Write Your Book



a number-one best-selling author, success and book coach, and speaker on a mission to help leaders use the power of writing to uncover their unique stories so they can scale their impact.

I'm Stacy Ennis,

Hello there!

Episode 97 | Ask Stacy: Book writing, publishing, ChatGPT, and second-language authorhood

follow @stacyennis

I'm a number-one best-selling author, success and book coach, and speaker on a mission to help leaders use the power of writing to uncover their unique stories so they can scale their impact.

Hi, I'm Stacy

This Ask Stacy episode is full of writing and publishing-related questions from my listeners. Topics covered in this episode include:

  • What to do if English is your second language and you’re finding it challenging to write.
  • Whether traditional publishing is better than self-publishing.
  • If ChatGPT is an ethical route to write a book.
  • The average word count for a nonfiction manuscript and what to do if you’re struggling to create enough for a whole book.

Show notes:

Learn more about my Idea-to-Draft Accelerator and Author Mentorship program here.

Follow me on:

To submit a question, email or visit and fill out the form on the page.


Transcripts for Episode 97

These transcripts were generated by robots, not writers.

Stacy: Welcome. I am really excited this week to get to dive into your questions. I get so many questions on a regular basis from people on Instagram, on email, all kinds of places. So it’s really nice to get an opportunity to dive into those questions in detail on the podcast. And I hope no matter where you are in your book writing journey, that’s theme of today’s questions, these will be supportive to you. And I try really hard to make sure that when I answer them, I give answers that will support everyone. And if you are somebody who sent in a question, I really hope that this will help you get unstuck or figure out what the next step is for your book. So we’ll start with our first question from Stephanie. Stephanie says, I am very much interested in writing my own book, but because English is my second language, I’m finding it challenging to write.

And she went on to say that she wasn’t exactly sure why she was sharing this, but she thought maybe I could help her think through how to move forward with this book. So, Stephanie, I really, first of all, just appreciate you sharing this vulnerable challenge. And because I connect with so many people around the world through the work that I do, I actually hear this a lot. So just know you’re not alone. There’s lots of people that want to reach an English speaking market and speak English well, but maybe you don’t have that specific writing skill. You haven’t developed a professional level of writing or even a really flowy writing quality in English. So don’t worry, it’s very normal. And I hope that you don’t feel like you can’t do this because you absolutely can. So if English isn’t your first language, I really suggest either working with a writing partner or planning to invest in editing after the draft.

Either one of these are a great course of action. The first option is going to be more expensive generally because you’re hiring somebody to work with you alongside you, and develop the draft with you. If you go the second route. I would just be mindful that editor is going to need to do a bit of a heavier lift on that draft than they would if the draft had been written by somebody whose first language is English. So, of course, all of this really depends on your level of fluency in English. Obviously, if you have very developed English writing skills, but maybe you’re not a native speaker, it will be less of an investment to get support on the draft. And if your fluency is more spoken and you’re not very fluent with written, then you’re going to really need to think about investing in support to get that book polished and out into the world.

I would also keep in mind, if budget allows, thinking about a ghostwriter. A ghostwriter can be an amazing partner, somebody who comes in and they take their editorial expertise, their writing skill, and they marry it with your idea or your story. So think about that too, if budget allows. So I would also keep that like the budget piece. I know I keep talking about that, but getting support on your book can have a really wide range of expense. That said, if you don’t have a big budget right now, don’t let that stop you. I would encourage you to write the draft. Just write it. Get in there and write that book. And then when you get to the end, address the editing needs. So if you have a limited or no budget right now, please don’t let that stop you from getting that draft done.

If you can put money aside every month while you’re writing your book to save up for editing and at the end, hopefully you’ll have some money to invest in that book. I hope this was helpful, Stephanie. I just want to reiterate that all the editing and ghostwriting and writing partner, co writer, all that aside, regardless of your fluency or your level of English, your story matters, your topic matters, and I really hope you move forward with your book. And just keep in mind there are all kinds of people that can help you get it out into the world. So thanks for that question, Stephanie. We have the next question from Robert. And Robert asks, I noticed that you’re intending to publish with a book publishing company. Is that better than going with Amazon Kindle? Okay, so let me just clarify what Robert means here. So if you’re on my email list, which you can join Rita, join you know that I have been working on a book.

I share a lot of behind the scenes about this process, including the specifics that I walk through to write my book proposal and a bunch of other things behind the scenes. And it’s true. I am seeking agent representation for my next book. So what does that mean? Well, generally, if you want to work with a traditional publisher, one of the big five publishers, you need an agent to be kind of an intermediary to pitch your book and sell your book. So what Robert’s referring to is that I’m going through that process of finding an agent. Now, for me, having written or ghost written 17 books, this is book number 18. I see this as an exciting and fun next challenge. I have been traditionally published. I have worked with a hybrid publisher, and I have self published, and I’ve guided clients through all variations of publishing.

So I’m really familiar with all the different routes. I’m seeking an agent because I see a huge market for this book. I am really excited about it, and I want this book to have an opportunity to reach more readers. That said, I’m very realistic about the process. So one thing to know, if you seek traditional publishing, meaning you pitch to them, they buy your book, they publish it, they put all the costs, investment in the production costs. That’s a long time frame. So I’m reasonably thinking it could be two years before my book is to market. Whereas if I and it actually really could be two to three years, that is often the time frame that it can take to get a traditionally published book to market. Whereas if I were to write and either self publish or hybrid publish this book, I’d be looking at more like an 18 month time frame.

So I’d give myself about nine months for the book. I’ve already done the bulk of the hardest part of it, planning it. I’ve written the first chapter. So let’s say six months, and then another nine months to go through the publishing process and do a really great job with that. So it’s a much faster time frame. Of course, you hear stories about writing and publishing their book within six months. I do not suggest that, number one, there’s no reason to be that aggressive with getting a book done. And number two, your book quality will suffer if you try to rush it. So my recommended time frame from idea to publication is a minimum of twelve months. But really, I suggest that 18 month time frame, it’s a good solid time frame. Now, to answer your question on publishing, is it better? That’s a hard question to answer because there are so many different routes that you can take on publishing that are very specific to your individual needs.

In the Show Notes, I’m going to link an episode that I did with Jane Friedman where we talk about all different types of publishing and we talk through the pros and cons of different publishing types. That’s a really good episode. It’s one of the most popular episodes I’ve done, and I highly recommend listening to that because you’ll get a lot of information from that. So one point to make is when you publish with Amazon, because I want to speak specifically to Robert’s question. When you publish on Amazon, that is self publishing, and Kindle is through Amazon. So when you’re publishing through Amazon, kindle is simply the e version of your book. When you publish your book, you want to make sure it’s available in multiple formats. Kindle is one of the ebook formats that are available. Amazon is one distribution center that you can use to get your book out into the world.

So Amazon becomes essentially your book producer and distributor when you do the print on demand version, which means that when there’s demand, somebody orders it, then your book is printed. So it gets printed when there’s demand versus sometimes when you work with a hybrid publisher or a traditional publisher, the book is ordered in thousands and then it’s sold. So is it better? I can’t give you a definitive answer on that because it’s so individual, but I would take into consideration your specific goals. So, number one, can you wait up to three years to get this book to market? How do you feel about spending six to twelve months seeking an agent and maybe not getting one because there is something like a less than 1% success rate publishing this route, like getting not only an agent, but actually getting the book sold. So how do you feel about that?

Can you use that much time and then maybe you still need to pivot and go hybrid? What’s your budget? So if you have zero budget, it’s going to be really hard to professionally self publish and hybrid publish, unless you happen to have amazing expert friends who are willing to do it for free or something. But generally most people don’t have an expert editor, an expert book, cover designer, expert book, interior designer, back cover copywriter, like all of the things that you’ll need, website designer, all the things that you’ll need to get your book to market and successful. Plus you have publicity and marketing and all the things that you need to consider. The other thing that I would think about if I were thinking putting traditional aside and thinking hybrid versus self publishing. Let’s say you have budget. How much time do I want to invest in this and do I want to learn this?

A lot of my clients and students end up going hybrid or they hire a self publishing project manager or a coach or an assistant of some kind to help support them through the process because it’s a lot of work. So I would keep that in mind and then I would absolutely listen to that episode with Jane Friedman. And then anybody who has more questions about this, send it my way. I have some really great guests coming on later in our next season, and I’ll save some of those questions for them, and some of them I will answer. So thank you so much for that question, Robert. Okay. Oh, I have another layer to Robert’s question, and I broke it out separately because it’s completely different. So the other question was, what do you think about using chat GPT to write a book or do the research?

Okay, take a deep breath. First of all, I think chat GPT is amazing. We use it for a number of different things within my business. What we don’t use it for is generation. And I don’t use it for research. I do use it for initial ideas to get me going in the right direction of research. But I think there is a real ethical issue with using GPT to write your book. I’ve written about this extensively in my newsletter. Again, you can join that. Rita join every so often. I like touch on AI in my newsletter because it’s such an important area in the publishing world. I see chat GPT as so helpful with a number of things. With writing your book. Yes. It can help you with getting unstuck in certain areas, or with ideation, or with helping just think through points. Let’s say you have a specific point in your book that you’re feeling stuck on how to organize it.

Maybe it could give you some ideas on how to approach that or how to organize it. But generally I see chat GPT from a generation standpoint, like generating content as a real issue for the number one reason of outsourcing our thinking. It is a real challenge. I see this is a challenge that we are going to continue to confront. One of the greatest benefits of authorhood is the transformative journey. I see that as the book at the end of it, I see as this nice little bonus. I actually think the journey is one of the most powerful, amazing things that you can undergo in your whole life. And so if you want to write a book and it’s just a business card and you don’t care about the quality, and you’re not worried about copyright issues because there’s actually quite a number of court cases happening where there’s some real concerns with copyright issues with chat GPT.

So let’s just put that aside. If you don’t care about developing yourself as a human, as a thinker, you don’t care about writing an amazing book, you don’t care about adding to the conversation, the broader human conversation, then fine, use chat GPD for generation. But if you actually care to make an impact on this world and grow your thinking, clarify your ideas, be a better communicator and create something meaningful and achieve a real goal, then don’t use it. You can use it as a tool, just like we do all kinds of other tech tools. But please do not use chat GPT to write your book. Just don’t. The other thing that I think is so important to talk about, this is not talked about enough. So outsourcing thinking is obviously a huge issue. But chat GPT is also heavily biased. So you have to think about what it’s coming from.

It’s coming from colonized biased content and ideas, and it thinks within the framework of what it’s been fed and not within the critical lens of a human brain. One that considers like that, approaches it with empathy and desires to be antiracist and inclusive. And so when we are trusting chat GPT, which has combed all of this content, again from biased content, research is biased. Okay, gathering quotes, those are nearly all male. Even medical advice is largely biased. It’s white centric and male centric. So if you’re writing, let’s say, a science book, and you want to use chat GPT to gather some ideas for initial research, you have to know that it’s going to pull from places that are biased. And that’s really important. I cannot emphasize this enough. The other thing that I just want to loop back to, I know I told me to be too repetitive, but writing a book is a powerful journey.

So there’s structural and content issues with chat GPT, but I think the biggest issue that I see is the ongoing growth and development of our human contribution to the world. And so I would really encourage you not to use that as a generation tool, but certainly to use it as a tool to help you get unstuck or explore different ways to uncover areas of your own teaching. So it’s a great tool to support you, but not to generate for you. I want to also mention that I guide authors one to one through this journey. So when we walk together through the journey of writing a book, we do it over a six month period. I walk you through step by step. And this is such a powerful journey. It’s something I’m so honored to get to support authors on. So if you are excited about that journey and creating a shelf stable, sustainable business tool, brand growth tool, impact tool, please get in touch with me.

You can find me Rita Com and fill out the contact form there and we can have a conversation about your book. Okay, thanks for those great questions, Robert. I’m going to go to Gabrielle. Gabrielle asks so inspiring to hear the amount of time you have taken to manage to make progress on the project. She’s referencing my book as sometimes I feel anxious that I need to get it down quickly someone else won’t take my idea. I’ll miss out on the opportunity and or I’ll never get it done. My book is about 6000 words and is that considered a manuscript? She goes on to tell me a little bit about her target audience and how she’s still deciding on self publishing or hybrid option and she’s really eager to hear my input. And then she says, thank you for your emails. Thanks for that, Gabrielle.

I really appreciate that. My email list is like my love letter that I send a couple of times a week. Again. You can join Rita Join? I put a lot of heart into this. I put so much detailed information to support people like you, Gabrielle, and others who are listening. So thank you, first of all for that input. I first want to say, yeah, writing a book takes a lot of time. The amount of level setting that I have to do with people is kind of mind boggling. Nearly everybody I speak with is like, we have a call and they’re like, yeah, I want to finish this by the end of the year and get it published. And oftentimes we’re talking in March, let’s say, or even June sometimes. And I talked already about the time frames, but I think it’s really important to understand all that goes into a book draft.

So I’m going to just break that down really high level. So you start with the ideation and outlining generally can take one to two months. You write the draft, that can take anywhere, let’s say four to five months. If you’re following my system, then you go through the editing process, that’s a couple of months, one to two months and then you go into production. And as I mentioned, that’s around nine months. So all in all, we’re looking at around an 18 month time frame, give or take a little bit. And there is a lot involved in every stage. Yeah, you’ve heard stories of people who’ve done it faster and no hate on their game. Sure. That’s awesome. I think it’s amazing that some people can sit down and create something meaningful and produce it well. But in my experience generally, that does not work for 99% of people.

So, number one, why the time frame? I think a lot of people are afraid they won’t achieve it. So they set an aggressive time frame because they think, if I can just buckle down, I’m not going to flake out on this goal. And so they give themselves an unrealistic time frame and inevitably most people actually won’t hit that. And then they feel discouraged and on and on. And then often, literally a couple of years later, they’ll reach back out to me. And I find this so sad. I find it so frustrating too that there’s so many programs out there that are telling people to write your book in 90 days. I just spoke with somebody recently who told me she’d signed up for a three month program to write her book and I actually didn’t say anything to her, but my face dropped and she read my expression and she said, oh no, what’s the face for?

And I said, I’m really sorry, I don’t mean to be negative at all, but I really despised those programs. I think I used nicer language, but that was in my brain. And I gave her instead anchor of finish the outline and write two chapters within that time frame or one chapter and that’ll be an amazing start for you. But set your own time frame. So I would just encourage you to remove the pressure of fast and focus and set on excellence, focus on the journey, set a realistic time frame. And I wouldn’t worry about gabrielle, you mentioned somebody taking your idea. I would not worry about that personally. There are a million new books that come out every year. 1 million, let me say that again, there are 1 million new books that come out every single year. That is a wild number. So yes, somebody is going to write a book on your topic, but somebody can’t write in the same way with a unique perspective to the same exact one reader that you’re going to target in your book writing.

So I wouldn’t worry about that. I would encourage you to set a realistic time frame, to move forward and to be consistent and disciplined in how you approach this. To answer your question on the manuscript length, I would not consider 6000 words a manuscript. I want to just be really clear on that. Generally, if we’re looking at a nonfiction book range, I would say anywhere from 40 to 60,000 words. They can certainly be shorter, but really I think the minimum I would recommend is around 30,000. But generally I’m looking more at the 50,000 mark as a pretty average length for a nonfiction book. I would never suggest somebody pad a book to make it longer. So if you’ve written a really powerful 25,000 word book, okay, so maybe explore how to maybe integrate some visual aspects to it to make it a little bit bulkier, not in a padding sense again, but just to kind of give it some depth and a little bit more page count.

You can look at some different ways to do that, but generally 40 to 60,000 words with around a 50,000 word target. For those of you who are thinking about your draft and you’re like, oh dang, my first draft is only 20,000 words, don’t stress because my first draft of my first book was around, I think, 20 or 25,000. It might have been 30, somewhere between 20 and 30,000. I added almost 15 or 20,000 words to the next draft based on my editor’s feedback. So it’s really normal to be light on the first draft and need to add. Now that I’ve written 17 books, I go the other end. So I end up cutting a lot. I’ve had first drafts that are 70 or 80,000 words and then I got to figure out how to trim that down. I don’t I hired an editor to do that for me.

So, Gabrielle, with your current draft, I would use that as a lead magnet. I would not use that as a book to publish. Or you could do a short ebook, but I would make that really clear in the marketing that it’s like a guide or it’s something. Just make sure that it’s really clear that it’s very short. 6000 words is about the length of a chapter. So just to put that into perspective, you could do one of two things with this. One, you could look objectively as you can, or get an expert to look objectively at your project and say, is this a book? Is this something that I have more to add to, more to say? Or is this truly a lead magnet for my website? Something people can sign up? Is it a product that I can sell on my website? Is it a guide that I can publish?

A short guide? Can you create something from that? Does it deserve the space and effort to make it a book? Or is it something different? And there’s not a right or wrong answer here. But I do encourage you to be realistic and approach this with a mindset of knowing that a book really needs to be longer than that. That’s just not what I would consider a book. Gabriel, maybe this isn’t your book. Maybe there’s a whole different idea for you to explore. Or maybe this is a launching point for your book. I don’t know the answer to that. But I would be curious to hear from you as you continue to explore this. I do encourage you to check out my website, Learn. I have a self study program of my system that I’ve developed writing all these books, coaching all these authors, and before that, editing all these books.

And you can find that Rita Learn look for the nonfiction book School selfstudy program. It will help you go through clarify your idea, expand your outline, and it will help you vet whether this is the book or whether it’s a different one. So, Gabrielle, thank you for that question. I really appreciate you taking the time to write in and I wish you all the best as you continue forward on this project. And for those of you who have listened in, I appreciate your time and energy. I hope this was really helpful. If you have questions about writing, publishing, location independence, lifestyle design, or even Portugal where I live, feel free to write me. You can go rita Com and click Connect and fill out the contact form on my website. Thank you this week, as always, to Rita Domingues, who produces this fine podcast.

Thanks to Catherine Fishman for project management support, keeping all the things flowing so that they get done, and thanks to Kim Foster for ensuring that everything that goes out into the world is error free and written. I would say not just coherently, but with excellence. Thank you to this team who makes this podcast possible. And thank you to you for your time today. If you have 1 minute, will you take a moment to rate and leave a review of this podcast either in Apple or Spotify? It makes a massive difference for me. I can’t even really put into words what a huge impact it makes on my ability to reach more listeners. And if this was valuable for you, send it to that friend who’s always talked about writing a book. That person might look back and say, hey, you’re the reason I actually made my book happen.

That’s it for this week. I will be back with you before you know it.

Comments +

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

In this exclusive guide, I share industry secrets you need to know before writing your book, including some of my top industry tools and resources.

Don’t make rookie new author mistakes.