Early in 2019, I had an idea: I wanted to write a book. At the time, I knew very little about writing a book, let alone publishing it. Fast forward to 2020, I am now about to publish my third book, Unignorable. The journey to self-publishing a book has been long and at times demanding, but it has also been highly rewarding. In addition to owning a successful consultancy, becoming a published author has opened the door to so many new opportunities, and experiences for me. Now I want to share my key learnings with you.
Who should write a book?
I believe that anyone can write a book. However, it’s important that you have something valuable to say. There are already millions of books out there, so it is important to have something new or interesting to add to the conversation. As I always say, start with the WHY. Think about what you want to achieve by writing a book and only then can you determine if writing a book really makes sense for you.
Who is your audience?
This is possibly one of the most overlooked steps when writing a book. It is easy to get so bogged down in simply writing that you forget who you are writing for. Recently, I spoke to Nate Regier, the CEO of Next Element and author of three successful books. He told me that defining his audience has been crucial to his success. Before he published his first book, he had been blogging for over 8 years, fine-tuning exactly who his audience was and what topics they were interested in. If you don’t get this feedback early on, then selling your book is going to be much harder.
Now you know why you want to write a book and who you are writing the book for, it’s time to get started. The process of starting to write can seem quite daunting, but I have developed a unique method to transfer all that knowledge from your head to paper. Once you have the topic in mind, write down a short outline of the themes and topics that you would like to include. The next step is to do an audio recording on each of the themes. Don’t worry if you don’t have professional equipment to do this, you can even just use a voice recorder app on your phone. Speaking out loud can help you to get your thoughts and ideas flowing more freely without worrying about things like sentence structure and grammar. These recordings will then form the premise for each chapter of your book. Voila! I really like the audio to text method because it saves so much time. Instead of spending years writing a book, it only took me three months from start to finish.
It's time to get your pen out
Using the audio recordings, you now have a coherent outline for each chapter. Now you just need to flesh out your thoughts and fill in the gaps. How you choose to finish writing the book will vary depending on what type of person you are. For example, Nate told me that he can “write on command”. He will easily write 4-5 hours straight with no interruptions. He also quite likes working from the local coffee shop, often doing his best work when he has people around him but are not interacting with him. On the other hand, I do my best work in the mornings and need to be in a quiet space with no distractions. Whichever method works for you, make sure you block sufficient time every day to keep on writing. Consistency is key.
Get a good editor
After writing 50,000 words, it’s completely understandable that you might not feel like proofreading your book. That’s why having a good editor is critical. Whether you ask a trusted friend or colleague, or even hire a professional editor, it is essential to get feedback on how you can improve your book and make it sharper. Your editor should also draw your attention to anything else you might have missed. For example, in editing my own book, I realised that the chapter-opening quotes lacked in diversity. Successful personal branding experts come from different backgrounds and my book did not reflect that at first. Going through this process with an editor enabled me to change my text to ensure it conveyed the right tone and message, ultimately making my book much better in the end.
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “don’t judge a book by its cover”, but in this instance people do. Especially if you are a new or unknown author, people don’t know anything about who you are and what kind of books you write. So making sure that the design of your book compliments your writing is important. That might even mean hiring a professional designer to help out. I went through many different versions of possible covers and even asked for feedback on social media to get an idea of what type of design my audience preferred. This helped me create a book cover that I believe would appeal to my readers.
Agent vs self-publishing?
The idea of having a book agent might sound cool, but in reality, it can be quite tricky to get one. Especially if you don’t already have an existing audience or social media following. When I spoke to Nate about this, he told me that he self-published his first two books and then an agent actually approached him about publishing his third book. Having a publisher is great, but you still need to do the hard work yourself. I have found the process of self-publishing to be highly rewarding and it also means that you can publish and promote your book in your own time.
Get to know Amazon
Once your book is ready to go, you need to think about how you are going to sell it. It is possible to sell it through your own website. However, I have found that selling via Amazon is really beneficial. Via the seller central page you can set up your author page and book listing with all the necessary specifications. If you get stuck, there are plenty of helpful articles out there on the internet to guide you through the process. Selling through Amazon means you have the option to sell your book as a Kindle version or you can even print on demand. This means that Amazon will take care of the printing in accordance with how many orders you receive (which means you save on upfront printing costs). The downside to this is that the printing may not be as high quality as you’d like. I actually decided to choose my own printer to ensure premium quality. I then sent the book copies to Amazon’s fulfilment centre and from there, they take care of the distribution. The exact format you decide to sell your book will come down to budget and personal preference. Either way, Amazon makes it very easy to distribute your book to the masses without having to worry about complex logistics.
Getting the word out there
Your final task is to get the word out there. When I asked Nate how he did it, he said that he actively sought out speaking engagements, guest blog posts and podcasts. It’s important to tell everyone and anyone who might be interested in your book that it is now available for sale. If you’re selling on Amazon, you will also want to get as many reviews as possible when you launch. This then means that Amazon will continue to recommend your book to likely buyers. On top of this, you can also easily promote your book through paid advertising on Amazon or even Facebook to drive sales and get the word out there.
I learnt a lot by self-publishing my book. It is definitely a long and windy road to success, but it is definitely worth it. If you’re passionate about a topic and have something to say, publishing your own book is a great way to build credibility and become unignorable. If you have further questions on how to successfully publish your own book, I’m always happy to chat and discuss exactly how I did it. You can also listen to my full conversation with Nate Regier on #TheUnignorablePodcast to learn more about the do’s and don’ts of publishing a book.
Good luck and happy writing!