We've had some requests to do a blog series on writing and publishing a book— an increasingly common goal and one that has become infinitely more attainable with the advent of self-publishing. There are six basic steps we follow to help our clients navigate the entire process — we can call them the six P's of Publishing. Over the next few weeks we will break down the process for you, because as readers and writers ourselves, we believe that getting your message out to your audience should not be an insurmountable or unattainable goal.
Step 1: I've got this idea
Out of all the things you need to write a book, this is the one that's non-negotiable. You can (and in some cases probably should) turn to a professional for any other aspect of the process, including writing the actual content, but without an idea and the urge to communicate it, there is no point.
So, you have an idea for a book. This can take very different forms depending on whether you are a business person distilling your message for a largely professional audience or if you have devised the ideal storyline for a new spy thriller. First, while the idea is still new, get it down on paper. Time is not your friend in this instance — in fact, the longer you wait, the more likely you will be to talk yourself out of it. Everyone has something worth saying, but most of us seem to have an inner critic that will scoff at any idea until you are convinced it isn't viable. Being able to view your writing with a critical eye is important, but not until much later in the process. For now, send that critical voice on a long needed vacation or lock it in a closet, but don't allow it to stop you before you've even begun.
Give yourself permission and time to fully explore the idea you have. Take notes, lots of them, and allow them to be as creative and dissociative as you'd like. Go off on tangents. The point is to pin your thoughts to paper so that later you can come back and sort them to see the direction your book should take. While you may be certain that you want to write a book to inform people about the myriad options they have to use fabric in home decorating, you may find out that half the things you wrote down were about the impact of color on people's mental state. That's your passion — you need to make it your niche in the design business and more importantly you need to be sure that topic is fully incorporated into the book you write.
Hand-in-hand with refining your topic is the need to define your audience. A book written to encourage retired philanthropists to do charity work is going to sound very different from one written to urge high school kids to volunteer in their communities. Let's make this even simpler: you wouldn't talk to your grandmother at Sunday dinner the same way you speak to your friends over drinks, nor would you use the same tone to approach your boss about a raise as you would to get your children to hang up their coats.
As with your idea, spend a little time to picture your ideal audience. Who will benefit most from your idea? Who are you picturing most engaged in your story? What group do you most want to share your message with? That is your target audience, and they are going to be very influential to the rest of this process. Take notes about them, cut out pictures from magazines if need be. Unless you are content to write a book that sits unread on a shelf in your office, your audience is going to be metaphorically sitting at the table throughout much of the publishing process.
Those two things — your idea and your audience — are what you need to have clear in your mind in order to move forward with your book. Jot things down, scribble notes, take pictures if needed and toss them all into a folder to refer to later. Once you know what you want to write about and who you want to write it for, in many cases, the hardest part is over.