You have an “ah-ha” moment, and BANG, the best idea comes to you for a writing project. Naturally you think “this should obviously be a book, I should start writing these thoughts and ideas down.” You get a good chunk written and think “wow I am for sure going to be the next JK Rowling!”
Before you drop a pound of money on taking that next step from an idea to connecting with a publisher, consider answering the following questions…
Does it need to be a book?
Sounds like a silly question, but there are many other options to get your writing out into the world that are less labor intensive than publishing a book. Consider what you want to write and other possible formats. Other considerations are a podcast, screenplay, long articles, short story, blog or video series.
All these options require writing of some sort and could be a good starting point to begin building an archive of material on a subject that could be turned into a book later. If you do have the passion and strong desire to churn out 50,000 to 90,000 words for a book, then get started now.
Take a moment to write the first 1,000 words of your book that have been floating around your mind. Was that difficult to complete or did it flow out like a perfect brainchild? Think on this, and if you still want to publish a book keep reading!
Do you want to be a published author or a bestselling author?
Books don’t sell themselves. Even the best ideas need to be visually appealing, have a strong marketing campaign, and a fantastic cover. Becoming a successful author takes time, teamwork, and financial resources to accomplish.
You may be the author, but you cannot do this alone, even if you are trying to self-publish you will need to hire an editor, book designer, cover designer and marketing team. Or you work with a publishing group that can help guide you through the book publishing process.
A good publishing group will have this team assembled inhouse for you to work with and rely on for expertise, that is the most efficient way to get your book published.
How much time will you dedicate to writing?
If you search for “How long does it take to write a book,” some articles claim it takes “6-12 months on average.” Talk to any bestselling author and they will tell you that is quite the understatement. There is ample preparation work to be done before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboards).
Forming the book idea along with the plot, narrative, or topic can take years to formulate before the writing process even begins. We often don’t think about the time we spend thinking.
The practice of mulling an idea over is all part of the creative process and it is unquestionably an import part of writing a book. Often, we hear “think before you speak”, in this case it should be “think before you write”.
While you are ruminating on the concept or idea for your book, research will need to be collected and that also takes time. Conducting interviews and performing research also goes unnoted as part of the writing timeline.
Then there comes the time to actually sit down and write. It is highly suggested to make a writing schedule and dedicate time each day to putting words on the page, of course you might revisit or rewrite those words, but it is important to get started somewhere.
Form your schedule and stick with it to stay on task. Too often people take a break from writing and don’t revisit the project again for months, or ever again. Don’t be that person. Realistically look at your current obligations and build a plan that is achievable for your goals.
How much time do you have to dedicate to the books success?
There is more to publishing a book then just the writing, and may actually be the easiest part taking up the least amount of your time. Other time considerations include:
- Researching the best publisher to work with
- Editing the book (multiple times)
- Creating a title
- Developing marketing materials
- Creating an ad campaign
- Writing the back cover text,
- Writing the author bio
- Collecting testimonials for the book
- Speaking at events, or doing a book tour to promote the book.
Sounds like a lot, but that is what it takes to get a book in front of your target audience. Hiring a PR consultant or a publisher can greatly help your chances of getting your book noticed but you need to be the biggest advocate for your book and that will take up a lot of your time.
Why are you writing this book?
There should be a strong “why” to writing a book. Why do you need to be the one that writes it? Why do people need to read this? Why does your audience care about this topic?
You should be confident about the “why” and be able to articulate quickly and clearly that reason to people when promoting your idea. A publisher is going to be more interested in the “why” and the idea behind the book than how good of a writer you actually are. There are ghostwriters and editors for a reason.
Have you written the book proposal?
Don’t walk into a publisher’s office empty handed with just an idea; first prepare for the meeting by developing a book proposal. A book proposal states your book idea, why it needs to be written, how it is a sellable book, why should people listen to you on this topic, and, lastly, sample chapters.
Check with your publisher and verify exactly what they expect in a book proposal.
Does this book align with your professional goals or is it a passion project?
Maybe you have always wanted to be an author and constantly have beautifully creative ideas that you enjoy writing about or maybe you are a motivational speaker that wants to combine your best work into one book.
There are many reasons why writing a book can be beneficial to your profession and taking the time to get it published can change the course of your career. If you are wanting to compile something more personal or passion driven, your motivation and timeline to finish the project will differ.
Maybe you want to compile love letters your grandparents wrote to each other or a collection of historical documents you have compiled. These projects are more for personal use and still would make great books but are not commercially viable.
Does this book idea already exist?
You may have an idea that you think is original and unique, but has someone already written something similar? Do your research on if similar topics or stories already exist and consider what sets your idea apart. Too often the same idea gets recycled without an original twist.
Consider adjusting your idea or reworking the concept to stand out from similar bodies of work. Another way to look at this is what makes you different than the other authors and how can your life story set you apart and get the target audiences attention.
Who is your target audience?
No single book ever written is loved by everyone, it just doesn’t work that way. Take time to consider who would read your book and what might attract that target reader.
What is your budget?
Surprise! Publishing a book costs money! Ah yes, you are thinking “of course it does,” but sadly, most people underestimate how much it will cost. Think about how much you are willing to spend and how much financial backing you have available to you.
As mentioned above, it takes a team of people to get a book published, and those people need a paycheck to live. It is a group effort to get to that finish line and the group deserves payment for their services to help you reach your goal.
Talk to the publisher about how you want the finished book to look and consider suggestions they make.
If you want a leather bound hand stitched book or color photos on each page, expect to pay more. Some people opt to self publish thinking they will save money and take their Word Document to Kinkos and expect the quality of a Harry Potter hard back book to be the result…
Hint: that is not what you get from Kinkos.