It seems as though everyone wants to write a book. Unfortunately, most people don’t know where to start and, therefore, become under-motivated or overwhelmed. The result? Good intentions; no book.
But what if you could have a bookstore quality paperback book in your hands in two weeks? And what if you didn’t have to do much writing? Here’s a technique that I used to publish a nonfiction book in a fortnight, and sold tens of thousands of copies.
Why do you want to write a book?
It is important to start here. It's a question many people fail to ask themselves. They don’t think about what they want to achieve with their writing. And they should, because the objectives will define the approach. I’ll give you three common reasons people want to write (in addition to just wanting to see their name in print or to share their ideas with the world).
1. You want to be rich and famous. If this is your objective, you may want to look elsewhere. Only 1,000 out of 172,000 books published each year sell over 50,000 copies. Very few authors become wealthy from books sales. In fact, most top-selling authors were rich and famous before they published their book.
2. You want to establish your credibility. If this is your objective, then using traditional publishers (e.g., Penguin, Harper Collins, McGraw-Hill, Wiley, etc.) may be the best approach. These publishers reject 98 percent of the books submitted to them, so getting your book published by them is like getting a stamp of approval; it's automatically credible. In addition, these publishers handle all distribution, so you don't have to worry about getting your books into stores yourself. If you've never before published a book, and credibility is your objective, then you may want to consider this path first.
3. You want to boost you existing business. Do you already have a business with an established client base? A book can be great marketing material. Instead of pushing your business, it teaches readers (and potential customers) what you know. And yes, it can generate some extra income, too.
Print-on-demand (POD) publishing
Even if you want to establish your credibility via a traditional publisher, you have one challenge: getting a publisher. Publishing is a bit of a Catch 22. Authors who are not published are most interested in traditional publishers, yet publishers want only those people who already have a following.
Also, traditional publishing can be notoriously slow, and your content could very well be dated by the time your book gets released. In contrast, print-on-demand publishing allows you to have 100 percent up-to-date content, since you have the opportunity to update the content before each printing.
Another advantage of POD is the cost per book. Even with author discounts, you are lucky to get copies for $10. This makes it too expensive for many companies to order in bulk.
Finally, a potentially important advantage to POD is the fact that you retain all of the rights. You can reprint your content in any form you want: workbooks, audio books, eBooks, flash cards or training manuals. You are somewhat limited when you work with traditional publishers as they require you to sign over most of the rights.
Writing and publishing your book
You will probably make less money from your book than you will from the services or products you sell as a result of the book. However, the book still has to be good enough for people to want it, yet inexpensive enough for you to be able to give it away.
I have boiled the approach down to eight easy steps. Although a lot more can be written on the subject, this should give you enough to get started.
Step 1: Get clear on the content and format
Here are some important things to consider for your two-week book.
- Your book should provide the reader with insights on your area of expertise. You want to share the breadth of your experience, but not necessarily the depth. The key is, you must already be an expert and should be able to talk about your topic for at least an hour. Two hours is better.
- Create a book that is concise and easily digestible. The final length should be under 100 pages. Fifty to 75 pages is fine.
- Identify an overarching framework. Most business books have some type of framework that's incorporated into the book. It can serve either as the table of contents or, at the very least, can guide the development process.
Step 2: Record a speech or workshop
This is the step where most of the content is generated. Many of us, especially in the professional services area, give presentations, do training and facilitate workshops. Buy yourself a digital recorder and record a session. It’s that simple.
If you don’t give speeches, you can record a workshop. Or you can simply record a conversation with someone where you describe your approach. Doing is better than discussing. The key is, don’t do it alone. You must record a session where you interact with one or more other people.
Step 3: Transcribe your audio
This is the simplest, yet most expensive step. You can of course do it on your own if money is an issue. Or you can use a third party that charges approximately 1 cent per word. If you record a two hour conversation or workshop, you might end up with 90 minutes of usable content. This would translate to a little more than 10,000 words, which is perfect. Your cost would be under $100 for the transcription. And if you go overseas, you can get it done for as little as $40 for 90 minutes (this is what I do).
Step 4: Choose your book format and paste in your transcript
Go to a book store and find books that have a similar layout to what you want. There is no right or wrong approach. For this book, the content is more important than the layout. The nice thing is, you can refine the layout with future printings.
Make a template in Microsoft Word (or whatever editing software you are comfortable with). Use the “Styles and Formatting” as a way of setting your text, headers, bullets, etc. Once you have your template created, you can paste in the text from your transcription. Be sure to paste the text in an unformatted style so that you pick up the fonts of the template and not those of the transcription.
Step 5: Add headings, ask questions and edit
First, try to find logical headings. The more the better, as you can create a content rich table of contents page.
Next, edit the text so that it reads like a book rather than a speech. Although you can hire people to do this, it can be quite expensive. Take your time. So far you only invested a few hours and less than $100. If you do want professional editors, 10,000 words should cost about $200 to $400 for light editing/proofreading. Extensive editing is more.
Once you have a reasonable edit, give the book (printed on your inkjet printer) to a friend or colleague. Have them critique it. The objective is not to wordsmith at this point. Rather you want to make sure your friend understands the content. Have him or her write down questions as s/he reads it. Then have a conversation where you answer those questions. Record the conversation. Transcribe the conversation. And then paste in these refinements.
Now finalize the text. Paste in graphics that will help illustrate your points. If you have a framework, it certainly makes sense to include that. Pictures help improve readability. I used 99designs.com to create a first graphic, and then I hired the designer to create the rest to my graphics. But to save money, you can do this on your own using PowerPoint or any other graphics editing package.
A lot of white space also makes a book seem less intimidating. And then edit. Proofread. Make sure the text says what you want and is laid out the way you want. If you want something better looking, you can go to eLance.com and have your MS Word document converted into a professional layout for $100 to $150. I did this for one of my self-published books.
At this point, you know the page count and the page size. You will need these for the next step.
Step 6: Find a printer
There are literally hundreds of POD publishers out there. Ask around, and do your research.
The publisher will tell you any of the specifications you need, such as book spine size. Each publisher has their own requirements in terms of file formats. One printer I work with needs everything converted to .pdf.
Others can print directly from your MS Word file, and you create the cover using their software.
As a point of reference, my preferred printer has a $150 minimum charge and for a 100 page book it costs less than $2.50 per book without any set-up costs.
Step 7: Create a cover and send to printer
For some people, this can be a challenge. But for the first version of the book, don’t worry about it. It can be plain and simple with just your name and the title of the book. The key is to make sure the dimensions are correct. You’ll need to know the size of the spine in order to do this. Your printer can help you with this.
Once you have everything done, prepare the book for the printer and send them the files.
Step 8: Wait until your books arrive
Now is the most difficult step: waiting for your book to be printed and shipped. While waiting, use fiverr.com to convert your MS Word document into an e-book for Kindle.
If you followed the process above, less than two weeks will have gone by and a book will be in your hands. And you will have spent less than $250 in total: $50 for transcription services, $25 for graphic support, $150 for your first 50 copies and $25 for shipping. Of course you can spend more on fancier graphics, layout, editing and more.
Give this first version to friends and colleagues for comments. Give them as gifts. Wait until the second version (with corrected typos and improved content and graphics) before you decide to sell the book.
What to do with your book is a topic for a different post. That's where you make your money. I will cover that topic in the near future.