How to Write a Book…and get it published

How to Write a Book...and get it publishedI’m constantly getting asked how to write a book and how to find publishers. The people asking know that I’ve authored five books, some with publishers, some without. And they know that my first book, Ask Without Fear!® has sold over 4,000 copies since it was published five years ago. (I’ve heard the typical book is lucky to sell 500 copies.)

The questions I get seem easy enough, but the answers could fill books!

Book writing and publishing is an incredible journey of self-growth. And it exponentially expands your ability to help others. So in order to help more people in their process, I’m starting to post answers to the questions here on my blog.

Draft your cover before your book

Writing a book is only part of the process. I’d say 30%. The other 70% is marketing. A book that no one buys is just as ineffective as a Word document that stays on your hard drive. You need to get your books into people’s hands.

Even if you’re going to look for a publisher, I highly recommend Dan Poynter’s “Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book”.

I read this back in 2007 but I still remember alot from it. For instance, Poynter tells you to write the back cover promotional material before you start writing the book. It sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? “How will I know what to put on the cover if I haven’t written the book yet?”

This exercise is amazingly focusing. It’s what Stephen Covey called “Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind.” Ask yourself questions like:

  • What will make your book compelling to someone?
  • Why would they buy it?
  • What problem will be fixed if they buy your book?
  • Who are the experts quoted on the cover?

This work focuses you. And it really helps with the next step I recommend, the book proposal.

Make a legitimate book proposal

Even though I knew I was going to write “Ask Without Fear!” whether a publisher wanted it or not, I went through the process of writing the book proposal. It forces you to argue for the need of a new book on this topic.

  • How is your solution…or just your presentation distinctive?
  • What are the other books that are competitors to this one? (Hint: If none are like it, it may be an indication that no one will buy it.)
  • How big is the market for this book? (Hint: if you think the book is “for everyone” it’s really for no one. You need to target it more.)
  • What are the chapter headings?
  • How many pages will this be?
  • Why are you the perfect person to be writing this book?
  • How are you going to sell it?

If writing the cover is helpful in focusing, writing the book proposal makes the focus laser sharp. Just as importantly, it helps you convince yourself that this book is needed. Writing a book is a pain in the tuchas. You’ll need to keep reminding yourself why you’re doing it.

Many book publishers have templates for a book proposal that you can download. Poynter may have one in his book.

Once you’ve filled it out, share it with a few trusted friends. People who will be able to tell you if it makes sense or if you’re just lying to yourself.

Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman helps leaders lead their teams with more effectiveness and less stress. The author of "Ask Without Fear!®," he is the founder of The Concord Leadership Group and He's also the executive director of and an Advisory Panel member of Rogare, a prestigious international fundraising think tank. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook. To get his free ebook on 21 ways to get board members engaged with fundraising, go to

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