The major options include:
- I’m going to start now, and get it written as soon as possible.
- I’m going to wait until I have signed a publishing contract.
- I’m going to wait until I finalize the table of contents.
- I’m going to start writing my book a little at a time, and get my ideas out there as soon as possible.
Let’s examine pros and cons of each alternative.
I’m going to start now and finish it as soon as possible
On the surface, this makes a lot of sense. You would think that this approach would enhance your chances of getting published.
However, books frequently change during the writing and publishing process. This is especially true if when your book will be published by a trade publisher.
Everyone involved in the editing and publishing process are going to weigh-in on your title, your table of contents, and the basic premise of your book.
In addition, the publisher’s sales representatives are likely going to share your book’s title and table of contents with book buyers from the major online and offline bookstores. They’ll also offer their own opinions and recommendations.
In the “committee environment” of trade publishing, writing too much, too soon, can be a definite disadvantage!
So, if you’re aiming for a trade publisher and distribution through traditional retail sales channels, you’re best off writing the very best book proposal you can, and two sample chapters.
I’m going to wait until after I have a publishing contract
Until recently, this was the “safe” approach. You write enough, in your sample chapters, to prove your competence and the validity of your ideas, but don’t proceed further until you have a signed publishing contract.
I have a couple of concerns with this approach, however.
The rise of self-publishing
Waiting for a publishing contract made sense when trade publishing ruled the waves, and there wasn’t a practical alternative to mortgaging your house, printing a garage-full of books, and hoping for the best.
Today, the various forms of self-publishing offer a realistic alternative, unless–of course–you have a compelling reason, i.e., the need for a credible, “brand name” publisher.
Another reason for trade publishing would be if your topic has so much popular appeal that bricks-and-mortar bookstore availability is a necessity.
Hurry up and wait!
Outside of the lack of control associated with trade publishing, one of the biggest perennial problems concerns the delays obtaining a publishing contract…quickly followed by a need to complete the writing under deadline conditions.
It typically takes months to obtain a publishing contract, there’s likely to be a lot of negotiation between your agent (hopefully) and your publisher.
The contract delays inevitably reduce the amount of time you’ll have available to write your book and get it to the publisher on time for the next sales season.
Two months may have gone by between the deadlines specified in the first version of the contract, but the deadlines probably haven’t been extended!
So, after waiting for a contract, it’s up to the author to drop everything and finish the book before the original deadline–or the book will be delayed for 6 months or a year.
Once again, self-publishing offers a realistic alternative to putting the fate of your book in someone else’s hands–and then, finding out you have to complete your book under deadline conditions.
I’m going to wait until I have detailed table of contents
This is an interesting point, because I’ve always been an advocate of creating a detailed chapter plan–with definite content ideas for each chapter–before writing.
However, at its best, the act of writing is an act of discovery. As you write, what you write is likely to spark new thinking and fresh ideas.
It’s like asking questions; each time you return to your core questions, like “Who do you want to read your book?” and “How are you going to benefit from writing a book,” you’re likely to come up with better answers.
Every author has to identify the right balance between “paint by number” book content plans and aimless wandering.
If you’re interested in exploring further, I recommend these wonderful, and complementary, resources:
- Clark, Roy Peter. Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer
- Murray, Don. Write to Learn
- Newkirk, Thomas, and Clark, Lisa: The Essential Don Murray: Lessons from America’s Greatest Writing Teacher
- Zinsser, William. Writing to Learn
I’m going to start writing my book a little at a time, and get my ideas out there as soon as possible
Today, more and more business professionals interested in writing a book to build their personal brand are discovering the advantages of getting started as quickly as possible, writing your book, a little at a time, as a series of articles, blog posts, newsletters, podcasts, or YouTube videos.
Sharing your ideas with prospective readers as you complete each chapter offers 3 significant advantages:
- Commitment results in progress. By sharing your ideas at predictable intervals, like weekly blog posts, creates a structure that keeps you engaged and on schedule.
- Builds anticipation. Sharing your ideas with your followers, or tribe, doesn’t detract from future book sales–it builds future sales.
- Feedback. Sharing your ideas and encouraging feedback helps you write a better book; , you’ll receive reader comments and suggestions before your book is published, while there’s still time to act on them.
This approach to personal brand-building and writing was pioneered by individuals like David Meerman Scott, who created an “evergreen” best-seller with his blog-distributed The New Rules of Marketing & PR which remains a “must read” for brand-building.
By combining the structure of weekly or daily blog posts with the publishing options made possible by self-publishing opens up a world of opportunities to those willing to explore and commit to taking action.
Avoid locking yourself into yesterday’s solutions. The Internet and self-publishing have changed the playing field. It’s important that you take recent technological advances into account when deciding when to begin to write your book.
What about you?
Where are you in your journey to a published book? Which of the 4 alternatives listed above best describes your approach to deciding when you should begin to write your book? Are there any other alternatives that I should have included, above? Share your experiences and suggestions as comments, below.
Roger C. Parker’s Published & Profitable blog contains over 1,100 ideas and tips for planning, writing, promoting, & profiting from writing and self-publishing a brand-building book.