If you’ve been in business awhile, you have stories to tell. And advice to give. Things people will love learning about, things that will add zest to their lives. This is information you should be sharing, not just to build credibility for yourself and your business, but also because your stories and insights can make a real difference in the world.
One of the very best ways to do this is with a book. So the question arises: Do you know how to write a book?
Scott Berkun, best selling author and speaker, knows a lot about this topic. His advice is solid and down to earth, and he doesn’t pull any punches. If you’ve ever thought about writing a book, fiction or nonfiction, you will find the following article interesting, grounding, and helpful.
How to write a book – the short honest truth
Every author I know gets asked the same question: How do you write a book?
It’s a simple question, but it causes unexpected problems. On the one hand, it’s nice to have people interested in something I do. If I told people I fixed toasters for a living, I doubt I’d get many inquires. People are curious about writing and that’s cool and flattering. Rock on.
But on the other hand, the hand involving people who ask because they have an inkling to do it themselves, is that writing books is a topic so old and so well trod by so many famous people that anyone who asks me, with the serious intent of discovering secret advice from my small brain and limited writing experience, is hard to take seriously.
Here’s the short honest truth: 20% of the people who ask me are hoping to hear this – Anyone can write a book. They want permission. The truth is you don’t need any. There is no license required. No test to take. Writing, as opposed to publishing, requires almost no financial or physical resources. A pen, paper and effort are all that has been required for hundreds of years. If Voltaire and Marquis de Sade could write in prison, then you can do it in suburbia, at lunch, at work, or after your kids go to sleep.
If you want to write, kill the magic: a book is just a bunch of writing. Anyone can write a book. It might suck or be incomprehensible, but so what: it’s still a book. Nothing is stopping you right now from collecting all of your elementary school book reports, or drunken napkin scribbles, binding them together at kinkos for $20, slapping a title on the cover, and qualifying as an author. Want to write a good book? Ok, but get in line since most pro authors are still trying to figure that out too.
Writing a good book, compared to a bad one, involves one thing. Work. No one wants to hear this, but if you take two books off any shelf, I’ll bet my pants the author of the better book worked harder than the author of the other one. Call it effort, study, practice, whatever. Sure there are tricks here and there, but really writing is a kind of work.
Getting published. 30% of the time the real thing people are asking is how do you find a publisher. As if there wasn’t a phone book or, say, an Internet-thingy where you can look this stuff up. Writers-market is literally begging to help writers find publishers. Many publishers, being positive on the whole idea of communication, put information on how to submit material on their website. And so do agents. The grand comedy of this is how few writers follow the instructions. That’s what pisses off all the editors: few writers do their homework.
The sticking point for most wanna-be published authors is, again, the work. They want to hear some secret that skips over the hard parts. Publishers are rightfully picky and they get pitched a zillion books a day. It takes effort to learn the ropes, send out smart queries, and do the research required to both craft the idea for a book, and then to propose it effectively. So while writing is a rejection prone occupation, even for the rock-stars, finding a publisher is not a mystery. In fact the whole game is self-selective: people who aren’t willing to do the leg-work of getting published are unlikely to be capable of the leg-work required to finish a decent manuscript.
But that said – it’s easier today to self-publish than ever. Really. But again, this requires work, so many prefer to keep asking writers how they got published instead of just doing it themselves. I self published my last book, and you can read what I learned from it here.
Being famous and wealthy: Now this is the kicker. About 50% of the time the real thing people want to know is how to become a famous millionaire rock-star author dude. As if a) I qualified, b) I could explain how it happened, or c) I’d be willing to tell.
First, this assumes writing is a good way to get rich. I’m not sure how this lie started but writing, like most creative pursuits, has always been a less than lucrative lifestyle. Even if a book sells well, the $$$$ to hour ratio will be well below your average corporate job, without the health benefits, sick days, nor the months where you can coast by without your boss noticing. These days people write books after they’re famous, not before. And if the only books you read are bestsellers, well, you have a myopic view of the publishing world. Over 100k books are published in the US annually, and few sell more than a few thousand copies, and what causes books to sell may have little to do with how good a book is. Either way, to justify the effort you’ll need reasons other than cash.
Discouraged yet? Good. Here is the upside: I love writing books. I love reading books. I love the entire notion that people can make things up in their mind and then make them real on a page, for the pleasure or utility of someone else. That’s just awesome. If you like writing, if you enjoy the bittersweetness of chasing words into sentences, then you might love writing books too, despite, or even because of, everything I said above. If so, get to work – now 🙂
Here are some practical next steps:
- How to get from an idea to a book – explains the steps and the time you’ll need
- Writing hacks: part 1 – starting – What to do when the page is blank.
- Part 2 of ‘how to write a book’ is here, where I answer the best comments.
- Time-lapsed video of a writer writing an essay – amazing and revealing
- How to start a book project – specific advice for tackling a book sized effort.
- Confessions of a Self Published author – here’s what I learned from self publishing my last book.
- Is your book idea good? I’ll tell you here.
- Writer’s market. How to find a publisher for your written work (more good advice here).
- National novel writing month – You must check this out.
This article by Scott Berkun was originally published on his site, scottberkun.com.
A couple of comments on Scott’s point of view:
First, as to his comment that these days people write books AFTER they’re famous, not before: for both fiction and nonfiction, it is just as he says – If you’re wanting your book to make you rich, it’s a good idea to be famous first. However, if you’re contemplating writing a book for other reasons – like giving your clients and prospective clients a better handle on the aspect of life you help them with, and/or having a book to point to for credibility – then being famous first is irrelevant.
Second, he’s right that it takes more effort to write a good book than a not-so-good book. But you’ve already put in a lot of that effort. You already know your subject inside out, forward and backward and upside-down. You’re writing a book for your business, not a novel, so you don’t need to worry about plot and characters and storyline. So don’t let the work scare you off.
For good, solid, personalized guidance with your book, from start to finish, become a Pet Writes member. You’ll learn everything you need to know in the podcasts, weekly menbers-only interactive calls, and workshops. And best of all, you can get started now with the 7-Day Trial.
Your step-by-step source for how to write a book for your business,
Chiwah Carol Slater
Founder, PetWrites.com, WriteYourWayToProsperity.com, WordWeaver4U.com
Support Desk: http://petwrites.com/support