Have you been thinking about writing a book?
Is it a perennial entry on your New Year’s resolution list?
An idea that keeps popping up?
A promise you make to yourself, “Someday I’m going to sit down and write my masterpiece!”
Writing a book is an extremely gratifying experience, and also an incredibly daunting one.
It’s challenging to sit in front of a blank screen, or blank piece of paper, and start knocking out the words.
Here is a step-by-step process that can kickstart your journey to becoming an author.
Clarify Why You Want to Write a Book
There are a lot of reasons to write a book, and it’s crucial to understand why you want to write yours.
You must know what your intentions are, because it will influence a lot of the decisions you’ll make along the way.
I’m not talking about sales goals.
I’m talking about reasons for putting yourself through the process.
Finding fame and fortune by writing a book is possible, but unlikely.
So connect with the reasons you are going to put in the effort.
Are you trying to build your professional credibility, scratch an itch you’ve always had, or collect your accumulated wisdom in one place?
What are you working towards?
Ask Yourself (And Others) Why People Would Want to Read it
In a world of information overwhelm, investing time and attention to read a book is a commitment.
Think through why someone would want to commit to reading yours.
It’s easy for us to be blinded by our own passion for the topic.
Step away from your perspective and look at your book idea from a reader’s point-of-view.
By focusing on your reader, you’ll consider what appeals to them, and not just your own ego.
Knowing this from the outset makes for a much better book, and a much smoother writing process.
Set Your Expectations for What Success in Writing a Book Means
According to Bowker, an organization which distributes ISBN numbers for books, there were more than one million books published…in 2015.
The average book sells only 250 copies a year, and 2,000 over the course of its lifetime.
And with Amazon and eBooks, the shelf life of existing books has greatly increased.
This means you’re not just competing against books being published this year, but also all the other ones which still have legs.
Just because you’re unlikely to be the next J.K. Rowling, or Malcolm Gladwell, doesn’t mean your book won’t be a success, but be clear about what that success looks like.
Remember, if you sell more than 250 books in the first year, you’re above average!
Write an Article a Week for Three Months
There is one difference between book authors and would-be book authors: Authors write.
I know it sounds obvious, but you have to put in the work.
Just like getting in shape requires time at the gym or on the jogging trail, writing a book requires writing.
A lot of it.
If you don’t have the habit now, develop it.
Write a 1,000-word article every week.
If you don’t have anywhere to publish it, create a simple blog, or put it on Medium, or on LinkedIn Pulse.
You’re not just going to sit down at the keyboard and knock out a book in a weekend, no matter what the “write a book in five hours” courses tell you.
Get in the habit of sitting down on a regular basis and you’ll become good at the craft and work of writing.
Develop a Community Around You…Now!
Getting people to pay attention to your book is hard.
It’s even harder if the first time they hear about it is when it pops up on Amazon.
Instead, build up your community and network before your book comes out.
Every book marketing expert/guru/ninja says your community is critical.
And they’re right.
Use those articles you’re writing every week to engage with possible book readers.
Share them with friends, family, and colleagues. Post them on social media.
Talk to other authors and people in your field.
You want to plant seeds and build relationships well before your book arrives.
This is how you’ll eventually get book blurbs, advanced readers, and a buzz when your book does arrive.
Now Write a Draft
If you get in the habit of writing an article a week, you can write a draft.
By writing 1,000 words a week, you’ll have a 40,000-word draft in 10 months.
You could even use the articles you’re writing as the skeleton of your rough draft.
Want it faster?
Write 2,000 words a week. That’s only 400 words a day, five days a week. Very doable.
Want to write it faster?
If you have a great idea and a lot of writing experience, and a great editor and time, you could pump it out in a few months.
But, that’s only if you know what you are doing and are prepared to put the work in.
Work on Getting it Published
Now go and do all the other stuff.
Seek a publisher, or find out how to self-publish.
Design a cover. Hire an editor. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
That’s the fun stuff. Yes, it takes work, but it’s a lot easier than actually writing a good draft.
In the end, the hardest (and most important) step is to sit down in front of a computer screen, or a pad of paper, and write the first sentence.
Once you’ve done that, you are on the path to holding your first book in your hands.
I know from experience it’s a great feeling. So go get it for yourself!