Admit it: There’s a book you’ve always wanted to write bouncing around your head somewhere.
It’s revolutionary; it’ll change the world! But you have no idea where to begin.
Well, you’re not alone.
When people find out I’ve written books, they always have a ton of questions. It seems like everyone has a great idea for a book, but just getting started seems so daunting, let alone actually finishing one or getting people to read it.
So, where do you begin?
He shared some great tips for anyone hoping to take on the difficult, but rewarding, challenge of writing a book.
Here’s what we’re unpacking today:
- The questions you need to answer before anything else
- The difference between self-publishing and a publisher
- Getting an agent
- Writing a proposal
- How to market your book
- Why you need to find your niche
Where do I even start?
Allen: What is your goal? That really determines how you start.
Is your goal to be a professional writer? Is it to build your business? To change minds?
Those are all very different goals and they shape all the questions you need to ask.
My goal was really about building the profile of the business and myself, so I could help the business. That was the ultimate goal.
Because that was my goal, it determined a whole bunch of decisions.
If you’re using the book to help build a platform, then credibility is important. So, I wanted to try to get a traditional publisher because I don’t have the credibility of someone who has already written 5 books.
What about self-publishing?
Allen: On the other hand, if your goal is really about changing minds, then self publishing is often the way to go.
Self publishing lets you sell your book very cheaply, get people to download it and do things like Amazon advertising. All these things help to get people excited about your book.
It’s a very different model.
But, again, I think the first question anyone needs to ask themselves is, “What is my goal?”
From there, you have to make the decision about which path you want to go down — the traditional publishing path or self-publishing.
Do I need an agent?
Allen: Still, I think people see it as a positive characteristic in a book knowing a traditional publisher is publishing it.
The other thing is publishers push you in certain directions and nudge you.
For me, that nudging made the book better and, ultimately, it resonated more with my original goal.
But, if you do go the traditional route, the next step is getting an agent.
Just like you’d ask founder friends to introduce you to their investors, you’d ask author friends to introduce you to their agents.
You want an agent who gets excited by the concept and about working with you. At that point, they’ll usually sign you and you’ll start working on a proposal.
What is a proposal (and how do I write one)?
Allen: Something most people don’t understand about nonfiction is that you don’t actually have to write the book before you get a publisher.
You write a proposal, which is usually 2 sample chapters, an overview, a table of contents, a marketing plan and an author bio.
Once you have the proposal, your agent will send it to publishers.
The publishers who are interested and want to learn more will set up meetings, where you will pitch the book in more detail.
Ideally, multiple publishers will be excited and want to publish the book.
How do I market my book?
Allen: When you write a book, you get what’s called a galley, which is a paperback copy of the book printed on pretty thin paper.
Send them to people you think might buy bulk copies, book you for speaking or who you think are influential.
I sent a bunch to my CEO friends and did a couple of things:
- I asked my network, “Hey, if you read my book, please go and leave an Amazon review.
- Anytime anyone said anything positive about my book, I would always have the discipline to ask them to write a review and I’d tell them why it is helpful.
When people give you positive feedback about your book, that’s a moment to connect. And I think you — as the author — have the ability to ask for something small.
In this case, it’s a two-minute task — and people are more than happy and willing to do it.
Has it been done?
Allen: Before you start anything, you should read a lot of books in your desired genre and get a really good understanding of what’s already been done.
Be really self-critical about whether or not your idea is new, different and fresh.
There are literally millions and millions of books. People see a book that is popular and they write a book that is similar to it.
But there’s already a book there — that’s not actually where there is white space.
It’s really important to be self-critical about your idea and the opportunity for it to really set sail.