Many authors will come to understand that writing a book is not just about the writing. Indeed, it’s about the journey and how it changes you.
In today’s guest post, author and coach Rohini Rathour shares why she wrote a book and what she learnt on the journey of becoming an author.
At the end of this post, Rohini also offers a special discount for readers on her upcoming workshop on 30th June 2017 where she will show you how to live with purpose and create a business you love. Click here to book your ticket now.
At the end of 2015 I made just one resolution for the coming year: to make peace with myself. I did not know how exactly I was going to do that but it sounded like a good thing to aim for.
Fast forward a year, I made significant progress towards that goal. Quite unexpectedly, I did this by writing a book. My first ever non-fiction book Leading Ladies: inspiring stories of women who found their purpose with passion was released on 30th November 2016.
It features stories of 32 ordinary women who took courageous decisions when faced with a change in their lives, and came out the other side stronger and happier. These women who come from different backgrounds and have varied aspirations are very relatable and inspire action, even if not awe.
Listening to their stories, narrating them in a style that was easy to read and putting all the learnings together helped me come to terms with a number of things in my own life. I also shared my own story so my own conclusions and motivations for writing the book became clear to the reader. And in doing all of that, I made peace with myself.
Along the way I also learned a number of things and discovered there was much more to being an author than the love of writing.
Lesson #1: Ask yourself why you want to write a book
It is always a good starting point to ask yourself whether writing a book is really what you should be doing. There are so many tools available to us writers today, and many are completely free.
Social media permits us to share so much of what we know and who we are with those in our lives, and more. Blogging also enables us to reach a wider audience. Publishing a book need not be the first port of call for someone wanting to get something off their chest.
I will admit that the idea of writing a book came to me out of the blue and triggered by something I had seen on Facebook (this happens to me a lot). It was not a vanity project, but at the same time, I did not expect to make millions from it.
I had a germ of an idea but I knew it would change into something else by the time I had finished. I had the time to go with the flow and see it through to its conclusion. More importantly, for me, the time was right to embark on such a project.
Lesson #2: Think long and hard about the content of your book
Thanks to the internet and social media, there is a plethora of really excellent content available at our fingertips, most of it for free.
If you are treading old familiar ground but have your own unique angle on it, then it may be something readers are willing to pay for.
But it is always a good idea to research thoroughly your subject matter and what is already available in the market – free or not. If you happen to be a celebrity then this rule does not apply. Simply having your famous name on the book may be enough to generate sales, irrespective of the literary content on the pages inside.
If you have content bubbling inside you that you really want to share with the world and are not too keen on the long process of turning it into a book, then blogging could be the answer. It is a great way to access an audience that is global and can be done for free. It can also be a stepping stone into someday becoming a published author.
I took to blogging just over a year ago simply as a way to writing about things that were close to my heart. It never crossed my mind then that I would be publishing a book just over a year later.
Lesson #3: Research your subject matter and who your target reader is
At first, I wanted to write a book about entrepreneurship. My plan was to find successful, but not necessarily well-known entrepreneurs to share their stories with me for my book.
I figured that anyone looking to start a new business would be interested in reading my book. But before going ahead with that plan I decided to check out my competition and looked for books on the subject.
I even bought a few books and borrowed about seven or eight others from my local library so I could read them and learn how to (or how not to) write my book.
What surprised me the most was how much useful information was available on the subject for free and written by people who had direct experience of running their own business. My target reader would have no reason to buy a book from me to learn about successful entrepreneurship.
I needed to step back and think about what I had to offer that was not already available to them. I also had to find a target audience with whom I could relate, so that when I sat down to write, they would sense that I understood who they were and reach them in a way that no other book had done before.
I then thought about the book that I really needed at that inflection point in life where I was facing change when I wanted to follow my heart but was deeply unsure of where it was going to lead me.
I put myself in the shoes of the many women out there who want to be financially independent and have an identity beyond the role society has given them (of being a wife, mother or a carer).
I wanted to know if it was possible to have it all.
Since I could not find a book that gave me those answers, I decided I would find out for myself with the help of other women and then write a book about it. So began my journey of writing my book.
Lesson #4: Non-fiction content needs external unbiased input to give it true gravitas
I was determined from the start to let the data lead me to my conclusions, not the other way around. My “data gathering” consisted of first seeking out people who would be willing to share their stories with me.
By this time I was sure that my book needed to be about exploring women’s contribution to society, whatever role they might choose to play.
With that clarity I found more women were willing to come forward and share their story with me. This new refinement of the subject matter I was to write about chimed with more people (men and women) than my original brief about entrepreneurship.
Before I knew it, I was getting more leads on women to talk to with some coming forward wanting to be part of my book.
I started the process of listening to their stories (I prefer not to call them interviews) in early April and I had finished all of them by end of May.
With that process complete I had the raw ingredients with which to develop a structure for the book and start writing.
The first stage was to simply create a narrative based on what I had heard from each woman and send this to them for their approval and amendments. Once I had all the stories in place I sat down and created my first manuscript.
Lesson #5: Get independent and professional advice along the way
I knew from the beginning that I would have to go down the self-publishing route.
Since I am neither an established author nor a celebrity, mainstream publishers were unlikely to be interested in my work. But even when it comes to self-publishing there is a plethora of options, none of them particularly easy to understand if it is your first time.
So I researched the subject online and spoke to a few friends who have self-published books. In the end, I went with I_AM Self Publishing partly because their co-founder Leila Dewji is one of the women whose story is in my book.
But more important, I really liked her business ethos and the layout of her website. I also figured that a publisher whose story appears in my book would have every reason to help me make a success of my book.
My experience with the I_AM team in the following weeks and months confirmed to me that I had made the right decision. They were professional, punctual and provided a personal touch to the whole process of self-publishing that can be very daunting for a first-time author.
But before I had decided to go with I_AM, I sent Leila the first draft of my manuscript. She gave me very clear feedback that was honest and constructive. She raised interesting questions that made me revisit what I had written, and how I had written it.
This iterative process of reading, editing and re-reading my work, assessing my work from the reader’s point of view meant I made countless changes along the way with the hope of making it easier to read and more impactful.
A number of authors who self-publish might understandably aim to do it for as little upfront cost as possible. Instead of using professional proof-readers, editing services and cover designers, they may get close friends or family to do it for them, or go with the lowest cost option.
Your book is your baby.
Why wouldn’t you give it the best possible start in life by ensuring it is presented in a way that gives it the maximum possible chance of success?
As a reader, I am irritated with books that have spelling, grammatical or formatting mistakes. I may forgive such errors in a blog which is free, but in a book that has been paid for, even small mistakes can detract meaningfully from the rest of the book that may be very good.
A bit of professional paid for input may be what lies between your book becoming a best seller and a sloppy production with potential.
Lesson #6: There is so much more to becoming an author than just writing the book
Becoming a self-published author is not that different to setting up your own business. Writing a book is clearly central to the process, but even excellent books don’t sell themselves.
The book marketing process in many ways needs to begin well before the book has been published and is available to buy. As the author, you are not just selling your book, but yourself to your potential readers.
If you think about it, it is no different to how other content is sold – be it music, film or a line of clothing.
First, you have to identify your target market, then you need to understand what is already out there serving that market and get familiar with the competitor’s product and their marketing tactics.
Next, you have to devise your own plan to create a buzz about your product and get people interested in it even before it is launched. Luckily for authors, books are not particularly high-value items and having read your competitor’s book is more likely to make the reader want to read yours.
Once the book is launched, it is critical to ensure the book reaches those who will read it, rate and review it. If you are a brand new author no one has heard of, chances are people will rely on reviews to decide if they want to read it.
These people need to be more than just your immediate friends and family. You want unbiased influencers reading your book and posting their reviews. In my case, I sent copies of my books to all those who are in my book as a thank you, but I also made a list of other men and women who I admire, and whose views I value. It is my hope that some of them will take the time to read my book and give me feedback. If they love it, they may even shout about it to the world.
***Special Time Sensitive offer***
Rohini is running a workshop on 30th June 2017 and offering a substantial discount for readers. Just click on the link below and use the special code LL30JUN17 when you book you a ticket to get a 10% discount. Click on the image below to book your ticket now.
Rohini is a non-fiction author, as well as a life & business coach.
Her first book Leading Ladies explores the contribution women make to society in their various roles as mothers, carers, career women, entrepreneurs and philanthropists.
Prior to that, she spent two decades working for a London based wealth management firm working as an analyst and fund manager. At the time of leaving she was Head of UK Equities and responsible for the performance of GBP 2 billion of clients’ money.
What lessons have you learnt by becoming an author? Please join in the conversation by posting a comment below or like and share.
Also published on Medium.