Writing and Publishing a Book: How to Make Your Nonfiction Book a Reality
Having a nonfiction book with your name on it can be a powerful marketing tool for your business. For example, it can lead to interviews with the media, speaking engagements, and the opportunity to write articles and columns, all of which can help increase your professional visibility and reputation not to mention your business revenues. In addition, if your book sells well, those sales will provide your business with a whole new income stream. And, you can generate even more additional income by repackaging the information in your book as a DVD and/or by developing a workshop or seminar based on it.
Of course, before you can realize any of the potential benefits of being an author, you’ll need to decide what you will write about and how you will get your book published. This is a very short (and simplified) overview of how to get those things done. Marketing your book is another essential, but I will leave that subject to another blog post.
Choose A Topic
You may know exactly what you want to write about; but if you don’t, here are some questions to help you decide on the subject of your book:
• What are your professional areas of expertise?
• What do you want to become better known for professionally?
• What interests you? What do you feel passionate about?
• Are there areas of your business that you want to build? What could you write about that might help you accomplish that goal?
• What issues are your clients or customers most concerned about?
• What are the biggest problems your clients face and what information could you provide in a book that would help them avoid those problems or deal with them more effectively?
• What can you offer readers that no other book on the market does?
• What subjects can you tackle in a way that is different and better than what other authors have already done? How can you improve on what’s already out there?
Write Your Book
Now comes the hard part! The following tips will help you get the job done.
• Develop a detailed chapter-by-chapter outline for your book. This exercise will help you:
- Identify the specific topics and subtopics your book will address.
- Think through the flow of your book – the subjects it should address first, second, and so on.
- Stay on track and focused during the writing process.
When you are developing your outline, don’t get hung up on whether your book will be long enough. A short book with just a few well-written and useful chapters can be just as valuable to readers as a long book. In fact, in today’s time-starved society, a short book with good information that can be quickly and easily digested may have more appeal than a book with a lot of pages that takes a long of time to read.
• Write regularly. Establishing a routine for when you will write is the best way to make progress on your book. If you write just once and a while or if you let long periods of time elapse between writing sessions, it will be difficult for you to gain and sustain momentum and you’re apt to find it difficult to “pick up where you left off” whenever you return to your book.
• Don’t get bogged down. If you are having problems writing a specific section of your book, work on a different section instead and then later, return to the part of the book that was giving you trouble. When you do, you’ll probably find that the words you were struggling with come a lot easier.
• Draft and redraft. I don’t know any authors who write perfect initial drafts. Usually it takes several drafts for them to get the organization and wording of each chapter just right. So, plan on drafting a chapter, putting it aside for a couple days, and then working on it again.
• Get feedback. Once you have a draft of your book that you are happy with, share it with some people who you believe will give you honest feedback about your writing. Then revise what you’ve written with their comments in mind.
• Hire an editor. It’s essential that your book read well and be free of grammatical errors and typos. So hire a professional editor to go over your manuscript with a fine-toothed comb.
If you try writing your book yourself and just can’t make good progress on it or if you are unhappy with what you have written, consider hiring a ghostwriter. Before you do however, read some of what the writer has written for other clients so you can be sure that you like the writer’s style and make certain that he or she is clear about your vision for the book you want written. (Sharing the outline you’ve prepared will help.) Also, once you’ve found a write you think you would like to hire, discuss all of the terms of your relationship, including how the two of you will work together, how much you will pay the writer and the terms of payment, how quickly he or she will get the book done, and so on and then commit everything to paper.
Get Your Book Published
Once your book is finished, you’ll need to decide how to get it published. You can:
• Get your book published by a traditional publisher. More often than not, this requires that you first find a literary agent who wants to try to sell your book to a publisher. However, it can take months if not longer to find an agent willing to represent you and at least that long for the agent to find a publisher who wants to buy your book and to negotiate the terms of the contract between you and the publisher. Of course, this assumes you are one of the lucky ones because there are countless writers who have written good books, hired agents, and not ended up with book deals. If your agent is able to sell your book to a publisher, the agent will take a cut of any advance you receive and will also get a percentage of any royalties your book may earn.
If you are considering being published by a traditional publisher, be aware that most of them do not work quickly. Therefore, once a publisher buys your book, it may be 6 months to a year before it actually makes it into print. However, depending on your goals, you may decide that being published by a traditional publisher is worth the wait.
• Publish your book as an e-book. This is an excellent option if you want to get your book published sooner rather than later. You can publish your e-book in several ways:
- Format your manuscript as a PDF and then sell it as a download at your web site.
- Work with an e-book publisher like Smashwords, one of the earliest entrants into the DIY ebook publishing biz, Amazon’s Kindle Direct platform, or PubIt, Barnes and Noble’s service. Also Lulu, which is mainly a POD publisher (I’ll get to that kind of publisher next.) also provides the option of publishing your book just as an e-book. There are many other e-book publishing options available to you because this segment of the industry is extremely dynamic right now.
Before you choose an e-book publisher, get clear about exactly what services it will provide to you, how it will get paid for those services – up-front fee and royalties, royalties only – the percentage of royalties the publisher will take, and how the royalties will be calculated. Also, where will the make your book available for sale?
• Work with a print on demand (P.O.D.) publisher. This kind of publisher will create a soft cover or hard cover version of your book, but your books will be printed only when an order for them is placed. Some P.O.D. publishers also offer an e-book option.
P.O.D. publishers typically charge authors a sizable up-front fee to layout their books and get them ready for printing and also take a percentage of sales. This option tends to be considerably more expensive than going the e-book route, but if it’s important for you to have actual books to hand out to potential clients, sell at seminars and speeches you give, etc. then working with a P.O.D. publisher may be the right option for you.
A less expensive POD option is to act as your own publisher, format your book yourself, and hire Lightening Source, a POD printer, to print and ship copies when orders come in. Most POD publishers use Lightening Source as their printer so if you go this route you’ll save the mark up on printing. Also, you’ll receive all of the revenue from the sale of your book less the printer’s discount and its printing and shipping costs. However, formatting your own book for Lightening Source can be challenging for some authors; but there are professionals who can help you with that.
If you decide to work with a P.O.D. publisher, choose carefully! Some publishers are much more expensive than others and some do not provide good customer service and/or do shoddy work. Also, it’s important to know that although many P.O.D. publishers offer book marketing and other add-on services for an additional cost, you can usually get more for your money by purchasing those services from other sources.
There is a lot of free information on the web that evaluates various P.O.D. publishers. However, I’ve found that much of it is incomplete or out-of-date. Besides that, trying to do a side-by-side comparison of different P.O.D. publishers is about as easy as comparing health insurance policies. For these reasons, I like Mark Levine’s, The Fine Art of Self Publishing: The Contracts of 45 Major Self-Publishing Companies-Analyzed, Ranked and Exposed, which is available at http://www.bookpublisherscompared.com. The book provides detailed publisher comparisons looking at such factors as their costs, how the publishers calculate royalties, and their add-on services and put publishers in one of four groups: Outstanding, Pretty Good, Okay or Avoid, I think it’s well worth its $9.95 cost (as an ebook).
Don’t Overlook Your Book’s Cover!
An attractive, professionally-designed cover is not essential if you plan to sell your book on your web site only, but it’s definitely important if your book will be sold on Amazon, at BarnesandNoble.com, available for the Kindle, iPad, and so on. Appearances do count and an eye-catching cover will help attract buyers.
If your book is being published traditionally, your publisher will be responsible for the cover design and you’ll probably have little input into what it looks like. On the other hand, some ebook publishers will expect you to provide your own cover, while you typically get two options with P.O. D. publishers – bring your own cover or let their in-house designers create one for you. Don’t decide which option is best until you have checked out some of the covers the publisher has designed for other books and compared the cost of letting it design the cover compared to hiring your own designer.
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