31 Tips For Writing Your Book On Your Expertise
So you are ready to write your book. You've made the decision to become a self-published author.
The only problem is — you don't know what the heck to write about.
When you look on Amazon at all of the non-fiction books available, it's completely overwhelming. Every topic seems glutted with multiple books, many that are clearly doing quite well.
How do you know what niche to choose? How do you know what people will be interested in and what kind of book they would be willing to buy?
The best place to begin in deciding on a book niche and topic is the most obvious — your own expertise.
Now you might say, “But I don't have an expertise. I'm not a PhD or a media personality or a CEO. What can I contribute that people would want to buy and read?”
But that mindset is short-sighted. You don't have to be a expert on a topic to share useful information and ideas. You just need to be “expert enough.”
Think about all you have experienced and learned in life, from your various jobs to your hobbies, interests, and life roles (like being a parent). Don't discount the fact that the knowledge and experience you possess could be extremely useful to other people.
Any area where you have some level of expertise and interest is a niche worth exploring for your book(s).
Ready to get started?
Here are 31 tips for writing a book:
This is when all the major planning for writing a book on your expertise takes place. The pre-writing stage is filled with exciting possibilities, a great deal of thinking, and a bit of note-taking as you list all your options.
1. Define Your Expertise
Expertise is more than just your education. It can be a hobby you’ve had for years; it can be something you find interesting which you enjoy researching and talking about; it can be the life experiences you’ve learned from over the years. Make a list of every possible niche for a book based on your background and interests.
2. Define Your Audience
To whom are you writing? Don’t try to please everyone. Create a short bio of your ideal reader and get a picture of some sort to post by your computer; that person is your ideal reader. When you write, write to that person.
3. Define Your Niche and Topics
Will you write on a broad niche or a specific topic ? (For example, buying a dog vs. buying a standard poodle.) We suggest you start by breaking down a big niche to more specific topics which can be used for future books.
Then you'll need to do some research to find out which of your ideas have the most potential for actually selling books. Take a look at this post to help you narrow down and refine your ideas.
4. Define the Length of Your Book
Decide whether you will write a short, instructional book or a longer, in-depth book. The extent of your expertise will help you define the length. (Remember: this is not set in stone. You may start writing and then decide to lengthen or shorten your book. That’s okay, but keep in mind that it will affect your timeline for publishing.)
If your book is growing to well past 40,000 words, consider cutting some of it to use in a future book. Since you will be charging in the $2.99 range for a Kindle version of your book, you don't need to give away the store. A book of 30,000 to 40,000 words is a great value at $2.99.
During this phase, you will make decisions about what you need (both tangible and intangible) to complete this project. This is when you begin making commitments – it’s when the idea of writing a book on your expertise starts to become real!
5. Choose a Publishing Venue
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. CreateSpace. Google Play. Lulu. Smashwords. With a plethora of places to publish, you need to do your homework.
How much time is required to go from submission to publication on each platform? Schedule time to learn your chosen venue before you need to use it so you can meet your publishing deadline.
Because Amazon is so big, we suggest you include this platform for every book. Steve and I publish exclusively on Amazon, but it is worth looking at the other platforms to see if you want to include your book on these. (Note: with the KDP Select option on Amazon, you must publish exclusively with Amazon, but you can earn more money and reach more readers.)
6. Set a Deadline
Choose a day to publish your book (also known as launching). If the material is seasonal or tied to an event, you’ll want to set a publish date around that time. Be sure to factor in other life events, such as holidays and family commitments. Make sure your deadline is realistic.
You'll need to calculate how many words a day and days a week you will write. Also, add in time to have the book edited by a professional editor, a cover designed, the book formatted, and your sales page description written prior to publishing.
7. Decide Now How to Deal with Internet Distractions
Find a quiet place to write where you won't be interrupted. Turn off social media notifications on your phone, and remove apps from your computer desktop. Save social media for your day off or as a reward for writing a certain number of words.
8. Choose Writing Software
The word processing program on your computer, or Google Docs, may be all you need to craft your book. Alternatively, you can use software that is specific for writers, such as Scrivener, Write Way, or Focus Writer.
Whatever you choose, be consistent so that all your files are in one place.
This is probably the most tedious stage of writing a book on your expertise – but it needs to be done.
During this phase you will create folders and documents, set schedules, and move things around until everything is exactly where you want it. Knowing where to find things will save you time later, as you’re writing.
9. Brainstorm Basic Info
Get a blank sheet of paper and create a mind map. Put your topic in the middle, circle it, and then write any ideas that come from that topic around it. Or, create a simple list or traditional outline.
As you jot things down, if they inspire other ideas, add them to your list as well. Choose whichever brainstorming style works best with your writing personality.
10. Interview Other Experts in Your Field
They say it’s not what you know, but who you know. You may be an expert in your field, but having other experts contribute to your work will go a long way.
If you haven’t already started lining up interviews, do it now. Don’t wait until the last minute, or your outside experts may be too busy. Have a voice recorder available – don’t rely on your memory!
11. Set Times to Write
If you don’t schedule time to write, you’re more apt to let it slide when something else comes up. Make this important!
Consider your current schedule and decide when the best time to write will be. Morning or evening?
Is there time during your lunch break when you can pound out a chapter? This cannot be emphasized enough – schedule time to write!
12. Set Mini Goals
Think about how many words you want to write at each sitting, or decide how many minutes (or hours) you want to write each day. Having these goals will help keep you on track to finish your book on time.
Remember the deadline you set previously? Work backward from there to set other mini goals.
Research and brainstorming completed by this date, first draft completed by that date. Revisions by this date, read through by that date. Back from the editor by this date, begin publication by that date.
It’s easier to shoot for smaller goals since a big goal is often overwhelming.
13. Take a Day Off
Schedule a day to relax on the same day each week if possible.
Let your book sit on the back burner in your brain and simmer. You’ll find that a day away actually helps you clarify your thoughts.
It also keeps you from feeling like you’re ignoring the rest of your life.
14. Celebrate Your Milestones
As you reach your mini goals, celebrate! An evening out with friends or family, a bowl of ice cream, time to watch your favorite TV show – there are so many ways to reward yourself.
Pick something you feel will make your efforts worthwhile, then keep your head down and work hard until you reach that next goal. You can do it!
15. Choose Chapter Topics
Use your sheet from the brainstorming session to create a rough outline of chapter titles.
These titles may change as your book takes shape, but by having them written out, you can visualize your work. Being able to refer to this outline will keep you on track as you write.
16. Start a Document for Each Chapter
Working on one chapter at a time will help you stay focused. As you finish a chapter, print it out and set it off to the side of your desk so you can see it. Over time, you will “see” your book grow.
Don’t force yourself to write each chapter in order. If inspiration for the third chapter hits before you start the second chapter, work on the third chapter first. You can go back and write the second chapter later.
This is where the rubber meets the road. While this stage of writing a book can be the hardest, it’s also the most fun. This phase will take the most time to get through.
17. Write Your First Draft
Just write! No corrections this time around, just get your thoughts written. Keep your head down and your fingers on the keyboard (or, pen to paper, if you are writing by hand). Do a total brain dump for each chapter. Revisions come later.
18. Get Up and Stretch
If you plan to write for more than one hour at a sitting, take a five-minute break after the first hour to refresh your thinking and stretch your legs. Your brain and body will thank you!
19. Create a Document for References/People
As you find quotes and statistics to reference, keep track of the books and websites you use in this document. If you interview someone, put a brief bio here. This document will morph into your bibliography when you are finished.
20. Create a Document for Notes
As you think of things to include, create a document and jot them down. This will be your go-to doc as you write each chapter.
Divide the document into chapter sections with headings or by making the font bold. Notes for each chapter go under the appropriate heading.
21. Fade-out Used Notes
Once you use a note, change the color to pale gray (so you can barely see it) to signify you have used it. Doing this, instead of deleting the note, allows you to “see” if you have already thought of the information.
For example, say you use a personal anecdote in the fifth chapter, which you take from your notes and promptly delete. Then, in the tenth chapter you need an anecdote and think of the same one – and forget that you’ve already used it – so you use it again.
By fading it out, you will know you already used the anecdote.
22. Stay Organized
Folders are your friends! If you have any graphics or charts, create a specific folder for them.
Have passages from books or websites you wish to glean from? Snap a photo or screenshot and store it in this folder for easy reference as you write.
Be sure to record the book/website info in the reference document you created in tip #19.
23. Start Revisions
Once you finish your first draft, start reading through each chapter to make corrections, add info, and delete anything that does not seem to fit.
Eliminate words such as “very,” “just” and “that.” Be mentally prepared to revise multiple times. Because there will be more than one revision.
24. Use Grammar Software
Consider using a free (or paid) grammar software program. However, keep in mind that even these programs can make mistakes since they are not human. Do not let it strip your voice from your manuscript.
While you want to correct grammar mistakes, you do not want to sound like every book written in 1950. Be picky about what corrections you accept, and disregard suggestions you know are wrong. (For example, we often use nouns as verbs and verbs as nouns.)
During this phase, you will do more reading than writing as you complete your book on your expertise.
This stage can be almost as tedious as the Organizing Stage. However, as with all the other tips, you don’t want to skip any of these. Press on – the finish line is in sight!
25. Hire an Editor
Make sure the editor has time to work on your manuscript, and make sure they can get it back to you in a reasonable amount of time. (Remember your mini goals? You have deadlines to keep.)
Hiring an editor may feel like an unnecessary expense, but it is an essential step for a professional, well-written book. You need another set of eyes reviewing and tightening your book.
26. Hire a Graphic Designer
Your book cover is another place where you want to have a pro involved. The cover is the first thing your reader sees, and it needs to look professional.
You can find graphic designers at Upwork or with a service like Bespoke Book Covers. Get multiple cover graphics and do some A/B testing with friends and other writers.
27. Get an Objective Reader
This should be someone who will be honest with you — not someone who doesn't want to hurt your feelings, like your mother. (Unless your mother can give you an unbiased review – then let her be a reader.)
Ask a colleague, another writer, a proofreader – someone who will tell you if something does not sound right, if it is in the wrong chapter, or if it leaves them with more questions than answers. If you can get more than one, that would be ideal.
28. Do Multiple Read-Throughs
When you are finished with major revisions, it is time to start doing minor revisions, also known as read-throughs.
Two, three, eight, fifteen . . . the more you read through it, the more you will catch and be able to correct.
This is a great place to set another mini goal: “I will read through my manuscript _(#)_ times by _(date)_.”
29. Read Out Loud
Let your manuscript sit for 24 hours at least, and then read through it slowly, out loud. Read every word. Does it sound like the way you talk?
Plan to do this more than once. As you “hear” what you wrote, you’ll be able to catch rough sentences, duplicate words, and grammar problems.
30. Stand Up to Read
When you read your manuscript out loud, stand up. This will allow you to see things from a different angle, both literally and figuratively.
Because you wrote it while sitting, your mind will ‘expect’ to read what you intended to write, even if it’s not there. When you stand up to read, your mind will be more alert because of the change, and you’ll catch more mistakes.
31. Write Your Bio
Write your bio in third person. Don’t be afraid to ask friends for help with this. How your friends see you may be different from how you see yourself. How do you want the world to perceive you? Be sure to include any background information related to the topic of your book.
Of course once you finish your book, there will be a variety of other tasks you'll need to complete before you hit the “publish” button. But once you have a final manuscript in hand, the other actions will be a piece of cake.
You'll be highly motivated to get your masterpiece out the door and into the hands of eager readers waiting to learn from your expertise!
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