Stage One: Planning and Preparing for Success
The first stage of writing your book is understanding the why behind it. Why do you want to write your book? What is the objective? What does success look like? In other words, once the book is written what do you want it to do?
- Leave a legacy
- Inspire or help others
- Improve your credibility and authority
- Generate new leads
- Win speaking events
- Make money
Decide which apply to you before you start your book journey. Maybe you want to achieve all those things, or perhaps you are only writing it for one reason. It doesn’t matter, as long as you understand what your goal is before you set out. Knowing what you want to achieve makes it easier to achieve it.
Leave a legacy – The bucket list book
There are people who want to write a book and get it published just to say they’ve done it. After all, it’s not an easy thing to do, so it is something to be proud of.
If your sole purpose is simply to get your story out there, and you aren’t worried about mass sales, making a ton of money or winning any business as a result, then there’s far less pressure on you. You will still have to invest a lot of time and probably some money, but once it’s written and out there, you can tick it off the bucket list.
Inspire or help others
Maybe you have an inspirational journey to share or have achieved success against the odds. Perhaps you have built a business from nothing and want to show others how to do it. Maybe you want to teach people the basics of something such as money management, marketing, public speaking, sales or leadership.
Your main dilemma is going to be making your book different from other books on the same subject. You might be good at what you do, but there are probably hundreds of other ‘how to’ books in your field. Your story may be unique, but overcoming adversity isn’t. How are you going to make your message stand out from the rest?
Improve credibility and authority
Writing a book is a great way of showcasing your industry knowledge. You can include case studies, research, and your own observations. As with the above point, the difficulty you’ll have is standing out from other books unless your ideas and theories are completely unique.
Think about who you are trying to establish credibility with. Are you showing potential clients that you are knowledgeable in your field, or do you want other people in your industry to view you as an authority on a subject? Is your aim to become an influencer, an expert, a guru?
Generate new leads
Books can be used as marketing tools to generate more leads. You might decide to write a couple of e-books to be used as lead magnets, giving it away to the clients you want to win or selling it at a low price.
If the purpose of your book is to win business, think about what to include to persuade people to invest in you. You’ll need to demonstrate proven results, build trust and show that you are an expert in your field.
Give the reader actionable advice that they can test out. When your advice gets them the results they want, they’re more likely to come back and invest in your higher-value services.
Win speaking events
Being a published author in your field will increase your chances of winning paid speaking events. The fact that you have written an entire book about something shows that you have in-depth knowledge of the subject. Speaking at events is an excellent way of raising your profile, which leads to more business and often, increased pricing.
Having said that, there are now so many people with their own book, that it doesn’t always hold the same status as it used to. You’ll need to back your book up with strong marketing, relevant speaking topics and an engaging presentation style.
This is probably the hardest goal to achieve. While you can make money indirectly from your book through speaking events, lead generation and increased credibility, making money directly from book sales is more of a challenge.
If you choose to self-publish, you’ll need to do a lot of marketing. Employing the services of a marketing company adds additional costs, but doing it yourself is a lot of work. If you work with a traditional publisher, they will do a lot of promotional work, but you still aren’t guaranteed huge profits.
Don’t let this put you off. If you have an established following, then this will work to your advantage. You might not make millions, but it is possible to make a nice residual income if you do the right things (or just get very lucky).
Once you know what you want to achieve, the next question to consider is who are you writing for?
What audience do you need to reach to achieve your goal? Who are you targeting and why would they read your book? What can you offer them? How will reading your book add value to their life? What pain or problem are they experiencing that you can help with?
The more comprehensive picture you can build of your ideal reader, the easier it will be to write to them.
Picture them in your head as you write as if you are having a conversation with them. Consider how much subject knowledge they already have, if any. Think about the type of language they use. What questions would they have? What actionable advice can you give them? How can you present information in the most logical way?
Think about what your audience actually wants to read, not just what you want to share.
You’ve already decided what your goal is for the book; now you have to decide what the goal is for the reader. What will they gain from your book – more confidence, a greater understanding of a subject, knowledge to move their business forward? What is your book about and why will your audience care? If you’ve spent time thinking about the who, then this part should be easier.
Will your book solve a problem, address a fear or satisfy a curiosity?
Once you have the main objective, you can start thinking about what you are going to include. It can be useful to do a brain dump of all your ideas. List everything you could include, every analogy you could use, every anecdote, any theories, techniques or research. No matter how weird or wonderful an idea, add it to your list. You can cut this down during the planning stage, but for now, let your ideas flow. You might find that your original book idea completely changes and some ideas you wanted to include aren’t the right fit for your audience.
Now you know the why, who and what, it’s time to get into the how. You could just start writing and hope for the best, but success is more likely if you make a plan.
Writing a book isn’t easy. It takes a lot of discipline, time and effort. The first part of your plan should be setting your writing schedule. How much time per day, week or month can you realistically commit to writing? When will you do this?
Set aside specific times to write – one hour each morning or three hours every Friday – whatever works for you.
If you block time out of your diary to write, you are more likely to stick to it.
If you go for the ‘write when I have time’ approach, you’ll find you don’t make progress very quickly because you’ll always find something more urgent to do. You need to schedule in time and stick to it. If you find extra opportunities to work on your book as well, then even better.
The type of book you are writing may have an impact on the word count you aim for. An average page in a book has somewhere around 250-300 words, and an average business book has around 200 pages, meaning a standard business book averages around 50,000-60,000 words.
However, shorter books around 30,000-40,000 words are becoming more common, and if you are only planning to publish digitally rather than print, then you can go for even less. For a free eBook, 7,000-10,000 words is sufficient. To give you some context, this article (the one you are reading) is around 6000 words long in total.
Write as much as is required to comprehensively cover the subject without waffling.
Don’t try and add extra sections in just to hit a word count if it doesn’t add value to the reader. Equally, if you can’t generate more than 5,000 words on your subject, you might need to rethink the idea of a book.
Now you know when you will write, and roughly what word count you are aiming for, you can set yourself writing targets. There are a couple of ways you can set your deadlines. Option one – set a target date for when you want to have your first draft completed, and then work out how many words per month, week or day you will need to write. Option two – set a target for words per day, week or month and then work out how long it will take you to complete your first draft. This could be 250 words per day, 2000 words a week, 3 chapters per week or 5000 words per month – it’s up to you.
If you’re not sure how many words you can write in an hour, test yourself. Pick a subject relating to your book and just write for an hour to see how many words you can come up with. Don’t worry about editing it, just write. The more often you write, the faster you’ll get and the less editing you’ll require.
Once your first draft is complete, you’ll need to edit, proofread and format your book. This could take a couple of weeks, even if you outsource it, so if you have a publish date in mind, you’ll need to factor this into your deadlines too.
There is no right or wrong answer to how long does it take to write a book. Some authors can do it in a month; others take years. It depends how much time you can dedicate to writing, how long your book is, how well you write and how much editing is required.
Before you start writing, it helps to have an outline of your book. This might simply be a list of chapters with bullet points listing what will be covered. You may find that you move chapters around while you write or as you edit, but having a basic outline gives you a good starting point.
Refer back to your who and what to remind yourself who you are writing for and what you want them to get from your book. Think about the questions your reader would have about your chosen subject. How can you address these and at what stage in the book will you answer them?
Think about how you will market your book once it is published. You don’t necessarily have to start marketing before you start writing, but you should at least be thinking about how you will attract your intended audience and convince them to invest in your book.
Look at your existing audience. Who is following you on social media? How many people have signed up to receive your emails? Do you have a blog, and does it have a strong readership? How can you capitalise on your existing audience?
What marketing activities can you do in the lead up to the release of your book to maximise sales? What promotional activities could you do when you launch your book? How can you increase your audience to reach more of the people your book is aimed at?
Think about the opportunities available and which channels will be most effective for you. Consider whether it is worth investing in some help with marketing.