Today's Challenge: Do You Want to Write a Book?

If you’re a regular visitor to this site, you know that each Friday, I answer a question from a leader somewhere in the world. Today, I’ll take a shot at answering a question that, admittedly, may only speak to a small percentage of you. However, it is a question I get often… What advice do you have for an aspiring author?

This is a fun and strange question for a guy who sells chicken for a living. I’m no expert on writing books. However, with three published titles and a fourth in the pipeline, I do have a few ideas for you to consider.
Follow your passion. I’ve had scores of people talk to me about writing a book. One of their first questions is usually about finding a publisher. Granted this is a legitimate question, but I wouldn’t start there. When I find myself in this situation, I try to turn the conversation to the person’s passion. I often ask, “What are you so passionate about you’d write it even without a publisher?” I think that’s a great place to start your writing journey. The world of self-publishing is exploding. If you write about something you’re passionate about and you do it well, you can find an audience even without a publisher. Start with your passion.
Create a first draft quickly. This is the best writing advice I’ve ever received. Maybe it feels like that to me because I don’t have the temperament to write one page a day or any other disciplined approach like that. The key to this idea is to expect the first draft to be terrible! If you lower your expectations, you can begin the journey. I know too many emerging authors who’ve set the bar too high for their first draft. As a result, some of them have been working for years and have no draft to show for it. After I’ve got an idea, I give myself five days to create a lousy first draft – from that you can create a book. Without a first draft, you don’t have a book; all you’ve got is an idea. Get the first draft done.
Start building your platform now. This is a relatively new idea for me. In fact, it may be a new idea for the world. Michael Hyatt, the former CEO of Thomas Nelson books, explains that publishers USED TO help authors build a platform from which he or she could sell books. Those days are gone. If you ever hope to have a traditional publisher, you’ll need a platform. There’s much to say about this topic beyond what I can write about here. For now, I’ll mention two resources that could help.
First, my publisher, Berrett-Koehler, is hosting a marketing workshop in Atlanta on June 28 – 29 on this topic, How to Build a Platform to Sell More Books. A great line-up of experts and authors has been assembled to help you with this topic. Here’s a link to learn more. I’ll be there and would love to see you there.
The second resource is Michael Hyatt’s book, Platform. I’ve given away more than 25 copies already, and every attendee at the Berrett-Koehler workshop will get a free copy. It is a textbook on how to build your platform.
The bottom line on building a platform is simply this: Dig your well BEFORE you’re thirsty.
Follow your passion – Get the first draft done – Start digging your well today![GLS_Shield]
Why not put dates on the calendar to write your first draft?

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David Sparks

10 years ago

Great illustration about digging before you're thirsty - begin laying a solid foundation today. The other thing I like is the quick first draft. It's amazing what can happen when you start and "finish" a work quickly. Your thoughts tend to be more cohesive, and you don't have to try and remember where you were, or how you were thinking when you wrote that thought.

Doug Smith

10 years ago

I'm about 1/2 way through my first draft. This encouraged me to keep going! Thank you!

Michael Nichols

10 years ago

Great thoughts, Mark. Would loved to have attended the event in Atlanta but I already had an event scheduled.

Nathan Magnuson

10 years ago

Great post, Mark - you gave me a copy of Platform and it was the perfect book at the perfect time since I was getting a new website up and also starting a book draft! I attended the ReWrite Conference last fall with Ken Blanchard and my main takeaway there was to build a platform first, since you will be the lead salesman/advocate for your book.


10 years ago

Great post Mark. Appreciate your wisdom and encouragement. I'm familiar with Platform and have read several posts involving self promotion. I've struggled with that concept as a Christian. How do you reconcile self promotion with humility and our ultimate purpose of pointing to Jesus? I know motives and the attitude of our heart are at play. Just curious about your thoughts. - Dustin

Joseph Lalonde

10 years ago

Mark, excellent advice. Especially showcasing Michael Hyatt's Platform book. It's a great resource to those looking to build an audience as they're creating work they want to share.
Another piece of advice I'd give is to create a consistent schedule. Don't write only when the spirit moves you but write on a consistent basis.

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