Richard Branson, Tony Robbins, and Sheryl Sandberg Have All Done This. Why Haven’t You?
This is one of the best ways to bolster the success of your brand, but you’re probably coming up with all kinds of excuses for not doing it! Here’s how to change that.
You wouldn’t think that successful entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson, Tony Robbins, Sheryl Sandberg, and everyone on the cast of Shark Tank would need to get the word out about who they are and what value they bring to the table. And yet each one of them, and many more very successful people have taken the time to do just that; not with a prime time reality show, not by buying an island, and not by walking across a bed of hot coals, but instead by writing a book.
Few things broadcast and lend credibility to your ideas and your brand better than a published book. Yes, even in the age of overwhelming digital content, a well-written and insightful book tells a story that can fuel awareness of the unique perspectives you have and best establish your company’s and your own personal brand. A book also gives you a chance to tell the story of your company’s great innovations and to inspire your team to live up to the ideals and standards that you want to drive your culture and future innovation.
So, what’s stopping you from writing a book? I’ll bet it’s one of three things.
- Having written ten books over the last 20 years, the single most frequent excuse people share with me is that they just don’t have the time.
- You need a ghostwriter because you just aren’t able to write an entire book with 60-90 thousand words.
- You’re not sure if you should self publish or go with a traditional publisher and since you haven’t done either the task of publishing itself is daunting.
Well, guess what? Each of those is an excuse and not a reason. If you’re serious then keep reading because I’ll guarantee that if this is something you really want to do there are ways that you can make the time, write a full manuscript, and get it published. In fact I’ll go one step further and assure you that if you read the rest of this column and take the advice I’m going to offer you will have that book published within 12 months.
1) Make It A Discipline
Look, I don’t care how much you have going on, when something is important enough you will somehow find the time to do it, right? But, writing, well that seems a bit more demanding and daunting than most things. So, let’s be honest by acknowledging upfront that writing can be a tough process, it’s not always pleasant, and it’s not always easy.
Pulitzer winner Junot Diaz said it best,
“A writer is a writer not because she write well and easily, or because she has amazing talent, or because everything she does is golden. A writer is a writer because, even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyways.”
If you are serious about writing a book one of the single best pieces of advice I can provide is to get into the discipline of writing every single day. The reason the vast majority of people have difficulty getting into this habit is because they expect finished and polished prose to come out every time they sit down at the keyboard. If they don’t meet that goal they blame it on a case of writer’s block.
“You can’t schedule inspiration so write every day and when inspiration happens you’ll be there to welcome it with open arms.”
Writer’s block is a convenient myth that we all have bought into as a way to avoid the discipline of writing. Rather than expect brilliance each time you sit down to write, make a deal with yourself that you will write a certain minimum number of words each day regardless of what you write. I mean stop and think about it. Do you stop doing anything else because on that particular day you’re not going to be magnificent at it? Of course not. You simply get on with it and do the best you can.
Keep the minimum number to at least 500 to 1000 words. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “There’s no way I’ll be able to keep that pace up.” You’re probably right, but again only if you expect to write 500 to 1000 words that are actually worth reading. The objective is 500 words, not 500 words of outstanding prose. The reality is that at least half of what you write will never see the light of day. And that applies to professional writers as well as it does to first time authors.
For this one column you’re now reading I toss out at least two others that end up being pure gibberish. The first rough manuscript for my last book clocked in at 120,000 words, not counting everything that never made that first cut. (Not exactly War And Peace, although at 589,000 words I think Tolstoy was getting paid by the pound.) The final manuscript was only 60,000 words!
The key is to stick to your quota because that actually takes the pressure off and makes writing easier. If you write junk on that day then so be it. Because once you get into the rhythm you will find that on some days you’ll enter that elusive state of flow and crank out 3,000 or more flawless words. Do NOT give up just because you had a few bad days, or even a few bad weeks! If you crank out at least 500 words each day I guarantee that you’ll have more than a book length manuscript within four months. On the other hand, if you only write by waiting for inspiration to kick in then all bets are off!
Creating a daily discipline of writing is the key. You can’t schedule inspiration so write every day and when inspiration happens you’ll be there to welcome it with open arms.
2) Forget About The Ghostwriter
All I can say is trust me on this one! I’ve tried ghostwriters in every conceivable collaboration and the only way it works is if you are willing to spend six figures on a extraordinary writer. Even then, I can pretty much assure you that the time you will spend with the ghostwriter will nearly equal the time you would have spent writing. But there is another reason why ghost writing is something to be leery of. Almost all of the would be authors that I talk to need to allow their ideas to evolve. Writing is actually one of the best ways to do that. As you write you reexamine your ideas and reshape them. So, unless your ideas are fully formed, you really need to take the time to allow them to evolve and to articulate them clearly.
Oh, and for the love of Tolstoy, do not even think of using voice to text. I’ve had this conversation with aspiring authors dozens of times. We do not speak the way we write. The act of writing is the art of creation. As we reduce ideas into writing we are constantly pausing, reflecting on our ideas, and evolving them. So, unless you are one of those amazing orators who can compose thoughts in fully punctuated sentences, paragraphs, and chapters, stick with the keyboard!
3) To Publishing Or Not?
So far I’ve described how to deal with the challenge of writing, but what about getting the book published? My first suggestion is always to go after a traditional publisher. I could get into a long-winded explanation of why, but suffice it to say that if you can get a publisher you will avoid some very time consuming and tedious work, you’ll have the best possible shot of reaching the widest possible audience–including translations into other languages–the best chance of achieving best seller status, and a much higher quality of proofing, layout, and overall look and feel.
But working with a traditional publisher means that you absolutely need to create a proposal for your book Unless it’s a work of fiction, or you’re J. K.Rowling, you first need to write a proposal and send it to publishers, or better yet get a literary agent to do it for you.
If you’re wondering if the fees that you will need to pay to an agent and a publisher are worth it, the short answer is, absolutely! Unless you have celebrity status, the big win with a published book is not in the advances or the royalties but the downstream opportunities, such as speaking and consulting, that having a book will deliver.
However, be prepared for at least two to six months of shopping your book to publishers and have a detailed plan for how your brand, influence, and network will help you to sell books. You may be in the business of pushing ideas but publishers are in the business of selling books.
If you can’t get a publisher, or if your book just has to get out fast, self-publishing is definitely a worthwhile alternative. (Keep in mind that a traditional publisher will take at least a year from proposal to published book.). I’ve coached authors that have been able to use a self-published ebook, or on-demand physical book, to very effectively establish their brand. Amazon has an amazingly easy platform for self-publishing. And if your self-published book does well it will be that much easier to get a publisher’s attention, if you still want or need to go that route.
Also, don’t get stuck on a full-length book. Many times your ideas and your objectives may be better suited for a short ebook. Maybe it’s just not time to swing for the fences and instead go for a solid base hit. One technique I’ve personally used in the past is to get a short (10,000 word) self-published ebook out first to prime the market and test the book’s ideas. If the ebook does well you have much more leverage with a publisher. And if you still aren’t able to land a publisher you at least have your ideas out there in a format that you can easily share with your network and prospects.
That’s pretty much it! If you’re serious about doing this then you’ve just run out of excuses. Now the only thing standing between you and your book is, well, you!
Image credit: Philosophy Today
This article was originally published on Inc.
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Tom Koulopoulos is the author of 10 books and founder of the Delphi Group, a 25-year-old Boston-based think tank and a past Inc. 500 company that focuses on innovation and the future of business. He tweets from @tkspeaks.
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