1. Determine your goals: What do you want to achieve with your book? Being clear about your vision and goals in the beginning will help you make the right choices as you move along this path of learning how to write a book. Your book writing coach can help you clarify your goals.
2. Know your audience: Be clear who you’re writing for and what they want and need. You can’t figure out how to write a book if you don’t know who you’re writing for.
3. Use your goals and assess your starting point whether you want to self publish or traditionally publish. You may think you can wait to determine this, but it’s actually important to know up front, because the type of publishing will determine next steps.
If you’re self publishing, you’ll skip step 4, go right to step 5, then skip all the way to step 9 to write your book.
If you’re looking for a traditional publisher, continue to step 4.
4. Write a book proposal. This post takes you through the nine basic steps to write a book proposal. It also includes several links to articles of mine that guide you through some of the more challenging sections of a proposal and includes insider tips for each of those sections. Note: you also want to use the best book to guide you. A Harvard-educated psychologist sent me the book proposal he wrote using a “Dummies” book. (Now some of those “Dummies” books are great, but not this one). He was able to laugh about it afterwards, but he’d sent this proposal to a number of agents using the format recommended in the book—and it was missing several critical elements of a successful book proposal. One agent outright rejected it and he never heard back from the other two. I knew these agents and asked them to hold off, so we could revise his proposal and they happily agreed. He did get an agent and a publisher. But don’t make his time-wasting mistake. I personally love Michael Larsen’s book, How to Write a Book Proposal. My clients and I have had great success with it and I know that agents love Michael’s format.
You may still need some help to fine-tune your book proposal and have an airtight case for your book, a clearly defined market, a powerful and compelling promotion plan and a potent author platform. If any of these is missing, I am happy to help you develop those areas of the proposal, or even develop strategies to expand your platform and make it more compelling to agents and publishers. E-mail me to explore.
5. Write an outline and sample chapters: The outline and sample chapters are actually part of your book proposal. My Book Writing Starter Kit will take you through the process of outlining your book and organizing it, as well as clarifying your features, voice, tone, etc. You can also e-mail me about writing coaching to get support in this critical step in writing a nonfiction or how-to book.
Self publishing? If so, skip to step 9 to write your book.
6. Identify potential literary agents: Research the agents for books similar to yours. Meet agents at conferences such as Harvard Medical School’s CME publishing course or the International Women’s Writing Guild. Read about agents online and in books. Identify who is interested in topics like yours.
7. Send a query letter to potential literary agents. Do not send them the whole book proposal. That’s a sure way to have your proposal end up in the slush pile and maybe never hear back. Your query letter will allow literary agents to decide whether they’re interested in your book. If they are, they will invite you to send them your book proposal. Of course, if you’ve met an agent at a conference and they said to send them your proposal, you can skip this step and just send your book proposal with a cover letter (step 8).
8. Send your book proposal to interested agents. It used to be you could only send your book proposal to one literary agent at a time, but nowadays most agents accept and expect you will send it to a handful at once. Don’t send your book proposal to too many agents. You may get valuable feedback on something you need to change, and you wouldn’t want to burn all your bridges by sending it out without having gotten some feedback. Make sure you write “Requested material enclosed” or something like that in the bottom left corner of the envelope that holds your book proposal.
9. Time to finally write your book: Now we get to the crux of how to write a book. You need to be clear about your audience so that you can write your book in a way that will appeal to your audience. Here are just some of the questions you’ll need to ponder and answer as you write your book:
- How will your book be most useful to your readers? In what format?
- What tone and voice would speak to your anticipated readers and also capture your unique gifts?
- What features would help your readers really get what you’re trying to say?
- What might be in the way of your readers being successful in what your book has to teach? How can you help them overcome these potential blocks?
- What stories will help you illustrate your points?
- What information do your readers need to know?
My Book Writing Starter Kit will take you step by step to write a book beginning with workbook exercises, answering the questions above in more detail, teaching you how to write a book by examples. In addition, this self-study course will help you organize your book–one of the tasks people find most challenging. You’ll find the tools you need to organize your ideas: to write an outline for your book and come up with a great table of contents—one that is friendly and useful to readers and one that will help them see the value in your book when they are thumbing through to make their buying decision.