So, you are (or might be!) considering writing a book. (Excellent! Small world.)
In this little series, I’m going to walk you through a strategic process to help you answer the most important questions that come up in the early stages of planning a book.
Our first strategic question is this one:
What is your book FOR?
In other words, what will writing a book give you? If your book accomplished nothing else, what do you want it to achieve?
If all authors answered this one question, your local bookstore would look very different.
So before we get into page count… and marketing techniques… and how to get an agent… and what font looks best on Kindle… and how to get Weird Al Yankovic to write a blurb…
…We need to decide what we’re trying to achieve.
If you don’t know what you’re trying to do, figuring out how best to do it is… impossible. But once we know what we’re trying to achieve, our chances of achieving it go WAY up.
So… what MIGHT your book be for? Here are a few possibilities that came up in our last Write a Book With Me (WABWM) group.
If you are seeking additional credibility in your field – either with potential buyers, media, or peers – books are the traditional way of achieving that. If you’re being interviewed by a media outlet, invited to a panel, or approached by a prospective client, a book goes a long way to building credibility.
Which sounds better:
- Patty Simcox, food blogger, or Patty Simcox, author of Dinner Done Right?
- Gurton Buster, Miami-based massage therapist, or Gurton Buster, author of Massage For Two?
- Felicia Fancybottom, life coach, or Felicia Fancybottom, author of The Big Book of Self-Esteem?
Books give credibility, and credibility gives confidence. When you have credibility and confidence, there’s not a lot you can’t do.
Believe it or not, books do make money. Some make a lot. Some make modest amounts. But contrary to contemporary doomsaying, the publishing industry isn’t exactly a wasteland in which nobody gets paid. People are getting paid, alright.
Here’s a good “modest” example that, when you do the math, isn’t so modest after all. I have a client who has several short (less than 100 pages) non-fiction books in the Kindle store. Her most popular is making her about $800 USD a month, and has been for over five years.
It’s a little over 60 pages long, it’s less than $5, and by the author’s own free admission, it’s not very good.
That’s not enough to buy a palace, but it’s about $10,000 a year… for a month’s worth of work she did over half a decade ago. There are worse ways of making fifty grand.
3. Your first info-product.
There are a lot of very fancy information products in the world. You can have video, and audio, and graded homework. You can hire a videographer and an animator and a sound guy… they can get pretty cool.
But no matter how fancy info products can get, most people start with ebooks. They’re effectively free to produce, and you don’t have to ever put makeup on.
I’ve made interactive video courses, I’ve made intensive mentorship programs, and I’ve made pretty much everything in between. Insider secret? Ebooks are easier.
And speaking of money…
My first info product, back when dinosaurs still walked the earth, was called SEO School. It became the inspiration for a blog series called “How I Made $16,042 In A Day”.
That series became the inspiration for How To Launch The **** Out Of Your Ebook, which handily outperformed its predecessor.
Then 300: How To Get 300 Loyal, Repeat Customers Buying Your Stuff blew them both out of the water.
Don’t let anybody tell you info products have to be fancy.
4. List building.
Building your email list is an under-appreciated place where books really shine. You can do this in two ways:
First, you can publish your book through some normal means – these days that usually means Amazon – and promote your list through the book itself. Todd Hermann’s The Alter-Ego Effect is a good example of this. He has a lot of supplementary materials on his website, and references them frequently throughout the book.
Second, you can use your book as a list incentive. When a website visitor signs up for your mailing list, they get a copy of your book, probably in PDF form. I first saw this done by Eric Klein with his delightful 50 Ways To Leave Your Karma. When I received the download email and found out it was an actual BOOK? My mind was blown. I’m still talking about it, 10 years later.
(This is what I’m doing with my Write A Book With Me book this year. It’s going to be book-length, but it’ll be free.)
5. Sharing wisdom.
Sharing wisdom is an important part of legacy. This is perhaps the most meaningful reason for writing a book. Each of us has gained a hell of a lot of knowledge, understanding and insight over our time on earth, and when we reach a certain point in our lives, we start wanting to write it down.
Books are elegant, digestible, permanent, portable, and shareable. They’re pretty much the perfect way to record what you want to say.
Helping people going through something you’ve gone through is a common theme here. Passing on important or meaningful messages to your kids is another. Memoir can fit in this category as well.
Some of the wisdom sharing books by our last WABWM participants took my breath away. More people should write books like that. The world needs them.
So before you write your book, decide its purpose.
When you know what your book is primarily designed to do, you can put your focus on making sure it does that thing well. (You also realize what it doesn’t have to do which, believe me, takes a lot of pressure off.) Knowing your book’s purpose will help you make each writing-related decision with your true purpose in mind.
Of course, your book can exist for more than one purpose. If you want money AND a mailing list, that’s not too much to ask for. In fact, you can incorporate as many purposes as you want, within the bounds of what you’re able to include.
So that’s the answer to our first question.
Tomorrow we’ll answer, “What should your book be about?”
P.S. As a reminder, registration for Write A Book With Me 2021 is now open – get in before the doors close!