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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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    Last Updated on January 15, 2021

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

    Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

    Posture

    First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

    • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
    • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
    • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
    • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

    All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

    Facial Expressions

    Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

    • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
    • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
    • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

    If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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    1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

    A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

    The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

    This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

    2. Relax Your Face

    New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

    The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

    To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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    3. Improve Your Eye Contact

    Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

    The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

    To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

    3. Smile More

    There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

    Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

    4. Hand Gestures

    Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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    It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

    5. Enhance Your Handshake

    In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

    “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

    It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

    6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

    As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

    Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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    Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

    Final Takeaways

    Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

    If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

    More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

    Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

    Reference

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