A while back I was sitting in a room with Jonathan Fields, a fellow author and good friend. At the front of the staging area, a publishing executive was talking about the state of the industry.
Does anyone have any questions?
Someone had a question, and a good one: “If I want to write a book, what’s the first thing I should do?”
The consultant started going down the list. These days it’s all about platform-building, he said. You need to make sure you have a good fan base on Twitter. You also need to have a blog. Then you need to think about your marketing plan. You have to write letters to famous authors and ask for their endorsement, and craft your elevator pitch for TV.
“And,” he said, after recovering for a moment. “When you want to write a book, you should also think about what you have to say.”
Jonathan and I looked at each other with the same thought: Uh, isn’t that pretty much the first thing?
I’m not always the best person on stage either, so I don’t mean to blame the guy in front for having a Rick Perry moment (“What was that third thing?”). Nevertheless, I also think it’s fairly apparent that a lot of people work on all kinds of things before coming to that all-important question: what do you have to say? What’s the point of this exercise, and who will ultimately be helped by it?
Tomorrow we’re launching a project, our first commercial guide in well over a year. The long wait is partly because I’ve been busy with other things, but also because this one is a LONG time in the works.
The world of publishing is mysterious and strange. I’ve spent three years annoying my publishers with ceaseless questions, and I still don’t understand how a lot of things work. Fortunately, I don’t always have to understand, because I rely on my veteran literary agent, David Fugate.
A long time ago, I asked David if he would jot a few things down: lessons learned, the best advice he gives to aspiring authors, an overview of the book proposal process, and so on. I was picturing around 10,000 words, about the length of one of my manifestos.
Then something unexpected happened: David went into a cave and emerged three months later with an entire book manuscript. “Wow,” I said. “This is … really … big.”
David explained that once he got started, he couldn’t stop. He felt there was no way he could share everything that writers need to know in a short document, so he kept writing and writing.
By the time he came out of the writing cave, we had a much better resource that expected. The finished version clocks in at over 45,000 words, not counting sample proposals, interviews with editors from the big NYC publishers, a long list of marketing strategies and tips, and various additional resources.
Note: Tomorrow I’ll give you the full rundown on what’s included. It’s a big product, but the whole thing is also accessible—the point is to show aspiring authors exactly what they need to do to attract the attention of publishers, and to clear up a lot of misconceptions that are widely held about books.
Speaking of misconceptions, sometimes people ask why I’m still writing books. “Doesn’t the internet allow you to skip that whole process?”
Actually, no. I love the internet, but I also love books—still. My second book launches in May, and I’m seriously excited to go out on the road to meet readers. Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, but there’s something about books that I find special and unique.
Thankfully, I’m not the only one. Every day I get emails from people who have found my book in a bookstore or library. Book #1 is now out in more than a dozen countries, and it also gave me the opportunity to write book #2, which will reach an even broader audience thanks to more attentive distribution.
The Unconventional Guide to Publishing: Tomorrow at 9am PST / 12pm EST
The purpose of the Unconventional Guide to Publishing is to provide a shortcut to learning for anyone interested in how publishing really works. We’ll do our best to make it fun, with discount pricing (three days only) and a couple of special launch bonuses to reward early buyers.
Surveys show that 80% of people want to write a book in their lives, but only a tiny percentage actually does so. Our mission with this guide is to get more people from the 80% into the percentage who write and publish.
Whether you care about this resource or not, I’d encourage you to think about the main question: what do you have to say? Figure that out first, and everything else that comes next will be a lot easier.
How about you—what kind of book do you want to write?
Feel free to tell us in the comments.