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An Honest Look At Writing a Book – 8 Things You Must Know

writing a bookAlmost every time I tell someone I’m a freelance writer, the person seems to think I’m always writing a book.

Not true. I’ve written and published books for myself, as part of a team and I also ghostwrite books for others. I also blog, write articles, and more, like life  and writing coaching. But books are definitely part of what I do.

Here are eight things I’ve learned about writing books that you must know, preferably early in the game, when you’re thinking about the book or books you want to write.

You don’t need permission to write a book

Scott Berkun says that 20 percent of the folks who ask about writing a book are really hoping for permission: 

The truth is you don’t need any. There is no license required. No test to take. Writing, as opposed to publishing, requires almost no financial or physical resources. 

He’s so right. If you want to write a book you can. All you need is the desire to do so. Although you will need money to live on while you write, which may mean you can only work on your book part time – which is fine. And my experience tells me that I have to stay in decent physical shape if I’m to write well. Good food, good sleep and good physical exercise.

Writing a book is hard work

I’ve never quite understood why writing seems like hard work… probably because it is. Not hard like varnishing boats, or digging ditches, but mentally tough. Apparently our big brains burn a lot of energy when we use them.

Since a book is long – a minimum of 30,000 to 50,000 words more or less, you can expect to feel the fatigue of getting those words written.

Writing a book also requires a serious time commitment.

It’s easier to start writing a book than finish it

Starting a book is easy – you open a file or grab a legal tablet and start writing.  Getting to the end of it is another story. It’s usually a matter of writing day after day after day… until it’s done, or drafted. I know – I’ve got several started… and that’s after completing some.

Every book needs rewriting

Yes, every book. Once you’ve finished your first or rough draft you need to rewrite and edit your book.

Rewriting is exhilarating because this is where you make your book really work. It’s also boring, sometimes achingly so, because you know what’s next and struggling with something you’ve already written can just be awful. I’ve been known to tape record and listen chapter by chapter to get it right.

Every book benefits from a professional copy editor

I don’t care who you are, or how good your spelling and grammar are, your book needs a pro to do the copy editing – to make sure all your sentences make sense, that the punctuation helps rather than harms, etc. We can’t see our own work well enough to generate a clean, book length manuscript. We’re just too familiar with it.

It may be possible to find a trade publisher for your book

Even though the trade book publishing industry has become quite corporate and way less experimental, they need books to publish. Study Writer’s Market – it will tell you both how to submit books and book proposals and gives you a pretty good list of trade publishers and what they want. Pay attention – working through that directory is how I sold my first book.

You can also sell you non-fiction book before it’s written through a book proposal. That’s worked for me and others.

It’s certainly possible to self-publish your book

Self-publishing has gotten easier and more confusing. It’s easy to get scammed. There are a whole bunch of what I call self-publishing service bureaus that promise way more than they can deliver and love to upsell you on everything from marketing to editing. Meanwhile, the legitimate short-run printers and folks who can really help with book marketing seem to fly under the radar somehow.

Fortunately there are two books available that, if you read them, will help you avoid the scams. They are The Well-Fed Self-Publisher by Peter Bowerman and Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur by Guy Kawasaki.

Bowerman’s focus is on self-publishing a book as a business, for at least a year or so. Kawasaki’s is similar, but includes a whole bunch on social media and developing a platform. (Guy’s book also contains totally skippable until you need it step by step on various platforms.) I strongly suggest both – in paperback so you can make notes right where you need them.

You might even make some money

Every writer, including me, seems to have radar for stories about book authors who get million dollar advances and/or become wealthy with an unexpected best seller. Sure, it could happen to you, but in truth it’s unlikely. It’s fairly easy to sell enough books to make a couple of hundred bucks – much beyond that takes a combination of determined marketing sprinkled with at least a little bit of luck.

Far better to be surprised by success with your book than count on it.

Yes, you’ll enjoy your book in your hands

I still remember how good and confusing it felt when I took the copy of my first published book, Successful Single Parenting by me, which you’ll have to work hard to find these days. Positively thrilled is how I felt! Also, I’ll have to admit that I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t come with a brass band!

Have you written a book? Are you thinking about it? What questions do you have?

Write well and often,


Abundant Freelance Writing – email for you notifying you of new posts here and elsewhere.

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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • jorgekafkazar

    All true, but if you want to make actual money with your book, do not sit down with your first 30 copies from Lulu in hand and say, “Well, I guess I’ll start a blog now and publicize my book.”


    The time to build your platform is before the book is done and printed. Blogging can build a platform, but it will take a year or two, just about the same timeframe for writing and editing an average book. Blogging is also good practice for writing.

    Content is king, in blogging. Don’t miss an opportunity to involve people in the creation of your book. Ask what kind of book they like to read. Bounce sample paragraphs off your readers (those samples don’t have to show up in the book.) When you’re farther along, post a sample chapter. Or a character study. Or some of your research. Ask readers which title they like best. Or which cover. Blog twice a week, like clockwork.

    • Right on, Jorge – particularly the idea of involving others in your work as your write as both help and a marketing tool. Guy Kawasaki spells that out too…

  • Thanks for the reminder about Peter’s book Anne. I have the older version but somehow I keep forgetting to order the version that came out last fall. I’ll have to add it to my next book order list. 🙂

  • Great post. Very inspiring for me to just get on with my writing.
    Helen Chang recently posted..Jun 27- Ghostwriter NeededMy Profile

  • Scott Berkun says: “These days people write books after they’re famous, not before.”

    NOW you tell me!
    .-= jorgekafkazar´s last blog ..Tenirax, Ch V =-.

  • Hannah

    LOL I loved where he said that people want to be rock star millionaires. As if!

    Would be nice though!

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