A lot of people have something to say. Various surveys have shown that about 80% of us feel we have a book inside us, just waiting to be written. Maybe you’re one of them. As I’ve written before, writing a book is a great way to boost your credibility and attract new clients.
Realistically, most people will never write the book of their dreams, no matter how compelling the arguments may be to do so. Although people make a lot of different excuses, I think most people avoid writing a book because of one simple thing: fear.
The common fears are actually fairly easy to overcome once you understand what’s behind them. So what are you afraid of? I’ve found in my work with aspiring authors that most fears relate to rejection and money:
Rejection. Every creative person I’ve ever met hates rejection and fears failure. The idea that some critic is going to say the book you put your heart and soul into is the worst thing he’s ever read is horrible to even contemplate. I know I struggled with this issue myself, and only after I got some good feedback on my books did I gain more confidence.
Although I worked through my own fears the hard way, over the years, I’ve learned another perspective on rejection and what it really means. Rejection is only rejection if you accept it. The most successful authors simply refuse to accept rejection.
What many people don’t realize is that a lot of best-selling books were originally rejected by publishers. Sometimes repeatedly. Everyone from JK Rowling to Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield (of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame) had their books rejected. In fact, Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected an amazing 140 times. If you’ve ever listened to Mark Victor Hansen talk about his experience, you’ll realize that the man absolutely did not accept rejection. He believed in the book and kept going. (And going!)
Another thing you need to understand is that publishing is a business. Once you learn more about the publishing world, you discover that a lot of the time, rejection has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the book itself. Often it’s a business decision made for reasons you’ll never know. From the outside, you have no way of knowing if a book publisher is already about to release a book on the topic you suggest in your proposal. You can write the best proposal in the world and it can still be rejected for reasons completely out of your control.
Money. I’d argue that fear of losing money is behind a lot of business angst in general. Publishing is no different. Like most business endeavors, publishing a book can be expensive both in terms of your time and out of pocket costs. After all, it takes time to write a book, which is time you aren’t spending trading your hours for client dollars.
If you opt to publish a book yourself, you may need to spend time learning new things like how to write a book proposal or how to self-publish a book. You’ll undoubtedly need to invest in editorial services. If you publish the book yourself, you may also need to hire graphic designers to do the interior layout and cover.
Every writer experiences these fears at one time or another. I’ve written 12 books and gone through phases where I felt anxious and worried about each one. The difference between published and unpublished authors is that published authors feel the fear and write the book anyway.
Break The Project Down
The key to facing your fear and writing the book is to break the process down into manageable steps. Despite what some hyped up “programs” about book writing would suggest, virtually no one really writes a book in a day or two days.
If you think about a book as a series of articles or “chunks” of content, it’s a lot less intimidating. To work as a book, the ideas need to relate to one another and work as a cohesive unit. Once you have settled on an overall topic for your book, to actually write it, you go through these steps:
1. Brainstorm. If you have a blog, you have a great resource: your community. Look back at your most popular posts and see which ones have the most interesting comments. Now get out a sheet of paper and start brainstorming topic ideas. Also go back through your client emails and review your answers to questions.
2. Organize. Once you have brainstormed a list of topics, start grouping them. Tie related ideas together with more transitional ideas and topics. It may help to use a mind map or outlining software. Or even a white board and sticky notes. Whatever helps you get your creativity flowing.
3. Edit. Once you have a basic outline or list, go through your ideas with an editor’s eye. Be ruthless and throw out ideas or topics that are too broad, too complicated, or too difficult to write about. Your goal is not to write the Great American Novel. You want to keep your book workable.
4. Write. Once you have your outline, writing the book becomes a matter of filling in the blanks. Once you have broken out each topic or outline point, they are small enough to work with. Think of each one as an article and you’ll find that finishing the book becomes fairly straightforward.
Not a Writer? You Can Still Take Action!
If you’re reading this and freaking out because you’re “not a writer” all is not lost. In fact, I just finished laying out a book for a client who actively hates to write. He’s a professional speaker, non-technical and can barely type. But his book is coming out next week. His secret: “talking his book.”
Even if you don’t touch type, you still can write a book. It’s easy to use a mini-tape recorder or a speech recognition program to get your ideas on (virtual) paper. Think about the medium you like best. People who enjoy making audios or videos record them, get the audio transcribed, and hire an editor to turn the content into a book.
The brainstorming and organizational process are the same, even if you opt to “talk the book.” You need to know what the book will be about. If you have great content to share, don’t let your fears or the ever-popular “I’m not a writer” excuse keep you from sharing the book inside you.