Now that I’ve covered why I use plain text, this chapter tells you how I do it. It describes why I publish my own books rather than use traditional publishers.

Some of us in the United States go to Home Depot or Lowes to get supplies to perform do-it-yourself projects around our houses. I do it because it can be less expensive than hiring out all the work and I enjoy some types of DIY work.

This book shows a similar pattern of a do-it-yourself project for self-publishing, and for pushing a book out to various formats using free tools. It costs you no money for the free tools. It will cost a little bit of time to install them. I show you how to use the free tools. Once you’ve got the habits down, self publishing is very fast and very easy with these tools. You may want to write and self publish more than one book, so these methods will help you each time you write a new book.

After the non-recurring setup work it only takes seconds for me to publish to HTML and a couple of minutes to publish to PDF for print.

Caution
My first time took me longer. Your first time will likely take you longer too. But as you make less mistakes, it speeds up and you can produce a book very quickly.

If you’re a writer, you still have to write. Authoring the content is not automated. Even if you use a traditional publisher, you still have to do the hard work of writing the book.

Publishers will do the work of publishing to eBooks and print books for your, but at great cost in time, control, and less payment per copy purchased.

Just like a DIY project at your house, the first time you have to replace an insect screen on your door it can seem tedious, slow and frustrating as you learn what you’re doing.

Likewise for your book, using plain text tools the first time through will seem tedious, slow and frustrating as you learn what you’re doing.

Today I can put a new insect screen on pretty quickly.[1] I can also publish my books in minutes. Literally. I’ve timed it.

The same thing that drives me to do DIY in other areas pushes me to try DIY for book publishing too.

Why I like DIY Projects for Making Books
  • DIY helps me lean towards a growth mindset.[2]

  • I get to make something, and I like creating.

  • Mastering something I’m interested in is satisfying, even when it takes work.

  • I get to learn from my mistakes and improve.

  • It will be much easier the second time around.

  • I build confidence in these regularly used skills.

  • I get hands-on so I can help move towards my goals or even dreams.

  • I gain new skills or knowledge. Each book project I take on teaches me something new and improves my problem-solving abilities. I get to use my brain more.

  • Freedom. DIY offers me more autonomy than traditional publishing where you yield to the publisher’s processes and conventions.

Caution
If you’re the type of person who can’t stand spending more than five minutes learning something new, then this book is probably not for you. If you like DIY projects, keep going and I’ll walk you through it.

I like books. So I apply DIY for myself and share with you. I don’t enjoy plumbing. So, I hire out toilet fixes.

Time shifting occurs too. For example, when you first buy Microsoft Word and install it, you have to learn how to use the app. Learning to use Microsoft Word for the basics is not too difficult up-front. However, the little time spent up front is dwarfed by the time spent near the end of your project trying to get Microsoft Word to publish a 400-page book. At the end, you’ll run into many problems with Microsoft Word. If you end up with a corrupted file like I have, you’ll really be in a pickle.

Consider where you’ll spend your time. AsciiDoc moves the effort to the front, where Microsoft Word makes you spend that time at the end of your project. AsciiDoc does not take much at the end to publish. But you have to learn how to use it up front. Making some words bold is the same in both apps. The hurdle at the front rather than at the back is what throws some people off. However, the publishing savings with AsciiDoc ends up saving time overall as compared to Microsoft Word and other word processing apps.

This book took 1 second to render to HTML. It took 46 seconds to render to a PDF. This final book is over 18,000 words.

I’ve created many other books, some over 650 pages, and they all take a similarly short time to produce for publication or distribution.

In summary, now you know how I do it. I use the do-it-yourself approach.

The remainder of this book will show you what I do so you can do it too.

Caution
If when you follow these instructions your results don’t work, it is easy to get frustrated. I got frustrated when learning and my results did not match the instructions written to software developers. Methodically go through the error messages and work your way to the mistake so you can correct it and move on. See my lessons learned in [gotchas]. When we’re new to something we introduce errors unintentionally. I did. You likely will. Don’t quit. Talk a walk. Get a good night’s sleep and try again when you’re fresh. The most difficult part is the setup of tools. Fortunately, you only have to do this once per computer you buy.[3]

1. Our dogs provide multiple opportunities to replace insect screens as they occasionally shred the screens.
2. See the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck for more details.
3. If you choose to update the tools, you’ll have to update them occasionally.
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