Dianna Booher, CSP, CPAE, Guest Author
Rarely do I finish a speaking or training engagement that someone doesn’t ask me some version of this question: “What’s involved in writing a book? How hard is it to get published?”
My answer: It depends. Anybody can write a book these days. Almost 3 million titles were published last year alone (includes self-published books). Apple even provides free software (iBook) so you can download a template to publish your own ebook. But if you’re talking about writing a great book, published by a major publisher, well reviewed by objective readers, that sells well, then that’s an altogether different story.
If you’re inclined to try your hand, here are a few lessons I’ve learned after having published 46 of my own:
1. Build your platform. The most difficult thing is not writing your book, but getting attention for your book above the noise. Publishers want to know how you will reach your intended readers. In what circles are you well known? What connections do you have with other high-profile people who might help you get attention for your book? How active are you on social media? In industry associations? In community activities? How large is your mailing list?
2. Study the market. You may have heard the old adage, “Write what you know.” That’s solid advice for novel writing; if you write from personal experience, the emotion will ring true. But in other genres, look to other levers for impetus: What problems need to be solved? What trends do you see on the horizon? What myths need to be exposed? What principles do people need to embrace? Grab an idea that appeals to the masses or that addresses a single issue for a niche market. Either way, study the market for your idea and the books that already compete on the topic.
3. Know your audience. Picture the ideal person to buy your book: age, gender, education, career, family, dreams, goals, fears, problems. Write for that one person.
4. Write a great proposal. There’s no one template for a great proposal any more than there’s one way to make a chocolate cake. But then all chocolate cakes do have a few common ingredients. Likewise, great proposals will overview the concept clearly and crisply, provide a comprehensive marketing plan, and include the author biography. Learn what goes into winning proposals.
5. Craft a great title. While a mediocre title won’t keep a good book from selling, a great title can sell a mediocre book. My agent once held my proposal on a time-sensitive topic for 12 days before submitting it to publishers because he thought we could come up with a better title than my first attempt. Titles either titillate readers or torpedo your proposal.
6. Follow through on the project. At some point, you do have to sit down and write the book—rather than just talk about it. It always surprises me how often a would-be writer sells an idea to agent or editor and gets a go-ahead and contract, but then never delivers the manuscript. Writing a book proves to be just like any other long-term project; it requires a plan, complete with interim steps and deadlines. Waiting for inspiration is for the mystics among us.
7. Make your writing riveting—or at least readable. Today’s readers have too much competing for their attention to struggle with heavy prose, jargon, convoluted sentences, and grammar glitches. They skim, skip, and click through your pages, wanting to be engaged, informed, persuaded, or amused. If they snooze, you lose.
8. Promote, promote, promote like it all depends on you. Publishers distribute your book so that it’s available in stores and online. They also do a fairly good job of selling sub-rights: audio series, electronic rights, movies, and foreign translations. A few do a good job at marketing and promoting your book. But for the most part, they count on authors to be the chief marketer. So understand and plan for that role from the very beginning, include it in your proposal, think “marketing” as you write your book, and allocate sufficient time in your career game plan.
Copyright 2012 by Dianna Booher. Reprinted with permission. Dianna Booher works with organizations to increase their effectiveness in communication: oral, written, interpersonal, and cross-functional . She’s the author of 46 books, published in 23 languages, with nearly 4 million copies sold. Her most recent titles are Creating Personal Presence: Look, Talk, Think, and Act Like a Leader (Berrett-Koehler) and Communicate with Confidence—The Revised and Expanded Version (McGraw-Hill). Her previous work has won an American Library Association’s Best Nonfiction of the Year award and another has appeared on Executive Soundview Summaries list of “20 Best Business Books of the Decade.” Good Morning America, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Investor’s Business Daily, Bloomberg, NPR, Forbes, CNN International, The New York Times, Washington Post, Success — all have featured her work on critical communication issues. Dianna has won the highest awards in the speaking industry, having been inducted into the National Speakers Association’s Speaker Hall of Fame. Speaking clients include IBM, ExxonMobil, Microsoft, BP, Chevron, Pepsico, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, NASA, and the US Navy along with 227 of the Fortune 500. www.booher.com www.booher.com/booherbanter
Larry James is a professional speaker and the author of three relationship books, “How to Really Love the One You’re With: Affirmative Guidelines for a Healthy Love Relationship,” “LoveNotes for Lovers: Words That Make Music for Two Hearts Dancing” and “Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers.” His newest book is “Ten Commitments of Networking.” Larry James also offers “Author & Speaker” coaching. Contact: AuthorsandSpeakersNetwork.com, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. CelebrateLove@cox.net – More than 110 articles especially for Authors & Speakers at: www.AuthorsandSpeakersNetwork.com
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