My buddy Chuck ushered in his first child a week before his 37th birthday. When I asked why he didnâ€™t become a father sooner, he said he wanted to make sure he was ready for such a huge responsibility. From an emotional standpoint, he needed to feel like heâ€™d sewn his wild oats and was ready to settle down. Physically speaking, he wanted to wait until his surgically-repaired shoulder was back to full strength. And he had to have the confidence that he and his wife could handle the added financial obligation.
As we discussed all of this it dawned on me that, like the decision to become a parent, the decision to become an author should not be taken lightly. In fact, you need to prepare yourself — emotionally, physically and financially â€“ before putting fingers to keyboard.
Step #1 Organizing Your Thoughts
What topic are you going to write about? What angle are you going to use? Are you offering a unique perspective? The writing process involves too much spontaneity and intuition to figure everything out ahead of time, but you do want to begin with a basic outline that helps you determine where to start, how to end, and what to leave out.
Step #2 Realizing Your Position
Bibliographic information behemoth Bowker is projecting that 276,649 new titles and editions were published in the U.S. in 2007. Thatâ€™s a lot of titles vying for the same limited shelf space and readers. And that doesnâ€™t take into account those published prior to 2007. In other words, yours could be the most important and entertaining book ever, and it still might not matter to the reading public. Youâ€™re either the recognized authority in your field, or youâ€™re the underdogâ€”which means youâ€™re going to have to get in shape and fight like crazy to get your name out and be recognized.
Step #3 Analyzing Market Potential
How big is your prospective audience? How deep is their interest? Compare it to a body of water — is it a small and shallow pond? A broad yet shallow bayou? A small yet deep well? Or would you say your target market resembles a broad and deep ocean? Once youâ€™ve made this determination and taken stock of the opportunities available to you, youâ€™ll be in a better position to develop your platform.
Step #4 Stabilizing Your Platform
How much time and money can you dedicate to expanding your influence? Unless your answer is â€œunlimitedâ€, itâ€™s critical to spend your resources effectively. Which human temperaments will your subject matter appeal to? Do you understand their values and interests? Do you know what theyâ€™re looking for and how they prefer to acquire it? Do you have a persona-lized plan for pulling each of them deeper into your world? These questions need to be answered in order to build a platform that can support satisfying book sales.
Step #5 Planning Your Marketing
A fully developed marketing plan is the key to your bookâ€™s success. Without it, your platform will crumble, your market will scatter, and your book will suffer from limited sales. Start your plan now and be sure to include specific objectives with focused outcomes. Map out how to get from A to B to C. Learn about the difficulties others have faced along the way. It will help you to know the forces at work, both within and beyond your control.
Step # 6 Budgeting for the Unexpected
Things arenâ€™t always going to go your way. Count on it. Youâ€™re going to make mistakes. Other books are going to pull attention away from yours. Your plan is not always going to be perfectly executed. Itâ€™s just the way it goes. So you might as well budget for it by building buffers for surprises and disasters.
I remember asking Chuck if his emotional, physical, and financial checklists had truly made him feel ready to have a baby. His answer was, â€œNo, but it got me as close to ready as I was ever going to be.â€ I suspect youâ€™ll give a similar answer looking back on your book a few years from now. Organize and plan until your heartâ€™s content. Itâ€™s a good idea. But once youâ€™ve dotted every last â€œiâ€ and crossed every last â€œtâ€, pull the trigger and start writing. Even if you donâ€™t feel ready, it could turn out to be the best decision you ever made.
Questions about how to prepare for author-hood may be directed to Michael R. Drew at the Austin, Texas, headquarters of Promote A Book: 512-858-0040. You can also contact Michael via email at email@example.com.
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