Today someone called me and asked about how to write and publish a book. This is a good question, especially at this time. We are all thinking about our contributions to the world right now— or at least I am. I have a number of projects that I have been working on that I want to publish and get out there soon, rather than leaving them languishing in a folder on my computer.

I have experience with self-publishing, and now I am starting to gain experience with working with an agent, and getting published. Here is what I learned.

Why Write A Book?

Why write a book? It may sound esotheric, but I believe that we are all unique expressions of humanity and each have something unique to contribute to the world. A book can help you do this. When I write, I keep the goal in my mind of helping just at least one person. If I help at least one person with what I write, that will be enough. I wasn’t sure if one of the books I wrote was any good or if anyone would read it — but then someone told me that they made different life choices based on it. Wow! You can have a real impact with a book.

I also find the experience of writing very helpful and have heard quotes along the lines of “I write to know what I am thinking — and to understand my thoughts.” Writing a book can also help advance your career and land you speaking engagements. If you have a business, it can help establish authority and act as a leadgen.

Getting Published vs Self-Publishing

Both seem to be great options, and there are pros and cons to each.

The benefits of getting published are many. You usually get an advance (although in some cases, publishers are actually requiring deposits from authors). The publishing house helps you with everything from editing to getting the cover made to doing marketing. They can help get the book into bookstores. The limitations are that you may not end up having as much control over things like the process or the timing.

With self-publishing, you can get your book out there in a matter of weeks or even days. You have ultimate control. You can upload it to Amazon and then your friends and family members can order a real physical (or digital) copy of it. The limitations are that you will need to pay for things like the cover design, formatting, and if you choose to, things like editing and marketing. And you’ll have to do all your own marketing.

Here is what I have learned in terms of how to do each one.

How to Get Published

In terms of getting published with a publisher, the key steps seem to be:

  • Write a book proposal
  • Find an agent
  • Your agent works to find a publisher

If you want to get published, I have three main recommendations based on what I have learned:

  • For non-fiction, develop a platform. Followers, a newsletter subscriber base, talks, etc. That’s not to say it’s impossible to get a book deal without one — but it certainly helps. Having a platform can definitely be a benefit for fiction writers too.
  • Write a great book proposal. I like this great Tim Ferriss-recommended book called The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It…Successfully by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry: https://www.amazon.com/Essential-Guide-Getting-Your-Published/dp/076116085X
  • Try to amass rejections — as many as you can! At first, I only emailed my book proposal to three agents. When they said no, I decided to give up. A while later, my colleague told me about someone who she knew who had tried to amass rejections by sending her book proposal to as many agents as possible. I sent my book proposal to about a hundred of agents in one day, which led to three meetings. Out of those meetings, one agent was a great fit and that is who I signed with!

Self Publishing

For self-publishing, I have a couple key tips:

Writing The Book

Then there is writing the book. For this, I like a couple different tools:

  • Google Docs Voice Typing — If you don’t want to if you don’t want to or can’t type, Google Docs voice typing is a great tool. It allows me to finish writing things way faster than if I was typing.

  • Forming a writing group: I have found it very helpful in my writing to form a writing group. But not the type of writing group that you might think of. My writing group consists mostly/only writing and we rarely if ever share our work with each other. It is more like the co writing group where we get together and write at the same time, thereby keeping each other accountable — with breaks in between. Here is the description of my writing group. I got most of the writing done for my first book over a nine month period of attending.
    What: We Write! The schedule is a mix of writing and breaks, for a mix of fun and productivity. Bring a creative writing project that you are working on.
    Where: <location>
    When: See date schedule, from 7–10PM
    Who: Invite-only — all new members must be passed through <>
    How (Schedule):
    7–7:30 soft start (people arrive), mix and mingle
    7:30–8 Write
    8–8:15 Break
    8:15–8:45 Write
    8:45–9 Break
    9–9:30 Write
    9:30–10 chit chat, pack up, head out
    See you there!
    Rules: No talking or being distracting during writing sessions. If you do not follow the rules you will be removed from the group. This is to maintain a professional and productive group.
  • Write as if you are writing for one person. As I said before, if my book helps one person, for me that makes the book worth writing. But whatever your perspective is on this, it can be a good idea to write with one person in mind. Thinking of that one person can help you formulate your thoughts and develop a voice for how you would speak to them.

Launch! Launch your book, and always be launching. Especially if you self-publish, you can always continue revising and re-launching it. Get something out there. It might just change someone’s life.

Happy writing. I would love to hear what you come up with.