Writing a Book – Each week I identify a different theme and provide you with content, some original and some from external sources, around that theme in two separate posts.
The first post represents my thoughts, experience, advice or questions on whatever the weekly theme is. Later in the week, a second post will expand on the theme and/or summarize and provide links to several articles and videos from other sources, providing additional information on the weekly theme.
The Proof is in the Pudding
1 year and 3 days ago, my publisher, Figure.1 Publishing, and I got our first look at the proofs for the cover to Business is ART. It may feel like this every time for all I know, but as a first time author, that day was really special. It might be a little like seeing an ultrasound image of your child. Not quite ready to be born, but you can make out the baby’s face and features.
That said, I thought now might be a good time to provide a few tips for anyone else considering writing a book – of any kind, not necessarily business.
It all begins with getting a mentor or advisor. I was fortunate enough that a couple of college professors mentored and advised me from early on. One of them was Professor Roy Lewicki of the Ohio State University, who subsequently provided a foreword for the book.
For those not so fortunate, I’m sharing some tips based on my own experience. That doesn’t make me an expert, mind you…just someone who learned a few things going down the road you too are considering. These are my opinions. I am sure every other author has many of his or her own.
Tips for Writing a Book
- Know what your book will be about. At least know the basic premise if not have an outline. Keep your outline simple. Chapter title and a one-paragraph description of what that chapter is about. “Business is ART – Articulate, Revise, Track” began as 1 slide in a presentation I used to give on strategic planning. Before I wrote the first words to the book, I created an outline and determined the average number of pages I wanted to be in each chapter.
- Know WHY you are writing the book. I wrote Business is ART for both external and internal reasons. Externally, I wanted to provide something that business owners and organizational leaders could actually use to improve their odds of success. Internally, I wanted to have something tangible that defines who I am as a consultant and that would provide a launch pad for the subsequent production of both training videos and software that would deliver the processes and templates described in the book. At no point did I think, feel or say, “I am going to write a best-selling business book that will make me a million bucks.”
- Build a platform in advance. Your platform is your audience – people who will potentially buy your book. I highly recommend Michael Hyatt’s book Platform to help you devise a strategy for building yours. Do this before you start writing but after you know what you are going to be writing about. I started building a platform too late in the game and would approach things much differently were I to start over.
- Determine how you will publish. There are multiple tips in this category. I’ll expand on them in Part 2 of this post, but for now consider if self-publishing, traditional publishing or hybrid publishing is the best route for you and your book. Along the way, determine if your book will be available in print and ebook or just ebook…but definitely plan for ebook. You can decide now or later if it will also be available in audio form.
- Set a budget. Don’t kid yourself – writing a book ain’t free. Determine how much you can and are willing to spend. It will impact your ultimate publishing route, as well as how you will design your book, illustrations and cover – not to mention editing.
- Throw pride out the window. The thing that worried me most about the process was the editing. Before it all began I asked my wife to help me to keep a clear head and if she heard me complaining about editors, remind me that they are there to help me. It isn’t belittling to be helped. Business is ART went through 5 levels of editing. The first two occurred before anything was handed in to my publisher. One was a self-edit and the other was a content review by a team of trusted peers who graciously volunteered to help out. That review in particular was extremely beneficial because not only did they make recommendations on content, they validated that what Business is ART was developing into was something of value. The next 3 levels were through the publisher and they included content and flow, grammar, syntax and structure and final proof editing. My wife never had to tell me to “simmer down” because I embraced the whole process from the start for what it was…help not hindrance.
- Let your freak flag fly! If you’re thinking, “I’d write a book but would be too embarrassed to let anyone read it,” stop. Either stop thinking about writing the book or set aside the notion of embarrassment. These two things cannot co-exist. And if you do decide to write, be yourself. You like humor? Add a little humor. You like darkness? Add a little darkness. You like religion? Add a little religion. When you write, especially fiction, you have to imagine yourself as the character and/or the reader. You have to have multiple personalities. But don’t lose your own in the process. Let your freak flag fly.
- Establish a timeline. “I plan to write a book someday” could be the last words you ever speak. Someday never comes unless you put yourself on a schedule. The creative process is a little hard to put start and stop times to, but create a deadline for various milestones (maybe a chapter). Set aside specific times to write. You might sit down at your scheduled time and walk away with great stuff or with nothing. But even the “nothingness” may inspire something later. Write any time the creativity and mood strikes, but minimally, sit down at your scheduled times with your allotted objectives.
- Stop talking, start doing. This is going to make it sound like it was a much faster process than it was, but essentially, I wrote Business is ART in 10 primary sittings. I pre-determined that I would sit down and draft one chapter with each sitting. And then I did. Now, there was a whole lot of research, thinking and discussion that occurred first, and in between chapters, but when it was time to write, I wrote. For me, the best approach is to just dump it all out in text and go back later to fix it. If I slow down to correct spelling, make adjustments, etc. I get lost in those details and forget to write the rest. Just let it flow out of you. You can always go back and improve it. But know this – it will never be perfect and you will never be finished – it will just be done. I could go back right now and make numerous changes to Business is ART. Maybe in the 10-year anniversary edition.
The Shameless Plug
No matter why you write your book, you want people to read it…right? So don’t forget to ask people to go get a copy. You can find Business is ART at Amazon or go to Barnes & Noble or order a personalized signed copy directly from me.
Please go get a copy. I thank you in advance of your purchase – and don’t forget to leave a review…preferably a good one!