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After writing over 7 books in three years, I want to share some thoughts on how I write a book as I continue to write more.
Start by looking at what is out there. I prefer to find a topic that has not been writing about much (think niche topic) instead of adding my own take to the crowded mass market of books.
What is available today from Amazon, Google as well as podcasts among many other sources of information?
Consume it. Study it. Research your topic or idea thoroughly.
Note that my MBTI scores for consuming data and research is close to the highest it goes.
Note that I personally write non-fiction and typically read non-fiction too. The best writers are heavy readers too. Keep consuming a variety of content. Feed your curiosity.
What is the topic you seek? Do a gap analysis of your research.
Find out what is missing. Why is it missing?
Does it really matter to your audience/readers and not just you? You can definitely write for you based on your curiosity and own interests, however, blogging might be more successful than book writing in that case. It is easier to reach an audience.
Draft the keywords based on the topics that matter.
How many people on LinkedIn have these topic keywords in their profile? Is there enough people that care about the topic to have it as part of their profession?
Who is the audience beyond who you are interviewing? Identify your audience so you know who you are writing for.
What are your goals for this book before you start writing it? Imagine the end state with goals.
What do you want to do with the book?
What do your readers want out of the book?
Is anyone interested?
What is in it for the reader?
WIIFM (or you)?
Is this a readers’ book or writers’ book? Be careful since there is a big difference between the two. One may feed your ego while the other might sell if it has value for the readers.
What are the calls to action? What do you want the reader to do at the end?
Reverse Engineer YOUR Book Project into a PLAN
Envision your end goals for this book. Based on these end-state goals, how do you get there?
Reverse engineer the book and its marketing.
What are those steps and tasks in reverse order? Break down the tasks and steps that need to occur.
Where are the gaps? What is missing in the plan? Do a gap analysis.
What do you need to learn (more time spend) or pay someone to do (more money spend)?
A book project is still a project. Treat it like project manager with specifications, timelines with deadlines and budgets. Prioritize those tasks.
Set realistic time-based milestones to avoid delays. How long will it take you to do each part? Be realistic to include sleeping, eating, and bathroom breaks included. Oh, and much of the other things you need to continue doing too. Drop the time-wasters that do not add value to your life and you will find time to do this book project even it’s 30 minutes daily.
Since plans fail often and then iterate, have a strategy.
What is not going to change whether this is your first book or your Nth book? What is going to change?
What will you do and what will you not do?
How are you going to engage and retain your audience in each chapter?
Promote before release to hold yourself accountable once you have a clear idea of why, how, what, and when you are delivering.
Have difficultly aligning the ideas, events and characters? Try mind-mapping them for better clarity.
Use (true) stories throughout your nonfiction book. It does not need to be your own personal stories that you experienced as long as you don’t plagiarize. Plenty of authors use other people’s stories with great success if told with clarity.
If you are writing fiction, you have the creative freedom to change reality into your own.
Utilize groups for many things. Groups for encouragement and ideation like virtual groups. Groups to interviews. Groups for feedback. Group-based (heavy user vs. light user) for tiered pricing. Groupings of professionals (such as editors) as backups when you need to scale up or if some are not available at the moment you need them. Start a group with people who have a common goal and are not competitors.
Make it a daily habit of writing every day. If you don’t have the focus or ideas flowing on your project, write something else like a blog or journal that day. Exercise that writing so you can build on it.
Keep your goals in mind. Then make it happen by doing it.
Start with an outline to organize your thoughts first for you and then ultimately for the reader.
Do you need a timeline? If so, build one for yourself. You don’t have to present the book in that sequence though.
If you are not sure what to add or how to structure it yet, create a mind map online.
Provide value to your readers in every chapter, not filler. Writing is not about word counts.
Editing is often clarifying and simplifying. Editing is about keeping which words count.
Read it out loud. If it is hard to read, edit to make it easier to read aloud and understand with better clarity. If the book was a long speech, could you read your long script so it flowed nicely?
Use Grammarly to assist your editing beyond spellchecks and grammar checks.
Cut out the fluff. Details are good if it helps bring out clarity and context as needed, but not if it brings out ambiguity and confusion.
Confusion is rarely a goal whether you are editing for the engaged reader nor for the successful writer.
Don’t write, edit, and publish in a vacuum. Writers are often blind to their own edits.
Ask some people to read a draft of a chapter or two for feedback. Ask to read the finished version for a review. That is what some groups are for. Do not ask family and close friends for feedback because it will be biased based on your relationship with them.
Emotion clouds logic. If it does not make sense, fix it. Do not defend what is not clear.
I am not a fan of overpolishing. No need for 50 drafts. Don’t waste time in delaying the release of a newly finished book.
The best feedback is respectful of you, but not the work. You are not your work. Unfiltered advice works. You need to know the challenges and suggestions on how to fix them, not how great you are. “It’s good” actually tells you nothing. Ask for specificity so you know where and why you might need to focus your attention on a possible challenge.
If someone actually spent the time to consume your work, listen carefully. Be sure they first understand the context, then the content. You can quiz them on it to check if they got it or not.
As part of the feedback process, I have the text-to-speech function turned on my computer to read the book back to me word for word so I am not assuming what I wrote was there, but rather hear it as written.
Writers assume clarity after a while or get lost in ambiguity. Some writers shelve a book project for months so they can revisit it and find the gaps to fill in their book.
Ask some people to read the finished version for a review. Your followers, even social media is one avenue for this.
Books don’t get done alone. At least not the books that get done efficiently.
Hire a professional editor.
Hire a professional copy editor.
Hire someone who has extensive experience formatting your book as an ebook, as a print book and/or as an audiobook. This might be a few different people. Do you need to know them? No. Results are what matter.
Hire a book cover designer. If the book has graphics or photos, hire a designer for the layout. Note that the formatting will be different for different types of ebooks and print books.
If you suck at marketing, hire a book marketer with a well-proven track record and recommendations. Otherwise, have a marketing plan before you publish the book (to create the buzz before release and possible anticipation after you wrap up all editing and design) and have several marketing plans with different avenues and directions after you publish. Do you need to know your marketer? No. You need an alignment of clear common goals. You will know if and where your marketing will work if the right questions are asked (like “how did you hear about my book?”) and links are tracked.
In order for your book to be findable (if no one can find it, no one will buy it), you need metadata which includes categorization for your book. ISBN is part of it.
A few years ago, I was asked to write a book for a publisher, however, their contract had no royalties for ebook sales (about 60% of the book market) and they would not negotiate that, so I declined. in my opinion, publishers provide very little value because they do very little today. This is why I choose to self-publish my books. I have yet to see any reason why I would not continue to self-publish which allows more control, more credit, more royalties.
When it comes to creating a book that you write, it is all up to you anyways, so why fork over the responsibilities unless you don’t want to do it in the first place. Commit or don’t. There is no gray area.
As far as book formats, ebooks will continue to come through. As far as audiobooks (fastest-growing book format due to ease of listening), I will pass for now because I choose to create podcast series instead which are created at a lower production cost.
Print books are great for people who want to hold a piece of you and your writings in their hands. My books will not be in bookstores (for the short time they still exist) because they are not for general audiences. Personally, I don’t need my books to appear on a shelf as just another dust collector. I am totally okay with that. Personally, I loathe paper.
What book writing tips would you like to share?
Are you writing a book?