by Angela Lauria April 8, 2015
In this episode, Dr. Lauria explains the biggest mistake first time authors make, why they make it and how you can make sure you never make this critical mistake.
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In this episode you will learn:
- The biggest mistake first time authors make
- What happens when you make this mistake.
- How making this mistake means you are wasting your time with your book.
- The root cause of this mistake – why people keep making it.
- How to make sure you never make this mistake.
There was so much to cover I did a bonus show to compliment this one where I talk about what Not to do when you get a new idea for a book.
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Full Episode Transcript:
What I want to talk about today is the biggest mistake that first time authors make. And the reason why I want to talk about this is that I see it over and over again. And in fact, just this week, I was talking to somebody who wanted to work with The Author Incubator and she said, “I already have my book done and can you just help me promote it.” And then, I felt like I was back in this conversation that I have had so many times, which I think is one of the biggest surprises to people. But when your book is written, over 80% of your marketing opportunities are already fixed, so it’s very challenging to market a book that hasn’t been written to accomplish the goal that you wanted to accomplish. So, a lot of people don’t know this but different books do different things. You have 3 primary types of books that we work on: client attraction books, and then we also work on lead-generation books that really grow your list, and platform-speaking books. And they’re all very different and there are lots of other different types of books. But those were the three that we work with the most and they’re… often people will want a platform-speaking opportunity out of a book that’s more of a lead-gen book, or they want lots of leads from their book that is more of a client closing book. If somebody’s thinking about working with you and they read that book that would help close them. And so, if you don’t know why you’re writing your book and you don’t understand the distinction between those types of books that are out there, you made a mistake of writing your book first. And when I see that, when I see the authors do that, I really wish that they knew the secret.
So, as you may know, I have a 10-step formula that I teach my clients and those 10 steps I call The Difference Process. Writing is actually step no. 7 so there are six critical things that you need to do before you write your book. So I wanna talk about a few of those today and why, why I think that doing some, if not all of these steps beforehand, are gonna help you to not waste your time on your book. And there’s another thing too which is that on a subconscious level, your inner author, your higher self, your greatest wisdom knows when you’re wasting time on something. And very often, it would be hard to finish your book and it will be hard to finish your book because you are not writing it for the same reason… for the right reasons or you’re not writing it as efficiently as you could and so, it feels like being stuck. But that feeling of being stuck is actually a message from your inner author but you have an opportunity here you’re missing. So, I wanna help you not get stuck and I wanna [help you] not fall into the trap of starting by writing your book.
So, here are some of the things before you write your book to think about. First, finding your ideal reader, so knowing who you’re going to write for. So a lot of people,when they start by writing, are writing to everyone or they’re writing to women 35 to 55. And the book that really make a difference and find their audience weren’t written for everyone. Now, that’s one of the things that has certainly changed in the publishing industry. There’s no doubt about it. Publishing has changed dramatically in the 20 years that I have been involved in.
Earlier in history, when there was conflict of limited shelf space… so, meaning, they could only sit so many books in the bookstores and you can only get books in the book stores, you wanted to write for the broadest audience as possible. Well, now [with] the Internet, that’s actually different. And with the way that search engines marketing works in order for people to find you, and it’s on a lot of books, really, you will have much more success if you write for someone specific. So, instead of women, 35 to 55, actually taking 1 woman that you’re writing for and knowing this woman inside and out. And it seems to people, like, that’s making their market smaller but in a bizarre twist of book writer irony, by actually defining your audience before you write and defining that ideal reader specifically, you will actually reach a broader audience. And it’s a little bit paradoxical but when you focus in on 1 person, it helps people who even aren’t that person understand how to interpret your book.
The next [2nd] thing you want to do before you fall for the mistake of starting to write is know who you are. A lot of people think that’s obvious they just have the 1 voice they use when they write. But here’s an experiment that you can try… [it] is [to] pick your same-book concept and pick 1 little idea from it where you could write maybe 250 words about one, 1 concept you want to share or one story that you want to tell and take that concept and write it in a few different voices. So, try it if you’re being motherly. How would it sound? And try [it] if you’re being an investigative journalist. You can even do my favorite, which is pretend you’re writing a Wikipedia entry. How [does] that story sound? So you can see how dramatically your voice changes when you pick a different part of yourself to write from.
So, when you do Step 3, which is streaming the outcome you want for your book, then we can really zoom in to make sure that the voice matches the outcome that you are hoping for. So, if your outcome is to be a platform speaker, then in your book, you need to speak like you’re going to speak from the stage. We need to hear how you’ll sound as a speaker. If you want to be an individual coach then, we want a very intimate book where it sounds like you are personally coaching me, so I get a taste of that experience. So, you really want to identify your ideal reader and, and you want to know your voice and you want to make sure that they go together with what your outcome is. So is your ideal reader connected to your voice in a way that they would take the, another 3 more steps before you write?
The next one [Step 4] is to focus your author mojo. And that’s getting really clear on when and how you write best. So, I talk about Steven Pressfield’s approach about Bursting or Plotting. I think that’s a helpful distinction for people. Personally, I like to write an 8-hour chunk and be really focused for a long period of time. But I had one client who wrote her book in 15-minute increments. So, she wrote her book up into about 200 word chunks, in 15 minutes, she could write 200 words, so that’s about all she wants to focus at once. So, there are 3 components to your author mojo to think about.
- For how long do you wanna write?
- Where do you want to write, where you are most productive? Are you most productive at a desk or in your bed, or do you need to buy a table that will fit with your couch, that puts your computer at a right height when you’re sitting in your couch? Where do you need to write and what do you need to make that most comfortable space as possible?
- And then, the third element of focusing your author mojo is what time of day are you most productive? So, you’re most productive waking up early in the morning. Are you a night owl? But when, where, and for how long?
If you answer these questions first, it’s gonna help us on Step no. 6. But the last piece of the puzzle before we get to Step. No. 6 is [Step 5] envisioning your success. So, what, for the book, [do] we need to know that before we start writing? And here’s the tricky piece of this. You want to write your book from your perspective. Of course, this is going to happen, right? So, if this were exactly what we’re going to happen, how would you write your book? Who would you hire to help you? How would you execute the cover or the process of finding an agent if the success that you envision [is] what’s going to happen? So that also is going to change your book and you wanna make sure all these things are in an alignment.
So, for instance, if you really wanted to do workshops with the same name as your book and you’ve defined an ideal reader who you love to come to these workshops, and you’ve identified a voice for yourself that matches the workshop leader, and your outcome is doing 1 workshop every month for 20 people. And you figured out when you’re most successful writing and now we envision you a year after the book is done. And from listening your success, sometimes I suggest people create a vision board or a video of their life as an author. Well, if you’re doing all those things and you selected certain traditional publishers, you wouldn’t be able to run that workshop because it’s very likely that your publisher would not grant you those permissions to the IT of your book that they purchased.
So, you need to envision your success so that you can act as if you were that person, who that was going to happen for, which, by the way, is the most likely way to make it happen. So, if you’re just doing what most authors do, if you build it, they’ll come. The only thing missing from the equation is me writing, then, you’ll have a book that’s written because that’s what you’ve envisioning the whole time, “my book written.” But if you’re envisioning yourself on a stage in front of 200 people, what kind of investments would you be making in your book? Who are the people that are speaking in front of audiences of 200 or 2000 or 20000 and where are they investing? Where are they investing their time, their resources, who is on their team, how can you get those people on your team?
So, when you have these 5 pieces of the puzzle in place, your ideal reader, your voice, your outcome, understanding your author mojo, and really knowing what success feels like, not just what it looks like, but what it feels like, then, you can move on to Step no. 6, which is where you write your outline for your entire book and it’s an outline that matches the voice that we’ve talked about, that serves a problem of the idea or reader that we’ve discussed. And that leads to the outcome that you have for yourself or frame for yourself. And when we write that outline, we wanna add page counts and dates you’ll write each section, and most page counts and dates will be tied to your author mojo. So, if you’re a night owl, you might be putting in July 21st, from 3 am to 5 am that you’re going to write a certain chapter ‘cause you know that’s when you’re productive. You might be carving out a weekend to write your book and breaking your book down into 2-hour writing assignments. So, that outline really needs to take into account the first 5 steps and then, what I recommend is you throw that back. You look at the outline and say, “Does this match what my ideal reader really wants? Does this fit with the voice that I want? Will this get me the outcome I want? Do I have a schedule that I’m going to keep because it’s in line with my author mojo? And when I envision my success, is this the exact plan I would be following to get this outcome?
Now, when you’ve done those 6 steps, you are ready to write, you are ready to start putting pen into paper at that point. And if you start that sooner, what will happen is you are most likely headwall and not finish your book. Now, it’s possible that you will finish your book but it won’t get you the results that you hoped for.
So, if you start by writing, there are 2 most likely outcomes.
- You don’t get the outcome that you wanted.
- You don’t finish it at all and therefore, you don’t get the outcome that you wanted.
So, to get the outcome you want, you really want to take these steps first. So, why don’t people do it? What is the root cause of this mistake? Because again, it’s a mistake that is made over and over and over again. And really the way to guarantee you’ll never make this mistake is to understand why you would be attracted to it.
So I want to talk to you about something I call, The Author Chain Spiral. So, many people, who want to write a book, believe that what they need to do is simply write. The reason they believe this is, writing is a skill that most of us have. Most of us know how to write and have experience writing whether it’s, you know, email or papers for school, or whatever it is that you have written. And the fact that we have done writing before makes us think we know how to write a book. But the truth is, writing a book is a different skill and it’s a skill most people don’t have because frankly, why should they? Like. why should somebody know how to write a book? That is definitely not something you’re taught in school, probably not something you learned in college. Maybe you have a parent who’s written a book or a friend who’s written a book but for the most part, people’s experience writing a book is pretty limited. Now, certainly there are some people who’ve written a hundred books or more. But unless you’re doing James Patterson, you really should not know how to write a book. That’s not something you should know how to do. And yet, the things people do to learn how to write a book are very often focused on the, I would say, the art or the craft of actually writing. So, writing skills, being able to tell a great story, being able to communicate your message or your voice, those are certainly important skills that you need to write a book, but they are not actually the skill of writing a book. They’re really a skill of writing.
So, if you’re going to writers’ workshop or reading books about writing or maybe practicing writing with writing prompts, those are teaching writing skills but they are not teaching you how to write a book. Structuring a book, especially a book that makes a difference, is a totally different game. And so, most people are just going about it all wrong because why should they know better? Why should they know how to write a book? So, when you realize, hey, people who have written books may know something, particularly books that have the kind of successes that you are hoping for yourself. They may know something or they may have learned something that I don’t know. And that’s really where you have the opportunity to up-level your game. For certainly, you can hack your way into getting a book finished. But do you just wanna book that’s done or do you want to do it excellently? If you’re gonna make an investment of your time this big, to have a legacy piece, creating something this significant, do you really just want to do that on the cheap or kinda hack it together from various ideas? Or do you wanna to make sure that [if] you’re doing this, that you do it right?
So, most people don’t realize that they have the ability to do their book better and to get the success on the backend in terms of sales and lives changed. If they make some investments on the front end, on teachers who have done the exact kinds of books that they want to do. Now, this is one of the major advantages to working with an agent who has gone through the book process many, many times, is they are gonna be able to help catch you when you go off the rails or when you’re expecting something that’s not likely to happen automatically.
So, that is really the main reason why people make this mistake. They’re just doing their best, they’re trying to be proactive. It seems like the logical first way to write a book and there are definitely lots of myths out there, that the reason you’re not writing your book is that you’re not writing your book. Well, that’s true to some extent but there is definitely a lot more to it than just writing. In fact, what most authors will tell you is writing their book was 10% or less of the entire job of being an author. So, when you look at a life of an author of coming up with ideas of understanding their market liability of testing those ideas, of interviewing, and of really making all of the adjustments needed to reach your ideal reader and to get that message through, writing, yes, is an important part of it, but these other steps are so important as well that writing is really like I said, just about 10% of the process. And here’s the thing, if you write an email, really writing an email is probably at least 50% of it, maybe crafting your response, maybe if you talk to somebody of how you want to respond to a certain email. There might be 50% other stuff that you have to think about to write an email at most. Sometimes writing an email is just about writing it, there’s not even that much of outside stuff. So, you’re done but when you write a book or when you decide to be an author, you are signing up to write as part of that but you’re signing up for a much bigger, broader package and so that’s the question that I would say. I would say, writers write but authors write a book. And so, do you just wanna write because you just wanna have a little outlet for your stress or for your ideas, just like you might pick up running or pottery? Do… is writing a hobby for you or do you want to write as a way to build your business and grow your platform and develop loyal readers and customers? Because if it’s the latter and if you want to make that bigger commitment, then you really need to view these other steps first.
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