It’s one of my favourite cocktail party conversations—have you ever thought about writing a book? Not that I go to many cocktail parties these days (the combination of COVID and chronic illness means I’m home a lot) but even casual conversations and asking this question over Zoom coffee always generates the same response: “I would lovvvve to write a book one day.”
The same is true for me. From my childhood days spent in the Bookmobile and later, the public library, the idea of writing a book—a book with my name on the cover!—was a magical dream. But it has always felt elusive and distant. Maybe when I’m older and have more time to write. Maybe when it’s clear what my book should be about. Maybe after I get my business more firmly established.
Maybe, maybe, maybe. Lots of excuses. Maybe you’ve used them too?
I’m lucky to have worked with Carolyn Swora to be her writing partner for her second book, Evolve: The Path To Trauma-Informed Leadership. It gave me an insider’s experience of book writing, without the angst of choosing the “right” topic.
If you have always wanted to write a book but have been wondering if all that effort is worth it, let’s talk about that.
Writing a book is different from publishing a book (as Seth Godin said recently on the Akimbo podcast, everyone should write a book, but not everyone should publish one.”)
But let’s pretend for a moment that writing a book means you’ll publish it. Whether just in eBook format, or seeing paper copies on the shelves at Chapters or your local independent bookstore.
How writing a book can impact your work and your life:
1) Writing a book showcases the depth of your knowledge and experience.
When you are writing + 40,000 words, you need to go deep. All of the books you’ve been reading, quotes you’ve collected, and experience you’ve earned get poured into it.
These days, anyone can publish an 800 word blog article and sound smart. (AI can help there too). But while technically AI can help you write a book, you’re going to get stuck pretty quickly if you don’t have the experience or knowledge to pour into it.
Book writing also allows you to explore a topic more fully—-really digging into the nooks and crannies of a topic, and examining it from all angles.
2) Being an author increases your authority and “street cred.”
People continue to be awed by authors. It’s an immediately recognized bar of authority. It tells the world that you have a LOT to say about a topic.
Frankly, even if they never read the book, they’ll credit you with having the depth of knowledge on a topic and it removes doubt in their mind that your authority needs to be verified.
3) Your book can create new channels for opportunities.
Several of my clients have developed new program offers based on the content from their books. This has allowed them to expand what they do or take their work in new directions.
In most cases, authors can use their book as the basis for pitching new speaking opportunities as well.
4) Being an author expands your platform reach.
Amazon has its own search engine that rivals Google, so now you are “findable” in a new space. Your book can help you increase the number of followers and subscribers because people have “prequalified” you as an expert and want to hear more about what you have to say.
Having a book can also help you expand your platform into new mediums, like podcasts, social media spaces like #BookTok, or into YouTube.
5) Publishing a book helps you stand out.
If being a signal in a sea of noise is your goal, being an author gets you much closer to that place. Think about how many consultants, coaches, and founders you know. Now think about how many of them have written and published a book—-it’s likely a much shorter list. (Unless you hang out with a lot of authors!)
If you’re convinced this is something you want to pursue, here are a few questions to ask yourself as you consider whether you’re ready to start writing your book. These are the same questions we discuss in my book strategy sessions so you can be assured that they’re road-tested.
1) How does your book connect to your work and life? What benefits do you hope to achieve?
It might be that you haven’t thought about this at all. Your book would be purely for the joy of writing it, right? The gift you would bring to the world.
This is entirely possible and for some, it can be enough to keep them going. For others though, not having a clear sense of the why behind your book might keep you from slogging it out in the dark days of writing. “Why am I putting myself through this agony again?”
Consider what outcomes might be possible or desirable. Are you looking to make a lot of money? (I hate to tell you this, but apart from a major book deal from a traditional publisher, it’s very, very difficult to make money from your book.
2) Who benefits from your book?
I’ve seen a number of people think of their book as an extension of “what do I have to say?” instead of, “what does my reader need?”
While your book is based on your work, ideas and experience, it needs to connect with your audience by connecting new ideas to something they want to change or solve. It needs to reflect their needs, not yours.
Start by thinking about who your audience is, how they would describe their problem (in their words), and how your experience can help serve them.
3) Do you have the time available right now to devote to your book writing?
Book writing is a significant time commitment unless you spread it out over multiple years. The average non-fiction book is 60,000 words and with multiple drafts and rewrites, it might take you two or three times that number of words to land on a final draft.
What’s your average writing speed today? What’s the quality of your writing look like at your top speed? (this is your writing velocity—the speed and quality of your writing). When I was the writing partner for Carolyn Swora, I was able to write 3-5,000 words a day and we were able to produce a first draft quite quickly. With a strong outline, I can write a high volume in one day.
I’m finding with my own book that my writing speed is slower. I don’t have full days to devote to it (the motivation of needing to deliver a book draft to a paying customer is powerful) so I need need to adjust my expectations accordingly.
4) Do you have resources to pay for support?
You can absolutely DIY your book and self-publish it without spending a dime on support resources. The challenge will be whether the quality of your final product meets your expectations.
Working with a developmental book editor to refine your draft can help you see gaps in your logic or flow.
You might also want to consider paying for a copyedit (detailed proofreading), typeset (visual layout) and publication support. Knowing your budget going into your writing might help you anticipate where you want to pay for support as you go.
5) How will you market your book? How much time, effort and money can you devote to it?
This is a critical step and many of the people I talk to have no idea how they’ll do this, particularly as selling books is very different from their normal sales process when selling to corporate clients.
Even as you’re writing, you’ll need to cultivate an audience of potential future book buyers. This could be through a weekly or biweekly email, regularly posting to social media or posting snippets to your website.
Examining how other first time authors have done this work can give you some ideas too.
Writing a book can be an incredible experience and an opportunity unlike anything else you’ve done. It’s worth it, just give yourself some time to consider why you want to write it before you dive in. But I promise, the experience will be transformative.