Five biggest challenges when you write a book—with solutions!

If I were untainted (not already in print) and I wanted to write a book, here are the five biggest hurdles I’d confront, in an order that makes sense to me.

* Finding a topic with enough substance for a book

* Finding somebody to publish it

* Figuring out who would buy it

* Getting a handle on the actual writing

* Being brave enough to let the public (including my mother, all my English teachers, and my boss) read it

Want some quick solutions from a grizzled old journalist with 40 books of my own published and somewhere in print (and about 60 more books of others that I helped see light)?

Find a topic with enough substance for a book. Think 100+ pages, 150-200 words each, divided into sensible (preferably short) chapters. Then find something you really care about and want to share. See who else wrote about it, or something like it. Read at least five other books similar to yours (probably by them) and figure out how they did it. Find a different slant or angle or update about your topic, research like you’re writing 10 full newspaper articles, doublecheck everything, don’t be afraid to interview others who know more about the theme, and then make flowing sense out of what you’ve gathered. Massage it, make it fun to read, and, last, get it proofed. Bingo—you have a book!

Find somebody to publish it. Forget the big house publishers—they can buy it from you for a nice sum later if it finds fame. See which small houses publish books like yours and query them to see if they are interested. Or self-publish it, then market it to death. Look seriously at the ancillary publishers (like CreateSpace, Smashwords, Pubit, Kindle, and Lulu), particularly if it’s fiction. They will put it in decent form and will start the selling through distributors for you–free in hours or days.

Figure out who would buy it. If it’s a broad book, like fiction or a “how to get (brilliant, tall, witty…)” thing, you must write it so well that people would be fools not to rush to get a copy. (Alas, even some non-fools will resist.) But if it is nonfiction and solves a problem, relieves a frustration, or brings its readers/practitioners huge benefits, you simply have to identify those beneficiaries and let them know that heaven (and you) have their problem(s) solved! (If it’s a niche book, pre-test it before you write a word. Read my Niche Publishing or hear me talk about this (he says modestly) in a webinar on July 20.)

Get a handle on the actual writing. If you found a topic and organized it (as mentioned above), you know where you and the book are headed and the path you must take. If you are utterly illiterate, get literate. But if you can write clear sentences, write them. Do them one at a time. Don’t edit them until the book is done. Then go back and make sense of what you said. Think lean and clear. Get the message so smooth and informative (or enticing or mysterious or whatever it has to be to be buyable) that all that stands between you and wild acclaim is a good editor/proofreader whom you will pay to expunge anything that doesn’t make what remains a bona fide wonder of words.

Be brave enough to let the public (including your mother, all your English teachers, and your boss) read it. If you mention that boss, change the name and give him a beard or her a gnarly twitch. Otherwise, if you are proud of what you are saying, it’s honest, the facts are accurate, the proofer did it right, and the end product has a fetching cover and looks professional, stand tall and get it out there so they can claim you as their own! In other words, Nike has it right: just do it. Then send a free copy to the ten most important people in your life. The rest must pay, so your task is to make all the rest of those folks aware of the miracle (your book) and how they can buy it immediately!

Way too simplified, you say? Being in print isn’t a joke.

No, it’s a book. And these are pretty much the flaming hoops through which you must leap. Just like, literally, millions of people have done since printing appeared. (Before that, maybe a half million talked books.) So if a book is what you want, get in line and get going. We need to read what you have to say.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. I also share even better wisdom in my free, monthly newsletter. And in my own books at If the above makes sense and you do it, then need help, I do some manuscript reviewing too.

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