Photo by Kévin Couette
I’m going to take a moment to step away from the marketing side of things and talk a bit about one of the other frequent questions I get: how to write a book.
It’s a common question, more frequent than one might expect. It’s like any other pursuit – once you’ve done it yourself, you are viewed as the “expert” and then are asked about how to accomplish such a task.
The reality is that writing a book isn’t easy. What you’re doing is taking 75,000 words or so to write about a particular topic. Sure, it can be a general information book that has a wide enough net to give you plenty to discuss, but ultimately, you’re still writing more in a manuscript than you likely have done at any other point in your life (PhD students aside).
So what is the secret to writing a book? There’s no real “special sauce” per se, but there are a few commonalities that come with completing a successful project.
The number one thing that will create writer’s block is trying to stretch a topic or write about something that you’re not “feeling” as you’re putting together your manuscript. A publisher will be looking for you to show your knowledge and willingness to research a topic (if applicable), so you have to come in prepared.
So what’s the best way to see whether you’re ready to give your book the attention the topic deserves?
Write a couple sample chapters
The only way to tell whether you’re ready to write a book is to actually start writing. Take a couple snippets of your topic and start writing. Try to get at least 2,500 to 5,000 words written. This already will put you at a length comparable to a major magazine feature.
If you can write this long and feel like you have a lot more to say, this will be a good indicator of whether or not you are ready to write a book.
So, now that you have your topic and the confidence to be able to write your book, it’s time to partner up with a publisher. Thus, your next step is…
Prepare your proposal
Whether you’re a first-time author or have written a dozen manuscripts, each and every time a publisher or literary agent is approached with a book idea, they’re going to want to see a proposal. This may include wanting to see a couple sample chapters (which you’ll have already done), but also may include:
-An identified target audience
-Identified titles that already cover your topic
-Projected sales potential
Be prepared to defend your project to the hilt. Going into the publishing world, particularly as a first-time author, is a risky venture, so you have to be able to show confidence and faith in your title. Be ready to be grilled on your project.
Finally, remember that the most important factor of book writing is to:
Set a timeline
It’s easy for us to get caught up in the activities of daily life. The majority of us will never make a career of book writing, so this becomes a side project like anything else you do, say, around your house.
Thus, it’s easy to shluff off and go weeks without working on the book, which will make your publisher anxious. Make yourself a loose schedule but incorporate hard deadlines, such as having 20,000 words by such and such date.
Remember though, that no matter the topic, book writing is a creative process. You will encounter stumbles along the way or days when you just can’t write. It’s important to keep these days in perspective and be ready to face them head on.
Jon Waldman is a marketing and communications expert in Winnipeg. Follow Jon on Twitter @jonwaldman or connect with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.