Where the hell do I begin?
The process of writing a book, and then sharing it with the world, can feel so overwhelming that it may drive you to drink (as if writers don’t drink enough already). Even a simple Google search about ‘writing a book’ will bury you in an avalanche of information, at times so diluted, confusing, and contradictory, that it’s kept many a talented writer from getting started.
Of course, you can begin like I did – wasting time on Facebook and calling it “marketing”, daydreaming about groupies (who never appeared) and choosing actors for when Hollywood called about the book (which never happened). But might I recommend a better way?
I truly love coaching brand new writers, doing my best to simplify and clarify the process for them while encouraging them to take the first step, so this is how I respond to their inquiries:
Here are three questions to ask yourself BEFORE you start writing your first book:
1) What are you trying to achieve with this book?
What are your goals with this book? Your expectations? Is it to sell a certain number of copies? (The average self-published book sells about 250 copies!) Do you want to make a specific amount of money? Or is it to get great reviews, have as many people as possible read it, and entertain them? If you are planning on quitting your day job and pouring yourself into writing 100% then your goals will be much different than if it’s just a passion project. I do a lot of ghost writing for entrepreneurs and business people who want to put out a book as a way to establish themselves as an industry expert and engage new clients, not necessarily contribute to the field of literature, so obviously their goals are different. Furthermore, are you planning on starting a series of books or are you one and done? Will you be doing speaking engagements? Workshops? Are you trying to get your name in media?
There is no “right” answer to this question, but knowing what you hope to ultimately achieve will help you focus on reaching that outcome as you write.
2) How is YOUR book going to be different than every other book out there?
Right after I released my first book, Pushups in the Prayer Room, a friend of mine, a media-savy gal who is a producer for the Amazing Race and Survivor, was giving me some advice. She asked me the ultimate question: “Why should the reader care about your book? How is YOUR’S different?!”
I was tongue-tied, taken aback, and a little bit offended for about five minutes, until I realized that she was right, and that was the best question any writer could ask.
With almost 300,000 new books in print every year and 7 million books in existence, it's a VERY crowded market. To have a snowball’s chance in hell of competing you have to have some specific niche, remarkable story, or unique proposition that clearly separates you from the hundreds of thousands of others in your genre. Unless you have something DIFFERENT, BETTER, or MORE VALUABLE to say, you’re just being redundant and creating noise.
I’ve written a lot about constructing your book so it will find its target market as efficiently as possible.Email me and I'll be happy to send you a case study on target marketing for book sales.
3. When a reader puts down your book, what do you want them to say?
Picture this: a wife and husband are lying in bed, reading. She finished your book, closes it, takes off her reading glasses, turns to her husband and says….?
You have some control over what happens next. I’m not just talking about her assessment of the book’s quality, which is subjective, but what specific message she conveys to him. And then again on Facebook to her friend the next day, and he might tell his coworker about it, who tells his wife, who is in a reading group, and…etc. That is how books get sold – recognition and then word of mouth (or social media) sales based on a clear, concise “advertisement.”
Have you ever heard of an ‘elevator commercial’ in business, the 30-second script you would use to describe who you are, what you do, and why someone should remember you? The whole story of your book, even if it’s 500 pages, should fit neatly into a brief pitch line similar to an elevator commercial.
For my new book, South of Normal, my written pitch is: “A gonzo blast of laughter and adventure about a year living in the tropical paradise of Tamarindo, Costa Rica.” But of course no one would ever say that. They’ll probably say “It’s about a guy who got rid of all of his stuff and left his life in the U.S. and moved down to Costa Rica, to live by the beach and chase his dream of being a writer,” or something like that. All the high points are covered, and it’s easy for people to pick that up and pass it around.
Start with those three questions before you roll up your sleeves and write your book in earnest. You’ll be laying the tracks that lead exactly where you want to go, and then all you have to do is run the train down ‘em!