Like Climbing a Mountain – The 5 Things to Know in Writing a Successful Book
Few things are as satisfying as that feeling you get once you see the book you’ve written on bookstore shelves. At the very least, it’s a valuable conversation starter at cocktail parties. At the very best, your name becomes a household name.
Some people say the best part about being a published author is the passive income you receive from your quarterly royalty checks. Patricia Fripp is famous in my office for her thank you letters about receiving “mailbox money.”
For those who are already published writers, you probably know that there is nothing passive about your income. There’s also nothing glamorous about the sweat involved in bringing your opus to market and banging your drum for months leading into your launch to attract the attention of book buyers. Hence, there needs to be more to your reward than riveting conversation at cocktail parties.
The Key to Reaching the Top Is Actually Starting
This reminds me of a story. One weekend a few years ago, when my son was still a teenager – eyebrows fashionably bushy, girls squabbling over him, physically fit and taking it for granted – we set out for a day hike to the summit of the famous Mt. Saint Helens. Yes, that Mt. Saint Helens, the semi-active volcano which continues to brew to this day under a dome of hardened lava.
We arrived at the trailhead early-morning. The path was strewn with sharp gray rocks, pieces of ash and pumice left over from her famous explosion back in May of 1980. Even though the terrain on the trail was rough, my son and I got started – he with the rash haste of a 16-year old; I with the more practiced gait of a silverback. The point is that we started, a delicate point that most fail to appreciate. As they say, “The start is what stops most people.”
The morning wore on, and the trail climbed without any consideration for my physical condition. I looked around to see if we were keeping pace with the healthy couple from Connecticut who were climbing 3 summits in 3 days. I was hanging in there. However, in the back of my mind I was hoping that after a while my son would tire, slow down, and give his ol’ man a break. Not a chance. He pushed ahead, summited with ease, and waited impatiently for me at the top.
The air was thin towards the top of this 10,000 foot peak, but despite the elevation everything was going great. Then suddenly, 50 yards from the peak, my thigh seriously cramped-up. There I was, so close to the elusive summit that I could hear the conversations from the group at the summit. As I sat there on a rock stretching my thigh, I wondered flippantly if there were any rickshaws nearby that I could hire. It was only a persistent inner resolve that got me off that rock and up the steep, rocky path to the summit.
Writing a book can be like that.
Whether you start out writing your book with high hopes and a burst of energy, or you pace yourself with the long view in mind, the key is to start. Once you get started, momentum works in your favor. Then, your next challenge is to finish it. The rewards will be many and finishing a book is incredibly fulfilling, despite the challenges along the way.
5 Things to Know about a Published Book
Knowing that it’s hard to tell stories at events about a book you haven’t finished yet, here are five steps for getting your book manuscript done, out the door, and into the hands of readers.
- Derivatives: Consider the different types of book derivatives that are available to you, such as physical books, eBooks and audiobooks. Choose the format that’s most appropriate for your ideas and your audience. Some authors launch their ebook first. Others will record an audiobook first, get it transcribed, then convert that to their book.
- Licensing: Know about licensing for both domestic and foreign rights. Getting your book translated into foreign languages and published can make an attractive ancillary income from your writing.
- Title: Come up with a gripping title for your book and don’t underestimate this part of your writing. Do some social media research study to get the book’s title and subtitle locked down. You can get opinions from fans in real-time this way. It’s a great use of technology!
- Structure: Use your table of contents as the essence of your book. It will help establish the flow of your ideas and serve as an outline for your material. You can refer to it as you write and create the structure of your book.
- Refinement: As the writing progresses, always have someone proof edit your work to make sure that the writing is sharp. Have a trusted ally provide you with ongoing feedback. This means that through the writing process, you’re not alone and you have help every step of the way.
Using these steps can accelerate your writing process and help you complete your manuscript at a brisk pace. What I’ve discovered after years of working with authors is that even people who maintain a crazy busy schedule can complete a book inside a three-month time frame, by disciplining their time on their writing project.
What kind of conversation will you start at your next cocktail party? Challenge yourself to get started with a book and push it across the finish-line in the next 6-months…what comes next may surprise you.
Bryan Heathman is the President of Made for Success Publishing. Bryan works with best-selling authors in the role of publisher and marketer, including the late Zig Ziglar, Chris Widener and John C. Maxwell. Bryan is the author of Conversion Marketing, a marketing book that condenses knowledge on website conversion from 7-years running an online ad agency. Bryan’s Fortune 500 experience includes running high impact marketing campaigns for Microsoft, Eastman Kodak and Xerox.