up.

The book is engaging, interactive, full of reflection questions, and hopefully inspiring. I’m hoping that it will be a call to action and break the silence on so many common, important issues that we as millennials are dealing with. Check it out here.

For the first time, I’m going to open up about the writing process and reveal how you too can publish a book. I’m hoping that breaking it down will make the process less intimidating so that you can begin a book of your own.

Below is a list of the steps I took while writing my book – it’s not the definitive way to write a book, it’s just simply what I found to work for myself.

Step One: Do Your Research

This is probably the most important part of writing a book, and will potentially take you the most time. Personally, I spent just over a year researching for the book. Essentially, I read books, watched TED talks, read articles, and even conducted my own interviews and a massive survey of over 1k people.

I simply googled books, TED talks, and researched articles on the various topics I was interested in. I actually really enjoyed the research process, because I’m so passionate about everything I was learning.

While researching, whenever I came across a quote, passage, or study that I liked, I would make note of it. After I had finished a book, for example, I would photocopy the pages I liked and highlighted the important parts I wanted to use.

I kept a huge folder of all the photocopied pages, so I could use them to back myself up during the actual writing process. Perhaps this is an amateur way of doing things, but quite frankly it worked for me.

Step Two: Create an Outline

As I was reading books and looking at studies, I was thinking a great deal about how I wanted to format and create my own book. Using that knowledge, I spent some time creating various potential outlines…I would literally just jot down ideas in colorful markers on printer paper, trying different things.  

Step Three: Start Writing

That’s right. Step three is to actually start writing. Don’t worry about getting it perfect, just get it down. There will be plenty of time to change it later – right now you only need to focus on getting your thoughts out. Make sure to use the references you collected earlier to back yourself up.

TIP: Make sure you do your citations while writing, not at the end like I did. #REGRETS

Step Four: Cry Because You Need to Redo It All, Then MOVE ON!

Inevitably, you’re going to face some form of setback. For me, I experienced writer’s block coupled with the realization that I literally needed to redo the entire structure. Being an impatient person, I was deeply irritated by the fact that I had to restructure the book.

After several weeks of failed new outlines, I almost gave up. But I didn’t. And you can’t either. What you have to say is valuable and worth sharing. Keep writing!

Step Five: Edit, Edit, Edit (Accept Feedback)

After you get some sort of rough outline of the book, go through it all again (or several times) to edit it. At this point, I would recommend hiring an editor. You can easily find one in your area by googling editors and reading their bios, to find a good match for you.

Though they can be incredibly expensive, it largely depends on how thorough of a job you want them to do and what specifically you’re hiring them to edit.

Step Six: Figure Out Your Cover

If you haven’t already, your next step is to figure out what you’re going to do for the cover. I actually worked with a good friend of mine to create the design of mine. If you don’t have any friends, you can always google local illustrators and see samples of their work. Or even look on sites like Fiverr.

It’s important to note that the cover is actually the part we struggled most with. My cover was rejected five times before being accepted. It’s because we got the proportions wrong.

TIP: Make sure that you know the qualifications of the publishing company you’re going with before creating or submitting anything.

Step Seven: Revise and Format it

Keep revising. You’ll probably be totally sick of going through it again and again, but it’s important to get it to the best possible point. Then you’ll need to format it according to the size specifications of the book layout you’ve chosen. I recommend using Microsoft word to make sure everything looks good and clean.

Step Eight: Go Through the Publishing Process

Now you actually get to publish your work! I chose to use CreateSpace and self-publish with Amazon for several reasons.

First of all, I got full control over what I wrote, which was very important to me. Additionally, I make a bigger portion of the profit than I would if I went through a publishing house. I’m not in this for the money, but I gotta get through college somehow.

CreateSpace is easy to use, AND it’s sold on Amazon, AND they take care of all the shipping, handling, and printing for you! 

Step Nine: Market It

This is the part that I’m doing right now. I definitely don’t have all the answers yet, but I can tell you that I’m doing my best. To market it, I am of course promoting it on all of my social media outlets, as well as calling up pretty much every morning show and news station out there.

I’m sending out press releases, writing articles for new sources, and even reaching out to places like Urban Outfitters asking them to offer my book to their customers. Marketing for me is one of the tougher parts of the process. I think it’s because I’m starting to get weary and want the book to get big already…if only it were that easy. Until then, I’ll keep working.

Writing a book is a long process, but it CAN be done. It is done all the time, after all 🙂 I hope these 0 steps help inspire you to start writing your own!Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

Ashley Olafsen

Ashley Olafsen is a Huffington Post Contributor, a TEDx speaker, and most importantly a teenager who is passionate about self esteem, body image, media, mental health, and more. She is a social entrepreneur who has co founded a company called MOVE, and co directs numerous workshops and even a 5 day summer program! This year’s summer program had over 80 girls participating and working together! Additionally, she is new author and her book, Survival of the Prettiest, is sold on Amazon. In addition to being a paid speaker, she also sends out a newsletter and creates YouTube videos. Finally, she is a member of the inaugural class of the Global Youth Advisory Council.