These are the top fifteen things I wish I would have known when I began to write my first book. This list is continually updated as I continue to learn new things about how to write, publish, and leverage nonfiction books to grow my own businesses.
1. WRITE A SHORTER BOOK
Many bestselling books are less than 150 pages, such as Gary Vaynerchuk’s Crush It! (142 pages). Some are even under 100 pages, like Make Your Bed (79 pages) by Admiral William H. McRaven or Heal Your Body (93 pages) by Louise Hay.
2. SPEND A LOT OF TIME IDENTIFYING YOUR IDEAL READER
Don’t worry about everyone your book won’t appeal to. Instead, focus on writing a book that will change the world for a very specific type of person.
3. WORK IN GOOGLE DOCS
Not because it’s better than Word or Scrivener (although personally, I like it better than either), but because the collaboration features make it easy to incorporate feedback from others.
4. CREATE AN OUTLINE
It may feel faster to just start writing, but you’ll pay for it later when you encounter writer’s block, spend time editing your work, and have to pay more to your editor. On top of saving time and money, an outline will make your book 10x better.
5. USE THE INTERVIEW OR ESSAY FORMAT
When I wrote Chief Marketing Officers at Work I interviewed 30 CMOs from companies like Spotify, Target, PayPal, The Home Depot, and GE, transcribed the interviews, and did some minor editing. That was it. The book practically wrote itself, which is why I was able to go from conception to publication in eight months. When my wife wrote Why I Love Homeschooling she solicited essays from homeschooling parents (no transcribing required!) and one-upped me—her book was published in less than two months.
6. IF YOU DON’T LIKE WRITING, DON’T WRITE
Speak your book and then use Temi or another transcription service. Just $0.25 per minute.
7. MAKE A VOMIT DRAFT
Don’t worry about your first draft. Nobody needs to see it. Just let it spill out and clean it up later. Do not edit as you write. Write, then rewrite, then edit.
8. WRITE FIVE DAYS A WEEK, EVERY MORNING, FOR 15 MIN
I write at 5 am, before anyone can interrupt me. I write for at least fifteen minutes, but longer if I feel like it. Try it out, you’ll be surprised how much writing you’ve done a month from now.
9. READ MORE
The more you read books like the book you want to write, the more effortlessly the right language will flow out of you.
10. FIND A CO-AUTHOR
Finish your book in half the time. Make your editor your co-author to save money.
11. REMIX (STEAL)
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Find books you would like your book to be like and copy them. Not word for word, but copy the way they do things. Steal the table of contents from one book, the chapter structure from another, and the tone from yet another. Mash them up together, then refine it until you have something unique. More on this in Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon, as well as the YouTube video Everything is a Remix by Kirby Ferguson.
12. USE CONTENT YOU ALREADY HAVE
Do you have a blog, newsletter, whitepapers, social media posts, or anything else you’ve already created which you could copy and paste into a rough draft version of your book?
13. SELF-PUBLISH YOUR BOOK
If you work with a traditional publisher you can add two extra years to the time it will take to get your book in the hands of your readers. You’ll also lose control of your book and the ability to market it well. Instead, publish through Amazon KDP for Kindle and paperback copies of your book, IngramSpark if you want to do a hardbound version, and ACX to get your audiobook on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.
14. ASSEMBLE AN AMATEUR TEAM
While working on my upcoming book 60 Days to LinkedIn Mastery, I invited my LinkedIn connections to read a draft and offer feedback. Over 60 of them did.
15. ASSEMBLE A PROFESSIONAL TEAM
Hire an editor, or find a good one who is willing to edit your book in exchange for being a co-author. Other tasks you should hire for, rather than trying to do them yourself, include cover design, typesetting, and PR. Others can do these things better than you can, but only you can write your book. Focus on what only you can do and outsource the rest.
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