How to Write A Book

A Simple Guide for Busy Professionals

book shelf2


By Gene Walden

Becoming an author can help promote your agenda, elevate your status in your profession, drive clients to your business, and give you an important edge over the competition. Unfortunately, writing a book can also be a painstaking process that requires many months or years of effort. But if a book burns within you, this article can help you:

  1. Get your book started and organized in less than 60 minutes
  2. Take the most efficient approach in writing your book
  3. Decide whether to write it yourself or enlist the help of a ghostwriter
  4. Deal effectively with writers’ block
  5. Set up your promotional process
    ABOUT THE WRITER: Gene Walden is the best-selling author of more than a dozen books on business and personal finance. He is also a sought-after ghostwriter and the founder and director of

Your challenge

At any moment in time, millions of Americans will tell you that they plan to write a book.

Most will never make it past the first sentence. Others will get off to a slow start, realize how much work is involved and move onto other things.

However, a few thousand aspiring authors do, indeed, finish their manuscript each year. Unfortunately only a small percentage of their books ever make the impact they had envisioned.

If you have an idea for a book—or a manuscript-in-progress—you can give yourself a better chance of success by learning a few tricks of the trade. Whether you plan to publish your manuscript as an e-book or a printed volume (or both), here’s a process that can help you move your book along smoothly to completion and set in motion a promotional process designed to achieve the goals you set for your book.


Reality Check

Authors write books for several different reasons:

  1. You have a message, agenda or story you’re burning to tell. Passion is an important component of any successful venture. Writing a book can be a massive undertaking so having a compelling reason to get your message out can be a strong motivating factor in starting and completing your book.  Once it’s published, a book will give you a potent tool to promote your message.
  2. You take pleasure in the joy of writing and creating. Chances are you’re going to spend months or even years completing your book, including nights, weekends, and perhaps even some holidays. The time you spend with your book will be much more pleasurable and fulfilling if writing and creating is something you really enjoy. The satisfaction of accomplishment is also an important motivating factor. However, if you’re driven to write a book but don’t enjoy the process of writing, you might consider working with a ghostwriter. But even with a ghostwriter, completing a book can be a monumental undertaking.
  3. You want to enhance your career or promote your business. Publishing a book can elevate your status as a professional in your field, as a speaker, as a writer, and as a media source. It gives you credibility with your clients and a tangible edge over your competitors. And it can be the most potent marketing and prospecting tool in your arsenal. That’s why many CEOs, attorneys, financial advisors, health and fitness professionals, and entrepreneurs from a wide range of specialties have used books to promote their careers and their businesses.
  4. All of the above. This is the perfect storm for writing a book—if you have a message to share, enjoy the creative process and can use the book to enhance your career or your business. That will make the process much more fulfilling—and significantly raise your odds of actually completing the book. The greater your passion and purpose, the more likely it is that you’ll accomplish your mission (even if it means hiring some help along the way—there’s no shame in that).

Starting the process in less than 60 minutes

One of the hardest parts of writing a book is actually getting started. If you can set aside a little time now or in the near future, here’s a process that will help you get your manuscript rolling.

If you haven’t already started your book, the first step is to get it organized, which you can accomplish in less than an hour by following this simple process:

  1. What is it? Write a sentence or a paragraph describing exactly what it is you want to write. (5 minutes)
  2. Working title. Come up with a title that describes your book. Don’t fall in love with it. As you work through your manuscript, you are very likely to come up with other titles that are catchier or more appropriate. The working title simply helps give you direction. (4 minutes)
  3. Your mission. Why are you writing this book? What’s your mission or your goal in terms of getting the book written and promoted? One to two paragraphs should suffice. (10 minutes)
  4. Outline in the form of a table of contents. Spend some time organizing your concept into an outline of sections with each section broken down into several chapters. No need to spend time coming up with creative chapter titles at this stage. You can rename the chapters later while you are writing the book. (40 minutes) (Total time: 59 minutes)

Starting the Writing

Once you’ve done the basic organization of your book, you will be ready to start writing. That’s where many aspiring authors stumble. They sit in front of the keyboard and try to come up with something clever to say to start their book. Unfortunately, that’s a system that is tailor-made for writers’ block.

Here’s a system to make it easier for you to avoid writers’ block and get the writing started:

Start with the section you feel like writing. There’s no need to write your book chronologically. You don’t need to start with the preface or the introduction or even with Chapter One. Just pick a subject or a chapter you’re driven to write about and write that section. You don’t need to write your book in any particular order. Frankly, with most of the books I write, the last two items I finish are the introduction and the preface. I write the chapters in a fairly random order based on what I feel most passionate about at the time. That way, when I sit down to write, I’m more motivated to start the process because I’m starting with a section I’m most interested in covering.

Get organized chapter by chapter.  Once you’ve selected a chapter that you want to write, get organized:

  1. Outline the chapter.
  2. Quickly write some notes describing what each section of the chapter will cover.
  3. Go back and write each section to completion—but not necessarily in order. Again, start with the section of the chapter that interests you the most and work your way through each section of the chapter in whatever order works for you.
  4. Spend some time to tie each section together with sub-heads and transition sentences.
  5. Go back through the section and revise. Then move on. You’ll come back later after you’ve written the first draft of the book to add more polish.
  6.  Work your way through each chapter in whatever order you choose, and once you’re finished with the first draft, move on. By letting each chapter go cold, when you do get back for the final revision, you’ll see each chapter with fresh eyes. That will help you identify the areas that may not be clear to the reader so you can add clarification. You can also identify sections that may be awkward or poorly written so you can revise and improve them.
  7. Make your introduction an ongoing work-in-progress. Your introduction is very important since that’s the section readers will probably read first. It would be helpful to outline the intro early in your writing process and perhaps work through a rough draft. As you write the rest of the book, you’ll come up with more material that would be appropriate to mention in the intro. Once you’ve completed the rest of the book, go back to the intro and spend some time revising and polishing it.


Deciding whether or not to hire a ghostwriter

Hiring a ghostwriter to help you with your manuscript can be the ideal approach for certain authors, while others may prefer to go it alone. Here are some key considerations in deciding whether or not to hire a ghostwriter:


Are you a starving artist?

Hiring a ghostwriter does require an output of cash, so if you’re going to hire a ghostwriter, you need to have the budget for it. Otherwise, you’ll probably need to complete the book on your own.


Do you actually enjoy this?

If you don’t enjoy the writing process, but believe that it’s important to your career to write a book, then a ghostwriter can make your life much easier. Even if you do enjoy the writing process, hiring a ghostwriter can offer several advantages. Hiring a professional can speed up the process and probably dramatically improve the quality of your manuscript. You can still participate in the writing of the book and add your creative imprint to the project, but a ghostwriter can expedite the process. You can have your ghostwriter do important research, write much of the rough copy and even polish the manuscript once the first draft is done. But you can participate in the project by adding important elements and your viewpoint to the manuscript yourself while using the ghostwriter to save you hundreds of hours of writing while improving the quality of the book.

What’s your time worth?

If you’re a business owner or an executive of a company, your time is probably very valuable. Why do all the work on your own when you could hire a ghostwriter to do the work at a fraction of the cost to you (counting your hours at your hourly value)?


What is the value to you?

Add it up. What’s your book worth to you? Will you be able to cash in with increased prominence in your industry and the ability to increase your business and your client base once your book is finished? If so, the book may have a great deal of value to you. If you’re in the professional services industry as a financial advisor, an attorney or an architect, for instance, using the book to attract a handful of good clients can mean tens of thousands of dollars to your bottom line. The sooner you publish your book, the sooner you can begin to cash in on it. Using a ghostwriter can literally save you a year or more—and often several years—in completing a full book. By using a ghostwriter to accelerate the project, you can begin to benefit from your book much sooner.


Do you want your book to be as good as it can be?

If you’re new to writing—or even if you have some experience—everyone needs an editor and a second set of eyes. Writing, producing and promoting a book can be an enormous commitment of time and effort. Why not make sure it is written as professionally and authoritatively as possible by using an experienced professional writer to assist you.


Do you know how to publish it?

Once your book is written, will you know how to publish it—as either an e-book or a published volume (or both)? A ghostwriter can help you get your book in print.


Do you know how to promote it?

Writing a book is just the beginning. Once it’s written you need to get the word out about your book and begin to take advantage of the public appearances and media opportunities that come with being an author. An experience ghostwriter can help you get your promotional campaign moving so that you get the greatest possible impact from your book.


What’s it cost to hire a ghostwriter?

The cost is all over the board—from a few thousand dollars to a couple hundred thousand, depending on how exactly what you need the ghostwriter to do.


Does it matter who I hire as a ghostwriter.

As with any professional, there are good ghostwriters and bad ones, experienced ones and brand new writers trying to cut their teeth on your book. Experience doesn’t necessarily always equate to great quality, but you would undoubtedly have a much better chance of success with someone who has done it several times before than to hire a writer who has never written a book. By all means, when you’re shopping for a ghostwriter, ask for some samples of each writer’s previous work, then pick out a writer who has experience in your area of expertise and a writing style that you enjoy.


Won’t I lose my creative input with a ghostwriter?
Even if you hire a ghostwriter, you can maintain your creative imprint by participating in the writing process—and the greater your participation the greater your impact on the finished work. When I work with someone as a ghostwriter, it is very often a team process. I do the bulk of the work organizing it and setting up the table of contents, then work with the author chapter by chapter to get the book written. I typically will interview the author and collect their pertinent notes (or tape-recorded comments) for each chapter, write a first draft of the chapter and submit it to the author. The author will typically go through it, add additional information and insights, and make notes on areas that need further elaboration before returning the manuscript to me. At that point, I go back through the chapter, polish the copy and make any necessary additions before returning it to the author for one final, quick revision. By using this process, I am able to relieve the author of the bulk of the busy work—organizing and writing the first draft of each chapter—while still guaranteeing that the book includes all the pertinent information and the unique perspective required by the author. The final product is the best of both worlds—a professionally produced and polished manuscript that encompasses the author’s view point, creative bent and specific insights.


Dealing with writers’ block

As a writer, there are two questions I get more than any others: how do you deal with writers’ block and how do you deal with deadlines? Both can be problems in the writing business, but fortunately one can cancel out the other.


What I’ve learned is that deadlines are your friend. When a deadline is looming, there is no time for writer’s block. In fact, most writers rely on deadlines as an important motivating element to get them through each assignment in a timely manner. If there were no deadlines, the flow of articles from the various media outlets would slow to a trickle. As a young reporter covering local news for an afternoon newspaper, I experienced many busy news mornings when I needed to turn in seven or eight articles by 9:30 a.m. There was no time for writer’s block. I just had to crank out the articles as fast as my fingers could fly.


Oddly enough, for writers, the amount of time it takes to finish a particular assignment tends to expand to the exact amount of time you’re been given to complete it. If your deadline is noon, the typical writer will finish at noon. If the deadline is 6 p.m., it will take until 6 to finish the article, and if the deadline is first thing the next morning, most writers wouldn’t get it done until first thing the next morning.


That’s why it’s helpful in avoiding writer’s block to set some realistic deadlines for yourself throughout the period of time that you’re doing your writing. For instance, you might set a deadline of one hour for your first 200 words, two hours for your first 400 words and three hours for your first 600 words. If you meet your deadline, give yourself a small reward (a treat, a break, a walk in the park—something to push you through to your goal).


The truth of the matter is writer’s block is simply a state of mind. It’s just an excuse find anything else to do—clean your desk, walk the dog, have a smoke, call your spouse, fix a sandwich, grab a drink—except write your book. Writing productively is all about focus.  Setting periodic deadlines for yourself will help you stay focused and avoid writer’s block.


Promoting Your Book

Your promotional campaign should start the minute your book is published. Too many authors publish their book and then wait for something to happen. The sad fact of the matter is that in most cases, nothing will happen until you make it happen.


The promotional process can be very complex and comprehensive. In order to get the greatest impact from your book, you should plan on budgeting several thousand dollars for promotional assistance and travel.


You might consider hiring a professional book promotion specialist who can write your press releases and get your book in front of reviewers and media outlets. But whether you hire a professional promotion agency, do the promotion yourself or use a professional writer with experience in book publishing, there are several important steps that can help you put your book on the map.


Press release. You need to start with a press release that describes your book, offers a few tips from the book and lays out your qualifications to write the book and speak as an expert on the subject matter. A supplementary sheet that lays out a list of key questions the media may want to ask you about the book can also help shape the coverage you receive for your book. In order to distribute the release, you should send it or email it out to all the pertinent publications and web sites that cover your industry, as well as to your local and regional newspapers, magazines and TV and radio stations. After sending it to your first wave of media outlets, it would pay to use a distribution service, such as PRWeb to send the release out to thousands of web sites that might publish the article to help garner national publicity and push your book (and your business) up the major search engines, such as Google and Bing.


A book web site. You should create a web site that focuses specifically on your book, with excerpts, reviews, and perhaps a blog where you can write related articles to generate more interest and traffic for your site. The web site is also a good place to post your press release and any other articles you’ve written on the subject. You might also set up a method for site visitors to buy your buy book through the site—or a link to You might also offer a free newsletter to any visitors who wish to sign up for the newsletter to receive additional information on your topic. That’s a good way to compile a promising list of prospects and potential strategic allies.


A series of columns from your book. In order to achieve additional coverage for your book, it would pay to write (or use your ghostwriter to write) a series of articles covering various key aspects of the book, with excerpts from the book. You can post those columns at your web site and also distribute them around the web through a web-based PR agency in order to gain increased exposure and move your book and your company up the search engines. You should also post all of your columns at your web site to draw visitors who are interested in your subject matter. And you should contact the web sites that cover your industry to see if they would be interested in having you write a column for their web site. A regular column would provide great exposure for both your book and your business.

Advertise in the Radio-TV Interview Report. The media loves authors, and this weekly report goes out to thousands of radio and TV producers who are looking for guests for their shows. Sometimes it works well—I’ve gotten as many as 20 interviews from one ad—and sometimes it doesn’t (I’ve also read about authors who got very little response). It’s important to write your ad in a way that makes your book and your subject matter sound as interesting and topical as possible. If you have a topic of great interest to the public, a good ad can drive a lot of media coverage your way.


Get out and speak on the topic. Offer to speak on your topic at monthly and annual meetings of local, regional and national groups and associations who may have an interest in your subject matter. You should also register with at least one speakers’ bureau to see if they can find speaking gigs for you around the country. In some cases, you can earn several thousand dollars from a speaking engagement, although even if the pay is minimal (or non-existent), speaking in front of a large group can go a long way in promoting your book and your business. And whenever you travel elsewhere to give a speech, it also pays to send an advanced press release to the media in your destination city announcing that you will be in town to give a speech. Reporters from local TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines may all be interested in interviewing you while you’re in town.

Carrying out a comprehensive promotional campaign for your book can be very time-consuming and expensive, but a successful campaign can put your book on the map and drive business to your door step.

ABOUT THE WRITER: Gene Walden is the best-selling author of more than a dozen books on business and personal finance. He is also a sought-after ghostwriter and the founder and director of

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