You may have heard it said that anyone can write a book. But is this true? And, more importantly, can anyone write a book that someone will actually want to read? WENDY SMITH explores answers to these questions in relation to writing a non-fiction book.
Having the right book published in your name can highlight your business expertise and experience and promote you as an expert in your field. Being a published author can lend you and your business credibility. Book sales could create a new income stream or you could give away copies to existing or prospective clients.
But this is a double-edged sword – yes, a professional and high quality book can do wonders to promote you and your business but a poorly written publication with questionable content, typos galore and a dodgy presentation will do you no favours whatsoever. So, can anyone write a book?
How about asking a different question: can anyone start a business?
Theoretically, yes, but what is it that makes a business succeed? For example, is it good planning and preparation; the right structure; innovative ideas; exceptional products and/or services; surpassing customer expectations; keeping ahead of your competition; support from a great team; knowledge, expertise and experience; passion; good old fashioned hard work; an attitude of excellence; sound processes and procedures; consistency; and not giving up when the going gets tough?
If you attempted to start up or run a business in an ad hoc or haphazard manner with no planning or very little investment, whether that be in time and energy or money and resources, it is unlikely your business would soar, that is if it got off the ground at all.
So, as a business woman, if you approach your non-fiction book project as you would approach a new business venture, applying relevant points from the list above, then you are well on your way to success.
Steps to getting started on writing a successful book;
Define your book’s subject and purpose - Be clear about what you are writing about, why you are writing your book and who you are writing it for. Ensure you know your subject inside out. Stay focused on your topic and write to your niche market but also stay true to who you are as your readers will quickly pick a phoney.
Do your homework - What is your competition? What is your point of difference? What do your target readers actually want? Offer something of value to your readers, a total package that warrants the investment of time they will spend reading your book. Be generous with the information, ideas and insight you share. Furthermore, almost anyone can do the research and put dry bare facts onto a page but, to make it truly unique and stand out of the crowd, bring in your personality (and a bit of fun where appropriate) and your individual experience, and tell stories or include case studies to engage your readers.
Develop an overall structure for your book - Break down the content or subject matter of your book into a number of individual topics – when refined these topics may even become individual chapters. Then, expand on each topic with brief notes or even dot points to provide an idea of the content to be included under each topic. There should be a logical progression or flow of ideas throughout.
Gather the right team - Seek out the best possible people to support your book project. Ask around for recommendations from others who have recently published books.
If you are not a natural writer, that is okay, there is lots of assistance available with services from researchers to ghost writers to writing coaches, to editors (e.g. structural editors and copy editors) and proofreaders, depending on the stage of the book and level of help you require.
Note that even if you have written and self-edited your manuscript, and you may have also asked a friend or family member to edit or proofread your work, the input of a professional editor can make a huge difference to the quality of the end result.
Ditto for your cover design and interior layout. If you are self-publishing, you will also need a graphic designer for your book cover, a book designer or formatter, a printer, ebook specialists, and other publishing services.
Write, write, write - Yes, at some stage, you need to do the hard work and write the content. Start by further expanding the topics and points that emerged when you developed the overall structure above. In your first draft, don’t get hung up on spelling and grammar and sentence structure – that is what the editing process is for – just write or type and get your information down on paper (or on hard disk and don’t forget to save regularly!).
Review, edit, rewrite - Once you have finished writing, put your manuscript aside for a time and later go back and review and self-edit and rewrite where necessary. Allocate adequate time in your writing schedule for multiple drafts as very few writers, even professional writers, will achieve an optimal result in their first draft(s).
Most word processors have a built in spell checker, so make use of the spell checker, even if it is not perfect. Ensure the language is set to Australian English (or your required language) in your word processor application settings. Of course, you will still need to manually check your work but a spell checker can get you off to a good start. Get a good dictionary and check the spelling and/or meaning of words that you are not sure about. A thesaurus can also be a very handy tool to find just the right word for the context.
Once you are happy with the basic content and structure, then it is time to bring in other experienced professionals to help you finish it off, like some of those mentioned above. Again, allocate time for multiple editing and proofreading stages, and also formatting (if you are self-publishing), as well time for you to review work completed at the end of each stage, as you will need to “sign off” on each stage of the process.
Also consider seeking feedback from a colleague or an expert in your field to pick up on specific content or subject-related issues and maybe request someone from your target audience to read over your book before it is finalised. Carefully consider the feedback received and go back to your manuscript and make any necessary changes.
Is this year, the year that you will write your book? Imagine the possibilities – picture yourself as a published author with a well-written and professional quality book that will positively promote you and your business into the future.