I’ve partnered with people writing countless books. “Countless” is my shameless shortcut for the fact that I just don’t want to count them. But it’s a lot. None of them have my name on the cover. My help happens behind the scenes and as such, I usually get a mention somewhere. And just about the time I’ve finally gotten the book off of my desktop and out of my life, I usually get a signed copy in the mail.
That’s not a knock against any of the books. It’s just a lot like having babies. I was glad to carry them and grow them and also incredibly relieved and proud when I delivered them. That might become a whole post in itself. In the meantime, I can say:
Writing a book is both harder and easier than people think
One client told me he could “just poop out a book.” I took that to mean that he has countless ideas and contributions to give to the world. It’s true. Ideas are countless (in the actual meaning of the word). Still, he was never going to organize those ideas into an outline, carefully research each point, and then revise, revise, revise. That’s why he needed me to do the “heavy lifting,” as another client called it.
While that part isn’t exactly easy, it is doable. One word, one paragraph, and one page at a time.
As Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” In my experience, it’s the sitting down (i.e. making the time) that people often have a harder time with than the bleeding.
Aspiring writers will find countless (!) tips on how to write a book, but that’s not what we’re here for today. I’m just going to share some of the questions I ask potential clients.
You don’t have to know the answer to all of them before you start writing or before you know if your idea is viable.
I just find them useful for helping get that book that’s inside of a person outside of them and onto the page.
Who do you want to read the book?
- Who is your target audience?
Be as specific as possible (rather than “such and such industry,” for example, think of the specific segment of the industry you intend to reach and why).
- What are this audience’s main needs, frustrations, and pain points and how does your material address these needs?
- How will the content need to change from its current state to better meet this audience’s need?
- Is the content/idea new to your audience?
- Are there competitive books out there already?
- How well do they sell?
- How big is your market and what is the demographic of your readers?
- How will your contributions enhance existing ideas?
- What questions does the book need to answer for the audience?
- Can you “see” the book’s course, chapters, main ideas, and/or organization? If so, what / how?
- Do you have reviewers and content experts available to provide feedback in the development stage?
- What are your main goals for the book?
- Do you want it to be a source of revenue or more of a gateway into your respective business’s products/services?
- Do you want it to establish you as a thought leader?
- Do you want the book to become a bestseller?
The nuts and bolts:
- How will you handle authorship?
- How will you handle cover design, internal layout, printing, etc.?
- How will you handle costs?
- How will you distribute? Do you want to do ebooks, printed copies, audiobook or all of the above? Self publish or approach a traditional publisher? Will you provide free ebooks? Downloadable copies online?
- What is your target length?
- How will you approach PR/promotion? What agencies, firms, etc. will you partner with?
- What resources (research, support from others) will you need to accomplish the course you laid out?
- When is your ideal release date? What is the strategy behind this? Is this flexible?