Do you want to write a book? Many people do. In fact, according to Publishing Perspectives, 81% of Americans say they have a book in them and want to get it published.
The problem is that most people don’t know how to get started. Oh, sure, they have a book concept in their mind, and they may have even written a proposal, but they don’t know how to get the proposal accepted by a publisher.
Given that, I thought it would be a nice treat for members of the 60 Second Marketer community to get some tips and techniques from 13 top authors. So I reached out to my friends who, like me, have a book (or several) under their belts and asked them to provide tips and techniques on how they got their start.
Ready to hear their advice? Terrific, here goes:
Dave Kerpen, Author of Likeable Business, Likeable Leadership and Others:
“I always assumed getting a book deal from a publisher was about writing the best book, or having the best idea. Those things are both important, but what I learned from my first book deal was that the marketing plan and author’s distribution platform are more important. Before you try to write or sell a book, build your platform, build your audience, and build your networks. The larger your platform, the easier it will be to get a book deal – and the bigger deal you will get!”
Joe Pulizzi, Author of Epic Content Marketing, Get Content Get Customers and others
“Let’s face it…writing a book is overwhelming. If you look at the big deliverable, it seems almost impossible. The key is breaking down the process into digestible chunks.
In all three of my books, I used what I call the “blog to book” strategy. This means that instead of shutting myself up in a cabin for a month writing, the plan is to write each chapter out as a blog post, and over a period of six months, just write out the chapters as blog posts. Need a chapter on ROI? Well, write a post about it first.
Then, after six months or so, you can go back to your book’s table of contents and see how much you already have done. With my latest book, Epic Content Marketing, I realized that about 75% of the book was already complete after the six months. Then two weeks of editing and a few additional chapters, and the process was done.
I can’t recommend this strategy enough.”
— Joe Pulizzi, Author, Epic Content Marketing and Founder, Content Marketing Institute
John Jantsch, Author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine
“A lot of authors want to keep their great idea under wraps while they are working on it and sometimes won’t even tell people the working title. I find that if I share my big idea early on and continue to do so as I create the outline I get great feedback all along the way. I’ve shared detailed outlines of my books with readers and test a lot of ideas for my books on my blog. It’s amazing how much better thought out some my ideas become after what amounts to conversational research with actual readers.”
Erik Qualman, Author of Socialnomics, Digital Leader and Others:
“My advice to any first time author it to fail fast, fail forward and fail better. Over 100 literary agents turned down my novel’s manuscript. These were agents, not even publishers! Then, as the Head of Marketing at Travelzoo, I started to become fascinated with social media. This was at a time when MySpace was big and Facebook could only be accessed by students in the Ivy League. Many of my respected peers told me it was just for teenagers, that I was damaging my personal brand speaking about and becoming obsessed with social media. But one colleague, Tim Ash, asked, ‘Have you ever thought about writing a book on social media? I love your ideas.’
Tim helped setup a meeting with his publisher, a top five publisher. My previous unpublished book was fiction. Unlike fiction, for business books you need to sell the concept first and then write the book.
I needed a title for my meeting with the publisher. I thought Socialnomics would be a great title so I Googled it and there were zero results – perfect! The meeting went great and I was able to secure a book deal. The reason the meeting went well is that my previous 100 rejection letters had prepared me for the moment. I knew they would be interested not only in the content, but how I could sell and market the book. I had no idea that my failures in trying to get a book deal for my fiction manuscript would later be instrumental in my success at writing an international best selling business book. Or to quote Steve Jobs, “we can only connect the dots looking back.”
Mark Schaefer, Author of Return on Influence, The Tao of Twitter and others
“I self-published my first book The Tao of Twitter because the traditional publishers were not interested in a “small” book. It ended up being the best-selling book on Twitter in the world, but more important, it was a great educational experience. McGraw-Hill eventually bought the rights to the book and I have published subsequent books through them, but self-publishing demonstrated that I could write a book, market it, and grow an audience. In some respects self-publishing opens the door to bigger things!
As I look back on the success of the first book, I can’t emphasize enough that you still have to produce a quality product that fills a market need. The success of the book had nothing to do with my social media status, connections, or past accomplishments. It was all about creating something great that people want to talk about and share.”
Lon Safko, Author of The Social Media Bible, The Fusion Marketing Bible and Others
“The easiest way to get published is to bypass the big publishing houses entirely and go the self-publishing route. Many previously successful authors are now turning to self-publishing to decrease the difficulties of working with a legitimate publisher by “getting discovered,” then “pitching them,” developing a “marketing plan,” go through the “blue sky” process of having it picked apart by their editorial team who knows nothing about your subject matter or readership, arguing about the title, cover graphics, and retail price of the book, negotiating your contract; royalty rates, marketing responsibilities, number of PR copies of the book, your wholesale costs, foreign rights, editorial calendar, publication date, and advances.
With self-publishing, you sign up, pay the fee, get the template, fill it in, and in 10 days, you get a dozen copies of your newly printed books on your door step with significantly higher profit margins.
I would recommend self-publishing for any first time author. It allows you to understand the daunting task of creating your literary masterpiece and gives you a better appreciation for what goes into creating a book. If you’re a consultant, speaker, CEO or any professional, having a book is better than a resume. Remember, there is NO ROI on writing a book. In nearly every case, what you make on advances, royalties, or profit from selling your book, we calculate to way below minimum wage compensation for your time. However, your book is a marketing piece your customers are willing to pay for. This comes with a lot of credibility and competitive advantage.”
Phyllis Khare, Co-Author of Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies, Social Media Marketing e-Learning Kit for Dummies and others
“Tip 1: Have strong connections — they may bring the writing opportunities to you.
One day, out of the blue, I get a call from a friend who said she pitched me as a writer for a new Wiley book. Why? The reason this well-established author knew to pitch me was that I was thoroughly and publicly enjoying myself online. While diving deeply into online marketing, WordPress, and social sites, I cultivated a habit of excitedly sharing what I found with the right audience. This one publishing opportunity turned into two published books and the career I enjoy today.
Tip 2: Build your platform before pitching your ideas.
Give your readers a framework to interact outside of your book and entice potential buyers. Traditional publishers expect you to do most of the marketing so you’ll need to have a social platform already in place. Have a targeted community of people ready before you release your book — or ever before you pitch it! Publishers want to know that your book will sell — back up that pitch by having your consumer base ready and waiting. Think well ahead of the book.”
Chuck Martin, Author of Mobile Influence, The Third Screen and Others
“My advice to a first-time author is to spend some time thinking about why you want to write a book. There could be different reasons, of course, but narrowing to the main reason can help with focus throughout the entire writing process. For example, you may want to write a book to share your knowledge in a particular area, in which case the focus might be on providing helpful information for others. You may want to write because you have a unique viewpoint on something. You get the idea.
Personally, I never had the desire to write a book. One day a friend and famous business book author read an article I wrote and suggested it would make a good book. At the time, I was writing and speaking about how the internet would change the future of media, commonly referred to as the Fourth Estate. At his suggestion, I wrote a book proposal with the working title of The Fifth Estate and sent it to the publisher at McGraw Hill, who my friend introduced me to.
The publisher liked the idea and made an offer. I then sent it to another major publisher and they made an offer as well. I ultimately went with McGraw Hill and the publisher suggested broadening the scope and changing the title to The Digital Estate. The book was published and ultimately made the New York Times Business Bestseller List, which comprises only 10 books a month. I was then asked to write another book, Net Future, which became a global bestseller in many languages. The key for me was to identify mega-trends early and lay out a roadmap for business leaders to succeed. In my latest two books, The Third Screen and most recently Mobile Influence, I attempted to provide a roadmap for businesses facing the mobile revolution. One more tip: be patient. My first book became a bestseller a full year after it was published.”
Andrea Vahl, Co-Author of Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies
“Never underestimate the power of your social connections.
Writing a book was the farthest thing from my mind when I started my blog. I actually started it as a video blog because I didn’t like writing. But as I continued blogging, I saw the benefits of written blog posts and started doing more writing and actually produced a couple of my own e-books.
While I was blogging, I was out connecting with people on social media and building up my following. I was connecting some people online that I knew would never be my customers but they were peers and people I enjoyed interacting with. As I was sharing more and more of my content I was also building up traffic to my site. I got nervous about giving too much content away but I was establishing myself as an expert in the field.
One of my social connections (and by then a friend), Phyllis Khare, ended up recommending that I be a co-author with her on the book Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies. The editors saw all my content, saw that I had produced a couple of e-books and asked me to come on board the project. So you never know where your social connections might lead!”
— Andrea Vahl, Co-Author of Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies
Brian Massey, Author of Your Customer Creation Equation
“I’d been a part of a webinar with Joe Pulizzi way back in 2008. Little did I know that he’d be starting an imprint some day. A couple of years later, he was in Austin for SXSW and I wanted to meet with him in person. He had a flight to catch, but I suggested that I give him a ride to the airport and we could have lunch along the way.
We headed to the airport looking for a place to eat with little luck. Just when we thought we were going to be relegated to a fast food joint, we came across Patsy’s Cowgirl Cafe, the kind of place you’re only going to find in Texas. We decided to give it a try. (I can’t resist any place with a wall-sized mural of a Cowgirl riding a Jackalope.)
During our Migas and Chicken Fried Steak (which was excellent), I expressed to Joe that I was struggling with a proposal for Wiley. I was trying to fit the vision I had for my book into their Hour-a-Day format.
It wasn’t working.
Joe, said that he had just started an imprint — CMI Books — and that he’d like me to consider publishing with them. CMI was very different from Wiley.
Within a few months, I was writing away under contract with Joe and CMI. The result was Your Customer Creation Equation.
— Brian Massey, Author of Your Customer Creation Equation
Viveka von Rosen, Author of LinkedIn Marketing: An Hour a Day
“As someone who tried to get her book published the old fashioned way 20 years ago (anyone looking for a great science fiction novel?) I have to say I much prefer the method by which my first business book was published. As in — Wiley came to me. They came to me through a combination of:
- “Who do you know?”
- My own subject matter expertise positioning
- Prolific examples of my writing all over LinkedIn and the web (I have a few blogs and guest post all the time.)
My advice: find publishing outlets (blogs, newsletters, eBooks) via social media and write for as many as possible. Have your own outlet and write prolifically. See who you know or find ”gateway” people who can get you published via social channels and stay top of mind with them. That way, when they are asked, “Do you know someone who can write about…” your name springs top of mind.”
— Viveka von Rosen, author of LinkedIn Marketing: An Hour a Day
Jeanne Hopkins, Co-Author of Go Mobile
“It truly takes a village to write a book. Whether it is your family allowing you the hours to devote to the completion of a first draft and then editing the revisions; your awesome company supporting your efforts while still having reasonable expectations about your ‘day job’; or your co-author helping you to see the vision of what could be created and the subsequent opportunity, every village resident is truly valuable and critically required during the writing process.
The Go Mobile! Book written with my friend, Jamie Turner, was a more challenging effort –– only in terms of the time commitment –– than I had ever imagined going into it. Without the support of @HubSpot, embracing the concept of Inbound Marketing as it relates to mobile marketing, plus the friendship of David Meerman Scott in helping us promote the book, we could not begin to imagine the eventual success of our book. Thank you, everyone!”
Ian Cleary, Founder, RazorSocial.com, Currently writing his first book
“I’m currently writing a book on Social media tools and technology. When I approached publishers I created a presentation which outlined my marketing plan. This demonstrated how I was going to market and sell the book. It also outlined details of the audience of potential book buyers I built through our social media presence online.
Through a combination of a marketing plan and the audience it wasn’t too difficult to get publishers interested.
Publishers take you a lot more seriously if you approach your book like any product or service you have. You don’t just launch it and hope for the best. You have to work extremely hard on marketing your book. The more marketing you do the more you will sell and the more interested publishers will want to talk to you.
— Ian Cleary, Founder, RazorSocial.com; Currently writing his first book
Jamie Turner is the CEO of the 60 Second Marketer and 60 Second Communications, a marketing communications agency that works with national and international brands. He is the co-author of “How to Make Money with Social Media” and “Go Mobile” and is a popular marketing speaker at events, trade shows and corporations around the globe.