Smart HACKS to Writing a Book
Should you write a book? And where do you start? Writing and publishing a book is easier than you think. It’s totally doable in less than 1 year!
On the show today, Debby Kevin shares her HACKS into writing and publishing a book. She talks about why you should write a book, the different publishing options, how to carve out time to write and how to liberate yourself from perfectionism!
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In this episode you will learn:
- Why you should write a book
- Why women are not sharing their stories
- How long it takes to write and publish a book
- The differences between self-publishing, traditional publishing and hybrid publishing
- How to evaluate a book’s ROI
- How to find time to write
- Tips to carving out daily and weekly writing time
- How to liberate yourself from perfectionism
Full Transcription at the bottom of this blog post.
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Hello, Debby. Welcome to the show.
Hi, Allison. Thank you so much for having me.
Well, I am very happy to have you. I feel honored to have you, because we’re going to talk about writing today. Writing books, publishing books, and I’m sure that we have a lot of listeners thinking maybe I should write a book, but that seems like such a far-fetched dream in like me, because it’s one of my dreams. I have no idea. Even like how to begin, you know, like the first steps into writing a book. So I want to ask you, Debby, why do you think every mompreneur, ought to write a book?
I love this question so much, Alison. Um, I think that women in general tend to downplay what they know and how they know it. And here’s the thing is I really have a big mission to help women really own their stories because by writing them down, they actually get clarity over what they bring to the world. Especially as mompreneurs. Like we tend to put everybody else’s needs first and not really stop and pause and appreciate what we bring. And then the second thing that we gain is we gain confidence because as we look at, I hear all the time like, Oh, someone’s already said that I don’t have anything new to say, why would anybody listen to me? And all of that comes down to fear, fear of being visible, fear of being seen, fear of making a mistake, fear of not something original to say fear of the fraud factor flying high, but we all have our unique perspectives. I always say I put on your perspective and look through it because there’s never been a woman alive ever alive today, or whoever be alive in the future, who has your experience and your lived perspective.
That was such a great answer to that question. And you mentioned in your answer that everyone has a story. So let’s tap into that part because a lot of times I’ve read so many great books by great entrepreneurs, great personal development books, and they always have like this awesome, great story. And sometimes we’ll look at our life and go, yeah, my story doesn’t look like that. I just had an average life and did what I was told to do and went to school. So when you talk about stories, what does that really mean?
Well, I think, you know, so we, we, I love that you mentioned that you can learn from other people’s stories. So, um, let me give just a personal example. I left the corporate world when my son was diagnosed with autism. So I, for the first time in my life was a stay at home mom with a whole lot of personal skill that I didn’t know how to channel, but I did know that I wanted my son to feel completely 100% accepted for who he was at that exact moment in every moment of his life, what was available to him, wasn’t that, you know, everybody saw him, the teachers, the schools, the medical professionals, all saw him as broken. So I looked at him differently if I were to downplay that I didn’t do anything special. I was just as mom, right. I just did what I thought was best for my son.
But in doing that, I carved a different path that maybe not everybody will follow. Maybe not everybody would see as a good thing, but for my son and our situation, it was an amazing outcome. If I were to not ever share that story, people wouldn’t even realize that there’s a different path possible. And so by sharing our stories, even if we don’t think that they’re that unique, because we just do the best we can with what we’ve got every single day, we’re actually showing other people different viewpoints, different paths, and just allowing them to crack open and see that they have within themselves ideas that could make a difference.
I love that story and I knew that story coming into this interview, but I don’t know if you know that my youngest son is on the spectrum as well. And he is the reason why I stopped working as a teacher, because it was little thing that he said to me in a car and it was mom. I wish you can drive me to school every day. And that was a pivotal moment in my life that, you know, okay, I’m going to make this happen. I’m going to be fully present with my children, make sure that he has a great life and a great education. And I’m going to figure out how I can still contribute to my family financially by working at home. And that was it. And I love how you said showing paths. So in your story, and in my story, I’m showing a path to somebody, either to being, you know, fully present with my children or how to grow a business at home. That I’m so glad that you said that, that we all have a unique way to shed some light on a path that will help someone else.
Yeah. You never know. Who’s going to pick up your book and who’s going to see you as an illuminator and, and, and, and really that’s not our job is to tell the stories and to, to, to share with us, with vulnerability and, and hope and inspire somebody, but we don’t know who that’s going to be. We have no idea. You may find out that that person may come circle back around that you may never know who you’re going to impact. And isn’t that beautiful.
Yeah. Oh yeah. It just gives me chills. Just talking to you about it. Now I know that a lot of our listeners are probably thinking, okay, I want to write a book or I want to empower other people through my writing. So let’s talk about, you know, the reality of what it takes to write and publish a book in your opinion. How long does that take?
Well, let’s break those into kind of two different segments. So the writing part, I actually did a little math before we joined each other today because an average nonfiction slash memoir book is about 70,000 words. So I divided, if you wrote a page a day, which is 500 words, one eight and a half by 11 pages a day, typewritten, single-spaced 500 words. It would take about five months to have a complete first draft of a book. Now, 500 words is not a lot. You could do it in 15 minutes, but there’s a way there’s, there are things that you can do to get yourself ready to write and make it a habit of writing. Cause that’s the key is the habit. And especially as moms, I was a single mom for, for most of my children’s lives and, uh, you’re working full-time and I’m also a novelist and a business owner. So it’s really about making the habit and just, yeah,
So I mean, five months doesn’t sound too hard, but I’m also thinking to myself, okay, how, if we’re going to write 500 words, do we just get on the computer and start writing? Or do we draft like an outline first? Do we, you know, what’s our ultimate purpose of the book first? Like, is there kind of like a, like an outline that you suggest to writers?
Yes. I love this question so much because there are people who that fall into kind of two categories. There are the planners who really do enjoy writing to an outline. And then there are the panthers’ who like to fly by the seat of their pants and there’s not a right or wrong way, but I’ve seen more and more as I’ve worked with more and more authors that people who have a rough outline doesn’t have to be fully fleshed out, but a rough outline. And they know what the ultimate goal is of their book. They can kind of pants what they’re going to write any given day. So I, I say let’s make a plan that you can pants to. So what do I mean by that? So we’ll know what the ultimate goal is of your book. We’ll know, kind of the log line of like, who is this for?
We’ll rough out some chapters that you don’t have to write them in an order. You can pants it today. I feel like writing about this part of my life. I know, kind of at the beginning, and I’m just going to write, that’s actually kind of the marriage of both that makes it be most successful and allows us to have fun. I always say have two pieces that you’re working on your book at the same time, because if you get stuck on one, just go to the other. And here’s the most important part about no matter how you write is, do not edit while you’re writing.
Oh, that would be so hard for me.
It’s hard for everyone. And I’ll tell you, because what you’re doing is you’re actually stifling your creativity, your right side of your brain is the creative side. It’s romping all over the page. Don’t critique it. Don’t even worry. Just kind of go with the flow. And the left side is the logical side and the logical side will always override the creative side if you’re writing.
Oh, that’s really helpful. So really we should look at those first. Um, let’s say those 500 words a day is really just a giant brain dump.
Absolutely. The first. And I call that the first draft, right? You get the, um, the first draft, which is basically information bulimia on a page. And then you work with an editor to actually help you shape your story. I always use this analogy of Michelangelo. Michelangelo would have a block of marble sitting in front of him. He had to visualize what that marble was going to be before he took up his chisel. You can only plan so much when you have a block of marble. So you’ve got to get the block of marble first, before you can carve out the beautiful story that really you want to publish. So that ugly first
Draft, the, the one that you could really do in five months. So what do we do after that? We have that, like you said, that first draft, and we know it’s going to be pretty though. It always is. Yeah. So then at that point, now you are going to go to the next stages of actually getting the book edited and published.
So editing. So there’s really five. I like to break it into five stages that the editing writing slash publishing part. So there’s the writing piece, which everybody kind of knows logically what to do. Then the next piece is the editing piece. And there are many different kinds of editing, but we’ll just put them in one bucket. Then there’s the publishing step that comes after the editing step, which has again, many steps. Then there’s the launch or the book birthday or the publication date, big celebration. And then there’s the ongoing promotion and marketing of your book. So there’s really five kind of main buckets. So we’ve talked about writing. So editing is the next big bucket. And so when you, I say, if somebody is going to self-publish, which is always a great option for somebody, I would never disparage self-publishing unless it’s publishing that first draft, which a lot of people tend to do is you want to, if you’re going to invest, if you’re going to self-publish, you want to invest in a great editor and you want to invest in a great cover designer because the cover stops the scroll.
We’re all looking at everything in a tiny little box on Amazon or Barnes and noble or whatever your favorite indie platform is. And your cover stops. Then the writing is what keeps people and makes them actually do that purchasing. And so you want to make sure that those two pieces are invested in when you’re going to publish. So editing, you can have a developmental editor. Who’s going to say, okay, this is your story. What about if we put this part here and we moved that part over there, and this piece doesn’t really make sense. Can you go a little deeper? Because what I’ve learned as an editor, the tougher, the stories, the more we gloss over them, we’ll go into great detail about the kitchen that we grew up in and, and the best family meals ever. But when we get to a part that was really hard in our lives, we, we skim over it because it’s, it’s tough. And a good editor will say, Hey, I noticed, I think this deserves a little more attention, and we’ll guide you through that process of going deeper, which is very healing in many ways. So then there’s the editing piece. And so if you’re talking from conception to working with like either published self-publishing or independent publishing, you’re looking about a year,
That’s actually not bad. And it’s actually pretty attainable. If you are really dedicated and motivated to do it, but you have to start with the writing piece for us. Now, maybe we’ll have a follow up question to publishing. Yeah. You were talking about self-publishing. So what are the different types of publishing? I know there are, self-publishing your traditional publishing and then something called hybrid publishing. What’s the difference?
Yeah, that’s a great question. So most of us, when we think about publishing, we think about traditional publishing. We think about getting our books, getting an agent, getting our books published, and one of the big five soon to be four publishing houses, you know, and having them do all the work, getting a, a nice, healthy advance. Traditional publishing is amazing, right? It’s it, but it is old fashioned and it has a lot of barriers to success. And then when you look at the complete opposite, end of the scale, you have very little control. Once your book is licensed by a publisher, you have very little control over whether what they’re going to do to it, right? You have, you have an editor, you have, they’re going to choose your cover. They’re going to choose all the marketing materials. They’re going to choose where it gets published if it gets published, because I’ve heard many times where things change and books just kind of never see the light of day and they still own the rights to that book.
Interesting. So the other end of that spectrum is a hundred percent retention of control, which is self-publishing, which got a very bad rap in the early days of self-publishing because people would put up their first drafts and throw up a cover. They designed very poorly, but that we’ve kind of examined what goes into that. And independent publishing is what we’re calling it now, because it sounds first of all, a lot better. And it sort of does differentiate somebody. Who’s going to make the investment to make their book as good as it can possibly be a hundred percent of the control, a hundred percent of the risk, a hundred percent of the royalties, right? The whole process you own, then there’s this, this great plane in between the two of, of what I call hybrid publishing. And they range everywhere from vanity publishing, which is anything you give me, I’m going to publish Brophy.
That’s it. You own it. I’m going to publish it. I don’t, I’m not going to edit it. I’m going to, whatever you give me, I’m going to publish all the way through these mid-sized publishers, where they’re more like traditional publishers. There’s no financial investment, but you will get some royalties. You won’t get an advance. There’s usually not an agent involved. And then there’s everything in between. And so my publishing company is on the upper end of the scale. There’s a slight financial investment. There is a royalty share, but it’s more of a collaborative model. I like, um, actually my publishing house is run very differently than many others in that it is extremely collaborative and, uh, and community building, which is a unique aspect.
That’s very helpful. I’m glad that you explained the differences. So here’s my next question. We have a writer who has published a book. How do you evaluate your return on investment when you do?
That’s such a good question. And I’m going to approach this as a mompreneur, right? Because if you have an investment, you have an investment of time. You have an investment of talent, you have an investment of treasure, whether regardless of how you’re publishing, you’ve got some investment in all of those areas. So as a mompreneur, I say, if you get enough eyeballs on your book, first of all, it’s going to increase your visibility, which is going to be great for your business. You’re claiming expertise. You’re really demonstrating that you’re in it for the long haul and people can find you. So if you consider the return on investment, finding one more new client, what’s the, what’s the value of that one new client. What’s the value to you for really being clear about the value that you bring to everybody else. And so you can return, you can calculate your return on investment. Like I need to sell, you know, 150 books to make back my investment, or you can look at it in the other way, which is what does this bring my business then enables me to reach more people.
I love that. So instead of looking at your return on investment as money, but more visibility and who you’re reaching and really the impact you’re making on. Exactly. Yeah. That’s such a great answer. And I want to shift gears a little bit in our conversation today and talk about, go back to the writing piece because I think this is going to be the biggest struggle when it comes down to it. I think we all have a dream of being a published author. I know I do, but it comes down to carving out that time to write. So what tips do you have? How does a mompreneur…Let’s say she’s, you know, has a side gig in a business and she really wants to write a book, but she’s got three kids and her husband’s working and, you know, five dogs running around. How does someone like that carve out time to beginning to begin that writing process?
I love this question so much. So I started, um, my writing career as a single mom working full time with two young children and two dogs. So, and I wrote a novel during that time period. Wow. Um, yeah, so I think it comes down to, first of all, setting the intention. That’s number one, the second is bringing everybody in and saying, look, I want to write a book and it’s going to take all of our help from me to do that. Here’s what I’m asking for. So really claiming what you need. So whether you’re somebody who is really creative after everybody goes to bed, that would never be mine. I collapsed on the couch after the kids went to bed full socks, while I’m binge watching something television, or do you get up a little earlier and have your partner or spouse say, can you take care of the kids two days a week?
So I can carve out this time to write and then teaching the kids that my mom’s door’s closed, I’m writing, unless there’s a fire or, um, you know, and certainly when you have toddlers, it’s a lot different than when you have teenagers, right? Um, they really want mom behind the door when they’re a teenager, you know, so I’m, I’m re I understand that. So I think it’s really just, it doesn’t have to be a big swath of time. I know people who take their kids to baseball practice, kids are playing. And instead of sitting with the other parents, they’re in their car with their Mac and they’re typing out 500 words. I think it’s a matter of deciding first and then keeping making a commitment and then keeping that commitment to yourself and don’t make it too hard. Right. And don’t beat yourself up if you don’t do it every day.
Right. Cause we actually have to enjoy the process, right? Yeah. You get like a horrible thing. Oh, that was so helpful. I like how you said be super intentional. Now I do have, um, a follow-up question to that. Do you think it’s a good idea for any person who wants to author a book to get published elsewhere? Like, let’s say for example, be a contributing writer for someone like thrive global or, you know, some sort of online forum that’s well-known do you think it’s a good idea to get, you know, other pieces of work out there before you actually write a book?
Um, I think that’s a great question and that’s a very traditional kind of model, right? I, I say, if you, if it serves you and it serves your business and it serves your ideal client get published wherever you can. I mean, I certainly, before I published my own book, I was in several anthologies. I was in some literary journals. I think it’s a matter of again, deciding what you want to do, setting the intention and then doing it. If your ideal clients read the magazine that you’re talking about, whether it’s a blog or an online platform, or it’s a print magazine or article newspaper, do it because it’s just going to get your name out there. It builds those writing credentials and it’s not completely necessary.
I love that answer. I do have one final question for you. What is your tips to the mompreneurs who are perfectionist?
I’m a recovering perfectionist or with someone with perfectionist tendencies. And this comes into where writing and editing like, and I think that was the biggest, um, I had a professor once who said, you want to rump all over the page. Like it is just, you want to divest yourself of the idea that what you’re going to write is perfect. And Oh, that is so hard. It’s so hard and it’s doable and it just takes practice. Um, if you catch yourself doing something, I used to say, Oh, Debbie, and just like crack up about it. Like there, you’re doing it again. You’re editing while you’re writing, let’s start over.
I’m afraid. We’re going to, you know, like me, I would be afraid even that, that first draft, I might not even hand over to an editor because I’m going to have that feeling of it’s not perfect. And do you think your first book is ever really that perfect?
Your first no book is perfect. Let’s put, let’s be very Frank. Like a lot of people think an editor is going to make your book perfect. There are professionals, every book, every book you’ve ever pick up ever. There’s a mistake in it. Every book, whether it’s a missing period, whether it’s a sentence that got wonky. So I think if we can just sort of normalize the fact that nothing is perfect. In fact, I love this story in Persia. When they, the people who make those beautiful Persian rugs, they will introduce a mistake into these beautiful Persian rugs that people were paying a hundred thousand dollars for because nothing is perfect only God or the universe or the greater being beyond us is perfect. So they actually introduce errors.
That’s really cool. And we have to remember too, there are humans who are actually writing these books.
Exactly. And so I think the key you hit on it on something that I think is really important. There are a lot of editors out there and there are a lot of editors who will really unintentionally hit on the perfectionist nerve. And so I think it’s really important to find an editor whose energy jives with you, somebody who’s going to be empathic and say, look, you might consider like, you don’t want somebody. Who’s going to say, you know, Alison, this is completely wrong. You don’t want the, the naughty nun finger waver. Right? You want somebody who’s going to make you feel held, who can say, you know, I can see where you’re going with this. And I really want you to go a little bit further. Yeah.
Like that, that was very helpful. So, well, this was such an awesome conversation. And I know we’re going to have so many mompreneurs want to reach out to you, get your advice on writing and publishing.
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