Continuing my survey of the 7 habits of successfully published authors, I’d like to address the importance of efficiency. After interviewing hundreds of successfully published and branded authors, and looking back on my own experiences, efficiency emerges as a highly important component of personal branding success.
Ultimately, an author’s success is more closely tied to issues of efficiency at every step than it is to an author’s ability to write perfect prose.
An author’s success is determined by how efficiently they plan, write, promote, and profit from their book.
To do what needs to be done, without sacrificing career or family, authors must be efficient during all 4 stages of the publishing journey: planning, writing, promoting, and profiting (or leveraging). If an author isn’t committed to efficiency, they’re probably not going to be profitably published and personally branded. They’ll either run out of energy, or their book will be delayed beyond the point of maximum sales and exposure.
What is efficiency?
Efficiency does not mean “uncaring” or “mechanical.” It doesn’t mean “rushed” or “lacking in care and craftsmanship.” Efficiency is not at odds with the author’s desire to write the best book possible–a book only they could write, that fully serves their readers, and creates a distinct position for them in their market’s eye; a book they can be proud of.
Efficiency simply means ensuring that authors obtain the maximum return for their investment.
Efficient working habits means there will be time for authors to do the best possible job planning, writing, promoting, and profiting from their book.
Here are some of the ways that authors, like you, can tap into the power of efficiency to save time and write the best book possible.
Step 1: Planning efficiency
Book success is determined more by how they are planned than how they’re written. A well-planned book will outsell a perfectly-executed, but poorly planned book. Planning involves:
- Identifying the right readers, a market segment that offers endless opportunities for future products and services.
- Analyzing existing books, in order to avoid duplicating existing books.
- Choosing a topic urgently desired by the intended market.
- Creating a table of contents that provides a detailed framework for stress-free writing.
- Choosing the right publishing option, one that satisfies both the author’s short-term and long-term needs.
- Targeting the right agents and publishers on the basis of their experiences and preferences.
Mind mapping, using software tools like Mindjet’s MindManager, is the most valuable planning tool of all. Mind mapping allows authors to efficiently display and analyze multiple planning options on a single screen, zooming in to analyze details, or zooming out to view the big picture. Unlike outlines, which show only part of a book’s table of contents, or a few competing titles, mind mapping makes it easy to view details in the the proper context. Learn more about mind mapping and publishing success here and here (no registration required).
Step 2: Writing efficiency
Writers can profit from five types of efficiency tools while writing their book:
- Worksheets provide a way of jump starting an author’s progress on a specific task by making it easy for them to harvest their ideas. Worksheets can be downloaded and printed, or filled-out online. In either case, they help an author overcome “first draft procrastination” and prepare the foundation for an article, book proposal, or chapter.
- Microsoft Word includes many valuable built-in writing tools that can save you time and effort. It’s extensive list and table capabilities, for example, make it easy to brainstorm and organize ideas into the right sequence. Few authors take full advantage of its tools edit text without using the mouse, analyze sentence complexity, and format text (which is often the author’s responsibility).
- Text substitution software, like ActiveWords, saves hours of time by eliminating the need to type long phrases, like your book’s book title, long names, or technical terms, over and over again. In addition to saving time, programs like ActiveWords ensure spelling accuracy.
- Online resources. Sometimes, efficiency tips can be deceptively simple. For example, adding Thesaurus.com to my web browser toolbar. Being able to quickly enter a word and search for an alternative becomes a one-stop process, which means I’m more likely to search for the perfect word, instead of settling for just any word.
- Dictation. Dictation is rapidly ground with authors. The reason? Most authors are far more comfortable speaking than writing. Speech recognition software, like Dragon Naturally Speaking, is benefiting from the increased processing speeds of today’s personal computers. In addition, there are numerous “pick up a phone and dictate” online resources, like I-Dictate which promise overnight delivery of your “first draft” word processed files.
- Delegation. The final efficiency tool is delegation. Once an author recognizes that they their book is more than the sum of the words it contains, authors can view themselves more like captains of a ship rather than “I must write every word myself!” martyrs. Many of today’s most successful books are crowd-sourced, i.e., based upon contributions by others that contribute to the author’s intended vision. Other options include co-authors (acknowledged on the book covers and reimbursed in different ways )and ghost writers (who are paid, but not directly acknowledged).
An author’s first priority is to get the first draft written as quickly as possible, while the topic is timely and the vision is fresh in the author’s mind. Once the first draft has been written, trade publishers offer numerous editing resources to help authors fine-tune their ideas and state them as clearly and concisely as possible.
More authors should think of themselves as steamship captains; they may determine the course and the ship’s standards, but they don’t run the furnaces or clean the staterooms.
Step 3: Promoting efficiency
Content management systems, like WordPress blogs or www.besavvy.com, eliminate “hostage” websites, i.e., websites that authors cannot update themselves.
It makes no sense for authors to either learn HTML programming or master web authoring software in order to keep their websites fresh. Likewise, in today’s competitive world, it’s foolish for authors to have to “play telephone” with web designers and programmers every time they need to update their website. The costs and delays of contacting and waiting for their “webmaster” to make even simple updates is no longer tolerable.
Blogs and content management systems permit authors to take control of their website without needing to depend on others. More important, the constant updating of a blog plays a major role in an author’s quest to constantly improve their writing skills and encouraging them to develop and explore new ideas on a continuous basis. Many follow-up books originate as daily or weekly blog posts, such as Guy Kawasaki’s Reality Check.
Nowadays, even the busiest author can control their own web presence and explore new ideas on a daily basis in a way that was only a distant dream just a short while ago.
Step 4: Profiting efficiency
Profiting takes us back to mind mapping, and the importance of maximizing client contact time.
Over the past few years, I’ve found that my two most important efficiency tools are mind mapping, described above, and the use of online screen sharing software, like that available from www.gotomeeting.com.
It’s rare for me to have a client consultation or coaching session without using Go to Meeting and creating an online mind map. Screen sharing software allows both me and my client to see the same things on our respective computer monitors.
Design consults and critiques, i.e. website design, newsletters and white papers, are now easier to do and more meaningful than ever before. Instead of preparing a written report, using screen captures to display areas of design concern, I can comment and critique in real time, and my clients can make comments and ask questions while we’re on the phone together. This leaves my time and permits on-the-spot design alternatives.
There’s even more power screen sharing is combined with mind mapping. We can efficiently:
- Brainstorm and organize topics for a client’s table of contents or white paper.
- Explore the pros and cons of alternative titles, approaches, or existing books.
- Create a follow-up map describing the specific tasks my client and I will complete before our next online meeting.
- Prepare an editorial calendar for upcoming weekly tips, newsletters, or social media.
- Add comments and, using Word’s Track Changes feature, edit a client’s book proposal or sample chapters while they’re watching, eliminating a lot of wasted back-and-forth e-mail.
What’s your efficiency index?
Whether you’re planning, writing, promoting, or profiting from your first–or your next–book, analyze your “efficiency index.”
The big question is: Are you wasting time by working with Web 1.0 tools, or are you creating the time you need to plan, write, promote, and profit more by harnessing today’s technology?
There are only 24 hours in every day, and only 7 days in every week. The more efficiently you work, the more you can get done, and the more time you will have to review your plans and drafts, and leverage your back-end profits to their fullest potential.
Roger C. Parker is a “32 Million Dollar Author,” book coach, and online writing resource. His 38 books have sold 1.9 million copies in 35 languages around the world. The NY Times called his Looking Good in Print “…the one to buy when you’re buying only one!” Roger has interviewed hundreds of successfully branded authors and shares what he’s learned at Published & Profitable and in his daily writing tips blog.