I’m trying to cross off Life Bucket List Item #6 (write a book). Cliché, I know. Here’s my process (so far) if you’re thinking of writing one too.
1. Make a book proposal.
First, I read some stuff on how to write a book proposal. A book proposal is an enormously helpful way to think about the soul of your book. It’s a document consisting of three basic parts, the premise, the market, and the author.
The most useful and best part of that document is the premise. What do you want to say? How can you say it better? In what order do you want to say it? So fun. Spew out some chapter summaries and the gears start turning.
The market part of the book was a bit harder. Who are you talking to? Admitting that I’m talking to myself sounds rather narcissistic. I want to write a book that I would enjoy reading. That’s too vague. I’m talking to…you. Whoever wants to read the crap that I write. Still vague, I know. I’m still thinking about this piece.
The last part of the proposal is the author. Here you brag about yourself and explain why you’re the only one in the world who can write this book.
The premise section of the book proposal sets you up nicely to write the actual book while the market and author parts of the book proposal sets expectations. It forces you to think about commercial value and why you’re writing it and what you can realistically do with it.
Do you want to print out a copy, buy a giant magnet and stick it to the fridge? Bucket List Item complete! Or do you want to send your baby out into the world? Like a real book?
There’s no right or wrong answer, but readers expect a minimal level of quality if you expect them to pay for it. A splashy book cover. Good formatting. No typos. Interesting content. Obviously.
If you’ve decided against the fridge magnet and want help making this thing as pretty as possible, you can put bits of your book proposal into an email and blast it out into the world in search of people. Literary agents. Publishers.
Dear Person in the Book-Writing Industry,
I’m writing a book.
My premise is this: Finances are easy. Don’t spend money on crap you personally and specifically don’t need for happiness. The hard part is knowing yourself well enough to know what that might be. It’s the personal part of personal finance that trips most people up. What’s fun for one person might be boring as sin for the dude sitting next to him yawning.
I plan to write it in this colloquial manner to make early retirement sound as accessible as it is.
I paid off six figures of student loan debt and accumulated enough money to retire by 33. In October 2015, I quit my job and now I travel the world, working on various bucket list items. This is my attempt at crossing off item #6 (write a book). Wanna help?
One publisher showed interest, but I still searched for other options to spur some competition. If you’re lucky, you’ll get rejections. If you’re unlucky, you’ll get silence. I got both. The silence is frustrating and the rejection feedback is enlightening and occasionally contradictory. Also, a bit of a bummer.
While waiting on email responses, I wrote a first draft of the book. Another super fun step. Use the premise part of your book proposal as a guide and it thwacks together quickly. Like a giant magnet.
4. Consider publishing options.
Eventually, the publisher that initially encouraged me sent an offer. They’d come up with a marketable title and check the footnotes and make decisions about pictures and fonts and such. They would take care of editing it and designing the book cover. The hard stuff.
Of course they would pay for all of this and I’d just stand to the side and nod. Cash my advance check and brag about my book deal. A book deal! It just sounds cool. Prestigious and real.
It’s impressive because the publisher guards a lot of doors. With a real publisher, you might see your book on bookstore shelves or read reviews of your book in the newspaper or magazines. Using a real publisher grants you the possibility of winning a literary award or dawdling on best seller lists. If you use a real publisher, your literary agent can negotiate your book deal.
A book deal!
This would most certainly be the easiest way to cross off this bucket list item. The straightest path to celebratory explosion noises.
I turned it down.
5. Decide on Self Publishing.
As fun as it is to dream and say “book deal”, I don’t want to care about the things a publisher would want me to care about. Mainly, how many people know that I exist? Make that number higher.
Meh. You probably don’t remember, but about a year ago, I started a short-lived project I called Operation Big Time. I wondered if I could actively grow my blog. I did exactly nothing for it because I hate doing that kind of stuff.
This is why I’m retired. I don’t want an employer telling me what I have to do. I’m not keen to give up my cherished control, no matter how good I am at nodding.
It didn’t hurt that the offered deal kind of stank.
Hardcover: 10% of net receipts
Paperback: 8% of net receipts
Ebook: 5% of net receipts
Stank for me, I mean. It made perfect sense for the publisher. Perhaps 3,000 people know I exist. Of those, maybe 10% will buy this thing. Unless I increase that number, why would the publisher gamble on me? They want to make money. They don’t care about my bucket list.
Since I don’t care about money right now, I did contemplate the offer for a few seconds. Going with the sure, but tiny, profit would be the safe path. Without the publisher, I have to pay to make it look professional.
That’s okay. I’ve always encouraged you to spend money on your hobby. Writing is my favorite hobby and I am taking my own advice. Because I give good advice.
6. Read my article on the actual logistics of self publishing.
After I publish it, that is. This article was getting too long.