Thinking of writing a book? Ask yourself these questions first
About that book you wrote…
So maybe you haven’t written a book (yet), but you KNOW that you’ve got a book inside you, bursting to be read by the world.
You are not alone.
According to writer Joseph Epstein,
“81 percent of Americans feel that they have a book in them — and should write it.”
Ahem, that’s approximately 200 million people who aspire to authorship. But only a small percentage actually do write a book.
And those few who do finish their books take an average of four to seven years to publish it.
The harsh reality
A few months ago, a woman that I’ve known for years made me an offer:
“I want you to help me write a book telling my story. I can’t pay you, but it’ll be big, and I’ll give you a share of the profits!”
That’s the sad delusion that some would-be authors believe. Their book will “discovered” as the next Good to Great/Fifty Shades of Grey/Four Hour Work Week/Last Lecture, all rolled into one.
A media juggernaut will ensue.
Oprah will bring back her talk show – one night only – to snag a triumphant interview with you, the author.
Reality really bites
The truth is, there are somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books published every year in the US alone. About half are self-published. On average, they sell less than 250 copies each. [Forbes.com, Jan 8, 2013]
250 copies. Not enough to spring you to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List or even the Amazon Sub-Sub-Category-Bestseller-During-that-One-Hot-Minute List.
So if most books don’t become bestsellers, make a pile of cash or sell zillions of copies, why the heck should any self respecting future A-Lister slog through the hard work of publishing a book?
I’ll let Seth Godin (the author of 17 books) tell you:
“The return on equity and return on time for authors and for publishers is horrendous. If you’re doing it for the money, you’re going to be disappointed. On the other hand, a book gives you leverage to spread an idea and a brand far and wide. There’s a worldview that’s quite common that says that people who write books know what they are talking about and that a book confers some sort of authority.”
Do it for the authority.
Some PR studies show that becoming a published author increases your credibility by 300%.
More credibility means that more people will listen to your message.
And hire you.
And follow your advice.
So, if you’ve dreamed of the words, “author of…” appearing in your bio, ask yourself these two questions:
1. Why do I want to write a book?
2. Which do I have, time or money?
You should write a book if _________.
You should write a book if you’ve got a big idea that you want to spread far and wide.
If you can offer something more meaningful or useful than the usual advice or inspiration on a topic.
If you can say something that’s already been said, but in a new way, for a new audience.
Time or money? A tale of two authors
Even after you’ve decided to write a book – for the right reasons – you’re flooded with choices to make: Look for a traditional publisher or self publish? Write your book as quickly as possible to “get it out there” or devote years to create your Pulitzer-worthy masterpiece?
Let’s look at two authors I know who’ve both published books in the last two years.
Book #1 is business advice book, aimed at small business owners.
Cost to produce and publish: $10,000-$15,000.
The costs included a ghostwriter, a professional editor, a graphic designer to lay out the cover and interior pages, as well as printing the book. It’s available on Amazon as a Kindle, and a paperback. She also has printed copies to sell or giveaway.
Book #2 is an advice book for career women.
Cost to produce and publish: around $1500.
Her costs included an editor/writer, an overseas graphic designer and a book uploading service and printing the book. It’s available on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks and as a printed paperback.
Why did one book cost almost ten times more to produce? And was it worth it?
More money than time
The author of Book #1 is a coach for small businesses. She’d conducted substantial research with small business owners to discover what made certain businesses thrive during the Recession (a killer premise for a book!)
Her clients are the owners of small businesses, usually with teams of 5-20 employees, who pay her tens of thousands of dollars each year to be coached. She did not have the time or the inclination to sit down and write 250 pages herself.
Instead, she hired a ghostwriter to interview her, and write the book content in her voice, using her words, but without her time. (That practice is more common than you may know – 80% of all non-fiction books are completely or partially ghost-written.)
Being a published author increased her credibility and positioned her as a small business expert. Which led to more high profile speaking engagements and media coverage.
Getting just one new client covered the cost of publishing the book.
More time than money
Our second author is a career coach for women. Her clients typically book a few sessions with her to get through workplace challenges or to negotiate a promotion and raise.
She wanted to write a book to share the answers to the questions she’s asked most often and to give women a boost of confidence, so that they ask for (and get!) what they want in the corporate world.
Author #2 used an editor strategically, to take existing blog posts and arrange the content into a book structure. She then filled in the gaps, added some stories and let the editor take another crack, making it a seamless narrative.
Next, she bargained with a talented designer friend to lay out the page design template, and sent the template to an overseas graphic designer who did the rest for about $200.
She used Bookbaby, a publishing service to design the cover and take care of getting the book on Amazon, Apple and other platforms.
- Her book is slim (which her readers actually love!) so she was able to produce it in three months or less, from start to finish.
- She has a designer’s eye, so she was able to coax great cover art from Bookbaby’s basic design service. She is also meticulous about proofreading, so the book is professional and mistake free.
Boom! A marketing tool that spreads her message and gives prospective clients a try-it-before-you-buy-it taste of her coaching. (She sells loads of books at speaking gigs.)
The bottom line
Both of these books are successful tools that promote the authors’ authority. Each was written to offer advice to her target client, based on years of experience solving their challenges.
Your Fame Boosting Assignment
If you know that you have a book in you, this week spend a little time thinking about your motivation for publishing…do you have advice or a message that people need to read? Next, brainstorm how you can use your strengths and resources to get your book written and published.
Your words might be exactly the spark we need! Get shining, superstar.
I actually finally did write my first book and I did it to see if I could and how hard/easy it would be. It was actually very easy as was the grunt word that needed to be done after the book. Now all I need is sales. That part? Not so easy. I’m always looking for ways to increase sales.
Good for you, Iva! Congratulations on writing your book and I’m glad that it was so easy for you. Sales are definitely a challenge for nearly all writers. Look for as many ways as you can to let people know about your book. And check out Penny Sansevieri – she has tons of good advice on selling books.
I love what you said about writing a book. I help people who are just starting out in business or ministry to write their first book. May I use some of what you wrote and add it to my information? I’ll give you credit and refer them back to whatever link you provide me.
Thanks, Maxwell – I’d be delighted to be mentioned on your site! You can link back to the post itself, or to my site, http://famousinyourfield.com. I’m sure that your clients value your help in writing their first book. It’s a dream for so many people and you must love being able to help people achieve it.
I really do enjoy your articles. Not exactly sure how I got on your list, but glad I am. Thank you.
I write a weekly newsletter called Life Simplified and send out currently to my email list. Soon as my new website is finished it will be both a weekly blog post (like yours) . I also write a daily short message I call a Daily Dose of Life Simplified. It is usually a few words or sentence. Definitely shorter than a tweet. Very fun. My audience loves it.
I am currently working with a great book coach Toni Robino of Winword Literary Services participating in her Bookwalk Program. My first book is underway using about 30-ish of my weekly articles (typically 500 words) developed or consolidated as necessary.
I find it helps to have a coach for feedback, guidance and accountability. l am guessing my book costs will be somewhere between your two examples. Toni has spoken of a new publishing company called Archer Publishing-which is a hybrid between traditional and self publishing. Apparently there are more up front costs, but you get a much higher percentage on sales and the book gets more promotion through traditional outlets.
Thanks again for your article this week. You have confirmed I am on the right track.
Thanks for stopping by and for commenting, Bettina. I love hearing about the different approaches authors use to get their books out of their heads and into readers’ hands. Using your weekly articles as the basis for your book is brilliant – it definitely stems the writer’s block that often comes with the blank page.
Archer Publishing sounds a bit like a publishing cooperative that Tim Sanders (Love is a Killer App and The Likeability Factor) started called Net Minds. Would-be authors could collaborate with freelance ghost writers, editors and publicists and share in the books profits. But, I just checked and Net Minds is defunct. *Sad face.* Maybe Archer will have better luck.
HA! And to think!! I just did a book launch with 26 other co-authors!! But you’re right, that’s the exact why i did this as a collaborative project getting the support of a professional … And because of her Ninja strategies we blew #1 in multiple categories that day! Thanks for always giving us the most relevant PR info available Lori…
I’ve been watching and cheering your book launch, Kelly! There are so many lovely and smart women involved that it HAD to be a huge success. Congratulations on becoming a published author.
A book, whether hard copy or electronic, is a great way to get your message out there in a cohesive and powerful way. It may not be the most time-effective way, but there is something personally satisfying about writing what you know and want to share in book form.
I just finished and released my very first eBook at the end of last year, and it’s been a great way to attract new clients. But more than that, it’s been a valuable resource for my clients. It’s making it easier for them to communicate the power and value of what they do. And that’s so worthwhile to me.
Good for you, Nancy. Congrats on completing your ebook and offering it to your raving fans. I want to get my hands on it, too. I always learn so many juicy ideas for improving my copy.
Great post! Telling a story or your story in a book or another form is an amazing gift to the world. There are so many ways to do this and to share your story [book]. Appreciate the insight and numbers and stories of two authors.
You bet, Cindy.
Lori – You are such a great writer. I LOVE reading your blog… So, WHEN IS YOUR BOOK COMING OUT??? Hugs – and thanks for sharing your amazingness!!
Ha ha! I did write a 100 page ebook/workbook (which like most people’s books, took 3x as long as it should have!) Now that I’ve broken through the mindset issue, I do plan to write and publish a business book. I appreciate your support, Cena.
Great article, as usual. (Not to mention a great pix to go with it!) I did start writing a book but stopped with 3 chapters to go. To echo Cena’s question, when is your book going to available?
I have always wanted to write a book. Hoping someday I will. Great line of questions I should be asking myself. Thanks for posting this article.
I so often forget that a book has to be BIG and BOLD. It’s the tiny one’s that often pack the most punch! Thanks for this reminder?!
Cena had a GREAT Question 😉
It’s always an eye opener visiting your blog! Just a short while ago I had a hand analysis done and the person connected with my deep desire to write and here I find great advice to start this journey with. Seeing that there is a lot of opportunity and ways to do this is fabulous. I love the creative process, but it is nice to know where it might end up!
Ooo, a hand analysis – that’s so fascinating, Bonnie. And I am mesmerized by your writing…it’s almost musical. Please give us more!
Lori, I’ve been thinking about which book to work on first for the last several months. I clipped a few of your examples from this post into my “writing a book” file. I appreciate the examples of both people. One of the things I’d like to do is interview other experts for my book. I’ve seen this done, but am not sure how the legal framework works to do this. Let me know if you have any thoughts on that. =-)
Hi Frances, conducting interviews is a great way to create a book. And if the experts agree to be interviewed and know that what they share will be included in your book, it’s all very legal. I would have them sign an acknowledgement of that, though. I worked with an author who did just that; she conducted detailed interviews and used the interviewees’ comments in her book. She had everyone sign a release.