Posts Tagged ‘publisher’

Many authors find that finishing their book on time, and avoiding writer’s block, is easier than they expected. This is one of the reasons that successful authors spend a lot of time in the planning stage, positioning their books and preparing a detailed content plan.

The more you plan, the easier it will be to write and finish your book on time!

As a result, once you have created a content plan and have committed to daily progress, you’ll find finishing your book is mostly a matter of “work” rather than stress.

Keeping on schedule

Comfortable, stress-free writing is important because it’s essential that you finish your book on time. You simply can’t afford to get behind schedule; too many people are depending on you to finish your book on time.

If you’re working with a trade publisher, they have already committed to a publication date, and have scheduled numerous staff and freelance resources like:

  1. Cover and inside-page designers
  2. Developmental editors
  3. Technical editors
  4. Layout and production
  5. Proofreaders
  6. Sales and promotion resources

If your manuscript arrives late, it can lose its place in the publisher’s production cycle.

Worse, if your manuscript delays your book’s publication, it may not be available in stores when previously-scheduled marketing and promotion events take place. Delays also make bookstore owners and buyers question their previous purchase commitments, which can lead to canceled orders before your book even appears!

Keeping on schedule is primarily a matter of:

  • ŸStarting with a detailed content plan. Ideally, by the time you start writing, each chapter in your table of contents contains Level 1 and Level 2 subheads indicating what you’re going to be covering, and where it will appear in the chapter.
  • Prioritizing your time. Which involves recognizing the importance of your book to your future and committing to as little as 30-minutes a day to finishing your manuscript. Pages quickly mount up!
  • Avoiding distractions. Distractions can take many forms, including unnecessary self-editing while writing. Your immediate priority is to complete the first draft as quickly as possible, so you and your editors can make it all it can possible be.
  • Delegation. There are probably some tasks which you consider “writing” that you may be able to delegate, such as listening to, or transcribing, interviews, researching quotations, and checking for minor spelling errors as you go along.

    Writing out of order

    One of the most important ways you can keep your writing on schedule is to write out-of-sequence. Or, as I prefer to think of it, “Write the easiest stuff first!”

    Specifically, instead of starting by writing the introduction and chapter one, start in the middle, with an “easy” chapter- -one with lots of detail you can just about finish in your sleep.

    Not only that, you don’t have to write entire chapters! Instead, write an easy section, or subsection, then go on to another “easy” section or subsection of a different chapter.

    There are two points involved:

    • ŸFinish it! First, its essential that you finish the first draft, so it can be massaged into shape.
    • Build up speed. Second, progress builds upon progress. Even if you feel like a cat who’s stayed out all night when you begin writing, once you’ve written that first paragraph, or two, you’ll find yourself writing faster and faster. Once you get started, and into the rhythm of writing, it’s easy to keep going.

    In fact, it seems that writing a book is primarily a matter of “starting to write” each time you sit down for a writing session!

    Of the more than 500 nonfiction authors and book coaches I’ve interviewed, a large percentage state that the introduction and Chapter l of their books is usually the last to be written.

    What about writer’s block?

    A lot is written about writer’s block. Writer’s block refers to an author’s sudden inability to make any progress writing their book. It’s characterized by extreme stress that gets worse the closer it gets to submission deadlines.

    Many new authors fear writer’s block is “part” of the writing process. However, here are a few observations about writer’s block:

    • ŸWriter’s block doesn’t have to be a part of the writing process. Although writer’s block gets a lot of press, it’s not a given! It’s doesn’t have to happen. It’s not “part” of the writing process. Writer’s block is more a symptom than a cause. There are things you can do to prevent it.
    • Writer’s block isn’t forever. It can be cured! There are strategies and workarounds you can choose to restore productivity to your writing sessions. As you become a more comfortable writer, you’ll find yourself knowing the warning signs and can take immediate action.

      Tips for avoiding writer’s block

      Here are some of the ways you can keep writer’s block from appearing:

      1. Planning is the best way to prevent writer’s block. Stress is caused by the unknown, but when you know what you’re going to be writing, you’ll become comfortable with the writing process. That’s why a detailed content plan is so important; when you know, down to the subhead level, what you’re going to write about in each chapter, finishing your book becomes more a matter of “doing it” than “creativity” or “inspiration.”
      2. Consistent daily progress prevents writer’s block. Stress is often caused by overly-ambitious goals, like trying to write a book in sequential order during holidays, vacations, or weekends. By expecting yourself to write during “marathon” writing sessions creates a great deal of stress. It is infinitely less stressful to write 30 minutes every weekday, hoping only to write a page or two of double-spaced copy, than it is expect to spend a day in isolation and anticipate writing 25-50 pages.
      3. Progress builds confidence, preventing writer’s block. Your confidence and enthusiasm will increase to the extent you track your progress and can view a constantly growing number of completed pages. This is why it’s so important to print your latest pages on 3-hole paper and save them in a 3-ring binder, at the end of every writing session.
      4. Reasonable expectations prevent writer’s block. As a result of the way writing is traditionally taught, authors tend to compare themselves to impossible standards- -often, their own favorite authors. It’s important to keep things in perspective; few authors write perfect first drafts! Often, the perfection that appears in a book is the result of months of extensive writing, rewriting, and editing involving several specialists. Writing is a team effort, and your job isn’t to prepare the perfect first draft, it’s to write a good, solid first draft and be willing to work to make it as good as it can be.
      5. Frequently review what you’ve written and what you want to write the next day. Immediately before going to bed, for example, review what you’ve written that day, and go over your writing goals for the next day. This engages your mind; while you’re sleeping, your brain will be processing and organizing information. As a result, when you sit down to write, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you get up to speed.

      Basically, give yourself a break! Give yourself every advantage possible, beginning with a firm content plan, a realistic commitment to daily writing progress, and don’t compare yourself to your favorite authors. If you get to talk to them, chances are, your favorite author will admit that they depend a lot on their editors to get the job done right.

      What to do if writer’s block occurs

      Here are a few of the strategies that I, and my clients, depend on to defeat writer’s block.

      1. Write something else. Don’t prolong the agony; if you are stuck at a particular point, temporarily put it aside, and write something that’s easier to write. If you are stuck getting started in Chapter One, for example, jump ahead to an easy-to-write bullet list of resources or recommendations in the middle of Chapter Five.
      2. Change the format you’re trying to write. If you’re having trouble writing about a specific topic for your book, try describing what you’re having trouble writing in a letter or a memo. Tell your wife, a friend, your co-author, or a trusted customer what you’re trying to write about.
      3. Write less. Instead of trying to write a complete chapter, or section of a chapter, give yourself a 1-page limit! Force yourself to cover the topic in just one page! Reducing the amount you feel you have to write takes away a lot of the stress.
      4. Give yourself a time limit. Another way of overcoming writer’s block is to give yourself a 5-minute deadline; get a timer and see how much you can write, as quickly as you can, in just 5 minutes. Once you start writing, of course, you’ll probably find it difficult to stop…and your writer’s block is a thing of the past.
      5. Pick up the phone! Most people find that it is easier to talk than it is to write. So, invest in a digital voice recorder, or voice recognition software, and your pick-up the phone and call a friend or a trusted co-worker, and simply tell them what you’re trying to write, and why its so relevant. Have the call transcribed, and you’ll have the first draft of your book.
      6. Offer a free teleseminar. Teleseminars are great writer’s block fighters; they provide a deadline for action, and make it easy to share the information you already know. There’s little, or no, cost involved, and you can schedule them at the last minute, i.e., 24 or 48 hours in advance, thanks to today’s e-mails and social marketing tools. Don’t worry about the number of participants; the event is primarily for you, providing an audience, a deadline, and a limited amount of time, for sharing your ideas and creating a recording you can later transcribe.

      These are just a few of the simple steps you can take to cure writer’s block. The important thing to remember is that writer’s block is a result of stress; stress caused by unrealistic goals and/or a lack of planning your writing before you start to write.

      Like for health issues in general, for writer’s block – prevention is the best cure!

      Unless you are self-publishing your book, one of the most important steps in your journey to a published book is to attract the attention of the right literary agent. A well-written book proposal stored on your hard drive doesn’t do anyone any good. You need someone to help you with the birthing process of your first book.

      Agents and midwives

      Choosing a literary agent to represent your first book is similar to choosing a midwife for the birth of your first child. For example:

      • You don’t know where to look.
      • You don’t know what you’re looking for.
      • You want someone with credentials and experience, yet you also want someone with whom you feel instant confidence, rapport, and trust.

      That’s quite a list!

      As in so many other areas of publishing, there’s an “old way” and a “new way.”

      The “old way” of locating a literary agent

      Until recently, the starting point for most authors was to buy one of the guides to literary agents that were published each year. These guides contained listings of agents, contact information, and areas of specialization.

      After reviewing the hundreds, if not thousands, of agency profiles, authors would prepare and send query letters to agents chosen from the profiles.

      The problem, of course, that immediately comes to mind, is “How do you choose the agents you’re going to contact?” You can’t really afford to send query letters- -let alone, complete proposals- -to every agent, and “cold-calling” on the telephone is not recommended unless agents specifically invite telephone calls. So, what is the criteria you’re going to use in making your decision?

      On the surface, you could choose literary agencies based on their size, (“small is good” versus “a large agency with clout.”) Or, you could choose agents based on their location, (“I want a New York City agency!), or books previously represented, (fiction versus non-fiction, areas of specialization, or best-sellers you may recognize).

      Even if you make the right selection, the “guide” approach puts a premium on your direct-response letter-writing skills, and your ability to craft a letter that engages the agent’s attention and convinces to read further in the first sentence. Basically, your experiences and your potential have to be boiled down to a 10 or 30 word “hook” intended to get their permission to send them your book proposal.

      Another problem is the volume of query letters sent to agents listed in the yearly guides. It’s not only hard to boil a book down to 3 or 4 paragraphs, it’s even harder to make your query letter stand out from the 10, 25, or 100 letters that might be arriving the same week as yours.

      Plus, who is reading your query letters? Is it an agency principal, or is it a newly-hired intern who is hired to select a couple of query letters each day from the pile that grows a little deeper each day?

      It can be done; the old way does work, and numerous first-time nonfiction authors do it every day. But, thankfully, there is a better way, a new way.

      Improving on the “old way”

      I’ve never been a fan of the “shotgun approach” to attracting a literary agent. It doesn’t offer potential authors enough control or likelihood of success. The competition is too great, it puts a premium on skills that might not play to your strengths, and- -basically- -the odds are stacked against you.

      A refinement of the “old way” approach that slightly improves your chances of success involves attending writing conferences, where you are likely to get “face time” with potential agents. While chatting with presenters and attendees between sessions and during networking events, you might find yourself talking to an agent or publisher who might be the perfect “midwife” for your book.

      A variation to this is to seek out events where there are “pitchfests” where authors get a chance to present and defend their proposal to several agents as part of the program.

      The down side of pitchfests is that they’re usually time-limited, you need nerves of steel, they place you in direct competition with others, and you have to deal with conference, lodging, and travel costs- -which can quickly mount up.

      Branding: the “new way” authors attract agents

      The “new way” of locating a literary agent reverses the whole process: instead of authors seeking agents, it’s based on agents using the Internet to seek authors!

      The Internet- -blogs, search engines, and social media make it feasible for authors to attract agents the same way authors attract readers!

      The first time I became aware of the power of the Internet to facilitate getting published was when I interviewed David Meerman Scott, the author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR. In his book and interview, David described how his book’s success was driven by blogging about it and allowing readers to download chapters for free.

      Since then, for Published & Profitable, I’ve interviewed numerous other first-time authors,  such as Gar Reynolds, author of Presentation Zen and others whose first books emerged from out of nowhere as highly-successful business books because of the author’s blogging activities.

      During my interview with Gar Reynolds, for example, it turned out he wasn’t necessarily going to write a book, his immediate goal was to develop and share his presentation philosophy with others through his blog.

      His passion-driven blog created his market and- -in doing so- -not only validated the need for a book, but attracted agents and publishers who were looking for fresh book ideas!

      The key words, of course, are “agents looking for books”

      And, in a nutshell, that’s what the new way is all about, and that’s the power of blogs like this which has already served as the launch pad for several successful books, as continues to do for new authors. You can visit Rajesh Setty’s Blogtastic Project for an insider’s look at the “new way” in action.

      So, there’s a new way to attract a literary agent in the Web 2.0 world. Instead of going hat-in-hand to agents, doing exactly what tens of thousands of other authors are doing, you can attract agents to you by creating a blog with a title that creates a brand, and posting helpful, relevant, and useful at frequent interviews.

      Do your job right, and be ready for the day you receive an e-mail or blog post comment from an agent, or publisher, who is looking for a fresh perspective on your topic and is impressed by your blog.

      Resources, old and new

      Here are several books describing “old way” approaches to attracting a literary agent through query letters:

      The best of the “new way” resources remains the second edition of David Meerman Scott’s New Rules of Marketing & PR and his follow-up, World Wide Rave.

      Conclusion

      There’s finally a new and better way to attract a literary agent- -and I find it pretty exciting. No longer is agent acquisition a “blind numbers game” based on spending your time crafting 3 or 4-paragraph query letters sent to randomly-chosen recipients and waiting for an expression of interest. Instead, you can focus on developing and sharing your ideas, knowing that properly-managed content is its own reward, helping you attract literary agents who are searching for you!

      When you begin to write your book, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that you’ve already made significant progress….especially, if you’ve been active in your field for a long time.

      Because you may have already written a lot of your book, the first writing step you should take is to take a fresh look at your hard drive, looking for content just begging to be included in your book!

      Existing content takes many forms

      To help you locate contents you already wrote, I’ve added a copy of my Existing Content Inventory Worksheet to my Active Garage Resource Page which you can download without registration.

      My Existing Content Inventory Worksheet will help you keep track of content like case studies, examples, ideas, opinions, perspectives, procedures, resources, shortcuts, tips, and warnings.

      Where to look for ready-to-use content

      Look for existing content you can reuse for your book in files originally created for projects like:

      • Articles & newsletters
      • Blog posts & comments
      • Books, e-books, & previous book proposals
      • E-mail
      • Memos & reports
      • New business proposals
      • Presentations & speeches
      • Press releases
      • Teleseminars, webinars
      • White papers

      As you review your previous client, prospect, and writing files, you may be surprised at the content richness waiting for you.

      During your exploration, you might want to search your hard drive for key phrases and words that might take you directly to the content you’re looking for.

      What to do after locating existing content

      Once you consolidate the titles, relevance, and locations of existing content onto copies of the Existing Content Inventory Worksheet, you can address questions like:

      • What type of content is it? Is the content an idea, a process or a technique, a case study, an interesting anecdote, or a tip?
      • Where does the content belong in my book? Which chapter?
      • How much of the content is useful? Where will it appear within the chapter? Will the content be used as part of the text of your book, or is it more appropriate as a sidebar interview or tip?
      • How literally can I reuse the content? Can I simply copy and paste the content, (assuming you have copyright ownership of the content)? Or, do I need to paraphrase the content? Do I need to expand the content? Do I need to verify the accuracy of the content?
      • Do I need permissions for quotations? You may not need to obtain permission, for example, if the quote appeared in a published magazine or newspaper article. You might have to get permission, however, if you quoting an individual’s comments in a recorded teleseminar interview you hosted.

      In many cases, of course, you may have originally written the content in long-forgotten articles, blog posts, or newsletters.

      Of course, if you already knew, or suspected, that you were going to be write your current book, you’d- -hopefully- -have tracked the content using a mind map like the one I prepared for this blog post series (among other free resources).

      Conclusion

      Writing a book doesn’t have to mean a time-consuming endeavor requiring you to write every word from scratch! If you’ve been active in your field for a long time, you may have already written a lot of your book! Even better, if you used tools like mind mapping to organize your content and track your writing, you may be pleasantly surprised to find how much of your book has already been written.

      Roger C. Parker helps business professionals write brand-building, thought-leadership books. He’s written over 30 books, offers writing tools at Published&Profitable, and posts writing tips each weekday. His next book is Title Tweet! 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Article, Book, and Event Titles.