What I’ve Learned About Writing Books

A few people have asked me questions about writing e-books, so I thought it would be a good idea if I shared what I’ve learned. Just in case you fancy having a go yourself.

I’ve written four books so far – three e-books and one print book.  The print book is called ‘Start a Family Friendly Business: 23 Brilliant Business Ideas for Mums’, I co-wrote it with Antonia Chitty of Family Friendly Working and it’s being published on 15th September (more about that soon!). The e-books are  Earn What You Deserve as a Mumpreneur, Business Plus Baby: Ten things you need to know if you’re starting a business and have a baby and Start a Home Business on a Shoestring: The Practical Stuff.

Here’s what I’ve learned about the process of writing e-books…

1) Forget about writing being a leisurely pursuit

For me, the word that best sums up how to get a book written is ‘efficiency’. It’s tempting to do a little bit of writing here and there because you have to fit it in around your day job. But to get the book finished, you have to set aside slots of time and crack on with it.

If you take your time, it’ll take much longer before you see the end result (getting paid, being able to demonstrate you’re an expert or whatever your reasons for writing the book are ). Plus there’s a good chance that you’ll grind to a halt and never get it finished.

Avoid writing a sentence, then editing it, then re-writing it. You can end up spending a lot of time faffing around with commas when you just need to get the words written. I found it best to get a decent chunk of text written (say a chapter) then go back and edit it later. My first attempt was full of spelling mistakes and errors, but at least it was down on screen. If I got stuck, I just typed what I wanted to say in bullet points and kept going. I could always go back fill in the gaps later. And why bother getting  a page perfect if there is a chance it might get chopped out later on because it’s not relevant?

It’s easy to get stuck in analysis paralysis about half-way through. “Do I really know what I’m talking about?”, “Is that enough detail or too little?” There’s nothing like writing a book to shake your confidence in your grammar, spelling and punctuation, too. “Should that be a comma or a semi-colon?” (Damn, it’s those commas again!)

Writing books has been more like writing my dissertation at University than the creative writing I did a primary school. But much more satisfying and with no exams!

2) Writing the book is only part of it

Authors have to be marketers too. Even if you have a publisher, you still need to do a lot of the marketing yourself. In fact, you’re more likely to get a publisher if you already have a following, for example a blog or mailing list.

Then you have to take care of the biography, testimonials, foreword, cover graphics, back cover blurb and so on. It all sounds like minor stuff, but it all takes time. If you’ve got a publisher you won’t  have to do all this yourself. But if it’s an e-book you’re publishing on your website, you’ll need to either do it yourself or pay someone else.

3) Focus on the reader at all times

Don’t just dump everything you know about a subject in a book. Tell readers what they actually want to know. Your readers couldn’t care less about your motivations for writing the book, they want you to solve a problem for them.

And as they are paying customers, there’s nothing wrong with that.

4) Having a co-writer can be really helpful

I was incredibly fortunate to have Antonia, who had already had ten or so books published, as a co-writer for ‘Start a Family Friendly Business’. (I can’t keep up with the number of books she’s had published!)

It’s easier to stay on track if you’re working with someone else as you have a sounding board and you don’t want to let them down by not putting in the work. Plus you can get the book done more quickly and share skills, knowledge and even mailing lists.

I’ll be able to tell you more about getting the content right once I’ve had a bit more feedback on the books I’ve written. I don’t want to get ahead of myself as two of the books haven’t even been published yet!

Creative Commons License photo credit: byJoeLodge

3 Replies to “What I’ve Learned About Writing Books”

  1. this is a great, helpful post. i am in the process of writing an ebook, so i will be coming back to visit this for inspiration and motivation when i get ‘stuck’. =)

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