I have a friend who has been writing books for years. All he does is write books. He doesn’t learn what query letters and proposals are. He doesn’t attend writers conferences. He doesn’t seek out agents. No mater how many times I tell him there’s a right way and a wrong way, he chooses to write books and continues to hope he gets discovered.
Many people think it is easy to write a book and others think it is impossible.
Really, it’s somewhere in between.
After I decided to write a book, it took me seven years to learn the process. I spent a lot of time weaving and winding and learning what to do all by myself, but now that I know what I’m doing I think I could teach a novice what to do in a much shorter time period. I do believe someone would be on her way in six months or less, if she followed the simple steps below. If you’re wanting to write a book, these are the first steps I would tell you to take:
1. Decide on your passion? One of the easiest ways to find a focus is by making a mind map. I write about that here.
2. Research your idea to see what the competition is. For instance, I found that the topic of self care was popular in the secular world, but Christian women had very little material encouraging them to put themselves on the list. If I google self care on Amazon I see there are 2217 books that are listed. But if I do a search for selfcare on ChristianBooks.com, I see there are 30 offerings. When I dig down, most of those only cover one aspect of self care (e.g. prayers or boundaries).
3. Find an agent. If you want to have your book published with a traditional publisher you will almost certainly need one. One of the best ways to find a reputable agent is to ask some of your author friends. Another way to find a reputable agent is to look at the websites or brochures for various writers conferences.
4. Learn how to write a query letter. A query is the first letter you send to a potential agent asking if he or she will consider representing you. But there are a some major do’s and don’t do’s, so don’t mess up this part of your book process! You might want to search online for sample fiction and non-fiction query letters, or check out Writer’s Digest Guide.
5. Learn how to write a proposal. You can read lots and lots of books on how to write a book proposal but I’ve found the simplest thing to do is to read an actual proposal. Maybe an author friend will let you see hers. If not, Mary DeMuth has one you can purchase. So does Michael Hyatt. This was the most difficult process for me—I spent a year writing my proposal—but now that I’ve done one, it seems easy.
6. Begin building a platform now. A platform is your audience. It’s the people who will be buying your book. When deciding whether or not to represent you, agents and publishers will be looking at three things: how well you write, whether your idea has a fresh slant, and whether you have a platform. So your platform will be the people who read your blog, or interact with you on Facebook, or attend your speaking events. You don’t have to do all those things, but the bigger your audience, the better your chance of getting a book deal. I highly recommend listening to Michael Hyatt’s new book, Platform on audio. You will feel overwhelmed, but remember, you don’t have to follow every single idea he suggests.
7. Write to develop your voice. Write a lot. Write letters and blogs. Write emails. Write from your deepest emotions. Write passionately. Write from your white hot center. (Your editor will edit it later for your readers). Oh, and don’t try to write and edit at the same time since writing uses one side of the brain and editing uses another.
8. Join a writing group in order to get support and so that you can see that real people write books. This is the one suggestion I put off too long. I was afraid of criticism. When I finally joined a group, what I found was a whole bunch of people who became my biggest cheerleaders.
9. Join a critique group. A critique group is nothing formal. Just pick two or three other writers, perhaps from your writing group. Commit to bringing one chapter, once or twice a month, and take turns reading aloud. Here are some more ideas on how to run a critique group.
10. Persist and be open to changing your idea. The book I am about to have published is not the book I had in mind when I first set out to write a book. However, I found a way to say most of the things I wanted but under a different topic heading.
If you follow these ten steps you will have a shot at becoming an author. In addition, I highly recommend Michael Hyatt’s advice for first time authors.
Now, let me tell you about my giveaway.
In honor of my selfcare theme, I’m giving away:
Lemongrass Eucalyptus Bath Body Lotion Scrub Spa Set
Rejuvenate and invigorate with the uplifting botanical essences of lemongrass and eucalyptus. This classic combination freshens our collection of bath time indulgences designed to leave you feeling perfectly pampered from head to toe. Set includes: 9.1 fl. oz. body wash and cream bath, 5.0 fl. oz. body lotion, 2.9 fl. oz. body scrub, 3.5 oz. bath crystals in a bag, mesh sponge, double sided nail brush, and willow basket. Weight 2.8 lbs. Garden stake included. Each, sold in a pack of 16. Set: 11 3/4″ x 6″ x 9 1/2″ high.
To enter, just leave a comment below. I will draw one name from a hat and contact you for a shipping address.
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and don’t forget to sign up for your free self-care list at the top right side of my blog.
Lucille Zimmerman is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Littleton, CO and an affiliate faculty teacher at Colorado Christian University.
She is also the author of Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World. Through practical ideas and relatable anecdotes, readers can better understand their strengths and their passions—and address some of the underlying struggles or hurts that make them want to keep busy or minister to others to the detriment of themselves. Renewed can help nurture those areas of women’s lives to use them better for work, family, and service. It gives readers permission to examine where they spend their energy and time, and learn to set limits and listen to “that inner voice."