Sometimes the book-writing journey can feel like a long winding road.
While every journey is different, there are common steps and common decision points in every journey:
Every book starts with an idea. Test your idea. Talk to colleagues. Do some research. Make an initial decision: Go or no go.
Decide on your genre: Memoir? Self-help? Something in between. Each genre will have implications for next steps and for your structure.
Decide on your publication path, at least make a tentative decision early on. With my clients we talk about this early in our process: their goals and the pros and cons of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing. This is a big decision. It will set in motion your next steps. Do I write a book proposal or draft my manuscript? It also will have a huge impact on your timing.. If you are self-publishing, you can get your book out much more quickly.
Another big decision: do I go it alone or get help? That was an easy...
Author Platform is a scary and mysterious term for many writers. Let’s unpack it.
Michael Hyatt, author of Platform, says platform "is the stage you use to connect with readers. It’s how you get noticed in a noisy world."
Tim Grahl, author of Your First 1000 Copies says author platform is “code for how you are going to sell your book.”
Platform is finding the people who connect with what you write, building real relationships with them by being, as Tim Grahl says, “relentlessly helpful,” and then offering them a product—your book—to purchase when it’s ready.
Notice, I didn’t say ANYTHING about having thousands of social media followers. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about “platform.” Platform does NOT equal social media or number of followers. Social media is useful in building your platform - but it’s only one of many tools.
#1: Writers who don’t care about making money with their books.
#2: And writers who do care.
The writers who don’t care—the creatives, the artists—they have a story they HAVE to share … regardless of whether they make money or sell many books.
Many memoirists fall into this category. They have a lived experience that has meant so much to them that they have to get their story out of their head and their heart … and hopefully some people will read—and buy—their books, but making money is not why they write.
To be clear, it’s not that these writers are opposed to making money, it’s just that money isn’t what’s driving them. They’d write even if they didn’t make a single dime. And many of them will spend many, many dimes to help them write the best book they can: on writing conferences, book coaches, self-publishing, and...
Here’s the big picture based on data from 2019:
What GENERATION reads the most books?
The answer may surprise you. It's MILLENNIALS, those born between 1981-1996, followed closely by baby boomers.
As the parent of two millennials, this surprised me! All the handwringing my peers and I did, worried that “technology” would be the end of reading.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT GENERATIONS READING?
Gen Z: humor, Millennials: health and wellness books, Gen X: crafts and hobbies, Baby Boomers: cookbooks, and the Silent Generation: biographies and memoirs.
WHAT DO YOU READ?
If you are someone who is thinking about writing a book, may I state the obvious? You need to be reading in the genre that you are planning to write in. If you’re...
An astonishing number of Americans say they want to write a book someday. The most often quoted statistic comes from writer Joseph Epstein who said that “81 percent of Americans feel that they have a book in them — and should write it.”
How he got that number, I have no idea. I’ve even seen 90% thrown around as a statistic. Regardless of the precision, it’s fair to say that a lot of people say they’d like to write a book someday.
Maybe you are one of them.
Let’s consider why this number is so high. There’s something romantic about saying you are an author. Exotic. Prestigious. People look at you differently. All of a sudden, you have risen in the ranks. You have authority. You may desire to raise your profile in the world—perhaps your goal is to be viewed as a thought leader, which will help you grow your business and make more money. Did your ears perk up at the mention of money? I'll be...
I'm working on two books with two book coaches and have two deadlines to meet in the next four weeks.
Part of me wants to scream "I CAN'T DO IT!" and plead for an extension. Part of me wants to retreat to the couch and binge-watch Queer Eye. And there's that part of me that knows this is the only way I will ever get the work done.
Speaking of work, I have a lot ahead of me. For Book #1, a memoir about self-trust, my coach is asking for a draft of an "inside outline," a tool developed by book coach Jennie Nash that helps writers marry their plot story arc with the protagonist's internal journey. For Book #2, a self-help book about grief, my coach is asking for me to revise my "Blueprint for a Book," another Jennie Nash tool that helps writers build a firm foundation for their books before they begin writing.
Why I have two books going on at the same time with two different book coaches is a story for another day, but suffice...
I handed my friend J some of my favorite books on memoir, including Mary Karr's The Art of Memoir and Beth Kephart's Handling the Truth. J was an accomplished writer already: she'd had a YA novel traditionally published and also had placed essays with national publications. But this was her first foray into memoir writing, and I could tell she was struggling.
"It's a memoir about my dad," she said, then listed several angles she was hoping to include in her book. Red flags went off in my head. I'd been down that road before with clients and also in my own writing process. There's a natural temptation to want to throw everything in, which often comes from one of two places: First, the feeling that this is your ONLY chance to share everything you want to say. And/or second, you really don't know what you want to say so you'll say it all!
"What's the one thing you want people to walk away from your story knowing?," I said to J after listening to her for a while...
Finding support is the final step in my 4-Step Solution to Getting Your Nonfiction Book Out of Your Head and Onto the Page.
Writers are better with support, and this is especially true for writers working on a book-length project. Writing a book is a marathon, and writers are more likely to get to Mile 26.2 if they aren't going it alone.
Writers can benefit from various types of support.
Here we are talking about support on the writing itself, ie., feedback on the page.
Family and friends: Just say no! Although it's tempting to ask family or friends to read and comment on your work-in-progress, this is almost always a bad idea. Even if people near and dear to you have experience with critique, it's difficult, if not impossible, for them to be objective.
Writing groups and critique partners: These two options can be effective...
Writing is solitary and it can be lonely. You spend lots of time in your head, perhaps wondering if anyone will even care.
While you are the only person who can put your butt in the chair and get your words on the page, your writing life will improve if you can find your people.
This is Step 3 of The 4-Step Solution to Getting Your Nonfiction Book Out of Your Head and onto the Page: Seeking Out Community.
Here are some ways I have found my people:
Writers Conferences: In-person writers' conferences have been a huge source of writing community for me. Of course, they are mostly on hold now due to COVID-19, but when they return (and they will!), find one that speaks to your writing interests and fits your budget. When I was just starting out as a memoir writer, I attended the Southampton Writers Conference where I workshopped with luminaries such as Mary Karr and Roger Rosenblatt. As awesome as those experiences were, what was even more valuable were the...
Writers are not people who simply talk about writing, dream about writing, think about writing, or plan to write.
A simple concept for sure, but for many aspiring writers, a ridiculously difficult one to execute.
Two weeks ago, I shared "The 4-Step Solution to Getting Your Non-Fiction Book Out of Your Head and Onto the Page," and last week, I dug into Step 1: Narrow Your Focus. I called out lack of clarity about a book's point as the number one reason people don't get their books written.
Truth be told: Step 2: Put Your Butt in the Chair is a strong competitor for that #1 slot.
If you don't put your butt in the chair, it doesn't matter how clear you are about your point. If you don't write, you aren't going to get your book written.
Writing is hard. It's "creation," which means making something new. It's scary. It's vulnerable. It brings out our insecurities, our fears, our doubts.
What if my writing...
Writers go on a hero’s journey when they make the decision to get their story out of their heads and onto the page.
Queer writers go on a Queero’s Journey!
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