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How to Get a Book Contract in 6 Months (with a Blog)

How to Get a Book Contract in 6 Months (with a Blog)
Books
    You CAN write one of these...

    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?

    Because:

    • 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.

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    Getting started

    You can sign up for a free blog on sites like WordPress.com, Tumblr.com, and Blogger.com.

    Or, you can spend some cash on a self-hosted WordPress.org blog. For less than $100, you can have your site up and running in two hours. (Follow this guide for step-by-step instructions.)

    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.

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    Guest posting

    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.

    Interviewing experts

    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

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    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?

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    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)

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    Published on May 18, 2021

    How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

    How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

    We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

    The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

    Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

    Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

    Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

    There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

    Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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    Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

    We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

    Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

    A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

    The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

    Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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    Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

    Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

    Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

    While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

    Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

    These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

    Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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    Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

    Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

    Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

    Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

    Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

    Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

    As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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    This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

    Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

    Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

    These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

    Actions Speak Louder Than Words

    Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

    Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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    Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

    More Tips Improving Listening Skills

    Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

    Reference

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