Each month, the Nonfiction Authors Association asks a burning publishing question of its very own Authority and VIP members. Here’s what they have to say!
NFAA: What are some of the biggest challenges you face as an author?
JOHN C. BUCKLEY
As an Amazon #1 bestselling author writing non-fiction books, the challenges I personally face are staying on task with my writing and not “over writing” on a topic (i.e., distractions and bunny trails!). These chip away at my daily writing time given to the project. Distractions are any writer’s enemy and can pull them away from their goal of completing sections. I locate a regular business-like atmosphere where I can write, turn on some light instrumental music, and keep only my writing project open on my laptop. I only go online for research; then, I reward myself with breaks where I can check other things after I’ve completed my work.
Of course, my first priority is to frame the overall structure of my book-the general layout, chapter titles, sub-topics, etc. I feel that over half the battle is won when I complete this. I begin filling in what I have outlined after that is done. If there are topics in which I want to go deeper into and elaborate more, I stick to my deadlines, so I will not spend too much time researching or free writing. I recommend sticking close to your allotted time for each section or chapter, such as 4-8 hours, as an example. Most importantly, enjoy the journey my creative colleagues!
Dr. John C. Buckley is an Amazon #1 bestselling non-fiction author and an expert in personal strengths discovery and implementation. He holds a Ph.D. from Keiser University in education, an M.A. from USC, and a B.S. from Southeastern University. Dr. Buckley currently engages in individual and group strategy coaching as well as speaks at conferences and special events. He has trained and developed thousands of global leaders across the sectors in over three decades. www.thestrengthsacademy.com
GINI GRAHAM SCOTT
One of my biggest challenges in writing and publishing my own books, which now include over 200 books—about 50 with traditional publishers, 150 through my company—is effectively marketing and promoting them. It is very difficult to have a bestseller today unless you are already famous, have a large following on the speaker circuit or on the social media, or spend extensive time and money to promote your books. There are also multiple channels for promoting books—most notably Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube, and although I have a presence on all of them, and use Hootsuite to schedule Instagram posts, I find it difficult to find the time to continually post and engage in ongoing conversations to create a loyal following. I have worked with a social media professional who has set up multiple posts for me over a 6 months period, with a post a day for five days a week on four platforms. But this effort may not be enough to get the millions of followers some influencers report. Thus, I find it difficult to keep up a social media presence, and I haven’t found this a useful source of getting clients, though I get several hundred likes a day on Instagram.
In turn, given these challenges of marketing and promotion for my own books, I have shifted over to ghostwriting for the last 10 years or so. My main challenge here is clients who have unrealistic expectations about what professional ghostwriters charge, don’t have the time, money, or commitment to finish a project, or have unrealistic expectations about their prospects for finding a traditional publisher or publishing a bestseller. I usually meet these challenges by educating the client about the financial commitment involved, and I explain what kind of information they need to provide, and what to expect in selling their project. And if clients have unrealistic hopes of success, I try to explain how competitive the field is for someone who doesn’t already have a platform, and I usually steer them to self-publishing, so they can build up their platform, and I help them with that.
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Setting priorities with limited resources presents is a huge challenge. That includes sifting through the plethora of gurus, all with their take on what an author must do to be successful. It’s easy to get sidetracked and overwhelmed and I need to continually remind myself of why I’m writing it in the first place, then determine if/how expert advice aligns with my goals.
Multitasking while writing is close kin in the family of challenges. I used to pride myself on multitasking like an expert until I found it was preventing me from being present and focused. I wasn’t doing anything well. To get my book written, I had to focus on writing. Trying to integrate more than minimal marketing into my day or week took me away from the story. Getting back into it took precious time and energy. Focusing on my raison d’État kept me in alignment.
Book Title: Crash Landing
The initial challenge is the same every time—capturing readers with the first flurry of words. When writing short personal narrative essays, words must perform multiple roles as images, surprises, arguments, metaphors. When I write about Tokyo life, I really ‘torture’ the first phrase. And then I torture it again. I want the reader to be there with me, though each reader arrives from a different place.
“Getting the words right,” Hemingway said, and that’s still the biggest challenge. Not just at the ending, or the beginning, but all through a piece. I challenge myself to use words that do more than just denote or describe, but avoid parading my graduate degrees. I want the words to be cozily common and engagingly unique, and then to flow like a bedtime story whispered in your ear.
Scrabbling and puzzling language would be pointless without something meaningful to say. As a professor of literature, I always want to educate. But to keep students/readers awake (try a large lecture hall in a second language on a humid Tokyo afternoon), a dash of entertainment never hurts. Still, I try to hide my info-dumps and my melodrama as best I can. Balancing “What will happen next?” with “I didn’t know that!” is hard to do.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is to think of challenge as a good thing. Rather than thinking woe is poor little writer-me, I embrace writing challenges. Or try to. On my best days. They push back like a good friend goading me towards my better writing self. Writing challenges help to see clearly and speak honestly—the core of good writing.
Book Title: Motions and Moments (Raked Gravel Press 2015)
I’m thrilled that my first book, self-published in 2013, still reaps quarterly checks from Amazon and continues to sell in indie bookstores. I consciously chose an evergreen topic, my answer in book form to the question I receive most often from the readers of my weekly advice column: How to heal from heartbreak. My challenge is to take my book to the next level by creating and launching affiliated products, including a workbook and an online class. Time is not the problem. I’m busy, but like any other busy person, I make time to accomplish the things I want to do. I’m often stymied by technology and that holds me back. At least that’s what I tell myself, although as I write this I can see that blaming tech is an excuse, one I’m ready to release. Onward and upward!
I’ve also treated social media as a challenge because it doesn’t hold my interest as much as life offline. I have to force myself to post; it doesn’t feel natural to me. It’s work. I do receive wonderful feedback in response to my posts, which is encouraging. Sometimes my agent texts or emails me with reminders to “Post every day!” because doing so will build my following and a large following is something that traditional publishers expect from a nonfiction author. Can you help? Follow me on Instagram: @AskJoeyGarcia
CHOLET KELLY JOSUÈ
Successful authors don’t do it all alone. We need people in our corner—people who can help us be at our creative best. But more than that, we need to make the relationships count in a way that is productive and collaborative, and that is where the biggest challenge can be.
It is tough to accept others’ input and guidance! We can be so possessive of our words that we risk losing the chance to reach our readers. But if we develop our emotional intelligence to recognize constructive criticism, we’ll learn to focus on improvement and collaborative effort instead of fighting it. In the end we’ll have a better book—and be a better person.
Book Title: Twelve Unending Summers: Memoir of an Immigrant Child
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