11 Steps to Writing a Book to Share Your Message and Build Your Audience
A version of this article was originally published at Helping Writers Become Authors.
Whether you're launching a business or starting a career as a writer, a brief nonfiction book can be a solid cornerstone for your brand. It helps your audience understand your personality and style and learn what to expect from the rest of your work.
If you're already blogging to build your audience, an ebook you share for free or sell online can be the bridge from that quick, free blog content to longer works or more in-depth services you want to promote.
11 Steps to Writing a Book
As massive as it sounds, writing a book doesn’t have to be one big task. Follow these bite-sized steps to write your book… starting now.
1. Commit to Your Writing Routine
Start by setting a deadline and word count target for your first draft. Use that to set a daily word count target, and determine how much time you need to write to meet that. Add these targets to your calendar.
2. Clarify Your Message
While creating your outline and developing the vision for your book, get crystal-clear on the message you want it to convey about your brand.
Before you start writing whole-hog, spend a few sessions getting clear on the message you want to share with readers. This is as much for you as it is for your readers; take the opportunity to intimately understand the purpose of your work, and create something that explains that clearly.
3. Define Your Audience
Who will read your book? Create an outline of your ideal reader and how this book will help them achieve their goals.
Develop your reader profile based not only on external demographics, but also on deeper stuff — their desires, needs and struggles. Think: How does your work fit into their lives (not how can they change their lives based on your work)?
4. Determine Your Purpose
What do you want a reader to do after reading this book? What will the book inspire them to do in their life or business? Consider the goals your audience wants to achieve, and determine what you can write to meet that purpose.
Your book’s purpose can be huge and altruistic, or simple and entertaining — it’s all about who you are as a writer and what your audience wants from you.
Make a list of the actions you want to see from readers, and ask yourself as you write and review it whether your message will encourage them.
5. Know Your Unique Voice
When you know who you are as an author, you can work to convey it through the voice of your book, as well as through your taglines or marketing language.
What's so special about your message? Consider other writers in your space. How are you different? What will make your audience come to you over anyone else? You'll be able to convey this through the voice and tone of your writing, as well as through the message you share more blatantly.
6. Create Your Outline
The key to making a book-length work feel like a do-able task is to start with a strong outline and stick to it.
When you know exactly where you're going and which pieces need to be filled in, you won't have the excuse of writer's block when it’s time to start writing. Break down your outline into manageable chunks that align with your daily word-count goals, so you complete full sections each day.
7. Consider the FAQs
As you work through the process, put yourself in your reader’s shoes.
Read through your outline and notes. Which questions remain unanswered? What do you still need to add to ensure this book conveys the message you want to share?
Tip: If you're unsure, share your outline with trusted beta readers who fit your target audience. Ask them what information is missing. You can also consider questions your current readers frequently ask you, and determine whether those are answered throughout your book.
As tough as it is to define your message, actually writing this thing is still going to be your biggest challenge. Follow the word count goals and deadlines you put on your calendar to stay motivated.
For an extra push, try a composition tool like OmmWriter or Write or Die if you find yourself easily distracted.
9. Review and Revise
Come to this step only after you've completed your first draft. Once you've got the words down, start with a self-review.
Go back to the notes you took to clarify your message the first few days. Does the book you've drafted convey that message? How will your audience receive it? Will it achieve your purpose? Is this a book you'd love to read?
10. Write the Other Parts of the Book
Once you’ve written the meat of your book, consider the details that add a touch of professionalism to the finished product. This is the stuff you see on the pages before and after the main content of a book.
Here’s the front matter I typically include in my books (in this order):
i. Half-title page: Include just the title (not the subtitle).
ii. More books by this author.
iii. Title page: Include the title, subtitle, author and publisher.
v. Table of Contents.
You might also consider a dedication and an epigraph, which live just before the table of contents. Acknowledgements can also live right before the book starts or right after it ends.
Here’s the back matter I include in my books (in this order):
Read more: Include a mention and link to your blog and social media.
For a more in-depth nonfiction book, you’ll probably also include some of these:
Glossary of terms.
List of contributors.
11. Hire an Editor
Depending on your writing process, you might want to look for an editor before or while you write a draft instead of at this point. Figure out what works best for you.
Even if your book is brief, get another set of eyes to help you polish it. If you can’t afford a proper copy editor, at least buddy up with another writer to exchange feedback on work and spot egregious errors or typos you’re probably blind to at this point.
Now you've got a draft. Next, you have to move on to the parts of the publishing process where your skills and fortitude will truly be tested — where you’ll make your bones as a self-publisher.
Experiment with formats and platforms, learn what works and what doesn't in cover design, and sort out your book promotion strategy.
Your book will be a perfect catalyst for conversation with your audience, so when you’re ready to take your business or career to greater heights, they’re engaged and paying attention.