This month we asked nonfiction authors to answer this question: If you were beginning your author career today, what would you do differently? Here’s what they had to say:
As an author of 60 nonfiction books, including the Timothy Parker Crossword books, Bible Brilliant trivia book, etc., my tip is to not write a word until the book is completely organized in a list of chapters, and then a list WITHIN each chapter of every topic in its specific order.
The simplest way to do this is to merely put all relevant notes within the appropriate chapter. When you have exhausted your ideas and topics, then ARRANGE your notes within each chapter in the order you want them to reach the reader.
I lost a lot of time by adding important things I would remember after the fact, and found myself doing a lot if unnecessary rewriting had I only been better organized.
Timothy Parker – Guinness World Records Puzzle Master – Timothyparkercrosswords.com
Jenny Grant Rankin, Ph.D.
I’ve written 10 nonfiction books, all published by top publishers in academia. One secret “fast track” to book authoring I recommend in my book Sharing Your Education Expertise with the World: Make Research Resonate and Widen Your Impact is one I only discovered after entering authorship the hard way: not knowing anything and submitting my complete book manuscripts to editors who had no way to know me. Editors will more readily take a chance on giving you a book project if they know you are already an established book author. This might sound like a Catch-22, but it is not.
Start your nonfiction book journey by authoring a single chapter in a complete book: I highly recommend IGI Global’s “Call for Chapters” at https://www.igi-global.com/publish/call-for-papers/?dt=book-chapters (note the dropdown menu should be set to only show chapters needed for books, not journal papers – where you can find a topic that matches yours and submit a chapter for consideration), but other publishers offer similar calls for chapters. Most of these calls involve scholarly writing and are equivalent in style and length to a journal paper or college essay (you can even dust one off that earned you a great grade for a course yet was never published). When the book (with your chapter) is published, you’ll be a published author. You can set up an Amazon author page (among others) and build your image as a published book author. This will look great on a book proposal, making it easier for you to win over an editor for a full-length book project.
Dr. Jenny Grant Rankin (www.JennyRankin.com) has authored 10 books for educators and researchers, writes a column for Psychology Today, and gives frequent keynote presentations and lectures at institutions like University of Cambridge.
If I were to start my writing career over, I would walk through every open door. Timidity did not serve me and neither did self-deprecation. I limited myself when I worried about what others thought. I missed valuable opportunities when I failed to ask for help. I lost precious time as I waited for “the right moment.” Experience brings courage and tenacity. Writing is an endurance sport. Be in it for the long haul, but start now. Start today. The years will fly. Walk through the open doors. Help will appear.
Nita Sweeney, author of Depression Hates a Moving Target.
I’d “own” the writer tag much sooner, and in turn, I’d start building my author platforms further in advance of publication. I’d get some legal advice (community centers sometimes offer low-cost or no-cost sessions) to help me polish the agreements I have with people I contract in book production. That said, I’ve been fortunate to work with great people. I would not include the words “Part I” and “Part II” in titles where any book has space for note-taking or other writing. Libraries won’t buy them, as a) they won’t order an incomplete set of a series and b) of course, they don’t want workbooks, journals or anything else where people can write inside.
Alicia Young – aliciayoung.net (six-time author)
If I were starting over my author journey, the biggest thing I would do differently would be to build, and leverage, my support network prior to publishing. Instead of approaching high profile figures for testimonials after the release of my book, I would build relationships with key influencers who fit my target demographic, and send a preview of the book to them for review prior to the release date. Honestly, by doing this you can save yourself a lot of work in the long run! I would also have started building my email list from the beginning, instead of in the year following release.
Jas Rawlinson is an Australian author, freelance journalist, and writing coach, who specializes in empowering trauma survivors to transform their adversities into powerful memoirs. You can connect with Jas via her website www.jasrawlinson.com or her suicide prevention page www.facebook.com/reasonstoliveonemoreday
Think Bigger! Now that I have written a number of books I would have liked to be more strategic from the start. The books in a series worked really well and now I have a platform to coach from, but if I’d been thinking bigger than just one book series, I might have set each book up differently.
Funny how the focus as a new author is on just getting the book done. The bigger picture is leveraging the book.
Lauren Clemett, best selling author of the practical guidebook to personal branding “Selling You”. www.laurenclemett.com
If you like this blog post, you’ll love this book: The Nonfiction Book Publishing Plan by Nonfiction Authors Association CEO Stephanie Chandler!