Dreaming of Publishing a Book? 5 Tips to Help You Get Started
I am a firm believer that everyone has a book inside them just waiting to come out. I urge you to accept the challenge to let the words reach the written page. The very exercise of writing and exploring the creative process is cathartic, and an accomplishment even if no one ever reads the finished product.
Facing an unexpected but not unwelcomed sabbatical from my busy professional life, I set out to take advantage of the what I decided to view as a gift of time, and get my stories out of my head and into those books I’d dreamed of for years. I love to mentor, and my first two books are written for the purpose of encouraging those who find themselves in situations where they may not feel equipped to succeed. The first is for women like me – strong, courageous, powerful, gifted, Christ-loving wives and mothers who feel drawn to the workplace and guilty about that calling. The other, out this week, sets out to guide new leaders (or leaders who want to take a new approach) to success by teaching. Through personal stories, I share the profound impact relational leadership can have on the success of an organization.
And so my journey to write and tell stories began. Now that my second book is available for purchase, I am finally comfortable with calling myself “author,” and I’ve learned a thing or two about the process of getting a book from a dream to the final product. Here are my top five takeaways that may save you time when you set out to fulfill your dream and write your own book!
1. You just have to start!
The hardest part of writing a book is writing the book! I spent a lot of time online researching how to write before beginning. One Google search will take you to more resources than you can digest in a year on the topic. For me, this research time really served more to work up my confidence that I could do it. After all, everyone is writing books! Its easy to get caught up in what to write, why you’re writing, who you’re writing for, and will anyone actually read what you’re writing. You won’t find the answers to any of those questions on your Google machine. Start writing. Just open up a new Word document and begin to type. Or buy a fancy notebook and pen that fits comfortably in your hand. Start writing. I found that the words themselves would answer all the questions you have. As you take the words from your brain to the page, they’ll morph and change, and bring you clarity as you seek to tell others a story.
2. Find someone you trust to read and provide honest feedback.
What if what you’re writing is just awful? Find someone in your circle of trust who will give you honest feedback and give them a few pages or a few chapters and ask them to give you their thoughts. Look for gut reactions to what you’re writing. This isn’t the point in time where you’re looking for an editing partner. Rather, you’re looking to see if your concept and your early draft are anywhere close to each other. My oldest daughter and my husband played this important role for me. My journalist major daughter gave me critical advice that was invaluable. And my husband talked through the storytelling with me, helping me to see how each story would impact the reader.
3. Set goals and stick with them.
Schedule writing on your calendar like you schedule anything else. In my research I found some sage advice. Commit to writing, schedule it on your calendar, create a spreadsheet that gives you a start and end date based on the number of words you can commit to writing at a time. And voila, stick to the schedule and it’s done! Its as easy as deciding what kind of book you’re writing (fiction vs. nonfiction), and how many pages you want your book to be, how many words you can commit to writing each day/week/month. Once you answer these questions, it’s just a math equation. Stick to your schedule and you’ll be done when the schedule says you’ll be done. And while you’re goal-setting, this is a good time to think about what you’re trying to accomplish with sales once the book is complete. Are you writing the books to support your profession? Or are you hoping to derive an income from the books that will let you quit your day job? I was surprised to see the experts report that most self-published writers never crack the 100-books-sold mark.
4. Put it down and walk away. Then after some time pick it up again.
I discovered that what I considered to be my best writing came after I’d walked away from the book for a period of time. It’s easy to get stuck in the pages of your own writing. If you walk away, when you pick it up again you’ll see the content differently and make effective changes in the writing. Some authors say writing is the creative process, and editing is non-creative, instructing you to not edit the work at all until you think you’re “done.” While that advice may work for some, I found it more effective to continuously edit and improve the work. But what about the schedule we just talked about? For the second book, I learned to put the “walk away” time right in the schedule!
5. Research publishers and pick one that fits your needs.
There are so many ways to self-publish today, easily found with that Google search we talked about. For the brave, there are very inexpensive methods where you are literally driving every piece of the process. With my first book, I wanted to choose a publisher partner that would take a more instructional approach. My thinking was that I could learn with the first book, and if there happened to be subsequent books, I’d then be able to publish those with minimal assistance. I was overwhelmed with things like creating a book cover, laying out the book so that it is an easy to read tool, and copywriting (even though I’m a lawyer). What I found was that I really enjoyed – and needed – the continued professional partnership of a publisher. Their guidance and tutelage was so effective with the first publication, I stuck with them for my second book as well. Friesen Press is a great publishing partner for me. It really comes down to how much support and guidance you think you’ll need, and how much you’re willing to pay to get it.
If you dream about writing a book, I’m confident you can do it. The sense of accomplishment will be rewarding. With all the resources available today for self-publishing writers, there’s really nothing preventing you from getting that book out of your head. Come on, I dare you to just get started. You have stories to tell, so tell them!