Updated: Jul 7, 2020
HOW TO GET STARTED WRITING BOOK #1
By Mike Kowis, Esq.
I frequently give author talks and the most common question that I hear from aspiring authors is how to get started with the book-writing process. I’ll answer this question and more below.
TOPIC SELECTION: Before writing my debut book, I spent over a year deliberating which topic to write about. The available choices are limited only by one’s imagination. After going back and forth, I finally came to the realization that whatever topic I pick must be something I’m passionate about. Otherwise, I might not finish the book.
With that in mind, I decided to write about college teaching tips because I love teaching (which explains why I enjoy speaking to local author groups about topics that will help their craft). I’m so thankful that I chose a topic that I cared deeply about because I was able to stick with it until book number one was finally launched four years later. Accordingly, I recommend that all writers choose a subject matter that they feel passionate about to increase the chances they will complete their book journey.
Mike is one of those unique writers that matches expertise, common sense, and wit to deliver understandable tips that make a difference. His books remain critical reference books on my desktop. -Steve Friedman
Another point to consider is that writers should pick a topic that is appealing to a significant number of readers. To this end, I recommend searching Amazon for books covering the same or similar topic that you plan to write about and record the sales ranking for each one you find. Then you can enter those rankings into a free Kindle calculator like the one found at https://kindlepreneur.com/amazon-kdp-sales-rank-calculator/ and it will tell you approximately how many copies each book sells per day. With this information, you will know if your potential book topic is a hot seller or a hot mess!
If your goal is to reach as many readers as possible, then, of course, you should pick a popular topic. But even if your goal doesn’t include reaching New York Times best-seller status, you still need to know how popular your topic is so you don’t invest too much time and money on a book that doesn’t sell. In other words, your dream book about the mating habits of South American alpacas might be in big demand for a handful of scientists, but that doesn’t change the fact that this book’s tiny target audience means you probably can’t sell enough copies to recoup your cost to self-publish and market it (unless you do it on the cheap).
TESTING THE WATERS:
To ensure the topic you chose for your first book is popular, I highly recommend testing the waters by posting bits and pieces of your rough manuscript on your social media (and author website) to gauge the responses you receive. The key here is making sure that your social media reaches the book’s target audience rather than just friends and family.
I unwittingly tested the waters for my second book, and this process convinced me to write the book. Let me explain. Soon after my debut book was launched, I posted articles on my author's website about how to self-publish a book. I posted this content primarily to draw web traffic to the site as I wasn’t even thinking about writing my next book yet. After sharing links on social media to three articles that I posted on my website, I received hundreds of likes and favorable comments. In fact, I received so much encouragement that it inspired me to combine these articles into my self-publishing guide (which has currently sold over 1,500 copies!).
For what it’s worth, I also tested the waters for book numbers 3 and 4 (the latter of which I plan to release very soon). This tip is a great way to gauge interest in your future book.
When you are ready to start writing your first book, I recommend that you create a realistic deadline for its completion to keep yourself focused on this goal. For my initial book, I foolishly thought it would take only one year to write and publish it. This turned out to be wishful thinking given that I had to fit in time for writing between my full-time day job, part-time teaching gig, and all the responsibilities that come with raising a family. Even if you miss your book completion deadline, it is important to have one. As often said, a goal without a plan is a daydream. So do yourself a favor and set a goal for completing your book.
Once you establish a reasonable timeframe for your book, I strongly suggest announcing it on social media and asked everyone to hold you accountable. I did this for my first book and it really worked! From time to time, my friends and family inquired about the status of the book and that motivated me to continue writing until it was finally done. Sure, it was a bit embarrassing when my 1-year deadline came and went without a completed book. But I used that misstep to push myself harder and ultimately published this book three years after my initial deadline expired. Better late than never!
I once watched a Master Class on writing by best-selling author James Patterson. I think the best piece of advice that Mr. Patterson shared was to always start your writing process with a well-defined outline. He recommended spending at least a month to perfect the outline before you begin writing the chapters (by filling in the details that were left out of the outline). This is great advice for both fiction and nonfiction writers.
I hope the points above help you take the first steps on your journey to writing a successful book number one. If I can do it, you can too. Happy writing!