Studies show that up to 80% of people have considered writing a book. And while this may sound like a major undertaking, it just might be easier than you think. It’s also one of the best ways to establish yourself as an authority in your field. Authoring a book can impress clients, attract media attention, help you book speaking engagements, and much more.
Following are eight simple steps to finally get your book written in as little as 60 days (really!).
1. Decide on a Topic
Start by identifying your target audience. Who do you want your book to reach? Are you writing for your clients, single mothers, consultants, teenagers, retired baby boomers? Knowing your audience will help you make important decisions when building your content. You should always keep your audience in mind as you develop your book.
2. Know Your Book’s Unique Value
There were over 480,000 books published in 2008 alone, so if you’re worried that there is not enough room in the world for another book, know that the marketplace will always welcome new titles. The key is to establish how your book will be different or better than the competition.
Determine what unique value you bring to your readers. Also important is your purpose for writing the book. If your book is a tool for promoting your business, the amount of competition will be far less relevant. But if you aspire to hit the best-seller lists, then it is essential to know the competition and be able to differentiate it from the rest.
3. Choose Your Process
You don’t have to be professionally-trained writer to develop a book. Here are several options:
- Hire a ghost writer
- Enlist a co-author
- Dictate your book using software such as Professionally Speaking to convert it to text or have recordings transcribed and edited
- Get your thoughts on paper and hire a good editor to turn it into a manuscript
- Assemble an anthology of contributions from others
4. Leverage Content You Already Have
Your book may already be further along than you realize. If you have created content for your business, you may be able to use it for your book. Here are some places to look:
- Articles and blog posts you have written
- Hand-outs you have developed
- Surveys you have conducted
- Case studies, white papers and client success stories
- Seminars, videos, and recordings you have made that can be transcribed
- Contributions from others (articles, interviews, case studies, etc.; with their permission, of course)
5. Get Started with an Outline
Everyone has their own unique process for writing, though most writers will tell you that they start with some sort of outline. I recommend using a storyboard process.
Start with a blank wall and a stack of Post-it notes. Write each and every topic idea, no matter how large or small, on a Post-it and stick it to the wall. Once you have all of your ideas out, move the notes around until they form some kind of logical order. This is a great way to identify your chapters, how much content you have for each, and where you need to add more content. You can transfer everything to an outline or simply work off of your wall of ideas.
6. Begin the Writing Process
Once you know what topics to cover, you are ready to begin writing. The idea of writing a book can seem overwhelming, but if you tackle it in small pieces, it can begin to come together quickly. Here are some ways to manage the writing process:
- Approach each topic as if you were writing a short article. This will help you stay focused on the topic at hand while making it easy for your readers to enjoy.
- Break up the text with plenty of sub-headings and bullets for easier reading.
- Share stories (real-world or fiction examples) and use metaphors to illustrate important points.
- If you get stuck on a topic, move on to something else and return to it later.
- Avoid editing while you write—this can slow you down. Write first and edit later!
- Beware of getting side-tracked. If you stop the writing process to research something online, it can be easy to lose track of time. Make a note about the added work you need to do and keep writing.
- Develop a system for jotting down notes when you need to add more information, look up a resource or any other kind of follow up. You might mark a spot in the manuscript with “xxx” so that you can easily search and follow up later.
- Include quotes from people you have interviewed, provide resources for additional information, and compile brief sidebar tips to enhance the reader’s experience.
- Don’t obsess about the length of your manuscript as it could affect the quality of the content you write. Focus on writing for the reader and getting the most important points across. If you need to expand your manuscript later, you can always add case studies, sidebars, statistics or other data if it makes sense.
7. Make Time to Write
One of the biggest excuses that aspiring authors have is a lack of time to get a book written. Like anything else in life, if you want it badly enough, you have to find a way to make it happen.
You may want to plan your writing time around when you are most creative. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Perhaps you need to get up an hour earlier or stay up an hour later. It is important to discover your own unique process. Some writers are disciplined and write during a set time each day. Some schedule one or two days each week for writing. With my busy schedule, I actually check in to a hotel for a weekend and write, write, write! It’s all about what works best for you.
8. Cross the Finish Line
The average book manuscript is around 60,000 words. Two typed pages are the equivalent of around 1000 words. So if you wrote just two pages per day, your book would be done in 60 days! And as mentioned previously, manuscript length is not a deal-breaker, especially when publishing a book yourself. If yours comes in shorter than average, a good book designer can still create an effective finished project.
Once your manuscript is complete, you will begin the editing process. Editing is essential to every book as typos and other errors can be distracting to the reader. A good editor can clean up basic grammar and punctuation issues or provide a more in-depth examination of your manuscript and suggest changes for improvement.
Writing a book is a big achievement and can have a tremendous impact on your business. Set a goal to finally write that book this year and you will embark on a fantastic journey.
Stephanie Chandler is the author of several books including Booked Up! How to Write, Publish, and Promote a Book to Grow Your Business, LEAP! 101 Ways to Grow Your Business, From Entrepreneur to Infopreneur: Make Money with Books, eBooks and Information Products, and The Author’s Guide to Building an Online Platform: Leveraging the Internet to Sell More Books. Stephanie is also founder and CEO of http://AuthorityPublishing.com, which specializes in custom publishing for non-fiction books. A frequent speaker at business events and on the radio, she has been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, BusinessWeek, Inc.com, Wired magazine, and many other media outlets.