Yes you, lovely reader. You need to write a book!
Seriously, if you’re reading this, you’ve probably been thinking about it or are pondering the possibility at the moment.
But there might be all sorts of reasons that are holding you back:
- Nobody knows me from Adam (or Eve). Surely you need to be famous? I’m not a Times or NYT bestseller.
- I’m too specialist. No one’s going to want to read it.
- I know my field, but I’m not a great writer.
- I’m way too busy. Where can I find the time?
There is one immutable factor: you may well be more likely to cut a book deal with a major publishing house if you’ve been published before, or are a famous name. These days, that is how big trade publishing works: by the numbers and existing traction.
(Whether that has any bearing on how deserving the famous name is to have actually got a deal, or indeed the value of their product, is another matter entirely.)
But – and this is a big but – read on, because it isn’t all bad news.
It’s also a fact that expertise has real value for readers, especially in non-fiction genres such as practical and business books. Publishers are always on the lookout for solid content that delivers.
Not being a name isn’t necessarily going to detract from the possibility of getting a deal.
Niche works too, and perhaps more effectively than you might think. For publishing purposes it’s far better to specialise within your area, become the go-to person for it, than to try and appeal to everyone and everything without real purpose or focus.
You have important intel to share: there may well be readers out there who really want your book, because the one they need simply doesn’t exist yet.
If you have a course or system that you operate, even better. Here, your book is effectively a unique offer. It functions not only as a one-stop shop for your knowledge and positions you as an expert, but can act as a lead magnet to your business.
Writing a book is giving back
Think of it this way: writing a book is a form of philanthropy.
Consider the sheer numbers of people who’ve gained so much just from sitting down to read a book. At their best, books can be life-changing: whether that’s guidance for work, insight into a problem, a system or solution to make the reader’s life easier and better.
Or plain and simple, good old enjoyment!
All of these you can contribute by writing a book.
And the wonderful thing is that a book is your legacy for future generations. You’re creating a body of work and leaving behind something of real worth for many years to come.
Making a start
What do you need to get moving?
Before you put hand to keyboard, it’s important to research well and thoroughly:
- Look at the current publishing landscape in your topic – if books already exist in your subject area, that means there is a market for them.
- Find the gap – look at the positions those authors take on it, their content and offer, and see how you can stand out with your own.
- Research the right publishers – check their lists, see what they’ve published and when. This is important, as a publisher might believe your book is good but perhaps not quite the right fit for them. It’s best not to waste time targeting the wrong channels.
If trying to get a book deal isn’t right for you – and especially if you’d prefer to retain creative control of your project – self-publishing is very much a viable option these days too.
It’s entirely possible to create a quality product that readers will rate and love, and happily take it to market alongside traditionally published works.
Find your USP
Many prospective authors are concerned that writing on the same topic as others out there is simply repetition. In a way this is true, and unavoidable to some degree. If authors didn’t cover at least some of the same topics in their subject area, no books would be written at all!
The key is how to approach it and identify your unique proposition.
- Who is my audience?
- What is my take on the topic?
- What are my prospective readers’ pain points – what do they really want and need?
- How am I going to solve them – and what is different about my solution?
If you’re working with clients in coaching or consultancy, you’ll already have a really good line into these questions, which will help to create, direct and focus your content.
Gaining clarity on what you’re going to write, for whom and how, are all fundamental to producing a really good book.
Beating the fear
What you might need to do when you start writing (and I hesitate to put it like this, but it can be true sometimes!) is to get out of your own way.
Show your own voice
The reason why people will be picking up your book is because they want to hear and experience you – not someone else, or how you might think they should be hearing you.
You don’t necessarily need to be stuffy or ‘formal’ – that isn’t a prerequisite to publish. In fact, your unique voice and a conversational writing style can work better because it’s more accessible, friendlier, easier to digest and makes for a faster read.
Feel free to share your enthusiasm for, and commitment to, what you do.
It’s fine to show your character and light up the page.
Tell your story
How did you get to where you are?
What is your own experience?
How does it inform the knowledge you’re sharing now?
Your story shows authority and lends gravitas to your content, because you’ve been there, experienced it, taken the time to process and are now ready to share it with others to help them.
Hopefully this should solidify your feeling of being able to write and vanquish impostor syndrome. Just trust that you have something valuable to say. (For more on this, see here.)
Don’t be afraid to publish
As for ‘I’m not a great writer’ – well, it is true that writing is a craft that takes time to master.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t publish.
There are numerous experts out there who are fantastic and leaders in their field – often technical ones, where their vocational focus has rightly been less on the intricacies of the English language, and more on their own specialism – and they’ve still created successful books.
There are a couple of options, if you feel your writing might benefit from being professionally shepherded:
- Book coaching – this provides active support while you’re writing. Book coaches can help you with outlining and organising your book, review your content as you write, and support you with motivation and accountability.
- Development editing – an editor can provide you with support when you have a first or further draft ready. They can assess your manuscript and provide a report and notes to guide you, then work actively with you to refine and complete your text ready for design and publication.
A book coach can help you structure your writing schedule: often, they break down delivery chapter-by-chapter, so you don’t have to come up with a huge amount of content in one go. This way the process is manageable, not overwhelming: you can feel supported and encouraged that you’re getting results within the space you have available.
Development editing works in much the same way, but on a larger scale and often on a longer timeline, with the whole script. Editors understand that you’re writing your book alongside what are usually significant work and life commitments, we don’t pressure to deliver within a constrained time frame if that doesn’t work for you.
Some books take months, others much longer – it really depends on your schedule and what you’re able to achieve. Like any project, it’s fine to allow for a gestation period: time to think, plan, execute and deliver a book of which you can be really proud!
If you’re thinking of writing a book and would like a sounding board for your idea and advice on how to move forward, as well as information on publishing and how it works, I offer a one-to-one confidential call to help you identify and plan your needs.
If this sounds like it could be useful for you, contact me.