You can publish a book.
And you can do it much sooner than you think, actually.
How do you do this? Not by wasting years writing articles or obsessing over writer’s conferences and book proposals.
All you need is a blog.
No other activity (including years of freelance writing) has brought me closer to my dream of publishing a book than blogging. It took me about six months to get a book contract with a publisher.
And you can do the same.
But why would want to publish a book?
- Being a published author makes you an “expert” in your field.
- Traditionally-published books tend to be of a higher quality.
- Publishers can help you with marketing.
Let’s be honest: You don’t publish for the royalties. You won’t be retiring after your first book goes to print. But if you have a message the world needs to hear, going with a traditional publisher may be the right thing for you. Here’s how you can do it in six months:
Month 1: Build and Launch a Blog
All publishers want to know if you have a “platform.” A platform is an asset you own that gives you the authority to speak on a certain topic.
If you can build a website that attracts a good tribe of followers, you have a good chance of getting noticed and eventually published. A blog is a great way to do this.
How to launch
The first four weeks of your new blog should be focused on creating content, not marketing.
At the end of the month, you should be fully launched with your core content and have easy ways for people to subscribe (you can do this for free via Feedburner), follow you, and interact with your writing.
Then, you can send an email to friends and colleagues letting them know about your new site.
Month 2: Start Promoting
In the world of social media, promotion looks like connecting with people who can help you. However, you need to make sure you have the right tools.
Your social media toolkit
If you haven’t already done so, you need to do the following
Once you’re on those social networks, don’t go crazy with promotion and mindless following. Start small and personal, and build from there.
There are lots of ways to earn blog subscribers and get noticed online. The best I’ve found is guest posting. Reaching out to other bloggers and websites and writing for them is a great way to build a readership and get your name out there. Make sure you are smart about it, though. Target sites that focus on your topic and have a large enough readership that it will be worth your time.
For more on this, read these six tips on how to be a good guest blogger.
Another way to grow an audience and build influence is to do interviews. Seek out other authors and bloggers in your niche and ask to interview them. This allows you to deliver value to your readers, while building relationships with influential people. Soon, people will think of you as the expert — which is exactly what publishers are looking for.
For more on this, check out this series: How to Conduct an Interview Like a Journalist
Month 3: Write a Manifesto
Once you’ve built a blog and started generating an audience, you can now work on a manifesto. A manifesto is a short eBook that helps you connect with an audience that shares your beliefs. You can also use it to build an email list by giving it away for free.
This is a short eBook — less than 10,000 words — which you should be able to write in a few days (or less). The shorter it is, the more people will read and share it.
For more on this, check out this seven-step guide to writing an eBook.
Month 4: Grow Your Brand
Every author needs a brand. You want people to recognize your name, as they would Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. What’s the best way for a blogger to do this? Get social.
Connect on social media
Social media is a great way to find fans and friends who will spread your work. It’s free, and most people are pretty approachable. The trick is to not focus too much on yourself. If you show interest in other people and add value, you can make meaningful connections and build a following that is actually worth something.
On Twitter, follow popular hashtags that focus on your topic. On Facebook, “like” relevant pages and engage in the comments. Use common interests to build rapport that leads to relationship.
Pick up the phone
Once you’ve connected with someone via social media or email, the best way to take the relationship to the next level is to get on a call together. If you’re comfortable giving out your phone number, you can do that. Or you can Skype, which is free, and can actually be more personal if you do a video chat.
Meet in person
The whole point of all this is to lead to deeper connection. So once you initiate an online relationship, you’ll want to take it to the next level. A few ways to do this are:
- Ask a social media friend to lunch or coffee.
- Sign up for local, free meetups.
- Attend conferences.
While this may require some investment of time and money, it’s worth it. There really is nothing like in-the-flesh relationships. All you have to do is ask.
Month 5: Find an Agent
Once you’ve started to build a platform and are connecting with important people, it’s time to find an agent.
Work your network
Build off of existing relationships if you can. The best way to get an agent is through referral. If you don’t have a friend who can refer someone to you, then you may need to revert to “cold calling” by writing a query letter. However, if you’ve succeeded at building a platform, an agent may come find you.
Do you need an agent?
Of course, you don’t have to use an agent. Without one, though, you’re on your own.
The downside to having an agent is you share your royalties with them (the market rate is around 15%). The upside is authors with agents typically get better deals. Agents also help negotiate the terms of the contract and make sure you don’t get ripped off by a publisher.
For more on this, check out: How to Find a Literary Agent
Month 6: Get the Contract
Finally, it’s time to start working on the book itself, but not actually write it. Not yet.
Most publishers will want a say in your book, so it’s not productive to start writing before you have a contract. What you can do, though, is work on your proposal.
Writing a book proposal
If your agent doesn’t have a book proposal template, you can Google “book proposal templates” or follow a publisher’s guidelines. If you need further help, you can get this eBook: Writing a Winning Book Proposal by Michael Hyatt.
To be fair, it may take months to get a contract from a publisher, but I don’t recommend working on your proposal sooner than Month 6. Investing your time in building a platform will give you a much better chance of being taken seriously by a publisher. It can expedite the process, as well.
If you do it right, the publisher may come to you. This is not the “norm” in publishing, but it does happen. It happened to me and to many of my friends who are authors. And it can happen to you — if you build a blog worth noticing and serve your way into influence.
Ready to publish your first book? Start blogging.
(Photo credit: Nicola Romagna)