Ever wonder what you need to do before you start writing a book? Then listen up! That’s what I’m talking about in this episode of The Author Switch!
Audio for Episode 5: The Authorneer’s Journey, Part 2: What to do before you start writing a book
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Transcript for Episode 5: The Authorneer’s Journey, Part 2: What to do before you start writing a book
NOTE: Due to some ad-libbing, this may not be an exact transcript. In addition, I’ve added bolded notations where each of the steps is so you can more easily find them.
If you missed any past episodes – especially episode 3 in October – go to the episodes page to find them.
I’m your host Carma Spence, author of five books, including the award-winning and bestselling Public Speaking Super Powers.
You may be wondering why I emphasized catching episode 3 of this podcast. Well, in that episode I talked about the first step in the Authorneer’s Journey, and in this episode, I’m going to share the second step. These episodes are part of an eight-episode series on the Authorneer’s journey.
Yes, each episode can stand on its own and you’ll gain valuable information about the various parts of the writing, publishing, and marketing a book journey. However, they will help you most if you listen to them all because they will give you a more holistic view of what goes into making a living as an author.
Well, enough preamble. Let’s get into the meat of the content, shall we? The second step in the Authorneer’s Journey is pre-work (what to do before you start writing a book), for the lack of a better term. This is all the stuff you need to do before you write your book.
Now, you can do it afterward. I know I’ve done it afterward. However, it is MUCH easier to plan for a successful book if you do this process BEFORE you write a word.
Before you start writing >> Step 1
The first thing you need to do is decide on your book’s topic. Duh, right? You may already have done this, but sometimes you might have multiple ideas and you need to choose one to focus on for this first book.
Coming up with your topic is a matter of understanding yourself. What do you know that would be useful to a reader? What are you passionate about that can benefit them?
This doesn’t have to be mind-blowing or earth-shattering. For example, let’s say you’re an avid underwater basket weaver. You’ve got weaving baskets while lounging in your backyard pool down to a science. In fact, you’ve developed your own personal system for aquatic basket weaving. I bet there are people out there who want to learn how to do what you do. So why not write a book?
Underwater basket weaving – if it even exists – isn’t going to change the world. But if it does exist, there are readers out there who want to read your book if you’ll only write it.
Now, what do you do if you’ve got several ideas for a book? Some people are idea machines and you may be one of them. I am – I’ve got a list of at least a dozen books I want to write right now. Anyway, how do you choose which one to focus on next?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Which one or ones are you most drawn to?
- Of those, which one excites you the most?
- Still not sure? Which one scares you the most.
You’re looking for the idea with the highest emotional charge for you with this line of questioning. Why? Because that emotional charge will help pull you through the tough spots.
Another line of questioning that can help you decide is this:
- What is your vision for your business? Where do you want it to go?
- Once you have that answer, who does this business you envisioned help?
- Once you have that answer, what book idea would 1. Help them the most and 2. Move you closer to your vision?
Before you start writing >> Step 2
Ok. You’ve got your book idea. What comes next? Your reader!
Now is the time to get very clear on who your reader is. Why? Because it will help you write a more targeted and helpful book AND it will help you market that book more effectively.
Before you start writing >> Step 3
Next up is to research the competition. Take a look at other books that cover the same or similar topic. For example, I’m launching the second edition of Home Sweet Home Page next year. That book helps authors, speakers, and coaches make their homepage – and website – more effective. So I looked at other books that cover the topics of author, speaker, and coach websites.
Here’s what you’re looking for:
- What information is your competition covering?
- What information that you have is missing?
The goal of this research is to discover how you can improve upon with your book what is already available. Your goal is to write a better book than what is currently published – and you can’t know that unless you’ve done your research.
OK, you’re done with all the research you have to do. Next up is to start planning out your content. But before we do that, here is a brief commercial break.
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Hello! And welcome back to The Author Switch, the podcast dedicated to helping aspiring and new authors turn on The Author Switch to success in their minds. I’m your host, Carma Spence, author of the bestselling and award-winning book Public Speaking Super Powers.
Before the break, I talked about the before-you-write research and decision-making you need to do. I shared how to choose your next book idea. I talked about identifying your ideal reader. And I discussed how to improve your book idea by researching the competition.
Before you start writing >> Step 4
The next thing you need to do is develop your content plan. Some people call this outlining.
There are lots of ways to outline your book. That could be an entire episode – although a rather boring one – all its own. But here are the basics.
First, you break down your topic into logical chunks. For example, let’s go back to our underwater basket-weaving idea. Let’s say the book is going to be about how to weave baskets underwater, a beginner’s guide. What would a first-time underwater basket weaver need to know to get started? Some subtopics might include:
- How to choose the right supplies for underwater weaving – I would think they might be different than regular basket weaving
- What kinds of weaving tools you’ll need
- Perhaps some discussion of air tanks or breath-holding exercises
- Maybe a chapter on how to deal with water-logged hands
You get the point. Remember to add in the topics you discovered from your research, as well.
Now you take these chunks and you organize them in a logical order. This could be chronological, or systematic, or even in an order that spells out an acronym.
That gives you the skeleton of an outline. Flesh it out a little and now your book practically writes itself!
However, you’re still not ready to write.
What? You may be asking.
Before you start writing >> Step 5
Nope, the next step is to take a look at the marketing ideas you came up with in the first step – the step talked about in episode 3.
You’re going to do two things with that proto-marketing plan you came up with.
- You’re going to flesh it out a bit more given the information you’ve done in this step. You now have a clearer idea of who your target market is and can start figuring out where they hang out and how you might market your book to them.
- You’re going to see how you can work some of your marketing magic into the book itself.
Will the book point people toward an online course you’ve created on the subject? Make sure you drop a hint or two – not too many – but enough that the readers who are interested in more will notice. Also, mention it in the back matter, too.
How can you make this book you’ve outlined support your marketing and make it more effective? Make sure you get that into your outline!
You see, authorneers write books that play a role in their overall business. So they are always thinking about not only how they can help others with their book, but how that book can invite the right readers into a deeper working relationship. A book can only take a person’s transformation so far. Working with the author can take it so much further and so much faster.
If you think of the transformational journey you take your clients on as a series of steps they take from where they are to where they want to be. Your books are individual steps. More often than not, they are first steps. Your programs, courses, workshops, and other products take people several steps toward their goal, rather than just one. So the book is a tool that helps your ideal clients achieve a win in their journey while falling in love with the idea of working with you!
Tada! Your pre-work is done! The next step in the journey is the writing and editing phase. I’ll talk about that in episode 7 of The Author Switch in the second half of January. Between now and then, in episode six, I’ll be chatting with Dawn Owens, author of Light After Layoff. I think you’ll enjoy it!
Until then, this is your host, Carma Spence, signing off. Ciao!
About The Author Switch
The Author Switch is a podcast dedicated to helping experts, entrepreneurs, and small business owners turn on The Author Switch — and keep it on — so that they can leverage the power of books to take their businesses to a whole new dimensions. You learn more about the show on its page.