Writing a Book: 6 Things that Surprise Most First-Time Authors

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Many of the people that I work with are writing their first book. Usually, they’re writing it to improve their reputation and their business. Part of my job is to help them understand the book-writing process, what a great book looks like, and what they need to do to get the best possible book written and published.

Over the years, I’ve identified six common things that surprised first-time authors. Here they are.

One Draft Is Not Enough

Intellectually, just about everyone knows that it takes more than one draft to write a good book. Emotionally, it’s another story. Many people who are writing their first book think that they’re the exception. They imagine writing the book once and then being done.

It doesn’t work like that. Most of the books that my clients write go through at least four full revisions. Individual chapters and sections may be revised many more times. It’s true, great writing is rewriting, and it’s also true that the rule applies to you.

Beta Readers Make Your Book Better

If you spent years developing your ideas, it’s reasonable to think that you’ve got things down cold and you know how to explain them. Reality is usually different. I suggest using beta readers who are a mix of content experts and people like the folks who will read your book. You can include those family members who want to be part of the project, too.

Beta readers will bring you surprises about what you didn’t get right and suggestions to make things better that you never thought of. The process will improve your book dramatically. Just remember, all criticism is a gift, but only some of it is useful.

Yes, You Need A Professional Edit

Many first-time authors are shocked to discover that their grammar-checking software and relative with an English degree are not enough. If you want to have a book you’re proud of, you need to have a professional business book editor work their magic.

The same first-time authors who thought a professional edit wasn’t necessary are usually amazed at the number of changes an editor makes and how much better the book is after editing.

When the Book Is Done, The Work Is Not

Writing a book is a big project and lots of work, but when you’re done writing the book, you’re not done with the project. Still to come are the things related to production, cover design, interior book design, and decisions of all kinds about formats and distribution channels. None of that actually helps you sell your book, though. So, there’s work on the marketing plan and the book launch and the rest of the work that goes into selling books.

Titles and Cover Design Are Important, But Not Magic

Your title and subtitle should incorporate your promise and use words that people will search for to find a book like yours. Your cover should be professionally designed in a way that will represent your book content accurately and successfully. Both of those things are important, but neither is magic. Neither will sell the book by itself.

Business book buyers almost never buy a book after spotting the title or seeing the cover. Sometimes they’re looking for your book because someone else recommended it. Sometimes they’ve searched for a book like yours to solve a particular problem or answer a particular question. That’s just the starting point. Business book buyers will study the reader reviews. They’ll look at your endorsements, your table of contents, and usually some of the copy.

Amazon Is A Specialized Search Engine

Most first-time authors think about Amazon as a place to sell books. It’s certainly that, but in addition to being Earth’s largest bookstore, Amazon is also Earth’s most important search engine for books.

That makes it vital that you use Amazon to your best advantage. Your title, description, category, and more need to be right if you want to sell a lot of books.

Bottom Line

If you’re writing your first book, these aren’t the only things that will surprise you. Expect to learn a lot. Writing a book, especially your first one, is a grand learning journey. Enjoy it!

Your can learn a lot about what it takes to write and publish a book you’re proud of before you undertake the challenge yourself. Check out my free PDF, “Do You Want to Write a Business Book.”

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