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, strategy consultant or business coach who wants to write a book. Here are the nine ways, in alphabetical order, not in order:
Blog to book. I this nickname “The Julie & Julia Approaching,” after the woman who blogged about cooking every recipe in Julia Child’s book, Mastering The art of French cooking and became a best-selling book and then a hit movie. Start with an outline for the book that has a working title, working subtitle, and chapter outline. My suggestion is to make the chapters 20 aha! knowledge you want to share. Then write the 20 blogs that will be turned into book chapters. If every blog is a 1,000-word essay, voila, you have a poor first copy of a book manuscript. Many of my Forbes.com columns are the basis of my books.
Co-author. Find someone willing to share the work and costs. I call this the “Buddy Gym Approach” after the classic exercise accountability strategy (a running buddy helped me get in the best shape of my life). Decide how you will approach the writing. One way is to split up the chapters and have each writer do half of the chapters and then trade off for editing. 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 agreed upon as the right one. I have co-authored ten books and each approach was different.
Developmental editor. My nickname for this is “The Charles Dickens Approach”. Dickens was a great friend and editor of the novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who is famous for writing the opening “It was a dark and stormy night” (perhaps he did not consult Charles about it or it could have been: ” It was the best of nights, it was the worst of nights”). A developmental editor helps the author with structure and content, then looks at a book with a more critical eye. These editors fix grammar and spelling mistakes, but mostly look for structural problems. Developmental editors will comment on more complex structural issues, suggesting that an author delete or add sections, combine thoughts, or expand on a point raised. Some developmental editors will also make minor rewrites, if necessary, but it usually carries a higher price. For a business book of about 20,000 words, a developmental editor typically charges $4,000 to $8,000, depending on how much work we it is empty. Don’t confuse a developmental editor with a proofreader. A proofreader or line editor reads a finished manuscript to make sure there are no errors. Hiring a proofreader is often the last step in the writing process, right before the book goes to press. Typically, you will hire a developmental editor and a proofreader. Their fees typically range from $4 to $8 per page, about $500 to $1,000 for a 20,000-word book.
Early riser. My nickname for this is “The Deepak Chopra Approach”. In 1996 LA Times In the interview with Chopra, the renowned author reported that he gets up at 4:30 a.m., meditates for 90 minutes, and then writes for two hours. So set your alarm for two hours before you normally get up and in the pre-dawn quiet write the book every day (perhaps six days a week – sleep in one day). As stated above, be guided by a plan for the book that has a working title, working subtitle, and chapter outline.
Ghost writer. My nickname for this is “The Boo! I’m a phantom approach.” A ghostwriter is a tool used to help create a book. The ghost (so called because they are invisible and will not be mentioned in the book) interviews the “author” as a first step, then creates an outline for the book, and then does the heavy lifting of writing the entire book for the author. . Although your book will be ghostwritten, it is written in the author’s voice. When the manuscript is finished, the author owns all rights to the book. A ghostwriter needs all the information from the author in order to create the book. Ghostwriters will also need to interview you to fill in any blanks. In addition, they should research any necessary topics related to your book. Ghostwriters vary greatly in price. Typically, you can expect to spend anywhere between a quarter to two dollars per word for a book.
Interviews to book. 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. Once 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 so you can then transcribe them on Rev.com. Transcripts will be converted into chapters. Ten 15-minute chapter transcripts will equal one rough draft of the book.
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 that plan (a working title, working subtitle and chapter outline). Then base the podcast interviews on that. But the opposite approach works too. Make the podcasts, then weave them into a coherent book structure.
Pulls into the cabin. I nicknamed him “The misery The Approach”, named after the Stephen King novel and film. In the film, Kathy Bates’ character locks author James Caan’s character in a shed 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 over five days while I was recovering from Covid.
Workshop to book. My nickname for this is the “Tony Robbins Approach” after the famous workshop leader and author (I interviewed people who attended his workshops and learned how to walk on hot coals). Create a three-hour workshop outline that mirrors the chapter outline for your book. Get an audience and then record the workshop with an MP3 recorder or on Zoom. Next, transcribe the workshop. Transcription will be a poor first copy for a book. This is another strategy to make the book exist. You speak much faster than you write.
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