It’s something many dream of. Ask around your office who wants to write a book someday, to share (and monetize) their knowledge, and you’ll be astonished. I’ve written several business books and I remember an editor telling me: “80 percent want to write a book–only a fraction actually do.”
Not to say more people aren’t writing books than ever before with the self-publishing explosion, but there’s undeniably a massive gap between the dreamers and the doers. The doers have internalized seven truths:
1. Believe that people want to hear what you have to say.
I’m often asked about writing books. The top reason people tell me they haven’t started a book is their fear nobody wants to hear what they have to say.
We incessantly undervalue what our contributions are worth. Maybe you’ve been beaten down at work, marginalized and left feeling your value is in question, leading you to question the worth of what you have to share.
Enough. The world needs to hear what you have to say, your unique contributions. Just adhere to the next point.
2. Find a hole that can’t go unfilled.
I’m not saying you can just put what you know into a book and the world clamors for it. You have to find a hole to fill, a pressing problem to be solved, an unmet need in the marketplace. A brain dump of what you’ve learned won’t do.
And be supremely passionate about filling that hole, as if not doing so means your life’s work is incomplete. Writing a book is a massive endeavor–a reason so few accomplish it. To plow through the inevitable blank page stare downs requires an intense passion, not just a passing interest, for your topic.
3. Don’t be afraid of venturing down well-worn paths.
Filling a hole doesn’t mean it has to be an earth-shattering topic nobody’s ever addressed. In fact, publishers want to know who your competition is (what books). It signals your area has a desirable, existing market for it.
In truth, every topic imaginable has already been written about, multiple times, especially in the business book genre. But if you have a fresh take, a unique perspective, compelling new data/proof, or a fascinating story that solves an old problem in a new way, you can have a successful book. Too many kill their dream when discovering someone else has already written a book on their topic.
4. Know that you’re a writer when you say you are.
“I have a book idea, but I’m not actually a writer.”
Baloney. You’re a writer the moment you say you are. You don’t need a specific degree or certification (although terrific if you’ve had formal training). I hereby give you permission. Say it out loud, “I’m a writer.” Tell some friends.
More importantly, believe you are. Even if you don’t have the “technical chops.” Being a writer starts with wanting to write, then learning as you go.
To start, say it square then say it with flair. Meaning, just get out what you want to say without worrying about stylizing it and using clever turns of phrase, etc. You can go back later to make it read better. And the more you write, the better you get. I publish daily now for Inc.com–I’m a far better writer now than when I started. You’ll learn along the way too.
5. Be ready to write every day.
No way around this one. Writing a book is a labor of love, and just plain labor. The more you stop and start, writing when you get around to it, the more stilted/disconnected your writing and the more time it takes to get restarted and flowing each time.
Treat writing your book like a major side hustle and be clear about the sacrifices you’ll have to make to commit the time it will take.
6. Have an outline and get online.
Like any daunting task, writing a book requires breaking it into manageable pieces as part of an overall plan–in the form of an outline.
Then jump online to supplement your personal experience with research and data from credible sources. Become a true expert on your topic using the amazing search tools we have today. It will add layers of depth and credibility to your writing.
7. Think carefully about what success looks like.
Know why you want to write your book and temper your expectations. I’m sorry but it’s highly unlikely you’ll be a New York Times bestseller. Is your goal to get published by a “traditional” publisher? Do you want to self-publish? Do you just want the satisfaction of having written a book?
Be intentional and realistic about what success looks like. Unrealistic goals create a greater likelihood of bailing along the way because minor setbacks seem like major derailments.