In Part 1 of this article, we looked at the reasons for writing a book and how to create your first draft, even if you don’t have time or are “not a writer.” In this second part, we will look at what you will need to do to carry your first draft forward into a finished book.
From Talk to Transcript
Authoring a book is a great way to build your business. But doing it the conventional way—staring at a blank page, trying to figure out what to say—takes time.
It helps if you’re an experienced writer, but don’t be fooled; even writers need time—sometimes a lot of it—to get their ideas down on paper or into a text document.
So, as a busy small business owner, you find yourself in a “Catch-22:” You want to have the book to help you build your business but you’re so busy running the business, you have no time to write the book.
The solution, according to publisher and New York Times bestselling author Tucker Max, is to “talk” it instead of writing it. When he was a guest on Mike Dillard’s Self Made Man podcast, Max explained that anyone can talk to one person and explain what they do and how they do it (or what they know and what to do with the knowledge). This is essentially how his company, Book in a Box, helps busy people create books.
Max admits that Book in a Box is an expensive service. His suggestion for an alternative is to use the “talk” approach and record yourself using the Rev voice recorder app (which is available for both iPhone and Android phones).
With Rev, you talk each section of your book into your smartphone. When you’re done recording, Rev saves your content in an audio file. With a tap, you can send the file for transcribing. Within a day, you receive back a text file of your recording.
However, as mentioned at the end of Part 1, a transcript of you talking about your business is not in itself a book.
So how do you turn it into a book?
Hire an Editor
A good editor can take the transcript of your voice recording and shape it into the kind of readable content one would expect to find in a book. They accomplish this by organizing your information into a logical beginning, middle, and end. They might rewrite some of it and re-sequence parts of it to flow better for the reader.
An editor should be able to accomplish this without losing your distinct “voice”—the unique way that you communicate. For instance, if you have a casual, direct way of speaking, an editor shouldn’t try to make you sound overly formal. “It should come back and when you read it, you should think ‘Wow, I feel like this is me talking. It’s saying what I have to say. It resonates with what I’m trying to teach,’” said Max. “And if it doesn’t, you just go back and forth with the editor until it does.”
“When you read it, you should think ‘Wow, I feel like this is me talking.’”—Tucker Max
Here are some places to find editors:
- Get a referral from someone you know who has used a particular book editor. This is probably the best way to go.
- Google “freelance book editor” and research several editors or services regarding price, turnaround, and guarantee.
- Freelancer hiring websites such as Upwork.com
You can find very inexpensive editors on freelance sites, but don’t cut corners on your book. Hire a professional—someone with plenty of experience—and be prepared to pay accordingly. “You should pay anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 … maybe $15,000 but no more than $20,000—and that would be for a total ‘rock star’ editor,” said Max.
Don’t Overlook Interior Layout
The text document of your book manuscript won’t carry over into a properly formatted Kindle document or physical book layout.
People expect a book—electronic or paperback/hardcover—to be of a certain quality: the type is a certain size, the text is a certain density, the next chapter begins on the right-hand page, and other conventions of professionally produced books.
If you don’t have the final, edited content of your book properly formatted for print, at the very least it will end up looking strange and at the worst, completely amateur.
There are people and businesses that specialize in book interior design. As with editors, your most reliable source of book interior designers is referrals from friends and associates. You can also find them by Googling “book interior design” or checking on freelancer websites such as Upwork.com.
Get a Great Cover Design
Though we’ve been reminded throughout our lives to never judge a book by its cover, people will judge your book by just that.
The title of your book (more on that in a minute) and especially the appeal of the cover is what will make people want to get it and read it.
“The difference between amateur self-publishing and professional publishing is editing, cover design, and interior layout.”—Tucker Max
“You really need to spend time getting a good cover design. I cannot emphasize this enough,” said Max. “The difference between amateur self-publishing and good professional publishing is editing, cover design, and interior layout.”
Max suggests looking into a service like 99 Designs, which is a freelance site solely for graphic designers. Their process is straightforward:
- Specify what you need designed.
- Choose some examples of designs you like.
- Select a price package for the design.
- Place your order.
- Give feedback.
- Choose your favorite.
When you place your order, what you’re really doing is starting a contest in which 30 to 90 designers will submit their design for your book cover. (They do logos and other kinds of designs too.) You may get back exactly what you were hoping for but if not, you can contact the designer who created something close to ideal and discuss how to make it perfect.
Max recommends selecting a design package priced at $500 or $1,000 but not to drop below that if you want high-quality results.
If you discover you don’t like any of the designs submitted, you can get your money back.
It’s possible that you have several ideas for the title of your book. Rather than guess which one is best, it is highly recommended that you test several of them and then narrow it down to the two most popular. Then test those two. You might be surprised at what really appeals to people.
You can do a casual survey of a couple dozen friends or associates or use an online survey service like SurveyMonkey or Wufoo to see which of your titles resonates best with people.
For instance, the original title of Tim Ferriss’ blockbuster No. 1 New York Times bestseller The 4-Hour Workweek was, “Drug Dealing for Fun and Profit.” (Ferriss was a pharmaceutical industry employee.)
Mike Dillard tells of a product his company was preparing to release a few years back but were unsure whether to use the word “money” or “wealth” in the product name. They surveyed and found that 98 percent of people surveyed preferred “wealth.”
“If we hadn’t split-tested the title, we would have lost 98 percent of our business.”—Mike Dillard
You can do the same thing with your cover design, if you happen to have more than one finished cover to choose from. It might even be a good idea, before you pay to have a cover designed, to get an artist to do some sketches of possible cover design ideas and use those to see which one gets the most thumbs up.
So, you’ve talked your book, had your transcript edited, hired a layout designer, and got a cool cover design. You’ve published your book to iBooks or Amazon.
So how do you use it to build your business?
Great question—and you’re going to love the answer, which you can discover in Part 3 of this article.