So, You Want to Write a Book…
One month ago, I published my first book, Discover the Joy of Leadership: A Practical Guide to Resolving Your Management Challenges.
This was the culmination of two full years of work and although it was exhausting, I do take great pride in what I have created.
Each year about 2.2 million books are published across the world. Of the 123 countries that publish books, the top five are China, the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia and India.
Writing and publishing a book is a common interest of many people, but few actually follow through.
In this post, I would like to share with you the various steps that I “endured” to accomplish my book becoming a reality.
The time and expense are considerable and I certainly wish I understood more about the process ahead of time, despite my efforts to learn and prepare.
My purpose is to inform and encourage you to take on such a heady but satisfying challenge.
Here are the stages of developing a book from my experience.
- WHY are you writing the book?
- WHO is the intended audience for your book?
- WHAT would a reader expect to experience by reading it?
I decided to create my book as a way to both advertise my executive leadership coaching practice and share the significant amount of material I had collected on the topics of leadership and management over many years.
Although I use some of this material with my clients, there was a substantial additional amount that I didn’t use with any regularity.
My intended audience was anyone interested in learning to master the challenges of being a good manager in preparation for them ultimately becoming a very effective leader.
A reader of my book, where each chapter is only 3 to 5 pages long, would find a succinct summary of a challenge one of my clients might have had and a path to resolution, including models and examples of various theories that we applied. I share the outcomes and end each chapter with several key questions for the reader to ponder.
Folks who have read the book describe it like having an easy conversation with me, just as a client might have.
WHERE will the material come from for your book?
As I mentioned, I had accumulated a large library of books and articles on management and leadership that served as my primary resource. I then looked for events or current articles that provided a creative spark to help me bring these concepts to life.
I was very fortunate that during the year or so that I was writing the book, I found a steady stream of insights that engaged me intellectually.
Finding a Writing Rhythm
I’ve read that every great writer, and I do NOT put myself in that company, finds a discipline or rhythm about writing on a regular and consistent basis.
Writing is not necessarily about serendipity, it’s more a matter of simply hard work and putting things down on either paper or typing them into whatever system you’re using.
I got into a cycle of publishing a new post on my blog at least twice a month. I am closing in on 100 total posts on my website but only a portion of that was included in my book.
Set a time aside and just get the work done.
I will tell you that editing your book is the most important step, and to carefully invest your time and energy into making it happen as thoroughly and professionally as possible.
After I wrote a piece, my assistant Naomi would review it, look for grammatical errors and make suggestions regarding the content as well. Any time I posted something on my website I wanted it to be as error-free as possible. We always believed that we achieved that.
I received a recommendation for an editor of the whole manuscript. This individual helped me “de-blog-ize” my content so that it didn’t sound like it was just going to be an accumulation of unrelated blog posts that were slapped together to create a book.
This was very valuable and also fairly expensive. However, when I went to upload the manuscript to the publisher, we discovered a substantial number of errors that had to be corrected in a time-consuming and meticulous manner.
I will admit that I did not review the work when I got it back from my editor because I assumed that it was correct.
In retrospect, that was a big error.
My book is about 325 pages long and I can’t tell you the total number of hours that went into ensuring that the final product was as error-free as I could possibly make it.
There are several different types of writing styles according to editors I interviewed. The editor that I initially used followed an AP style. There’s also a Chicago style, which for the type of book I wrote was much more common.
Just know that there are different styles and select one from the start that fits your book genre.
Find a Publisher and a Project Manager
It’s very difficult to get a well-known book publisher to handle your book unless you’ve been a successful author before or have a degree of fame or notoriety that will make people interested in your book.
I had neither and so I decided to self-publish, which is very common these days. Amazon has their own self-publishing arm called Create Space.
I was steered to a smaller but very reputable publisher out of Minneapolis by the person I hired to be my project manager on this job. The project manager proved to be incredibly valuable because she handled the dialogue on making the changes and keeping the file updated between my efforts and the publisher. She spoke their language and that was a great investment on my part.
If you ever decide to shop your book to a formal publishing house, be prepared for a huge amount of time and effort and a lot of rejection. They will handle a tremendous amount of the front and back-end efforts to help make your book a successful, but be prepared for a long slog.
Also, I currently keep about 70% of my book’s price but with a full-service publisher, that’s more like 10%.
Find a Company to Print and Distribute Your Book
A well-known book publisher will handle this for you, but if you self-publish you must arrange for this yourself.
The good news is that a firm like Create Space will manage the printing and fulfillment for you; people can just order your book in either print or Kindle version on Amazon.
Interestingly, most of the printing of the books is done on demand. There are not hundreds or thousands of your book sitting in a warehouse but they’re printed 1 or 5 or 20 at a time depending on whatever the order is that comes in.
As the author, you can order books at cost so that you can have them to distribute for marketing purposes as you see fit.
Find a Book Launch PR Firm to Get the Book Out There
A sobering statistic is that the average self-published book only sells about 150 copies. An author may hand out another 150 to their friends and family, but that will not make them very much money.
It’s important that you find an organization that can assist you in getting the word out through social media and the press to launch your book in the marketplace. This is not cheap but you will not have the connections or the time to even approach what a decent PR firm can do.
It’s also important that you think about reaching out to speak at various conferences or with business groups about your message to promote your book as well.
Do I Have Another Book in Me?
That’s a question I’ve been asked a lot recently.
Although I have some ideas, I tend to doubt it because it is such a huge amount of work and right now I would prefer to leverage my accomplishment into simply driving business for my company.
I can also tell you that concerns and challenges will come up that you could never have anticipated because this is all going to be very new to you.
I had to demand my manuscript back from the original self-publisher because they got sold to another firm that was not familiar with the genre of my book. This probably added 4 to 6 months in terms of the total amount of time it took to get my book over the finish line and was incredibly frustrating.
But, I’m very proud to have accomplished getting my book published. I’m getting Amazon reviews that are very positive and people are describing it just as I intended it to be.
That is greatly satisfying.
Just know that this is an incredibly demanding challenge and this post was intended to give you some real-time perspective on what the process is all about.
If you decide to become an author, I wish you the very best and I hope that your success will make John Grisham or Stephen King look over their shoulders at the number of copies you sell.
Filed Under Thoughts on Being a Leader