Recently podcaster, author, and agency owner Drew McLellan asked me how do busy agency owners write a book? That is a great question for any business owner, CEO, strategic consultant, or business coach who wishes to write a book. Here are the nine ways, in alphabetical, not rank order:
Blog To Book. I nickname this “The Julie & Julia Approach,” after the woman who blogged about cooking every recipe in the Julia Child book, Mastering The Art of French Cooking and it became a bestselling book and then hit movie. Start with a blueprint for the book that has a working title, working subtitle and chapter outline. My suggestion is the chapters be 20 aha! insights you want to share. Then write the 20 blogs that will be converted into book chapters. If each blog is a 1,000-word essay, voila, you have a sloppy first copy of a book manuscript. Many of my Forbes.com columns are the basis of my books.
Coauthor. Find someone who would like to split the work and the costs. I nickname this “The Gym Buddy Approach” after the classic exercise accountability strategy (a running buddy helped me get in the best shape of my life). Decide how you will approach the writing. One way is to split the chapters and have each writer do half the chapters and then trade for editing. Another strategy is to have one author write the first drafts and the other author write the polished chapters. There are many right answers, but the approach must be decided upon in advance and agreed upon as equitable. I have coauthored ten books and each approach was different.
Developmental Editor. My nickname for this is “The Charles Dickens Approach.” Dickens was a great friend and editor of novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who is notorious for writing the opening “It was a dark and stormy night” (probably did not consult Charles on that one or it might have been: “It was the best of nights, it was the worst of nights”). A developmental editor helps the author on structure and content, then looks at a book with a more critical eye. These editors do fix errors in grammar and spelling, but mainly look for structural problems. Developmental editors will comment on more complex structural issues, suggesting that an author delete or add sections, combine thoughts, or expand on a point made. Some developmental editors will also do minor rewrites, if needed, but that usually brings a higher price tag. For a business book of around 20,000 words, a developmental editor usually charges $4,000 to $8,000, depending on how much work is needed. Don’t confuse a developmental editor with a proofreader. A proofreader, or line editor, reads over a completed manuscript to make sure there are no errors. Hiring a proofreader is often the final step in the writing process, right before the book goes to publication. Typically, you’d hire both a developmental editor and a proofreader. Their fees can typically range from $4 to $8 per page, about $500 to $1,000 for a 20,000-word book.
Early Riser. My nickname for this is “The Deepak Chopra Approach.” In a 1996 LA Times interview with Chopra, the famed author reported that he gets up at 4:30 am, meditates for 90 minutes, and then writes for two hours. So set your alarm for two hours before you normally get up and in the pre-dawn quiet write the book every day (maybe six days a week—sleep in one day). As stated above, be guided by a blueprint for the book that has a working title, working subtitle, and chapter outline.
Ghostwriter. My nickname for this is “The Boo! I’m A Ghost approach.” A ghostwriter is a tool that is used to help create a book. The ghost (so named because they are invisible and will not be named in the book) interviews the “author” as a first step, next creates a blueprint for the book, and then does the heavy lifting of writing the entire book for the author. Although your book will be written by the ghostwriter, it’s written in the author’s voice. When the manuscript is done, the author has all the rights to the book. A ghostwriter needs all the information from the author in order to craft the book. Ghostwriters will also need to interview you to fill in any gaps. In addition, they must research any subject needed, which relates to your book. Ghostwriters vary widely in price. Usually, you can expect to spend somewhere between a quarter to two dollars per word for a book.
Interviews To Book. My nickname for this is “The Pharma CEO Approach” because this is how I helped a busy CEO of a top ten pharma company write a book. Once again, start with a blueprint for the book that has a working title, working subtitle and chapter outline. Have someone, perhaps a developmental editor, record interviews with you on Zoom that you then transcribe on Rev.com. The transcripts will be turned into chapters. Ten 15-minute chapter transcripts will equal a book rough draft.
Podcasts To Book. The nickname for this is “The Jodi Katz Approach.” I helped turn Jodi’s award-winning podcasts into a book. My suggestion is to start with that blueprint (a working title, working subtitle and chapter outline). Then base the podcast interviews on that. But the opposite approach works too. Do the podcasts, then weave them into a coherent book structure.
Retreats In Cabin. I nicknamed this “The Misery Approach,” named after the Stephen King novel and movie. In the movie the Kathy Bates character locks the author James Caan character in a cabin so he can finish a novel. Again, start with a blueprint for the book that has a working title, working subtitle and chapter outline. Then book a series of two-day writing retreat sessions. I have done this several times. I wrote my last book in a motel in Memphis over five days when I was recovering from Covid.
Workshop To Book. My nickname for this is “The Tony Robbins Approach” after the famous workshop leader and author (I interviewed people who attended his workshops and learned how to walk across hot coals). Create a three-hour workshop outline that reflects the chapter outline for your book. Get an audience and then record the workshop with an MP3 recorder or on Zoom. Next transcribe the workshop. The transcription will be a sloppy first copy for a book. This is another strategy for talking the book into existence. You talk much faster than you type.