So you want to write a book? A Journey in How To Accomplish A Long-Term Goal
Do you write down your annual or five year goals? I started writing mine down when I was a teenager. My father encouraged me to do so at the beginning of every calendar year.
In reviewing mine from a few years ago, I included “write a book” in my five-year plan. Little did I know that that dream would come to fruition so quickly. Paramount Books published my first book, Latino Link: Building brands online with Hispanic communities and content in October of 2010. It’s a funny story about why it happened so quickly. More on that in a bit.
Since then, I’ve met many authors and re-connected with many of my business contacts, friends, and blog readers who have considered writing one themselves. Many have asked me, “How did you find a publisher? How did you plan and schedule the writing of your book? And, how do you promote it?” In the interest of sharing what I’ve learned during this journey with all of you who want to write a book, here you go. Steal these suggestions!
Many of the tips here I gleaned from 800-CEO-READ and the knowledgeable publishers, authors, and publicists at their 2010 Author Pow-Wow. In addition, Jack Covert, the company’s founder, shared his advice on how best to promote a business book. He would know. He’s the author of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time: What They Say, Why They Matter, and How They Can Help You.
How many books are published every day? Around 2,500. So, how will yours stand out amidst the enormous amount of competition? That’s the key question to figure out before you start writing yours.
And what are the steps in writing a book?
a) Pitching: Finding the right publisher for your book
b) Writing and research: The Fun Part
c) Editing: The Hard Part
d) Marketing: Getting your baby out there
e) Social media marketing: Building your personal brand
Now, with that overview, here’s the story of how I wrote and published Latino Link, and the experts that I met along the way, whose advice can help you accomplish your goal of writing your book. I will break this story up into three parts. Here’s the first post in the series.
Pitching Your Book
I first pitched the idea for my book at SXSW Interactive in March 2009 following a panel discussion called, “So, you want to write a book?” Authors, agents and publishers shared their perspectives on the business of business books. The authors on the panel emphasized that books don’t make you money. Instead, their books established them as a thought leader in their area of specialty.
After the panel, I spoke with Michael Nolan, an internal agent at New Riders/Peach
Pit Press (two imprints of Pearson), about my idea for Latino Link. He said, “It sounds great. Let me send my book proposal template.” Two months later, I emailed him my detailed outline, sample chapter, and marketing plan for my book to be. He promised to pass it around to his colleagues saying it looked good.
Two weeks later, I thought to myself, “Hmmm, wouldn’t it be great to have some time off to write my book.” The following week, I returned to my office at ContextWeb after a business trip to discover that 10% of the company had been laid off, including me. Lesson learned: be careful what you wish for!
Chiqui Cartagena, author of Latino Boom!: Everything You Need to Know to Grow Your Business in the U.S. Hispanic Market
and SVP at Story Worldwide, gave me some good advice while pitching my book. Identify books in the same genre as yours. Carefully study the acknowledgements in books that inspired you to write yours. Who do the authors thank and which agent or publisher contact did they work with? Reach out to those people about your book by saying, “I liked the book that you worked on by [author’s name]. I thought you might be interested in my book, which is very similar to [book’s name] that I saw you work on.”
Chiqui then suggested that I contact Paramount Books, which focuses on publishing multicultural marketing and marketing research books. Four weeks after introducing me to Doris and Jim at Paramount, we ironed out our contract. (New Riders didn’t prove a good fit as they mostly focus on technical how-to books.)
Chiqui also cautioned me that even authors at Random House, the massive book company that published her book, need to dedicate a lot of time and effort to promote their own book. More on that later in the marketing and social media overview.
As a point of comparison, Adrian Zackheim the founder of Portfolio, Penguin’s dedicated business imprint, featured on a panel at the 800-CEO-Read Pow Wow, says that he regularly commissions books with well-known authors and journalists. In addition, he and his team look at a lot of proposals via literary agents or directly from authors themselves. Agents, in his case, help his team weed through all of the proposals out there to find good ones.
In contrast, Greenleaf Book Group, much like Paramount Books, works directly with authors to shape their books (instead of agents). Clint Greenleaf, the company’s founder, evaluates books by asking a few key questions: How is your book new and different from what’s out there? What is the chance that the book will be successful? Does the book challenge conventional thinking? The bottom line: Does your proposal convince a publisher about why your book will be a success?
When you write your proposal, how you can highlight your own personal brand? Do you write a column for a business or trade publication? Which conferences have you spoken at? What major brands have you consulted? How many readers visit your blog? In other words, how does your platform already position you to sell your book and the core idea that you represent? iMedia and MediaPost had both given me the opportunity to write for them prior to pitching my book, which made my proposal more appealing to Paramount. If you don’t write a column or blog, launch one. It’s a great platform to start putting ideas out there and getting feedback on what you write.
While some authors find a traditional publisher, others self-publish their books. Increasingly, this has become a good option. Once you set up your ISBN number and listing on Amazon, the leading search engine for books, social media platforms (e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) can help you raise awareness and drive sales of your book. Will Meyerhofer, wrote his book – Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy
– to showcase his approach to psychotherapy and promote his practice. After numerous attempts to find an agent or publisher, he decided to launch his blog – The People’s Therapist – and self-published his book.
Today, that option can actually lead to getting noticed by traditional publishers and even a book contract. Here’s an article from the Wall Street Journal on the subject: As You May Have Read in My Book… The subtitle of the story encapsulates the movement: “More Entrepreneurs and Professionals Embrace Self-Publishing as Way to Burnish Credentials and Attract New Customers.”