Want to Write a Book? The Best Place to Start is NOT Where You Think

Want to write a book? Start here...

Want to write a book? Start here...

I often describe writing a book as one of the worst, and best things, to happen to me.

Best — because writing a book forces you to sit and put words on a page that describe something important to you for others to read.

Worst — well, writing a book forces you to sit and put words down that describe something important to you for others to read.

Writing a book will make you come alive — and kill you, sometimes on the same page.

Yet, I still think everyone should write a book.

There is no better way to reach people in an impactful way. No better way to stretch yourself and your ideas. No better way to create a permanent object that will increase your credibility and influence.

Great, so how do you go about writing a book?

Having three published books, with my newest release of 101 Questions You Need to Ask in Your Twenties (and let’s be honest, your thirties too), I often have people reach out to ask me how to do it.

It took me about eight years to write (plus re-write x20) and get a book published. I definitely learned the hard way how to do it.

And most importantly, how NOT to write and publish a book.

There’s a terror, trepidation, and exhilaration throughout the entire book writing process. And then when you finish the book and you’re ready to take a vacation, the real work begins — trying to get a publisher to publish it and/or trying to compel people to actually buy it.

Okay, but let’s not overwhelm ourselves! Easier said than done, right?

While there’s so many different pieces to writing, editing and publishing a book, here’s the best strategy I can give anyone (whether you want to self-publish or pursue a traditional publisher) on where and how to start writing a book.

The biggest piece of advice to start writing a book…don’t start by writing a book. Let me explain.

Biggest piece of advice to writing and publishing a book

If you want to write a book don’t start by writing a book. Start by writing a blog.

By far, this is the single best strategy to writing and publishing a book that I could give you.

Whether you’re already an active blogger or you’d rather not touch one with a 50-foot pole, I’ve got some tips for you why writing a blog is so important for every kind of author.

Even if you don’t want to publish a book, but just grow your credibility on any topic, a blog is a wonderful idea.

And I learned this truth the hard way.

Over a decade ago, I started writing a book by, you know, writing a book.

Oh how wrong I was and how much time I wasted. It took me about five years of spinning my wheels trying to write a book and get it published. To only start over from scratch and begin working at creating my blog.

Starting a blog, and writing regularly on it, is the best way for you to write a book for so many different reasons — whether you want to self publish a book someday or attract a traditional publisher.

7 Reasons Why You Need a Blog to Write a Book

  1. Blogging hones your voice and writing ability

Writing a blog makes you a better and more strategic writer.

When you blog, you see what really resonates with people. Because you’re getting realtime feedback. From social media shares and blog comments you’re getting to see what’s working. And not working. You start learning to write crisper and more to the point.

Because in the blog world you have about two seconds to attract someone’s attention, so you learn very quickly there’s a lot to learn.

You get to see what topics take off and what topics are a dud.

To put it in business terms, by blogging you are market-testing your ideas.

Instead of locking yourself away for two years, trying to write a book and then figuring out it’s not working. You can see what’s working in a day.

Blogging is experimenting with your ideas in small beta-tests. You learn from it, you write again, but better this time than the last.

2. Many different blog posts you write might then become parts of your book. 

Blogs aren’t just written and then disappear into the Internet abyss. The best stuff from your blogs can become a part of your book later on.

Many different books out there are 50% blogs they writer has already published that they’ve then repurposed for their book. Most publishers don’t mind putting the stuff that has already proven to really work into the book. Actually, they sometimes prefer it.

3. Blogging helps you build an audience that likes your writing

This point is huge whether you want to self-publish or snag a traditional publisher. Because one way or another, you’re going to want an audience who wants to buy your book when it comes out.

Marketing and selling a book is not easy. I’ve heard statistics that 95% of all books sell less than 3,000 copies over their entire lifetime. With the average American book selling 500 copies total (Publishers Weekly).

By blogging, you’re actively building trust and credibility with your audience. You’re becoming a voice they value. When you finally publish that book, it’s hopefully something they want to read.

This is true for writing fiction or non-fiction. Same principle applies. There’s even movie blockbusters like The Martian, which started as self-published blog posts released online.

4. Blogging helps you build a platform that publishers want to see in order to publish your book

If you want to attract those big wigs at a big ol’ publisher, your platform size is all they are really going to care about.

Platform size is basically the combination of your email subscribers, social media followers, and basically the reach your current writing has.

In the publishing world, platform size is king.

As I wrote in the 3 UnSpoken Secrets for Getting Published for The Write Practice:

“At a publishing house, editorial can, and will, be out-voted.”

Meaning, there’s a department at the publishing house that cares about the content of the book. Then there’s two other departments, sales and marketing, that are going to mainly care how they are going to sell and market the book.

The majority of people looking at your book at the publisher won’t even look at your actual book. 

They won’t really look at the content, they will merely look at your platform size.

This is the cold, hard, publishing truth to publishing a book that I learned the hard way. For two years, I had every single publisher turn me down for my book All Groan Up: Searching For Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job! Sure some turned it down because they didn’t like it.

But a few publishers told me they thought it was a great book. They loved my voice, content, and they thought the book could be a best-seller.

But…they couldn’t take a risk on an unknown author with no platform size. 

Cue the long walk on a pier in the fog to sad saxophone music. 

It was a wild, fun piece of redemption when the publisher that turned me down three different times, ended up publishing All Groan Up years later. And they didn’t even realize they had turned it down before.

5. Honestly, nowadays you can’t really even get an agent to get your book in front of publishers without a sizable platform.

Most often, you need to snag a literary agent to even get your book in front of publishers. And you can’t get a good agent if you don’t have a good platform size.

Because an agent knows the game. They know that your book doesn’t have a great chance getting published, if you don’t have a platform. Thus, they only have so much time for so many books, thus they can’t take on your project.

6. By blogging and building your own platform, you might not even need a literary agent.

Going back to my story, I was somehow able to snag an agent, but every publisher said I needed a bigger platform. So after years of rejection and failure, I ended my relationship with my agent and started my blog All Groan Up.

Then I had the blog 21 Secrets For Your 20s go crazy viral, which directly led to my first book deal — 101 Secrets For Your TwentiesA fellow blogger introduced me to the acquisition editor at the publisher and because of my growing platform, they offered me a book deal, without a literary agent.

All my book deals have been without literary agents since then. I think agents can be great and offer value in different ways, but I’ve enjoyed building relationships with the publishers myself instead of an agent doing it for me.

7. By blogging, you build relationships with fellow bloggers and writers

This a beautiful bonus of blogging. You build relationships with people who share your same passion.

I can’t tell you how valuable and important these relationship will be. To encourage you, inspire you, and connect each other to each other’s audiences.

And the stronger your blog looks, the more momentum you have going, the more influencers you will be able to connect with. Like I mentioned, my first book deal came through a viral blog and relationship with a fellow blogger.

I love that many different people today that I call real.life.friends started as blogger friends.

Start Your Book by Starting a Blog

Wheww…that was a lot of information, but hopefully I’ve shown you of the value of starting a blog to write a book.

I give all this advice to you not because I’m trying to now sell you something. I’m giving it to you purely because I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did.

If you have a blog going, but are looking for advice on making your blog sizzle and shine, let me know and I’ll maybe do a follow up post on how to create a blog people will want to read.

The world needs your story. The world needs the hope you bring.

There are no gatekeepers now who are holding you back. No one is keeping you from sharing your words with the world.

Don’t wait for the perfect time. Don’t wait for the perfect message. Then you’ll wait forever.

Start writing. Start a blog. Then watch that spark grow…

Have anything to add? I’d love to hear from you within the comments on this article.

9 Comments

  1. BryanASands

    This is spot-on! Paul this is great stuff–it is some of the info you shared with me years ago that helped me on my journey of writing! Thank you!

    Reply
  2. Jennie Lee

    Thank you for this!! I’d LOVE to read a post about creating a blog people want to read!

    Reply
  3. Jack Lentz

    Thanks for the post, Paul. I enjoyed it! I’m definitely realizing the importance of regularly maintaining a blog. Would love to hear your thoughts on the characteristics of blogs that keep readers coming back for more, as well as ways to stay actively engaged in a community of bloggers.

    Reply
  4. Linsey

    Love this! Great wisdom and tips. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Reply
  5. Rachel

    Love the website. I actually came across your site because my Podcast (like many others) are geared towards millennials. My next show is “what does it mean to be grown”…FORTUNATELY as i kept looking I found this amazing blog on writing a book, which I’ve been dying to do but felt like i couldn’t because I’m not an expert at anything. Thanks for giving me hope! I would love to get your feedback on my podcast in the future!

    Reply
    • Paul Angone - All Groan Up

      Thanks Rachel! Sorry for my slow reply. Really appreciate your kind words. Keep up the great work!

      Reply

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