A Soldier's Hands Conversation with Trish Shallenberger

Writing and Publishing Advice Spring 2021

by Yvonne DiVita

First the writing advice. Because, generally, writing comes before publishing. 

(1) Take yourself seriously. If you don't take yourself seriously, no one else will, either. This means treating your writing as more than an afternoon hobby. If you're able to write and publish by treating your work as an afternoon hobby, why are you reading this blog post?

Malcolm Gladwell, in his popular book, Outliers - The Story of Success, tells us it take 10,000 hours of practice to become a master. This is not to say you will be the greatest novelist or inspirational writer of all time. It merely means, you must write to be a writer. 

James Clear, in his book, Atomic Habits, says, if you do it, you are it. If you talk about it, you are not it. Oversimplifying a bit but the message is clear - in order to be a writer, a published writer, you must write. And then, you must publish. In the former instance, you are allowed to call yourself a writer. "I write," you will say, when asked what you do. But, when asked if I've ever read anything you've written, you want to say, "You might have. Last year I published..." This is better than, "Probably not. I've never published anything."

(2) When writing non-fiction, remember, it's still a story. It's not a report. Don't prepare a detailed look at how to do something, complete with graphs and charts and diagrams. Include them, but make sure you're telling a  story the reader can relate to. The story of you. The story of how the reader can become successful, just like you. 

A good place to start that story is in the introduction. That's where you get to be you, the person, before you're you the business professional. You, the person, is what will sell the reader on your advice. If she begins to feel connected to you via your story, she will want to learn all she can from you.

Yes, I know, a lot of people say they don't read introductions. You can make them read it, though. You can make reading the introduction a necessary part of the book's flow. "Remember when I told you about this or that in the introduction?" If I haven't read the introduction, now I feel compelled to go back and read it.

The reason story is so powerful is because it's what brings people together. It's what gets our attention. We might need the graphs and charts and diagrams, but unless you've hooked us with a story, we're just not going to pay attention.

(3) Learn exactly what 'story' means. I recommend reading fiction because the richness of the storytelling can inspire you to greater creativity. Creativity is essential to all works of art, but too many of us tend to leave it out of our non-fiction books, where it can provide such a powerful message, when used correctly.

But before you begin to apply that idea to your writing, learn a little more about story. Joseph Campbell considered story "a hero's journey." 

As shown in this image, the hero is first called to adventure. Don't be fooled by the "supernatural aid" mention. That is, truly, for fiction. For us, the aid can come in the form of a mentor, a business advisor, a friend, a colleague, or, even a prayer. What's important here, is that there is a threshold and the beginning of a transformation. 

And that is where your power comes in. You will help the reader transform her life by taking her on a journey, where she is the hero and you are the mentor/helper.  Interestingly, I promise that you will also come to a threshold and be transformed. 

Hero's journey image

There is a lot more to writing, of course, but one blog post cannot cover it all. Let's move on the the publishing advice. And boy, is there a lot of that!

The most asked question I get, lately, is, "How should I publish my book?"

Everyone sort of gets the "print-on-demand" model used by Amazon and many other small presses. Back in 2005, when I founded Windsor Media Enterprises, or WME Books, as we called it, print-on-demand was still in its infancy. Not many people 'got it'. (side note - all that's left of that publishing company is this page, which lists our books. There is a new brand on the market using our WME Books description, so don't be fooled. It's not us any longer. Our publishing company closed years ago to pursue other big ideas.)

Today, print-on-demand (POD) is so popular, just about everyone uses it. Even many of the big publishing companies have print-on-demand divisions. 

The best reason to use this model is to be your own publisher. When you command your own book, and it's publication, you are the boss. For a bit of a deeper dive into this topic, follow this link to my blog post about publishing. Meanwhile, with POD, you get to do things like:

  • Choose the cover design
  • Choose the title
  • Release it when you want to release it
  • Write as long a book or as short a book as you like
  • Manage sales and marketing
  • Manage royalties on your terms 
  • Buy author's copies to give away, in the number you choose

Things to know about print-on-demand are:

  • You buy your own ISBN
  • You file your own copyright
  • You get your own editor and proofreader
  • You find your own preface or foreword writer
  • You engage your own people to read and provide testimonials
  • You build your own website to support the book
  • You create your own index
  • You create your own Author page on Amazon
  • You create your own hashtags and social media links for the book
  • You do a boatload of other stuff, too

If it seems like there are too many "you" words in that list, let me share a secret with you.

Publishing your book

Even if you get a traditional publisher to publish your book, you have to do a lot of that stuff. Yes, a traditional publisher will get an ISBN and copyright for you. And, a traditional publisher will take care of the index. They might even help you create a webpage for your book. But they will also dictate how long your book is, what the cover will look like, and what the title will be. And when it will be released.

You do all the rest. In fact, if you don't prove you have an established platform, with thousands of possible readers, traditional publishers won't even talk to you. No matter how great your proposal is. Oh, yeah, I forgot - before you do or prove any of the above to a traditional publisher, you have to prove you can sell the book and earn back your royalty for the advance. At which time, they may choose to remove the book from print - few books make it to a second printing. (side note: no you will not likely get a large advance to able you in taking time off of work or life to write your book; an average advance is $5000 but most people only get $2500 or so... and once you've sold enough for the traditional publisher to make back their money, they generally wave bye-bye.) 

Traditional publishers do not put a lot of effort or money into marketing your book. Unless you're already famous. Or, again, they see that you have 9 million Instagram followers.

With print-on-demand, you own all the rights and set your own royalties and can keep your book in print for as long as it serves its purpose. (this is using your own company to publish - some small press publishers offer a royalty and do help with marketing, but you are still the one who has to do the heavy lifting)

All of this is GENERAL advice. There are pluses and minuses to anything and publishing a book is no different. As a writing and publishing services company, Nurturing Big Ideas works with you hand in hand to smooth your path along the way. Our goal is to get you on Kindle for Amazon, digital and print versions of your book.

You will have a professional product to serve you for many years, if you take the time to invest in your book writing and publishing endeavor. 

What other questions do you have? We cover a lot of this in our weekly Smart News, also. Get on board now - you'll be privvy to inside deals and offers around writing and publishing, if you do. Oh, yes, since writing a book is much like starting a new small business, we work with you on that, too. We're serial entrepreneurs, after all. 

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