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

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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 July 20, 2021

    How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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    How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

    You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

    Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

    Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

    Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

    1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

    According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

    “Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

    Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

    Warming up

    If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

    If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

    Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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    1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
    2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
    3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

    Stay hydrated

    Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

    To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

    Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

    Meditate

    Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

    Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

    Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

    Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

    2. Focus on your goal

    One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

    Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

    Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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    Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

    If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

    3. Convert negativity to positivity

    There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

    ‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

    It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

    Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

    Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

    Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

    4. Understand your content

    Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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    However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

    “No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

    Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

    Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

    One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

    5. Practice makes perfect

    Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

    In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

    Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

    6. Be authentic

    There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

    Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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    Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

    To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

    With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

    Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

    7. Post speech evaluation

    Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

    Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

    We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

    You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

    Improve your next speech

    As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

    Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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    • How did I do?
    • Are there any areas for improvement?
    • Did I sound or look stressed?
    • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
    • Was I saying “um” too often?
    • How was the flow of the speech?

    Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

    If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

    Reference

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