When I wrote my first book back in 2012, I remember sitting down at my $20 IKEA desk, staring at the blinking cursor, and thinking, OK . . . now what?
For years, I had done the thing aspiring authors do: get inspired, write a page or three, and promptly abandon the draft. Multiple times. This time was different, though, because I had a contract with a book publisher. I had to finish the book.
I did have something going for me. I was an experienced book editor, having worked on dozens of books, and was completing my master’s in professional writing and editing. I’d been consuming books since age seven and had been obsessed with bettering my writing craft all throughout my education, starting in second grade. I’d rewritten manuscripts and contributed entire sections of new content to books. So while I was new to this writing-an-entire-book thing, I wasn’t flying blind.
That day, I began pulling together the pieces of writing a book into a system I could replicate and eventually teach. Today, I get to guide authors through the meaningful, transformative process of writing a book.
Whether you’re just getting started or knee-deep in the nonfiction book-writing journey, here are ten things I want every new author to know before—or while!—writing their nonfiction book. I also dig into all these tips in much more detail in my free guide, 10 Things You Must Know Before Writing Your Nonfiction Book.
Let’s get to it.
1. Writing a book is a learnable skill.
Many new authors enter the writing process feeling overwhelmed and unsure where to start. I felt similarly when I wrote my first book, even though I was an expert book editor! The thing is, writing is one skill, and book writing is a separate skill.
2. Routine and planning make writing a book completely doable!
I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Writing a book is a lot of work. But like any worthy goal, success requires skill, planning, discipline, and consistency. As in a good workout routine, you have to show up for your book—and for yourself—regularly.
3. A book can scale or stall your brand.
A great book is a catalyst for impact. It’s critical that your book fits in the ideation “sweet spot”: the intersection of your idea, story, or expertise; a niche audience’s needs or wants; and your big vision for your life, work, and impact.
4. You need a strong author platform.
Creating a great author platform is about more than building a website. It’s the sum total of how you show up in the world. Your author platform can include a website or blog, social media presence, videos, speaking engagements, a podcast, guest articles/posts, book reviews, media interviews, downloads you’ve created (like this one!), and more.
5. Overwhelmed? There are professionals for that.
Many new authors begin their journey to authorhood feeling completely overwhelmed. They’re also understandably clueless about the vast number of professionals who can help make the process easier. There are several types of professionals you can engage during the book-writing process depending on your needs and skill level, such as a book coach or developmental editor.
6. Editing really, really matters.
So many people see editors as red-pen-wielding book destroyers. As a former book editor, I’m determined to educate the world about the power of editing. A great editor is a partner in your book-writing journey, and someone who will help transform your book from good to great.
7. You have three choices in how to publish.
When I first entered the publishing world back in 2009, I was wide-eyed at the intricate steps it took to produce a magazine; later, when I entered the world of books, I was slack-jawed at the effort it took to get a single book out into the world. But the work is so worth it, because at the end of your publishing road is a book you’ll be proud to share with the world. Understanding the three main types of publishing—traditional publishing, partner (hybrid) publishing, and self-publishing—as well as aligning your effort and investment with your big vision, will help you make smart decisions as you publish your book and share it with the world.
8. ROI is not measured in book sales.
Many aspiring authors ask a misguided question when they consider the time, energy, and money they’ll invest into their books: How many books will I have to sell to make back my investment? Instead, take a moment to think about how a book could impact your life or work, and the metrics attached to your influence. When you consider ROI as more than a calculation of investment minus books sold, you’ll begin to see the vast opportunity awaiting you as a published author.
9. Authorhood will transform you.
Every time I coach a new author through the book-writing process, I’m humbled by the profound transformation they undergo. To the outside world, the change may be subtle. To them, the change is identity-shifting and life-changing. Why? Because the journey of authorhood is one of intentionality, deep thought, and extraordinary discipline.
10. A book is a catalyst for impact.
Along with the transformational experience of authorhood, a book can be a powerful catalyst for the impact you want to have on this world. You are the impact maker. If you write that book in alignment with your vision, chances are you’ll make the impact you’re meant to make on this world.
Want more detail, as well as industry secrets, pro tips, and additional resources? Download my free guide: 10 Things You Must Know Before Writing Your Nonfiction Book.
And as always, please share your additions, questions, and insights in the comments. I read and reply to every comment and love hearing from you!