When you set out to write a book, you probably dream of the moment it becomes a reality — when you’re holding the finished product in your hands. And you might also fantasize about that book becoming a bestseller.
But to make your book publication-ready and successful, you need to enter the process with intention.
Industry expert AJ Harper knows this well.
She’s a developmental editor and author who joined me on my live-streaming show Inside Scoop to share her insights on how to write a truly fantastic book.
1. Know your reader.
AJ says that many of the books she comes across as an editor are floundering because the author doesn’t know who they’re writing for. Narrowing this down as early in the process as possible will make things much easier for you when you get to the editing stage. And of course, knowing your readers is key to marketing your book. Also this is key when you’re pitching media too by the way. You need to make sure to pitch stories the audience cares about.
2. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
The best books are ones that promise something specific — and follow through. “When you write a book that delivers on its promise, then that becomes a must read for someone,” AJ explains. That sense of satisfaction is what gets people excited enough to spread the word to their network.
AJ sees many books that promise impossible things — and that’s a big no. So think realistically about what you want your readers to take away when they finish your book and write towards that.
3. Understand that you’re playing a long game.
Publishing a best-selling book is not something that happens overnight. “Authorship is an identity and a lifestyle and a business,” AJ says.
Becoming a well-respected author takes time and work, so don’t expect it to happen overnight. Writing is just one part of this process — and in order to really promote your book well, tip #4 is key.
4. Love your book.
You’re going to be spending lots of time with your book — not just when you’re writing it, but when you’re promoting it and then for years to come. I published my first book, Listful Thinking, six years ago, and I’m still talking about it! So you want to make sure the idea you pick is going to be one that you want to stay with for the long term.
AJ says this is really essential — your topic needs to be one that’s important to you. This is a space where your own feelings have to guide you. Think about what book you’ll want to be spending time with in five or ten years.
5. Get the clay on the table.
AJ likes to use a pottery metaphor when it comes to actually writing your book. “It doesn’t have to be perfect right away,” AJ explains. “I say, you’ve got to get the clay on the table so you can make the sculpture and that’s all it is. Let’s just get all the clay on the table and then let’s see what we’ve got.”
No first draft has ever been perfect — and you can’t expect it to be, because that will leave you disappointed when you finish. It’s just the first iteration. You’re getting the clay on the table. Once it’s there, then the real work of editing begins. But none of that can happen if you don’t get your words out there to be workshopped!
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