If You Want to Write a Book, Here Are Two Things You Need to Know

by Mack Collier

So in 2012 when I signed my contract to write my first book, I decided to write a post that would help my peers get a similar book deal.  It’s become one of the most popular posts I’ve ever written, but something unexpected happened as a result.  Every week I either get a comment or an email about this post from people that want to write a book.  Often, it’s from someone that shares a heart-breaking life story that they want to share with the world, and they are asking me if I can help them.

First, you have to remember that publishers are a BUSINESS.  They won’t publish your book or your story unless they believe they can make money off it.  That’s reality, and in order to get a publisher to buy your book idea, you have to make the case to them that it will earn them more money than they will pay you for it.

Let’s assume that when you approach a publisher that they have no idea who you are (don’t worry, most publishers my agent contacted had no idea who I was when she pitched Think Like a Rock Star to them).

That means you need to convince a publisher that you have two things:

1 – A story/book idea that they believe they can make money on by publishing.

2 – The ability to effectively market your book idea and sell copies.

If you don’t have both of these things, then you have almost no chance of getting a book deal.  I’m sorry, but that’s reality.

So you really need two things: A great idea for a book and a great platform for promoting your book.  A publisher will want to know what you can do to help promote the book and sell copies.

Will you be speaking regularly to promote the book?

Do you have an online following?  Are you active on social media?

Could your position at the company you work for potentially bring positive exposure to the book?

Do you have a huge marketing budget and can you spend a LOT of money to promote the book when it launches?

 

Let’s assume you said ‘NO!’ to all of these questions.  So what do you do if you have an idea for a book, but you have no way to promote it or market it?

Here’s what I would suggests you do: Start a blog based on your book idea.  Starting a blog is your chance to do two very important things:

1 – It helps you flesh out the idea for your book

2 – It gives you the chance to prove to publishers that other people would buy your book and that you can write it

 

If you can go to a publisher and show them that you’ve been writing a blog for the last 6-12 months based on your book idea, and that readers are regularly commenting on your posts and enjoy them, then you are proving to publishers that there is a market for your book.

So that’s my advice if you want to write a book.  Instead, start with a blog, make it successful, and then show that to publishers with your idea.  If the writing on your blog is generating engagement with your readers then it greatly increases your chances of getting published.

Good luck!

 

Travis Larue March 15, 2014 at 9:39 pm

If you want to write a blog about writing a book, here’s one thing you need to know: grammar. Your title should say “Here Are Two Things You Need to Know,” not “Here’s Two Things You Need to Know.”

Mack Collier March 15, 2014 at 9:55 pm

Travis that’s a good point, but effective communication is not just about what you say but also HOW you say it.

Perhaps you should have said this: “Hi Mack! Appreciate the post, however I noticed a small typo in the title. Instead of saying “Here’s Two Things You Need to Know”, you should have said “Here Are Two Things You Need to Know”. Just thought I’d mention, thanks!”

See the difference? That makes your same point, without the snotty tone.

But I do appreciate your feedback, and have corrected the title.

Scott C March 19, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Hi Mack,

I really enjoyed reading your blog post on how to write a book! I’m in the financial services industry and I believe I have a really unique concept on educating Canadians on how to approach their financial planning. There is no book out there that would be similar to mine, not even close from what I have researched. My worry is if I do those first 5 steps and bring my proposal and 1-3 chapters to a publisher, that they might hijack my idea/concept. Same thing if I had an agent, can they take my idea and share that with an established author? Can you shed some light on my concern? I wonder if there is anyway to copy write an idea/concept prior to putting out there to publishers or working with an agent. Look forward to hearing back from you!

-Scott

Mack Collier March 21, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Hey Scott! I can understand why you would have that concern. Remember that publishers also want to see a writing sample so they can evaluate your writing abilities. For my book that actually chapters that discuss how a brand would implement my concept are in the second half of the book.

For my book it followed this loose structure:

1 – Here’s why this idea is awesome
2 – Here’s what the idea is
3 – Here’s how you implement the idea at your brand

So you could follow a similar strategy with your first chapter or so. The idea is to immediately get the reader excited so they want to learn more and keep reading. That’s the same thing you want the publisher to do. You want them to read the first chapter or whatever you provide and have the lightbulbs go off.

My advice would be to wait about getting into the idea until after the first chapter or so. And BTW the first chapter that I submitted with my proposal ended up getting totally scrapped, I didn’t even use it in the book. But the publisher could use it to get a sense of my writing style and ability.

Good luck!

Barry martin March 26, 2014 at 6:11 pm

Hi scott.OK where do I start.I have read what you said and find it very interesting. I have wanted to write a book for many years now and have finally decided now is the time.the book I want to write is about the crazy life I have had.it involves drugs ;prison; money;and even being homeless and that’s not even the half of it.my problem is that I’m not the best at writing and that’s were I need the help

Tammy April 1, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Hi! Any suggestion for me? I am feeling very frustrated. I have written my manuscript(for the most part) and have signed with a self publishing agency. Now knowing I need guidance I have a wonderful story and platform for my book and have already spoken at many events in fact the door is open to go many places when the story is finished. How do I get a good agent?

Maliha April 3, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Thax for this post.

Pinkelephant May 1, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Hi I wondered if you could help me I have an 11 year old daughter who has just written a short story. After reading it I was amazed that she had written it and kept asking if she had copied it from somewhere (which i’m now 100% sure she didn’t). I really would like her to gain some recognition for her stories to encourage her further as this isn’t the first time I have read something of hers and been shocked when she’s told me it was for her English homework. I’m not sure she would be able to write a full on novel but her short stories are brilliant. Would really appreciate any help or advice you could give. Thanks x

Glen May 6, 2014 at 10:40 pm

“. Women are constantly on the lookout for someone older and more mature, and most men seem to have no problem providing most of what these women are looking for, as they get to date younger as a result. 3.

Shalee Callahan May 27, 2014 at 6:34 pm

Hi Mack! I’m a 16 year old from Massachusetts who loves to write. I have so many fresh ideas to bring to the table and don’t know exactly where to start. If I had some sort of agent or publisher set in stone, then I feel I could write a book within a certain time frame. I love writing about the way things work in life, inspiration and finding oneself. I also add just a dash of humor into my writing. I could whip something up in no time I’m sure, I just need somewhere to go and focus on now. Please get back to me and let me know what your thoughts are!? Thank you!

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: