Recently, podcaster, author, and agency owner Drew McLellan asked me how do busy agency owners write a book? This is a great question for any business owner, CEO, strategic consultant, or business coach who wants to write a book. Here are the nine ways, in alphabetical order, not ranked order:
Blog to book. I call him “The Julia and Julia Approach,” according to the woman who blogged about cooking all the recipes in the Julia Child book, To master The art of French cuisine and it became a bestselling book, then a bestselling movie. Start with an outline for the book that has a working title, working subtitle, and chapter outline. My suggestion is that the chapters be 20 aha! ideas you want to share. Then write the 20 blogs that will be converted into book chapters. If every blog is a 1,000 word essay, voila, you have a sloppy first copy of a book manuscript. Many of my columns on Forbes.com are the basis of my books.
Co-author. Find someone who would like to share the work and the costs. I call this the “Gym Buddy approach” after the classic exercise accountability strategy (a running buddy helped me get in the best shape of my life). Decide how you are going to approach the writing. One way is to split up the chapters and have each writer write half the chapters and then trade them in for the edit. Another strategy is to have one author write the first drafts and the other author write the polished chapters. There are many right answers, but the approach must be decided in advance and accepted as fair. I co-wrote ten books and each approach was different.
Development Writer. My nickname for this is “The Charles Dickens Approach”. Dickens was a close friend and editor of novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who is known for writing the opening “It Was a Dark and Stormy Night” (probably didn’t consult Charles about it or it might have to be: “It was the best of nights, it was the worst of nights”). A development editor helps the author with structure and content, then looks at a book with a more critical eye. These editors fix grammar and spelling errors, but mostly look for structural issues. Development editors will comment on more complex structural issues, suggesting that an author remove or add sections, combine ideas, or expand on a point raised. Some development publishers will also do minor rewrites, if needed, but this usually comes at a higher price. For a business book of around 20,000 words, a development editor typically charges between $4,000 and $8,000, depending on the amount of work involved. Don’t confuse a development editor with a proofreader. A proofreader, or line editor, proofreads a completed manuscript to make sure there are no errors. Hiring a proofreader is often the last step in the writing process, just before the book is published. Typically, you would hire both a development editor and a proofreader. Their fees can usually range from $4 to $8 per page, around $500 to $1,000 for a 20,000 word book.
Up early. My nickname for this is “The Deepak Chopra Approach”. In a 1996 Los Angeles Time interview with Chopra, the famous author reported that he gets up at 4:30 a.m., meditates for 90 minutes, then writes for two hours. So set your alarm for two hours before you get up normally and in the stillness of dawn, write the book every day (maybe six days a week – sleep in one day). As stated above, be guided by an outline for the book that has a working title, working subtitle, and chapter outline.
Writer ghost. My nickname for this is “The Boo! I am a ghost approach. A ghostwriter is a tool that is used to help create a book. The ghost (so named because he is invisible and will not be named in the book) first interviews the “author”, then creates an outline for the book, then does the heavy lifting of writing the book whole for the author. . Although your book is written by the ghostwriter, it is written with the voice of the author. When the manuscript is completed, the author has full rights to the book. A ghostwriter needs all the information from the author to create the book. Ghostwriters will also have to interview you to fill in the gaps. Also, they should research any necessary topic, which relates to your book. Ghostwriters vary widely in price. Usually, you can expect to spend between a quarter and two dollars per word for a book.
Interviews to be booked. My nickname for this is “The Pharma CEO Approach” because that’s how I helped a busy CEO of a top ten pharmaceutical company write a book. Again, start with an outline for the book that has a working title, working subtitle, and chapter outline. Have someone, perhaps a development editor, record interviews with you on Zoom which you then transcribe on Rev.com. Transcripts will be turned into chapters. Ten transcripts of 15-minute chapters will equal one book draft.
Podcasts to book. The nickname for this is “The Jodi Katz Approach”. I helped turn Jodi’s award-winning podcasts into a book. My suggestion is to start with this outline (a working title, a working subtitle, and a chapter outline). Then base the podcast interviews on that. But the reverse approach also works. Make the podcasts, then integrate them into a cohesive book structure.
Cabin retreats. I nicknamed him “The Misery Approach”, named after the novel and film by Stephen King. In the film, Kathy Bates’ character locks author James Caan’s character in a cubicle so he can finish a novel. Again, start with an outline for the book that has a working title, working subtitle, and chapter outline. Then book a series of two-day writing retreat sessions. I have done this several times. I wrote my last book in a motel in Memphis for five days while recovering from Covid.
Workshop to book. My nickname for this is “The Tony Robbins Approach” after the famous workshop leader and author (I’ve interviewed people who have attended his workshops and learned to walk on hot coals). Create a three-hour workshop plan that mirrors your book’s chapter plan. Get an audience then record the workshop with an MP3 recorder or on Zoom. Then transcribe the workshop. The transcription will be a sloppy first copy for a book. This is another strategy to make the book exist. You speak much faster than you type.
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