Posts Tagged ‘write’

Resist the temptation to start your Author’s Journey to a brand-building book by immediately starting to write. The Author’s Journey refers to my series of 34 ActiveGarage posts describing the steps involved in writing a nonfiction book to build a personal brand.

Instead of immediately starting to write, take the time to ask the right questions. It’s important for you to get your bearings by developing a “big picture” view of your writing project.

An important part of the “big picture” is focusing on the desired end result. By identifying the goals of your journey, you’ll be better able to make the right decisions at every stage, so you can write and market toward them as efficiently as possible, helping you focus your writing and avoid digressions, false starts, and wasted time.

There’s magic in asking questions

Perhaps Brian Tracy, said it best in his international bestselling book, Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life: How to Unlock Your Full Potential for Success and Achievement:

The very act of questioning opens your mind and expands your options. It increases your creativity and stimulates your imagination. Questioning enables you to think more effectively and reach better decisions.

Brian Tracy re-emphasized the importance of authors asking questions before writing during a recent Published & Profitable interview, (Number 100 in my recent series). He discussed how asking questions helps authors focus on their readers, their needs, and their hot buttons while sharing the process he has used to write 50 books that have been translated and are sold in over 37 countries.

Alexander Ward, American author and pastor, stated it differently:

Before you speak, listen.

Before you write, think.

What kinds of questions & answers?

There are 4 categories of questions you should ask before starting to write your brand-building book. These correlate to Published & Profitable’s 4 steps to Writing Success: Plan, Write, Promote, and Profit.

Your answers to these questions don’t have to be elaborate or formal. You don’t even have to work on your computer; it’s entirely to jot down your answers by hand.

The ideas behind your answers are what matters! So just quickly write down words, ideas, and phrases that you can go back later and expand. There’s no need to write in full sentences, and you don’t have to be concerned with grammar. The answers are for your eyes only- – it’s OK to change your mind when you go back later and review your answers.

Planning questions

There are three types of planning questions:

  • Your goals and objectives. Start by identifying your long-term goals and objectives beyond the rewards of selling your book. Concentrate on how you are going to leverage your book into lasting and profitable relationships with your readers. Avoid writing and publishing decisions that might limit your ability to achieve your goals.
  • Reader goals. Who are your intended readers, and what do they hope to gain from reading your book? The more you know, the easier it will be to target the right readers, choose the right title, and provide the right right content.
  • Competing books. Finally, you have to analyze competing books, so you can position your book as a better alternative to anything that’s currently available.

Just as you wouldn’t start a business without a business plan, you shouldn’t start to write a brand-building book without knowing your goals, your market, and your competition.

Writing questions

Next, you have to answer a series of questions about your ability to write as consistently and efficiently as possible, so your book is completed on time. This involves answering questions like:

When you’ve answered these questions, you’re ready to start writing!

Promoting questions

Books- -even the most helpful and best-written books- -don’t sell themselves. Authors have to begin promoting the book while writing the book.

Ideally, book promotion never really ends, because your book’s brand becomes your brand!

Creating a book promotion plan involves evaluating current online visibility (or author platform), looking at ways to build your expert network, exploring free promotional tools, and creating an integrated book marketing plan.

Profit questions

Leveraging your book to meaningful and lasting profits involves answering questions about looking at how other authors profit from their books, evaluating ways to create and manage information products, and looking at ways to attract lucrative speaking opportunities.

Questions, answers, and action

The above are just some of the ways that questions lead to answers, and answers lead to informed action. Take the time to ask- -and answer- – the right questions and save time writing the book your market is waiting to read!

If you’d like to get on the inside track to learning more about asking the right questions before writing a book to build your brand, drop me an e-mail or sign-up to receive my weekday blog posts in your in-box.

During the past few years, it has been increasingly obvious that the whole point of writing a book is not to sell books, but to build long-term and profitable reader relationships.

Yes, there are authors who support themselves with six figure advances and huge royalties, but there are also those who buy one lottery ticket and win millions of dollars.

In either case, you can’t count on favorable outcomes. The odds are too much against you.

A much better strategy, with a much higher probability of success, is to consider your book the core of your long-term self (or business) marketing plan. In this scenario, your book becomes the hub of a relationship-building strategy that begins long before your book appears and continues for years afterward.

Building “hooks” in your book

Long-term success requires inserting “hooks” into your book intended to drive readers to your website. This important marketing and profit task deserves your attention as soon as possible. There are two reasons why:

  1. While you’re planning your book, you need to select the type of relationship-building bonus content you’re going to offer readers and how you’re going to promote the bonus in your book.
  2. While writing your book, you need to be setting up, or delegating and supervising, the set-up of the online support structure needed to distribute your book’s bonus contents, i.e., autoresponders, landing pages, etc.

The above are too important, and too complex, to be left to the last minute.

Using your book to drive website traffic

Let’s start with the basic premise; readers who buy your book are your best source of coaching, consulting, and speaking profits.

If someone invests $20, or more, in a copy of your book, they’re raising their hand and indicating that they’re interested in what you have to say. Their purchase is proof they have problems they want to solve, or goals they want to achieve.

More important, by spending their hard-earned money on your book, they’re indicating that they think you’re the one to help them; you’re the obvious expert they trust, and they want to know more!

Your job at this point is to provide opportunities to learn more about you and the services you provide, information that shouldn’t appear too prominently in your book! No one wants to pay $20 to be advertised to- -save the infomercials for late-night television!

Registration and bonus content

Your big challenge, as you plan and write your book, is to come up with a way to subtly drive readers to your website.

Once readers of your book are at your website, you can introduce them to your marketing funnel; you can offer them access to bonus content in exchange for signing-up for your e-mail newsletter. In addition, once they’re at your website, you can describe additional ways you can help them solve their problems and achieve their goals.

As described in my Streetwise Guide to Relationship Marketing on the Internet, there are several categories of bonus content you can share with readers of your book:

  1. Assessments. Assessments are worksheets or interactive forms that help readers self-assess their understanding of your book, or evaluate the areas of their business where change is needed, such as my Making the most of Microsoft Word assessment.
  2. Checklists. Checklists, are similar to assessments in that they can either be downloadable and printed or filled-out online. Checklists help readers monitor their progress as they complete tasks described in your book.
  3. Deeper content. Ideas that are only introduced can be converted into detailed case studies and, often, step-by-step procedurals that will help your readers put your ideas to work.
  4. Excess content. Often, working with your editor, you’ll discover that there is no room for some of your best ideas. Instead of discarding them, use them as downloadable bonus content to thank your readers for buying your book.
  5. Pass-along content. One of the best ways to promote your book to new prospective book buyers (and clients) is to provide readers with information that they can pass along to their friends and co-workers.
  6. Specialized content. As an alternative to going deeper, i.e., great detail, you can adapt the ideas in your book for different vertical markets, such as different occupations or industries. You can also adapt your book’s content into beginner’s guides or offer advice for more advanced readers.
  7. Updated content. New ideas and examples are certain to appear the day after approval of the final proof of your book. Although you can, and should, use your blog to share new content, often you can use it as reader rewards.
  8. Worksheets. The best worksheets are those that help readers overcome inertia and avoid procrastination by immediately starting to implement the lessons described in your book. My sample Book Proposal Planner is an example of an online worksheet.

You can distribute the above bonus content ideas in a variety of formats; Adobe Acrobat PDF’s, password-protected pages, streaming audio or video, or- -if appropriate- -as mailed reports or CDs and DVDs.

How do you limit bonus content to legitimate readers?

Many authors only share their book’s bonus content with readers who register their name and e-mail addresses. Others limit distribution to readers who enter a password that appears in a specific location of their book, i.e., The second word at the top of Page 138.

These limiting strategies can be self-defeating and project an inappropriate image. The goal of writing a book is to build lasting and profitable relationships with readers, not test their persistence.

One of the techniques I used with my Relationship Marketing book, above, was to offer downloadable PDF’s of each of the worksheets in my book, and include the URL for the worksheets on the pages of the book referring, or displaying, each worksheet.

Getting a head start

As you can see, authors who only begin to think about marketing their book after it’s been published are at a significant disadvantage compared to those who address reader relationship building while planning and writing their book. Don’t make the mistake of failing to have a plan for converting readers into clients by driving them to your website as they read your book

In last week’s installment of my Author’s Journey, I described the importance of creating an incentive to encourage visitors to your blog to sign-up for your e-mail marketing program.

This week, I’m going to describe tip sheets, the simplest, easiest way to create an incentive to build your list and attract new prospects to your marketing funnel.

Tip sheets are powerful and effective because they don’t have to be elaborate, as the two examples, at below left, show; each is printed on one side of a single sheet of paper. They’re judged by the value of their information, not by the number of words or pages they contain.

Why tip sheets make great incentives

Tip sheets distill your expertise into 8 to 12 easy-to-implement actionable ideas. They are judged not by the length, but by the quality of the information you share.

Tip sheets save you money because they are usually distributed as downloadable PDF files, although they are multi-functional; you can easily print-out copies of your tip sheets to carry with you and to distribute at networking functions and speaking engagements.

Not only do the tip sheets save you money, they also save time, for both you and your market. Why? Because they are short and to the point – they are easily written and easily read.

  • Tip sheets save you time. Tip sheets leverage your existing knowledge into chunks of information with high-perceived value. In an hour, or so, you can write and format an effective tip sheet. The above examples contain fewer than 500 words.
  • Tip sheets save your clients and prospects time. The brevity and concisely-presented information that saves you time also saves time for your clients and prospects. They can easily judge your expertise and appreciate the value of the information you provide.

Tip sheets, of course, don’t have to be limited to one side of a single sheet of paper, and they can benefit from professional design assistance. As the example on the right shows, two-sided tip sheets provide extra space for graphics and more information to further enhance your image and communicate your expertise.

The better-looking your tip sheet, the more likely that prospects will save it and refer to it in the future.

Tips for creating and formatting tip sheets

Here are some tips for creating tip sheets.

  • Title. Choose a title for your tip sheet that engages your market by making a promise that’s relevant to your prospects.
  • Introduction. Provide a one-paragraph introduction that “sells” the relevance of the ideas that follow. The shorter, the better.
  • Content. Base your tips on the questions that clients and prospects ask you every day in person and via e-mail. Organize your tip sheet in a question and answer format, or use a short phrase to introduce each tip.
  • Call to action. End with a call to action, which can be as simple as an offer to obtain answer questions submitted by phone or e-mail.
  • Links. Use links to your website to make it easy for recipients to take the next step. Make sure that your links are spelled out (for those who may be reading a printed version of your tip sheet) and make sure the links are activated in your PDF.
  • Graphics. Personalize your tip sheets with a photograph, accompanied by a one-sentence background or positioning statement.
  • Design. Use contrasting typeface, type size, and formatting options like bold or italics to visually set the questions, or phrase introducing each tip, apart from the body copy that follows.
  • Color. Use color with restraint; less is always more. Avoid choosing light colors, i.e., yellow, for text. As always, the colors you use in your tip sheets should reflect the colors associated with your website and your personal brand.
  • Layout. Use a 2-column layout to keep lines short and easy to read. Add extra line spacing to enhance readability.

Leveraging your tip sheets

Here are some tips for leveraging your tip sheets:

  • Print and carry. Print copies of your tip sheet on your desktop printer, or have color copies made at office supply stores like Staples. Always carry copies with you wherever you go. You never know when you’ll meet your next valuable prospect!
  • Promotion. Use the back of your business card to promote your tip sheet. Show a thumbnail of your business card, and the specific page of your website where prospects can sign up to receive it.

Most important, create new tip sheets on a regular basis. Add interest to your tip sheets, and a reason for visitors to return to your site, by creating a new tip sheet on a different topic each quarter.

But, limit access to your previous tip sheets to those who sign up for your latest tip sheet! Place links to previous tip sheets on a special landing page, with a URL that you share in the confirmation e-mail prospects receive when they sign-up for your tip sheet.

Limiting access to previous tip sheets adds strength to your offering, making it more and more important for prospects sign up for your tip sheet and e-mail newsletter.

Note: for one week only, you’re invited to download (no registration required) PDF samples of the tip sheet examples shown above; visit a special page I created for my Active Garage friends.

One of your most important marketing and promoting decisions is choosing the right incentive to offer as a bonus to visitors who sign up for your e-mail newsletter or weekly tips.

It’s not enough to offer great information delivered at consistent intervals via e-mail; you have to go further and sweeten the pot with a sign-up bonus if you want to grow your list as quickly as possible.

Why you must offer an incentive

You have to strike while the iron is hot! One of the reasons to offer an incentive that is immediately delivered via an e-mail autoresponder is to immediately contact visitors who have signed up for your newsletter or weekly tips.

Visitors have short memories; if you’re midway between monthly newsletters or a weekly tip sheet mailing, by the time the next issue rolls around, visitors may have forgotten that they signed-up for it. This won’t happen, however, if they immediately receive your incentive and a thank-you for signing up.

Characteristics of successful incentives

Your sign-up incentive should reflect the quality of information you share on a consistent basis with your clients, customers, prospects, and readers. Key characteristics include:

  • Engaging. Pay as much attention to the title of your incentive as you pay to the title of your book. Your incentive must immediately communicate a benefit that will help visitors solve a problem or achieve a goal. For help choosing the title of your incentive, use the same techniques used to choose article, book, & event titles.
  • Helpful & relevance. The success of a sign-up incentive is based not on how well it “sells” your services, but on the quality of the information you share in it. Let your information be your salesperson; don’t hold anything back- -share your expertise and leave your visitor looking forward to learning more.
  • Actionable. Avoid incentives that are long on theory, but short on information. Instead, focus on concise and simply-stated ideas that your market can immediately put to work.
  • Perceived value. Pay attention to the quality of your incentive; let the packaging, or the design and layout, of your incentive add value to your words and ideas. The design of your incentive should project an appropriate image, one that tells a story and differentiates you and your firm from the competition.
  • Low-cost or no-cost. Electronic incentives, like Adobe PDF’s, downloadable audios, or streaming videos are best because there are few out-of-pocket costs involved in creating them and no costs (other than the low monthly fees for an auto-responder) involved in distributing them.
  • Trackable. In order to test, and, thereby, continue to improve, the desirability of your incentives, it’s important that you carefully track the number of incentives you distribute and the conversions- -or sales- – that result. A simple spreadsheet will help you correlate newsletter or tip-sheet sign-ups to specific blog posts or pay-per-click advertising.

Types of incentives

As mentioned above, sign-up incentive can take many forms. Format options include Acrobat PDF files, audios, videos, and- -even- -templates to be used with popular software programs. The following is a rundown of the types of content options you can choose from:

  • Assessments. An assessment can be as simple as a questionnaire, or as sophisticated as a self-grading interactive form. Assessments help visitors determine their needs and identify areas where improvement is possible.
  • Best-of compendiums. Your hard-drive may contain hundreds of previously-written articles, case studies, ideas, strategies, and tips, that you can assemble into a “Best of” incentive. Another source of information may be as close as your blog posts, which can be easily harvested for your incentive.
  • Checklists. Another popular incentive category idea includes checklists. Checklists help visitors evaluate their performance as they complete a task or work towards a goal.
  • E-courses. An e-course is simply an incentive sent by autoresponders at timed intervals. Typically, the first “lesson” is sent immediately, with follow-up lessons sent every few days or at weekly intervals. Each follow-up mailing reinforces your brand and your message, increasing the likelihood of a favorable outcome.
  • Glossaries. Every field has its own professional terms and jargon. Newcomers to your field are likely to appreciate a list of important terms and their definitions.
  • Resource compilations. What are the recommended books and online resources in your field? Who are the big players in your field? You can enhance your reputation as the knowledgeable “go to” individual in your field by positioning yourself as an expert “filter” who helps visitors save time locating and evaluating resources they’ll find useful…and you’ll get the credit for introducing them.
  • Software templates. Software templates, prepared for use with the popular programs like Microsoft Excel or Word, Adobe In-Design, or Mindjet’s MindManager, help prospects get a head start on their projects. Spreadsheet templates can help prospects make better decisions, and newsletter templates provide a ready-to-use framework for creating a one-page newsletter with Microsoft Publisher.
  • Speeches. Be sure your next speech is recorded, so you can offer it as a downloadable audio or a streaming video.
  • Survey results. After creating a survey of your clients, customers, prospects, and blog readers, compile a report summarizing the major trends. Survey incentives become more valuable each year, if you update the results and include comparisons with survey results from previous years.
  • Tip sheets. Tip sheets are one of the most powerful tools available. A tip sheet can be as simple as 10 tips printed on one side of a single sheet of paper, or they can become as elaborate as you desire.

Your sign-up incentives are going to be judged by their appearance as well as their contents. Ideally, the appearance of your incentives should reflect the brand associated with you and your book.

  • White papers. White papers which are educationally-oriented reports focusing on current challenges and new developments in your field are an excellent lead generation and list-building tool. The ideal length is 12 pages, or less. The key to a successful white paper is to avoid overt marketing or promotion until the very end, where you can stress your firm’s role in developing and delivering the latest advances.

Content and format options

Here are some things to bear in mind when harvesting previously written content from your hard drive and previous blog posts:

  • Clients and prospects have a short memory. Blog content quickly ages, no matter how carefully you have organized your blog posts by category. By drawing attention to valuable content 6 months, or so, older, you’re performing a valuable service for your market.
  • Different prospects prefer different formats. Just because you addressed a topic in a previous newsletter, and you have it archived on your website, doesn’t mean every prospect is aware of it. Thus, repurposing previous newsletters and blog posts into audios and videos exposes them to prospects who may welcome the information because it’s new to them.

Takeaway

Don’t make the mistake of focusing on writing the perfect book, but fail to offer a helpful, relevant, and actionable incentive. In many ways, the title and content of your sign-up incentive is as important as the title and content of your book. Successful incentives lead to successful books!


There are three basic approaches to getting others to help you write your book. As always, your choice should be determined by your goals and your resources. The three options are:

  1. Paying for Help. This option involves locating co-authors, ghost writers, and other forms of reimbursed writing assistance. Reimbursement can be based on a fixed-fee, work-for-hire basis, with the money coming either from the author’s pocket or publisher’s advance. Reimbursement can also be based on future royalties and book sales. Authors must carefully identify exactly what they’re looking for from others, and structure responsibilities and rights to avoid disappointment down the road.
  2. The Network Approach. Another option is to approach other authors and subject area experts in your field for chapters, stories, or suggestions. This often works well when combined with approaching clients and prospects with surveys and offers to contribute case studies or stories to your book. The better known you are in your field, the easier it will be to get free contributions for your book in exchange for acknowledgments and inclusion in the Resources section of your book.
  3. Social Media Approach. A newer approach is to combine the power of social media, like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, with the outreach power of online surveys, from sources like SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang to locate others who can help you write your book. This approach leverages the power of the latest Internet tools to help you save time writing a better book.

Social Media Approach at a glance

The social media approach offers many advantages and continues to evolve and improve.

The social media approach frees you from the limitations of the first two approaches. It eliminates the costs, possible disappointments, and possible future “entanglement” costs of working with co-authors. No agreement, no matter how well constructed, can anticipate all future scenarios, and—at one time or another–all books and relationships involve differences of opinion.

The social media approach can open the door to new relationships with others who are interested in your topic, or have had experience in it. This can broaden your perspective and pave the way for new friendships, ideas, and profit opportunities.

The social media approach to getting others to help you write your book involves 2 steps:

  1. Locate strangers with relevant information. This involves using a combination of search engine marketing, social media, and online surveys to locate others interested in sharing their views.
  2. Requesting follow-up interviews and stories. Your initial survey should contain an option allowing survey participants to share their e-mail address and permission for you to contact them in the future. This is your gateway to follow-up e-mails and, when appropriate, possible telephone conversation and interviews.

By participating in your survey, individuals are indicating their interest in your topic. This makes them likely to be willing to share their experiences and stories  with you in your book.

Driving traffic to your online survey

After creating your survey with SurveyMonkey, Zoomerang, or the dozens of other free online survey providers, there are several ways you can drive traffic to it.

You can begin with promoting your survey on your blog and in your website. You can promote your survey in your permission-based e-mail newsletters. You can Tweet about it, and encourage your followers to Retweet your requests for survey participation.

You can also add survey modules to your Squidoo lenses, and create a LinkedIn Answers campaign or post your question on Facebook. Step-by-step advice for working with LinkedIn Answers can be found at Dummies.com.

Finally, you can use pay-per-click ads to attract the attention of those interested in your field and drive them to your survey. Even a relatively small budget can be enough to drive qualified traffic to your survey each day.

Help a Reporter Out

Peter Shankman’s Help a Reporter Out, or HelpaReporter, is perhaps the most powerful, popular, and free outreach option for authors. Help a Reporter Out is a free subscription service that sends members 3 e-mails a day containing a digest of brief questions posted by authors and journalists.

Authors can use this service to drive traffic to their online surveys. They can simply ask for individuals interested in sharing their experiences to visit your survey page and answer a question, rate their concerns, or share their favorite shortcut or tip.

Over 29,000 journalists subscribe to HARO, which enhances the program’s power to drive qualified traffic to your online survey. In addition to attracting the attention of people interested in your topic, your query may prompt a journalist to contact you for a possible interview.

Being quoted as an expert in your field, of course, will introduce you to additional potential readers as well as potential contributors.

Tips for following-up surveys

Here are some tips for interviewing individuals who have participated in your survey:

  • Always record and transcribe your interviews. Recording your calls, with the interviewee’s permission, frees you from the necessity of taking notes during the conversation. You’ll be better able to pay attention to the interviewee’s responses and ask for clarification or more details.
  • Obtain permission for quotes and stories. Clarify your intent to include portions of the interview in your upcoming book. Be sure to keep careful records of interviewee names and e-mail addresses. Your publisher’s Permissions Department will want to follow-up and confirm permission before your book appears.

Conclusion

Never before has it been so easy to get others to help you write your book. Social media makes it easy to locate others interested in your topic; free online surveys make it easy to begin relationships that can lead to in-depth interviews that can add richness and depth to your book.

Before you can write your book, you need to create a content plan for your book. Mind mapping makes it easy to identify and organize your ideas.

Mind mapping software, see directory here, allows you to work visually. Ideas are displayed as clouds, or topics, organized around the main topic. The main topic can be the title of a book, a newsletter editorial calendar, or a quarterly marketing plan.

When creating the content plan for #Book Title Tweet: 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Creating Compelling Titles for Articles, Books, and Events, I followed the same 3-step process I always use when starting a new book:

  • Step 1: Sections. I identify the main sections of the book.
  • Step 2: Chapters. Next, I list the chapters and main ideas with each section.
  • Step 3: Export. When finished, I export the mind map to Microsoft Word.

This approach is extremely efficient. It eliminates duplicate typing. The mind map I use to plan my book and share with potential literary agents or publishers is also used to create a formal book proposal and prepare the manuscript for publication.

Step 1: Sections

Figure 1

Figure 1, created with Mindjet’s MindManager, shows what my project looked like less than two hours after I started work. If memory serves, it took me about 30 minutes to identify the major sections of the book, and another hour, or so, to fine-tune the section titles and their order.

At this point, my intention to write a book about book titles has already begun to take shape. There hasn’t really been much “stress,” and I’ve rather enjoyed the process of dragging and dropping sections into the correct order. And, I actually left the office early, after sharing copies of the map with a few key individuals.

Step 2: Chapters

Figure 2

My next step was to begin to populate the map with the next level of information, chapters.

In the case of the THINKaha book series edited by Rajesh Setty’s, the “chapters” consist of Tweets, or 140-character, ideas and examples. Accordingly, I began to write the book in MindManager, as shown in Figure 2.

A couple of things to notice:

  • Automatic numbering. MindManager, like many other mind mapping software programs, can automatically number each subtopic. This made it easy for me to track my progress and include the right number of points.
  • Keeping track of characters. Note the numbers in the call-outs. After I developed each idea and provided an example, I copied and pasted the text into Microsoft Word. I could then use Word’s Tools, WordCount feature to see how many characters I used (or had to edit to fit the 140-character limit. This quickly became a pleasurable game.
  • Notes feature. I used MindManager’s Notes feature if I had any additional ideas, such as alternative examples, for each entry.

You may have noticed that the subtitle in the mind map has been changed to “140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Compelling Titles for Articles, Books, and Events.” Change during the course of writing and editing a book is a normal, and healthy, sign of progress. Change is a positive byproduct of the collaborations and conversations between authors and publishers.

Step 3: Export to Word

When I was through, I exported my mind map to Microsoft Word, and was able to view the book from my readers’ perspective.

My initial manuscript editing was relatively easy, since, from the beginning, I was able to visually preview the order (or context) of each 140-character topic. As a result, there were no unpleasant surprises along the way.

Likewise, since my mind mapped plan was on target, there were minimum editorial queries or problem areas to adjust. The experience reminded me of what Jack Hart, veteran writing coach, had written in his A Writer’s Coach: The Complete Guide to Writing Strategies that Work and had emphasized when I interviewed him: Writing problems are usually the result of planning problems.

Only, in this case, starting out with a strong plan, writing (i.e., choosing the right words to communicate my ideas) was easy.

Conclusion

Good content plans create good books. Use the right tools to convert your intention to write a book into a framework you can use to sell, test-market, and write your book. The sooner you create your book’s content plan, and the more thought and care you put into it, the easier it will be to sell your book to the right publisher and finish your manuscript on time. What’s your favorite tool for creating content plans? Share your ideas, comments, and questions, below, as comments.

I’ve heard few authors say that they “found the time” to write their book! Time is not something you “find,” like a needle in a haystack (or, the New World).

Instead, time to write is something you create, and you create time using tools like planning, commitment, and efficiency.

Here’s a proven, 4-step process for making the time to write that works for me, and many of my clients.

1. Start with a plan

Whether you’re writing a book or a blog post, progress comes quicker when you know what you want to write before you sit down to write.

Your “plans” don’t have to be elaborate, and they don’t have to be formal. As you can see from the content plan I created at the start of this series, a simple mind map is enough to provide a framework for your writing success.

Likewise, if you’re starting a book, your plan might be as simple as a list of the 10 chapters you’re going to include in your book, plus the 7-10 main ideas (or topics) you’re going to discuss in each chapter.

For example, I just added a copy of a mind map I created a few years ago for a major project to my Active Garage Resource Center. It was one of my first maps, but it was enough to sell the project and help me write the project on time.

2. Commit to daily progress

Once you have created a content plan, or framework, the next step is to forget everything you ever heard about deadline-based “writing marathons.” Likewise, forget about “getting away” to write a book and myths like “I write better under pressure.”

I’ve interviewed hundreds of successfully branded authors, and the majority of them don’t believe coffee-inspired writing marathons. Instead, they commit to consistent daily progress, often in working sessions as short as 30 minutes.

Books are best written in short, daily working sessions, not stressful marathons!

It’s amazing what you can accomplish in 30-minute working sessions if you know what you’re going to write about. The act of creating a content plan, activates your brain so it is constantly working in the background, sifting and organizing ideas, searching for the right words, while you’re doing other tasks during the day, and when you’re driving or sleeping.

Fewer expectations equal less stress

One of the reasons that short working sessions are so productive is that there is less stress- -primarily performance anxiety- -involved in short 30-minute working sessions than in vacations or weekends. One of the reasons for this is that if you only expect to write a page or two during a working session, you’re not as likely to be disappointed.

But, if you have vowed to write a book over the summer at a vacation cabin, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Why? Because the expectation of a completed book leads to the worrisome thought, What do I do if I don’t finish my book? Won’t I be a failure? Won’t people laugh?

Likewise, expecting to write a book during weekends and holidays, creates guilt-based stress because you’re not spending time with your family.

3. Harvest your time

Begin by taking an inventory of your time, locating specific time periods each day when you can commit to 30 minute working sessions. Look for opportunities like:

  • Getting up 30-minutes earlier each day, preferably before the family gets up.
  • Staying up 30-minute later each night.
  • Arriving at the office 30-minutes earlier and closing the door.
  • Taking your lunch with you, and eating a sandwich at your computer.
  • Taking your laptop to a coffee shop or bookstore café during breaks or mealtime.

Then, make both public commitment of specific times each weekday. Don’t say, I’m going to write a little every morning! Instead, specify, I’m going to get to my office by 8:30 AM and check my messages or e-mail until 9:00!

Your daily writing sessions don’t have to be at the same time each day; your working sessions on Monday might be between 7:30 and 8:00 AM, but your Tuesday working sessions might be 8:00 PM to 8:30 while the family is watching television.

Once you’ve made a commitment to daily progress, and shared it with others, you’ll find it much easier to keep your project on track.

4. Track your progress

Since we all find the time to do what we want to do, it’s important that you keep yourself motivated.

That’s why the final step is to find a way to demonstrate your daily progress. One of the ways you can do this is to add a check-mark, or a strike-through, to indicate finished chapters and topics on your content map.

Another way to show progress is to print what you’ve just written during each writing session on 3-hole punched paper, and store them in a 3-ring binder.

Each time you open the binder and insert new pages, you’ll enjoy a feeling of accomplishment, as you see your finished pages mounting up.

Conclusion

All the “how to write” books and workshops in the world won’t get your book written if you don’t make the time to make the time to actually write your book. The 4-step process of planning your content, commiting to short, daily working sessions, harvesting your time, and tracking your progress is a formula that works. But, it’s up to you to put the process to work!

Roger-Step1-PlanAuthors must look beyond the obvious – -the trends and the hype – -when choosing the type of book publishing that’s best for them and their family. It’s easy to get seduced by the many recent, exciting, changes in book publishing technology.

Before rushing into a decision, I encourage you to make your choice from a detailed analysis of how each publishing option will impact you and your family both before and after your book is published.

Publishing options at a glance

The 3 primary publishing options include e-books, trade publishing, and self-publishing.

E-books

E-books span the gamut from word-processed documents distributed as Adobe Acrobat PDF files to professionally designed books optimized for on-screen reading, like Rajesh Setty’s Defiant. A new generation of e-book readers has received a great deal of attention, like the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook.

When analyzing the pros and cons of e-books, authors need to be careful to ask the right questions. The questions should not revolve around the current popularity of e-books and e-book readers- -i.e., whether or not e-books will replace printed books, etc.

Instead, authors must ask whether or not an e-book, by itself, will be enough to build the compelling, income-generating, personal brand they desire.

The big question is not whether or not e-books are popular, but whether or not they can position you as a subject area expert in your field

Trade publishing

Trade publishing, i.e., printed books published by large, specialized firms and distributed online and through “bricks and mortar” retail channels like Barnes & Noble, Borders, and regional independent bookstores offer authors a “no cost” way to get their book published.

Trade publishers front the money for all of the costs involved in editing, designing, formatting, printing, and distributing the book. In fact, traditionally, authors would receive often-significant advances on the future earnings of their books.

In exchange for freedom from up-front investment, however, authors must pass the gauntlets of rejection; publishers typically receive hundreds of books proposals for each book they publish. In addition, authors typically sacrifice a lot of control. It’s no longer “author and book,” but “author and committee”- -and the committee is a huge one.

Major decisions, like titles, book covers, size, pricing, and market positioning, are taken out of the author’s hands, and many surprises occur. (Many authors don’t even see their book’s front cover until it’s too late!)

Other compromises involve the amount of money authors receive from sales of their books, copyright issues that can limit back-end profit opportunities, and rights to future electronic products (like DVD’s). Most non-fiction books fail to earn royalties beyond the initial advance, although the occasional “home run” can create life-changing cash-flow.

Authors must ask themselves if the publisher’s credibility, expertise, and bookstore distribution are worth the lack of control and reduced earnings characteristic of trade publishing.

Self-publishing

Self-publishing continues to enjoy growing popularity. And, like “hybrid automobiles,” the term covers a broad range of options. Self-publishing ranges from an author taking responsibility for everything- – including editing, designing, printing, and distributing their book- -to options where outside firms will take as much responsibility for book production and distribution as desired.

Self-publishing offers control and speed: author’s call the shots and can get book into the hands of their clients and prospects faster than trade-publishing.

In addition, depending on how much money the author initially invests in their project, authors can far more profit per-copy than they would ever earn from trade publishing. This is especially true with direct online sales and from selling multiple copies of their books to businesses and associations.

Before choosing self-publishing, however, authors must determine whether or not they have the resources necessary to self-publish their book, and also make sure they want to spend their time performing the tasks necessary to distribute their book.

Authors have succeeded, and are succeeding, with each option. In addition, hybrid options are becoming available. What’s important, however, is What will work best for you?

How to choose the right publishing option

Ultimately, the choice for most authors boils down to just 2 issues: cash-flow and task preferences.  Cash-flow and how the author wants to spend their time after their book appears are the crucial issues.

Cash-flow

For many authors, the issue is cash-flow. Self-publishing initially involves negative cash flow, the money flows away from the author. The author is investing (or borrowing) money against future profits. Authors must put out money for editing, design, production, and proof-reading- -in addition to paying up front for printing and shipping.

If the money is there, i.e., if an author can more comfortably invest in their book without risking their financial security, self-publishing makes sense.

But, if the investment will seriously impact their family’s standard or living, or- -, even worse- -put it at risk, self-publishing doesn’t make sense.

The Preliminary Cash Flow Projection worksheet displays the implications of self-publishing versus trade publishing.

Task preferences

Successful self-publishing requires a different set of tasks than writing a book. It’s up to you whether or not the tasks are those you’d like to either commit to on a daily basis or delegate to others. These tasks involve:

  • Processing and fulfilling orders, packaging and addressing individual books, handling the occasional, inevitable, returns.
  • Shipping cartons of books to distributors and bookstores, handling returns of unsold books.
  • Monitoring inventory, deciding when to re-order books.
  • Legal and accounting; monitoring accounts receivable and tracking down overdue payments, dealing with copyright issues.
  • Negotiating terms with bookstores and distributors, including discounts and return privileges.


There’s nothing inherently wrong with these tasks, but authors must balance their writing and client-service time with the minutiae involved in bookstore distribution and fulfilling individual orders.


The Author Task Preference Worksheet helps you identify your “fit” with the tasks involved in self-publishing.

Conclusion

As the above questions show, choosing the right publishing alternative involves more than simply “going with the flow” or choosing the most popular alternative. The right choice of publishing alternative involves carefully balancing their goals and resources with the realities of each publishing option.

To help my clients, I’ve created several worksheets, like my Self-Publishing Expense Planner, shown above, to help authors realistically run the numbers and make the right decisions. (E-mail me if you’d like to see a sample.)

Roger-Step1-PlanI’d like to invite you along on an author’s journey towards writing a nonfiction book. During the next 26 weeks, I’m going to share my progress towards my 39th book. I want to share with you some of the strategies and tips I’ve learned about book publishing and personal branding. I also want to share some of the changes that have taken place in publishing, as well as share the steps in the decision-making process that can save you time and help you avoid expensive mistakes.

Why do business professionals like you write books?

Certainly, it’s not the “big bucks” advances from conventional trade publishers. Celebrity 6 and 7-figure advances notwithstanding, direct income from book sales is likely not to become a significant income source for you and your family.

And, unless you self-publish, which requires you to spend money before you can earn money–you’re unlikely to profit from endless streams of recurring income from book royalties each month.

So, why do business professionals write books, if it’s not the money?

There are two ways to answer this question: the anecdotal approach and the statistical, research study approach:

  1. Post-1-MLevy-42Rules-TWO-5Anecdotal approach. The easiest and most readable way to learn why busy professionals write books is to pick up a copy of Mitchell Levy’s 42 Rules for Driving Success with Books. The 5 sections of this book provide concise, entertaining, and revealing real-world portraits of authors who have escaped the economic hell of anonymity by writing a book that positioned them as experts in their field. If you’re looking for believable role models of publishing success, this is the place to start at a very reasonable price.
  2. Post-1-RainToday_Rprt-TWO-5Research-study approach. RainToday, the research and publishing arm of the Wellesley Hills Group, has published a detailed, 2-volume, 300-page Business Book Publishing Series Report. Based on detailed interviews and surveys with published authors, these reports make a dollars and cents argument for writing and publishing a book to build your brand and attract qualified prospects.

The most telling statistic: 96% of authors reported that publishing a business book affected their practice either “Positively” or “Extremely Positively!”

So, why am I, again, beginning an author’s journey?

My last book, Design to Sell, came out in 2006, and my previous book, The Streetwise Guide to Relationship Marketing on the Internet, came out in 2000. My previous books sold over 1.6 million copies throughout the world. (My shelves are loaded with copies of my books I’ll never be able to read, i.e., Chinese, Polish, Russian, and Hebrew editions.)

My best-selling books came earlier, when it was easier to earn significant incomes from publisher’s advances and royalties on book sales. My first NY Times best-seller was Looking Good in Print: A Guide to Basic Design for Desktop Publishing, and the late 1990’s were subsidized by significant royalties from Microsoft Office for Windows 97 For Dummies, and others in the series.

Now, it’s time to write again, and there are several factors driving my decision. The relative importance of the following varies from day to day, but all of the following play a role:

  • Writing is fun. Isn’t that a crazy thing to say? Yet, it’s true. At the end of the day, there’s satisfaction to be found in whatever you’ve been able to accomplish. There’s a lot to be said for starting with nothing, and ending up with a page or two of convincing arguments that didn’t exist at the start of your writing session.
  • Repositioning my expertise. For many years, I was known as the “design guru of our generation who has taught desktop publishing excellence to hundreds of thousands,” as Ralph Wilson said. I continue to love graphic design, but at the present time, I’m more interested in teaching writing skills at Published&Profitable and writing about writing in my daily writing tips blog. The time is right for me to write a book about publishing that will attract more qualified traffic to my website and more invitations to speak.
  • Passion. I’m not only very passionate about the topic, I want to learn more about it and be able to teach it more effectively. Writing is the best way to enhance your understanding and ability to communicate it to others.
  • It’s a different world. There are some wonderful changes taking place in publishing these days. New tools are available that open up new frontier of opportunity for authors who are willing to adapt to the times. Never before have the barriers to entry been as open to entrepreneurial authors as they are now. I’m tired of writing about these changes, I want to take advantage of them myself!

I’m tired of writing about these changes, I want to take advantage of them myself!

I’m looking forward to putting today’s new writing and marketing tools to work writing and promoting a different type of book, one that only now makes sense for business professionals.

My new book also provides an opportunity for me to synthesize marketing and writing in ways that were impossible for most business professionals in 2000, and were only known to a few non-computing professionals in 2006.

I hope you’ll come along for the remaining 25 installments of this author’s journey; and, if you’re so inclined, I hope you’ll become convinced that it’s time for you, too, to begin an author’s journey.

In the second installment of this series, I’m going to address the first question you should ask yourself when writing a book: Who Do You Want to Read Your Book? The answer may surprise you.

Note: Drop me a line at Roger@publishedandprofitable.com and I’ll send you a PDF of the mind map I’ve created for my author’s journey plus a mind map of the contents of my next book!