How to Write a Book That Sells

Wondering how to write a book that sells and that you’ll be proud of for years and years? The first step is not sitting down to write!

The biggest mistake most would-be authors make is that they get hit by inspiration one day and they just sit down and start writing.

That inspiration can quickly be replaced by giant doubt.

You’ll start and stop writing your book following cycle of doubt and inspiration.

10 years later you’ll still be wondering how to write a book!

How to write a book – step one:

Get clear on your goal.

And, if you’re thinking ‘I want to write a bestseller’ watch this video so you know what you have to do:

 

 

Maybe your goal is to sell 100,000 books. Or, possibly it’s that you want to get on a major stage in front of thousands of people.

Those are all goals that are possible, but very lofty.

I’m not cautioning you against those goals because they are reaching high.

My concern is that when you set a goal like that you, the author, become the focal point instead of the reader.

When you set your first goal to focus your book project around, the best thing to do is set a goal for your reader.

Writing a bestseller puts your ego in charge.

When you focus on these kinds of goals and put your ego in charge, the author becomes the product, not the book. And you set yourself up to face a lot of the monsters you have in the closet.

When your book is the product and you focus intensely on a specific goal and a specific reader, you can focus on serving that audience.

You’ll share the most revealing examples and secrets that must be shared for them to get results. You will write a book that needs to be written – not the one that you think makes you look good.

Before you write your book, decide what is the impact you want your book to have on your reader.

What do you want them to know, do, be, have after they’ve read your book?

Step Two – Get Clear on Your Audience

Who is your reader? Not demographically but emotionally. Demographics have value.

When you consider how to write a book for impact, emotions are more important. You need to meet your reader where they are at right now.

Who are you helping and what are you helping them with?

My first book, “More Than Cashflow,” was focused on a new real estate investor who was getting all excited about buying a bunch of properties, and I wanted them to make smart decisions. Mainly to help them make money and minimize the problems.

Erika Cisneros book, Honest Immigration, isn’t for anyone looking to immigrate to the US.

Her book is for those folks who are in the US and want to stay and are eligible to receive a humanitarian visa due to mistreatment.

That’s a very specific audience.

Same with Alec Hanson’s book Bypassed.

It’s for mortgage professionals who are getting left behind by a digital customer. It’s not for every mortgage professional, it’s for the ones who have been in the industry for a while and haven’t updated their website or social media since they began.

Or, they aren’t tech-savvy and haven’t worried about what Google is saying about them when someone searches.

When brainstorming how to write a book, you must get clear on who you’re helping and how you’re going to help them.

If you’re writing a memoir, you still need to do this, and a writing coach will help with all of this.

Also, when you know who they follow, what they books they already are reading, what problems they want to solve, and even where they’re hiding out already, you have clarity of audience.

Step Three-Position Yourself to Be Unique

We have so many cool examples of how to do this, but I’ll use Amani Roberts because we also did an author spotlight video with him, which you can watch here (on his virtual book launch party).

He has the Amani Experience Podcast.

He talks to creatives who’ve left the corporate world to pursue their creativity.

As part of his company, the Amani Media Experience, he leads team building events for corporate organizations, teaching people how to be a DJ.

He’s bridging that gap between creative and corporate and drawing lessons from it.

In analyzing his content and his message with my team, they came up with the idea to write a book about a night as a DJ and the corporate lessons you learn from that night.

With that, his book, “DJ’s Mean Business: One Night Behind the Turntables Can Spin Your Company’s Success” was born.

Another example is from Scott Bradley, author of Screaming for Pleasure.

He has a podcast and goes to a lot of horror events. He’s a guy who knows everything there is to know about horror movies and books.

How do you define him? My team calls him the horror historian.

What makes you unique? Use that in your book positioning.

Step Four – Craft a Compelling HookScott Bradley

When you write a book, you need a hook that’s only about the reader. It also has to sell the book.

“My book is about marketing strategy” is not a hook.

Using Scott Bradley, who we touched on above, with his great podcast called Hellbent on Horror and his love for all things horror, how do you create a reader-driven hook?

In explorations with our writing coach, he said “horror makes me happy and healthy“.

And it turns out, that’s true. There’s research that backs that up.

Horror allows you to explore and feel emotions that you don’t normally feel. “Screaming For Pleasure, How Horror Makes You Happy And Healthy” was born.

Step Five – Plan Your Content!

Create a table of contents or an outline, making notes of the key points and stories you want to cover.

Judge each of them with the filter of does this support the hook?

If that story, section, or example supports the hook, great. If it doesn’t, save it for a future book.

Yes, it’s true! Once you figure out how to write a book, you won’t want to stop with just one.

Write a bookAnd based on this, you create a plan to start writing.

If you struggle with any of the above, it might be time to bring in a writing coach to help you write a book. For many authors, a writing coach is a secret weapon to writing a great book that sells.

How does a writing coach (or a book coach) help you write a book?

What is a writing coach, also called a book coach, and how does this person help you?

The role varies a little bit client by client because everybody has different needs, but at Book Launchers a writing coach always:

  • Offers emotional support through the book writing journey,
  • Provides a writing plan and accountability to that plan, and
  • Guides the author to write in a more engaging, interesting and (hopefully) concise way to connect to their ideal reader.

Generally speaking, if you haven’t already established the foundation for your book (audience, hook, and outline) that will be the first part of the work you do with a book coach.

Specifically, here’s what we expect of writing coaches (so, it’s a good place for you to start if you’re thinking of hiring a writing coach or book coach to create your book).

In addition to working on the above five items, a great book coach will help you write a book by:

Creating a writing plan:

Will you write a chapter a week?

That’s harder than it sounds for some people.

My recommended approach to our clients is to set a standing appointment each week with the writing coach.

And during that call, commit to what you’ll write in the upcoming week.

And use that call as one part accountability and one part review of what you’ve written.

Setting up a Chapter Template:

Writing a chapter can be a bit foreign, and while every chapter doesn’t need to be the same length, a book works best when there is some consistent structure for each chapter.

The writing coach will work closely with the author on chapter one so they can clearly see how to structure the chapter.

Bonus points for having a writing coach that will make sure you start every chapter in a way that engages your reader.

Writing Guidance:

Not all writing coaches will rewrite, but our authors are not professional writers so we’ve found it’s better for our coaches to provide examples.

Typically writing coaches and editors say things like ‘expand on this’ or ‘add some emotion’ but to a novice writer that can feel daunting and unclear.

So, occasionally our writing coaches will rewrite some sections so our clients can see what that means.

One thing we really encourage our writing coaches to do is help make your book interesting by including things like interesting chapter starts:

Most authors start off strong but then veer off.

You also might find that you’re one of those people who thinks of a bunch of details that are far more important than they really are.

(Yes, I’m looking at you Memoir author – more for you in a moment).

Or maybe you’re someone who delivers just the facts, but the emotional engagement is lacking.

A great writing coach is watching for this and is going to hit pause and dig into it a little.

Specifically to help you uncover stories that can bring the reader’s engagement back to a high level.

Emotional Support:

A book is a big project and it can be lonely.

A writing coach will provide some emotional support as you ride the inevitable wave of ‘my book sucks’ to ‘my book is amazing and will sell millions of copies’.

They also will keep you on your hook!

Because so many non-fiction authors lose track of the hook and start writing an entirely different book halfway through!

Butt-Kicking:  

Being a great writing coach means asking personal questions to get to the heart of what makes someone awesome.

You have to uncover why they believe what they believe.

Then you need to be able to provide the emotional support required while also pushing them to get it done.

A good writing coach can just push you to get the words on the page.

But if you want to know the real secret of how to write a book that hooks your reader and sells well, it’s this:

You have to have a bad first draft before you have a polished diamond of a book.

So your first goal is to progress over perfection.

Whew, I bet you had no idea how much work a writing coach does to make your book great.

Did you notice what a writing coach does not do, though?

A writing coach does not edit your book, and while they may write out some example sections for you so you understand how to craft certain things in your book, they are not writing your book either.

Your coach is there to make sure your first draft is the best possible first draft.

And the value in that is enormous. BUT …

What if you don’t like to write?

Or, what if you’re not a good writer?

Or, you just can’t find the time?

How to Write a Book without Writing:

There are a lot of good reasons to write your book yourself.

Writing your book ensures that it’s your voice coming through the pages.

Readers (future potential clients and business partners) get to know you, trust you, and want to work with you when it’s your voice.

And it helps you solidify your concepts, collect important business stories, and improve how you explain what you do.

This is all useful in business. It also makes you a more interesting guest for media, podcasts and conferences.

However, you don’t have to write your book to become a published author.

You can dictate your book and then work closely with editors to refine the work.

Or you can hire someone to write your book for you (a ghostwriter).

How to Dictate Your Book:

Once you have an outline of what will be in your book, it should be fairly easy for you to then record yourself talking about each chapter.

Imagine you’re explaining each section to your friend or a client.

Record your voice using Voice Note, Garage Band on your Mac or anything that gets you an MP3.

You can then send those files to a low cost but high quality transcription service like Rev.com or Temi.com.

Once transcribed, read through it, fill in some gaps, and then hire a content editor.

A great content editor will ensure that the material is coherent, complete, and communicates your message in an engaging manner. You’ll spend more on editing this way, but you could save a lot of time and pain if you’re really not into writing.

The cost of transcription will vary depending on the minutes of content created. Editing costs depend on how much work is required to refine the material. But, this is an option many time-crunched authors are turning to.

It’s often easier to talk for 30 minutes than it is to write for the same time.

Hire a Ghostwriter

Alternatively, you may wish to hire a ghostwriter to do all the heavy lifting for you.

A great ghostwriter will write your book for you.

To do that, they will conduct research, interview experts, and spend a lot of time interviewing you. If you want to learn about hiring ghostwriters, this is an epic guide.

This costs money!

A good ghostwriter is expensive (typically more than $15,000 for a standard-sized non-fiction book).

You’re not likely to hire a high quality one on Fiverr. You’ll need to get referrals and check references to make sure you’ve got one you’ll be happy with.

And, for many non-fiction authors, it’s a great option to get a book done.

Writing your book will cost you time and money no matter how you choose to approach it.

Writing it yourself will cost a lot more time and much less money. Hiring someone to help you will cost a lot more money and still take some time.

Now that you know how to write a book, it’s your choice.

If you’re investing time and money in writing a book, make it something you’re proud of.

Know your strengths and your weaknesses.

Make sure you have the right support to keep you moving forward. Most people need accountability and guidance. Many people start a book and never finish.

It can be a long journey if you do it alone.

book editing

The Unexpected Problem with Book Editors – Getting Editing Right

If you’re wondering if your chapter sucks, it probably does. That’s ok. Keep writing. The first goal is to just get it down on paper and then you bring in book editors to help.

We like to tell our clients the first order of business is creating a bad first draft. Once you’ve got a bad first draft, there’s something to work with to make it good, and then great. That’s where the most important members of your team come into the picture:

The book editors!

But, here’s where way too many well intentioned authors go so wrong!

Don’t Waste Your Money on the Wrong Book Editor

Too many authors send me their edited manuscripts telling me they are ready to publish … and they have hired professional editors, but the book still is not good. What’s gone wrong?

First, let me be clear … 100% of authors need editors. Professional writers need an editor. There is no level of experienced writer that just no longer needs an editor.

You CANNOT edit your work. Your brain plays tricks on you and you will only see how something is supposed to be written not how it’s written. Also, stuff that makes sense to you quite likely doesn’t make sense to other people.

While some experienced writers can skip a developmental edit, those situations are rare. Most non-fiction books will be improved from a two or three-star book to a four-star book with a good developmental or content edit. Then the copy edit takes it from four stars to five stars.

Even when you understand this and you realize that you have to hire professionals for this not just your aunt who edited your papers for university, you might still go wrong when you hire editors and here are the four most common places I see it go all wrong for well intentioned authors.

3 Ways Authors Mess Up When Hiring a Book Editor

1. You hire an editor, but your book needs someone who will help you develop the idea further.

Editors are not the same as writing coaches. In fact, editors often are more analytical than a writing coach. The best line or copy editors are detail oriented and process driven. A good writing coach is going to be driven to influence and communicate in a way that is engaging. They are typically creatives.

Your book might need someone who is more creative first … someone to develop the concept further and make sure you’ve made something that is compelling and interesting above all else. Editing improves the writing but it’s not usually going to develop the core message and idea enough to make the book really great. Even content editing,  which does focus on the structure and content of the book, is sometimes premature if the book doesn’t have a well enough developed hook. Don’t know what makes a great hook? Watch this video:

If you’re not really sure where your book is at ask a few colleagues or friends to read your book (commonly called beta readers) and ask them to answer a few questions like:

> what do you think this book is about?
> what’s the main benefit you get from this book?
> what would you change?

If your beta readers are coming back with positive and consistent answers to the above then you’re probably ready for editing.

2. You hired an editor but weren’t clear on what you expected the result of the edits to be.

I hired an editor but she didn’t make my book better she just made it grammatically correct.” More than one client has brought me their manuscript with this complaint.

If you hire a copy editor – you’re going to get a copy edit.

 

Some great copy editors will flag areas of your book that need improvement, but their job is to follow a list of rules and make sure your book follows those rules.

If you want an editor that is going to make your book better, you may need a story expert (See point 1 …). Or you need to hire a developmental editor and make it clear that you’re looking for someone to dig in and help you figure out how to make this book better. Spell out what that looks like – do you want them to actually write out how to make a paragraph read better or just, flag it with questions for you to do the work? The more you can lay out the expectations of your editor in advance the more you set yourself up for success.

3. You hired an editor without checking their experience.

Someone may have a great eye for mistakes, but that is not the same as being an experienced and professional editor. Your Uncle may be handy around the house, but it’s not the same as hiring a licensed carpenter or electrician.

If an editor hasn’t edited a bunch of other books in my genre (non-fiction, ideally business books or memoirs) and doesn’t edit for a living, I move on and unless you’re on a tight budget, you probably should too.

Editors are the most expensive part of your book publishing process (unless you’re working with ghostwriter … then the writer should be the highest paid person on your team). Make sure your investment is going to making your book better. And, often this means you need different people to do different roles. It also means you need to hire true professionals.

At Book Launchers we have a story expert or writing coach help with the concept before a different person does the content edit, then a different person does two rounds of copy editing before another person does a proofread. My margin on our book projects would be much higher without involving all these experts, but then the books we produce wouldn’t be half as good. Every professional is worth it but make sure you’re getting the right people at the right time in your book publishing journey.

 

You also might like this video:

 

All About the Copyright Page for Self-Publishing Authors

When you write a book, there’s some really exciting material you must include in your book. That is the material on the copyright page of your book.

Before we dive into this important page in your book, here’s the very important disclaimer:

This is not legal advice. This is just one author sharing some info for another author.

First, you might be wondering what is copyright and do you need to file for copyright protection first. Your work is under copyright protection from virtually the moment it is created. From the moment you put your words to word processor. On paper, painted, filmed, or fixed in any other type of physical format. Automatic copyright is applied. So if protection is automatic, then why would you want to file and pay money for an official copyright certificate?

That’s all covered in this video, so you can check that out if you need that information first:

Why the Copyright Page is Important

The copyright page is of critical importance to librarians, publishers, bulk book buyers, bibliographers, and even writers who want to quote your book in their book. Open up any book you have on your shelf, and you’ll see the page I’m talking about it. A  typical copyright page includes:

  • And it has the copyright notice,
  • Edition information,
  • Publication information,
  • Printing history,
  • Cataloging data,
  • Legal notices,
  • ISBN or other identification numbers.

Some books also contain some credits for design, editing or illustration.

What Information Has to Be on the Copyright Page

The single most important element on the copyright page is the copyright! It’s the C symbol or the word copyright. Then, it has the year of the first publication and who owns that copyright.

The owner could be you, your company, or if you’re going the traditional publishing route, it will be the publishing company you’ve signed your rights over to. If you’re still trying to decide if you’re going to self-publish or traditionally publish, I highly recommend checking out this video.

You also probably should put a reservation of rights on the page where you outline what people can and can’t do with the material in the book.

For example:

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publisher.

You may also include the publisher’s contact information. Larger publishers will probably include their full contact details. As an indie publisher, you may want to include an email, or a website. This is really useful, if someone wants to purchase multiple books or ask you for permission to use more than just a quote from your book.

But of course, you can always put that material at the end of the book too. You might put any trademark notices, so if you’ve trademarked your book title, publishing company imprint, something else you may want to put a notice on that page. If you’re pursuing the Library of Congress listing, then you’re going to want that cataloging in publication data. See this video on getting your book into libraries. a

Should You Credit Others on Your Copyright Page?

Some authors use the copyright page to credit book cover designers, editors, or illustrators but this is not necessary. Personally, I use the acknowledgment pages for that. This is only one page in your book so put in the elements that are the most important to you as it pertains to the publishing of your book.

Want more on this subject? Some resources I used when fact checking include:

Shout out to a few resources that help me double check what I was telling you. This book, David Wogahn Register Your Book and a blog post from the Book Designer that actually gives you copyright page examples.

Still Looking for a Book Deal with a Traditional Publisher? That’s so 2012 …

While you waste two years pursuing a book deal with a traditional publisher your competition has already published their book and begun to profit. Traditional book deals aren’t dead … there are some sensible reasons to pursue a traditional book deal, but self-publishing is quite possibly the best solution for you.

Even if I was offered a traditional book deal right now, I wouldn’t take it. Here’s why:

Reason One for Not Taking a Traditional Book Deal: Money

I make way more money self-publishing. To self-publish my first book, I invested a total of $12,800 when you include hiring a PR company. That’s with me doing all the legwork to research the steps, hire everyone, set up accounts, upload all my files, and project managing the entire process. It was a giant pain, and it took more than a few hundred hours to do. Forget about just the writing. I also made some huge mistakes, including one that cost me bookstore distribution in the province of Alberta, you can see a video about that one right here, and another error that cost me $1,200 in returned book charges. You can see about that mistake here.

It was worth it, but if a company like Book Launchers had been around in 2013, I would’ve happily paid them that money and more to do it all for me.

There are plenty of reasons besides money to write a book. I covered that right here:


But, there is a lot of money to be made in book sales and beyond if you do it right.  In the last four years, I’ve made more than $63,000 from the sale of More Than Cashflow, and that’s just from Amazon and bookstores. I’ve also made thousands of dollars selling books at the back of the room where I’ve spoken or had a booth.

Because I owned my book, I was also able to use it as currency. I traded copies of my book for more than $30,000 worth of magazine advertising space.

If I had landed a traditional book deal, I would’ve made less than $10,000 from the same quantity of book sales. I also couldn’t have easily used my books as currency to trade for advertising because I would’ve had to pay retail price to the publisher to buy copies of my book to do the deal. It cost me $4 and something to buy each book from the print-on-demand publisher. It would’ve cost me closer to $15 to buy it from the publisher. What I could do with the content for creating courses, talks, and other off-shoots would have been subject to the publisher’s approval as well.

Reason Two for Not Taking a Traditional Book Deal: Creative Freedom

Now, some of these financial benefits of publishing a book would’ve come about with a traditional publisher, but not all of them. With a traditional publishing deal, I would’ve had to compromise on the subject matter of the book. It would have made the book much less impactful. The traditional publishers I spoke with actually rejected my book idea, saying there was already too many generic real estate investing books on the market. The idea the publisher gave me to write about was kinda lame (real estate investing for couples). I’m glad I didn’t get a deal to write that book. I knew my market.

That’s part of the reason my book became an Amazon Overall #1 Bestseller and stayed into the Top 100 for 45 days. It was unique, but the publisher didn’t know my market as I did and wanted me to go into a boring niche. I’m so glad I didn’t get that book deal.

Reason One for Not Taking a Traditional Book Deal: Rights and Control

I’ve watched a lot of my friends get book deals and ultimately be very unhappy about it. It usually comes down to the rights and control. Most traditional publishing deals require you sign over the audiobook rights, but often the publisher may not create one for you. You don’t have the rights to produce one for yourself. So you’re stuck. But, it’s more than that.

Who owns the content in your book? Not you when you take a traditional publishing deal. One friend of mine even had their book republished, word for word, under another person’s name. The intro and title changed, but it’s 95% his book, now being sold under someone else’s name. The publisher can do that because they own the content. Another friend bought his book rights back from the publisher because he was tired of them limiting what he could do with the brand.  Jim Kukral of the Sell More Books Show was recently pleading with his listeners to buy his last 70 copies of his book to free him from his oppressors, his publisher. Traditional publishing is a broken model, and it doesn’t offer the advantages people think it does.

Maybe a book deal with a traditional publisher is right for you

Maybe traditional publishing is right for you, but quite likely, it’s not. Fewer traditional deals are done now. The deals all take a long time. You usually need to find an agent. That takes time. Then, you write a book proposal and sit gets shopped around. That takes time. Then, if anybody bites, there are contract negotiations. If you start now, two years from now, you might have your book out.

With self-publishing, you could have a book out in the next six to 12 months. A lot could happen in that year … and in the meantime, while your book isn’t out, you’re almost guaranteed to be leaving money on the table. Other people with books are landing the paid speaking gigs, the consulting clients, or selling more products.

But there are reasons to pursue a book deal.

The significant benefit of pursuing a traditional publishing deal is ease of distribution. If you traditionally publish your book, it’s more likely to be carried in bookstores. You’re also more likely to be eligible for the huge best-seller list like New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and the traditional publisher does take a risk on your book, footing the bill for the team that will take your book from concept to print.

But, don’t expect that they are going to do much to sell your book!

You, the author, are still 99% responsible for marketing. Let me repeat that part because it’s so important. Even with a traditional publishing deal, the author is responsible for marketing the book. In other words, you do all the sales work and you write the book, and they take 85% of the revenue. Sound fair?

Finally, and this is another really important thing to know. The only person who REALLY cares if you got a book deal is you. Readers don’t care. If the book is done professionally and gives them massive value, they are happy.

Some authors are happy with their book deals.  It can be a great solution for the right people. Just don’t go into it thinking this big company takes care of everything but the writing. That just isn’t true.

If that was why you were pursuing the book deal, check out what we do at Book Launchers. We do EVERYTHING a publisher would do AND we help you market your book to achieve your goal. The best part is that you keep all the rights and royalties.

To learn more, let’s chat.

Copyright Protection for Books

Good news, author. Your work is under copyright protection from virtually the moment it is created. From the moment you put your words to word processor automatic copyright is applied.

So if protection is automatic, then why would you want to file and pay money for an official copyright certificate?

Here are three reasons why you might want to file a copyright certificate in the US:

Number one, filing is required for a copyright infringement case.

If registration occurs within five years of publication, it’s considered a prima facie. In less legal terms, it means that it’s accepted as true unless concretely proven otherwise.

Also, there are 20 countries in the world that require you to file copyright because they don’t recognize automatic copyrights. Which means, in those countries, someone could republish your work and you have no defense in their courts unless you file for copyrights.

Number two, if you want your book considered for inclusion in the library of Congress, part of the process for submission is to file official copyrights.

I covered that topic in this right here:

Number three, you may just wish to have the facts of your copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration.

It makes the whole thing very official. If you file for copyright, timeline and ownership become very clear.

Registration is voluntary but could be useful. It’s totally up to you. Your work is protected by copyright but your ideas are not.

In the Unites States, the United States copyright office accepts registrations.

Copyright for Canadian Authors:

For Canadian authors, basically it’s the same for you. It’s totally voluntary and only really necessary in an infringement case. If you want to file, it’s through the Canadian Intellectual Property Office for a fee.

You may also like to read ‘Should you use a pen name when you write a book?‘.

How to Price a Non-Fiction Book for Sale on Amazon

Figuring out how to price a non-fiction book for sale is tricky business. You want a price point that is high enough that a reader knows the book is valuable, and that it opens you up to cross promotional opportunities. And, you want to be competitive so you don’t scare away your prospective readers.

As we discussed in why you shouldn’t price your book too cheap, the advice really varies on the subject.

To me, book pricing is one part art and one part science.

To figure out how to price a non-fiction book, first you want to know:

  • What is the ultimate goal of your book?
  • What are the distribution channels?
  • What formats are you printing in?
  • How many pages is your book?
  • And, what is the value you are offering to the reader?

By the way, Amazon’s really what you need to pay attention to as a self-published author. That’s where more than 80% of your book sales are going to come from, even if you have book store distribution. So really, you’re figuring out what’s going to make you stand out and keep that Amazon monster fat and happy.

But how do you figure it all out? Well, let’s take a look:

And, of course if this seems like a giant pain in the butt and you wish someone else would do it all for you, your Book Launchers membership includes pricing research and a price range recommendation. That’s just part of our service to help you write, publish and promote your book. We also do extensive category selection and keyword research.