Part One: The opportunity cost attached to thinking and planning time
One of the real costs of writing, publishing and selling your own book is the opportunity cost attached to thinking and planning time across all stages of the process. If you’re running your own business, working as a consultant or employed you can pretty easily calculate the actual cost to you. Simply add-up all the hours outlined below and multiply this by your hourly rate. It might shock you. Hopefully, it won’t put you off. What it will do is focus your attention on making the most of the thinking and planning time you spend.
For my Book Adviser clients (www.thebookadviser.com.au) the first two steps in the 8-Step program are all about thinking and planning. Get this part right and the writing, publishing and selling will be much more effective and successful.
It takes most people 1-2 months to really work through the planning and structuring of their book idea. So, let’s say that's 6 hours a week over 2 months: 48 hours, and you haven’t started writing anything.
I recommend you allocate between 4-6 hours a week, at least to work through the following things, preferably in two sessions. Slotting in an hour here and there is simply not productive.
1. The key themes and messages
There are millions of books being published all the time, so if you’re going to create a successful one you need to be really clear about what your key themes and messages are. This will help you clarify for yourself just what you are writing about and why.
When people share with me that they want to write a book I ask them why?
The usual response is, ‘Because I’ve always wanted to and I think I have something to share.’
‘Great,’ I respond. ‘What is it that you want to share? What is the core of your book idea and what do you want people to take out from it once they’ve read it?’
Most find this a much harder question to answer. Until you’ve worked out the answer there’s not much point starting your book project. And this might take several hours over many days or months.
2. USP (unique selling proposition)
Now you’ve worked out what your key themes and messages are, you need to spend some time thinking, researching and planning your USP. Why is your book different/better than the thousands of books already out there on your topic? And yes, there’ll be thousands of books published on your topic area.
So what makes your book different? What problems are you solving? Why are your insights better than others? Why are your solutions more effective? How is your knowledge going to assist the reader?
It’s essential that you are really clear about this. If you’re not, your book won’t get traction and it won’t sell. You’ll end up with a garage full of boxes of your books and giving them away. Even if you’re planning to give them away, people won’t read it.
3. Buyer persona
Most people start writing a book because they feel they have something they want to share, some unique insight, knowledge, journey or experience. Very few, however, spend much time thinking about who is going to buy their book. This is about spending time working on exactly who your target audience is. The more precise you can be the more you can focus attention in your content to this audience AND target them in your marketing.
It’s no good saying ‘my audience is businesswomen, or lawyers, young people, entrepreneurs, start-ups etc. This is way too vague. You need to get specific and build up a deep and clear understanding of your key target audience. And, it might take you several goes. It may be that after you’ve worked through 3-4 options your target audience is not who you initially thought it was.
4. Chapter outlines and more detailed chapter overviews
Now you’ve got clarity on your key themes and messages, why your book is different and you know your key target audiences you can now start working on your chapter outline. Most work through several iterations of this before they’ve settled on their final content outline.
Start by writing down the key themes/messages you want to cover. Then, divide these key messages into more specific headings. These are the start of your content outline.
Once you have specific headings (chapters), underneath each one add in dot points about the main topics you want to cover. Print this out and see if it makes sense, if it flows well. If not, move the chapters around and the topics until it does.
It might take several goes to get an outline you’re happy with. If you’re not sure, ask a friend or colleague in the same area that you’re writing about. Get input from others and take their feedback on board.
Once you’ve done all this you’re ready to start writing. Almost!
5. Reference material and notes
While you’ve been working through the previous four stages you have also probably been pulling together lots of books, research papers, notes, documents as well as bookmarking and locating on-line information and resources.
It’s important that you get all this together in an ordered and easily accessible way BEFORE you start writing. You’ll probably need to re-read much of it again to refresh your memory and to tag the important sections you want to refer to specifically. Don’t under-estimate the importance of getting all your materials organised. You can waste a huge amount of time trying to find information once you are in the flow of writing . . .and you certainly don’t need any more distractions when you’re in the writing phase.
There you have it. Can you make at least 48 hours available in your life in the next couple of months? If not, when can you find the time? Do you need help and guidance through the process and keep you on track? Of course, that’s where The Book Adviser comes in, but you need to make the commitment first.
Let me know your experience of trying to write a book, what worked for you and what didn’t, or if you’ve got a book written but don’t know what to do next. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org