Emerging Women Writing Books!
Hi friends! I would love to be your Emerging Women one-stop-shop for all questions related to books, publishing, editing and writing!
I have been a book editor for 18 years, specializing in self-help, personal development, wellness and spirituality. I’ve been an acquisition and content editor at HarperCollins, Penguin, Hyperion and Sounds True, and recently trained the San Diego and New York editorial teams at Hay House. I have a book studio called kn literary arts, where we help emerging personal growth thought leaders craft the message of their book, clarify how they want to publish and clear the obstacles that stand in the way of their writing.
I’m more than happy to offer what I know to all of you thoughtful women who are changing the world. If you’ve got a book question, I’ve got an answer! Just post it below (no question is too basic or weird) and I will reply ASAP.
Love + books,
OK, Kelly. This is so needed! Can you give us the 3 most important first steps to committing to a book project? Am I even asking the right question? I keep procrastinating and putting it off but I know I need to get it out there! Top tips?
Such a cool thread! Thanks Kelly!
Hi Chantal! YES of course! Here goes:
The Three Most Important First Steps to Committing to a Book Project
1) Get clear that you really, really, really want to write a book. This is not an easy or fast process. It can be tons of fun, but only if the motivation is clear and it rises above the noise of our very busy lives. If you are sure you want to write the book, but the writing “just doesn’t seem to happen,” it can indicate that you have some underlying objections that you may not even know about. In that case, it’s time for some shadow work, or (my favorite) some NLP to help find the hidden obstacle and let it go. Common hidden obstacles are parental loyalties, quarantined (i.e., hidden) beliefs, and aspects of our self-identity that would need to be revised if we successfully published a book. I go into this in some depth in this blog.
2) Pick your hook. Now that the psychological pathway is clear, the next step is to choose an engaging, unique “hook” or pitch for your book. Many of us are writing about similar topics–feminine leadership, for example. But each of us also has something super unique about our angle or focus. Here’s where you let your Unique Value Proposition shine. A great hook is short (2-3 sentences MAX), unique to your work and has a “wow” factor that gives us the feeling “I want to read that!”
3) Schedule time to write! I know, I know. You’ve got waaaaaaaay too much going on to carve out time for something as non-essential as writing. But if your heart’s desire is to write, you’re going to have to create the space in your life to do it. I suggest picking the same time every day, and setting a timer for 30 minutes to start. Promise yourself you’re not getting out of that chair until that timer goes off. Even if you need to write about “all the things I really should be doing, instead of writing right now” that’s okay. You’re building the habit, and that’s the first step.
Once you’ve got these three dialed, the next step is to create an outline. I offer a free download of 3 book outline templates to get you started which you can find here.
Happy writing and PLEASE KEEP ME POSTED about your writing!!! We need Emerging Women writing books and I want to help.
Thank you, Kelly! All of our tips are practical and doable! I especially dig #3 and will totes do that one! The sitting down to write is the big struggle for me. My first book was published in Nov. 2015 (it’s a cookbook, Go Clean, Sexy You) and I remember almost being in tears when I would sit down to work on edits. It’s usually this part of the process I tend to procrastinate on (although having the editor give me deadlines helped a lot!). I’m writing my second book and still struggling with the edits. I will keep working on it, and Kelly, and I am grateful for your help and support for us Emerging Women in the group! I printed out your tips and subscribed to your newsletter. I’m stoked to be connected! Big love, lisa1 year, 10 months ago
Super helpful – I will totally keep you posted. Love!
thank you so much for this, it feels really good to have simple steps to clear things out. I am writing two books at the moment, I do schedule time to write, but don’t always write when I intended to (due to having 4 children). Still, having it scheduled makes the writing happen way more often than when it wasn’t, so it’s a very serious step to take.
I write a novel in French and a UFO type of book in English (nonfiction). I have the title I think, but I liked your tip about having a hook. Especially for times when I don’t feel like sharing my title. And also it would be a good way for me to test my idea when sharing it. I’m going to give it a try and come back here to share.
I have three main struggles: the first one is related to what you say about the fact that “Many of us are writing about similar topics–feminine leadership”. I am working on myself about this inner voice saying that more famous and successful women have written beautifully on this topic. When the voice speaks, I try not to shush it but instead listen to it and then I decide that I’m going to write anyway. That there must be something unique about my of integrating things together. And that it might resonate with someone somewhere. I have no better way than being patient. I worked with an energy healer in my area and it helped a lot. If you have others insights, they’re welcome!
My second struggle is that I’m french and my English is not as elegant as a native speaker. This is where most of my self-doubt lies.
My last difficulty is a practical one: I’m not sure how to write an outline, so I just have a very basic plan, and I started writing from that. I’m heading to your website to have a look at your 3 book outline templates.
Thank you for offering to support new writer, it is very generous of you and I’m happy to be part of the community!
So great to hear from you, and I’m thrilled you’ve got two books underway. You nailed it: “having it scheduled makes the writing happen way more often than when it wasn’t.” That’s so true, and so good for everyone here to hear. And yes indeed, a hook is a very helpful way to explain what your book is about before you have a title (or before you’re ready to share).
I hear all the time from clients who are worried their book won’t stand out on the shelf next to more famous authors. You are exactly right: there are readers who are going to respond specifically to YOU. Your story, your voice, your unique personality. At the same time, the tip I can give you is to find the unique angle on your book. Craft your “hook” so it highlights what’s most unusual about your idea, and pitch the book that way. Don’t be afraid to choose a niche and focus your writing and marketing efforts there. Once you get traction with a corner of the market, it’s much easier to “go big.”
We work with lots of non-native English speakers at kn literary arts, and I know it can cause a lot of insecurity! But the simple answer is to work with a native English speaker to edit the manuscript. From what I can see here, you are very proficient. So you likely wouldn’t need a rewrite (some do) but instead just someone to note any awkward or non-native language.
Glad to hear you already know you need an outline! Many writers reject using one. While writing free-form is a good way to get the habit going, once you’re serious about writing a book an outline is a basic requirement. It keeps your structure strong and keeps you on track. I hope you find ours useful!
Love + books,
Kelly2 years ago
Hi Kelly, I worked on a hook, I already know it’s way too long! Still, maybe you’ll have some insights. And by the way, it was a very powerful exercise to do!
“I’ve always been an idealist, except that when I was young, it didn’t sound like a compliment in the mouth of those who would call me that. I strongly believe that our civilisation is at a crossroads and that the world needs idealists more than ever. The problem is that idealists and visionaries were always misunderstood and undermined. In our modern world, we dissolve in responsibilities, countless opportunities, overwhelm and a profusion of information that leads to confusion. In other parts of the world, people see their freedom taken away by the total opposite situation (lack of opportunities and information).
If we want to navigate this crossroads, we need to blaze a new trail and find our idealists selves back. We need both practical steps to step away from our hectic routine and a strong vision to reunite us with our innate basic goodness, in peace. Because the magic is in this synergy.
This is what I intend to offer here.
Know yourself. Find Peace. Move mountains.”
The last sentence should be the subtitle of the book. It’s a process that starts in a new vision of our bodies not linked to the perfect diet or right protein intake or perfect workout plan, but to a more holistic approach. Then I will follow a Socratic/Aristotelian way to find ourselves and deepen the understanding of who we are and how to build virtue. I want to address mindfulness in an unusual way. Then the ethics of time and space. Very practical as well. A part about creating healthy relationships and communication that is easier when you’ve been through the process of knowing yourself deeply. And then, inspired action and vision.
I believe these things to be intricately woven together. I couldn’t address them separately.
I purchased a publishing package at balboa press a year ago and didn’t even look at their support system that I find a bit dry on their website. I know it’s time I start applying my own principles big time and move forward. I believe in my idea.
I’m looking forward to your insights.
Oh, and I subscribed to your newsletter. I love it so far!
Love it, Marie-Louise! So happy you’re enjoying the newsletter.
Here’s my quick stab at your hook based on what you’ve written:
“Our culture is at a crossroads where [insert a phrase here that encapsulates the problem your book will solve]. The antidote is not less idealism, but MORE. This book will offer 8 practical steps to reunite us with ourselves, remind us of our own basic goodness, and allow us to take inspired action toward the future we want most.”
Even if this isn’t “it,” perhaps it points you in the right direction. No more than 3 sentences, and it should cover the problem the book is solving and the assurance that the book will solve it in these specific ways.
I think the most interesting/unique angle I’m hearing here is to lean into idealism. The word has definitely taken on a pejorative meaning so it feels fresh that you would want to “take it back.” But I would also make sure the process sounds FUN and FREEING and EXCITING to the reader, rather than like “more work.”
As for Balboa, I know them well and really love their director Sandy Powell. We work with Balboa clients all the time, as some writers want a closer relationship with their editor than Balboa offers. If you’d like to have a chat with us, it’s totally free and we have a zero “hard sell” policy so it’s not awkward 🙂 You can just fill out our questionnaire and sign up for a call!
Wishing you the best Marie-Louise!
Kelly2 years ago
Wow! Thank you Kelly. When I read your words it clicked! I’m filling your questionnaire!
I’m grateful to have joined this community it feels aligned and I feel totally inspired.1 year, 11 months ago
Really excited to hear something clicked, Marie-Louise! It’s often hard to get our minds around a solid hook since it seems to leave so much out, but there is much to be gained by having a clear focus. Can’t wait to see what happens next! xx1 year, 11 months ago
I just jumped on your forum. Fun to join other writers!
I’m finishing a year long book tour I called “The Heroine’s Journey Road Trip and Quest” for my first memoir, “My Journey Through War and Peace: Explorations of a Young Filmmaker, Feminist and Spiritual Seeker.” We travelled nearly 20,000 miles across the United States.
I’m now excited to write a new memoir about traveling through rural America during Trump times as a feminist:) We drove our RV, lovingly called Gaia into DC on the morning of the Women’s March…
BTW My Journey is a finalist for the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award in the Memoir Category!
So happy to have you here! And a heartfelt congratulations on publishing your memoir (a big audacious goal for so many, and you actually did it!!!) and for being selected as an IBPA finalist! Since you didn’t, I’m linking to your book on Amazon here so everyone can see/buy it. 🙂
I hope you’ll share more about your book journey with us over time!
Love + Books
Kelly1 year, 11 months ago
Thank you Kelly!
Are there any other memoirists or journal writers in the group?
Hi Melissa! yay, it’s nice to have a published author in the forum. I just bought your book!
Your new project sounds exciting. Very nice to meet you and I’m looking forward to supporting each other on the writing journey.
Hi Marie Louise,
I’m excited you’re going to read my book!
Your book idea is so needed, especially now with even more chaos going on in the world.
I’m a fan of the shitty first draft as described by Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird. And Kelly’s recommendation of working with an editor is invaluable. It’s easy to get too close to the material to see the nuggets and what needs to go…
Love seeing this post here! Thank you! My first book launches May 16 (FIT Matters: How to Love Your Job; https://www.amazon.com/Fit-Matters-How-Love-Your/dp/1938548744) with my co-authoer Cammie Dunaway. We are currently in the PR phase of finding speaking engagements and other places to share the work and support people finding their best fit. I would love your top insights about how to get the book out there–THANK YOU! We have great testimonials, wonderful ambassadors, website, PR support, TEDx talks I have done on the subject, etc. but as first time authors it is, as you know, a cluttered marketplace!
So great to hear from you here, and huge congrats to you and Cammie for getting your book out into the world! I just checked it out on Amazon, and you definitely have great endorsements–well done! I also found your website and this line totally inspired me: “In this book, we offer what we believe is a key ingredient for work that’s essential for you today and tomorrow: hope.” YES!
As it sounds like you already know, it can indeed be a challenge for first-time authors to be heard above the fray. I have two books I love that I think every new author should read. The first is Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt. Hyatt ran a successful publishing company for many years and really knows what’s what when it comes to promotion. The second book is Online Marketing for Busy Authors by Fauzia Burke. Fauzia started the first book-focused online marketing agency (FSB Associates–if you’re looking for online marketing help she’s brilliant and you can tell her I say hi!) and this book is short, sweet and potent.
If you read both these books and say, “We’re already doing all of this!” then the best advice I have is to be patient and keep going. Many first-time authors are hoping for major attention at the time of publication, but the truth is that for most, a book is a long game. If you’re taking all the right steps, your book will be sowing seeds that will continue to bear fruit over time. What we hope for is a confluence of events that will bring the book into the spotlight. With all that you seem to be doing, I think you have a great chance of that happening! Congratulations and I will be watching to see where you and Cammie go!
Love + Books,
Kelly1 year, 11 months ago
Thank you so much, Kelly! I somehow missed this amazing post in the fray, but will be purchasing both the books you mention. I recently went to the NYT Book Expo with our publisher and was so grateful to be there amongst the greats but also so daunted by the challenge of being seen. I plan to retreat myself in the coming weeks to focus exactly on this next phase, and these resources will definitely help me focus with my co-author.
Truly, thank you!1 year, 9 months ago
I have just joined this group and happy to see this thread! I have a self publishing contract with Balboa Press but have not completed the final stages of my book – the closing and editing. I had to take myself on multiple writing retreats to get deeply engrained in the writing process and get the content out of me… I have trouble writing “in real life.” Aside from scheduling, any other suggestions? It is a BIG goal of mine to get it done and out into the world this year!!
Thanks in advance,
So great to hear from you. I know Balboa well and am very happy for you that you’ve decided to take your book publishing journey into your own hands. As someone who is currently writing my own book amid an incredibly busy life, I resonate with the need to get away on a retreat in order to really drop into the writing process. Writing IRL is a challenge to be sure!
Here are a couple tips for rounding that last bend:
1) Give yourself a mini-assignment. If you haven’t already outlined the closing, be sure to do that. Then pick one piece of the outline (even a sentence or two, it doesn’t have to be long). Set a timer for 15 minutes–because we all have 15 minutes–and just write that one piece. If you are able to complete this mini-assignment, the issue probably IS scheduling. If you’re NOT able to complete this mini-assignment, you *may* be up against some really, really important internal obstacles to finishing the book. Family loyalties…fears of being seen…you know, the regulars 🙂 Such obstacles are VERY common in my experience, but once we identify and work through them, the pathway can become much more clear.
2) Work with someone. Hire a coach or an editor, or engage a trusted friend, to cheer you toward the finish line. (Note I didn’t say “to hold you accountable”….blech. The last thing any of us needs is a guilt trip!!) If you’ve ever run a 5k (or a marathon, for that matter) you know that the folks along the sidelines are not just there for their own enjoyment. All that affirmation and clapping and cheering is actually *giving the runners energy*!!! Sometimes we need the energy from an outside source to lift us up when we’ve run out of steam. Find someone who is able to do that for you, to hold the vision with you, and it may be just the bolt of energy you’re looking for.
3) Imagine yourself DONE! This may sound corny, but I have tried it (in the privacy of my home, with the shades down, mind you) and it WORKS. It goes like this: Draw up the feelings you’re going to feel when you have that book in your hand. All the writing behind you, the book setting sail out into the world….what are you going to be feeling? Then–here’s the corny part–express all that joy/elation/excitement/pride physically. Do a happy dance…jump up and down…scream with joy! Use the future state of “complete” to fund your present state of “crossing the finish line.” It is simple, a little cheesy, and it works!!
Keep us posted, Brandi!
Love + Books,
Kelly1 year, 11 months ago
SUCH GREAT tips!!!
I am printing this out and placing it where I can continue to re-read it and digest it.
Thank you so much,
Brandi1 year, 11 months ago
Dear Kelly – bless you, you’re a Godsend! I wrote a book in the winter of 2016 – I’d been writing it in my head for over a year, and then wrote it all down in 2 short weeks. I loved the process – it was like inspiration had come to stay!!
Except that now I don’t know what to do with it. Its a memoir/spiritual/self-help kind of book – and I want to take it out into the world. So my questions are:
How do I get feedback on it?
What are next steps re publishing if I go the traditional route?
I’ve never been published before, except book chapters in a couple of positive psychology books as thats my field of expertise.
Look forward to hearing back – and thank you!!
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