You Can Write a Book and Get It Published. Yes, You!
Seven Key Strategies for Getting Started
By Jack Canfield
I’m about to tell you do something and you’ll think I’m crazy. Ready? Here goes: You should write a book.
I know, I know. You don’t need one more “to do” on your list. You have the kids, your job, possibly a husband and his job, your house, this, that and the other. You don’t have the time or energy to put towards writing a book. Why would you put another “to do” on your list?
Publishing a book is more than a way to share your message and wisdom with others. It’s also a tremendous marketing tool. After all, no matter your industry or profession, everyone wants to do business with the person who “wrote the book.” Becoming a published author positions you as an expert and instantly affords you the type of credibility which can skyrocket your career to a whole new level.
Look at the folks on Working Moms Only. Brian Tracy, Marci Shimoff, MaryEllen Tribby; they all wrote books. You can, too. Yes, you need a blueprint on how to create a success. But don’t think for a minute that you can’t learn how to do it. You can – and publishing a book will change your life. It changed mine.
In 1967, I was working as a social studies teacher at Calumet High School in Chicago. It was a rough school in a rough part of town at a rough time in history. Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated during the spring of that school year, on April 4, 1968, and we had a full scale riot in the school the next day.
The next year, I moved to Clinton, Iowa to take a job with the Clinton Job Corps Center, where I taught basic reading, math and job skills to women who had dropped out of school. I say “women” but many of them were just kids. They were 16-23 years-old and mostly women of color. Life was tough for them. But neither racial conflict, crime, nor poverty was the biggest problems of the women in Clinton or the kids in Chicago. What was? Low self-esteem! If you don’t believe in yourself, you’ll never find the motivation to change your life for the better.
Wanting to help these people, I worked with W. Clement Stone, who had a foundation at which I learned how to teach people self-esteem and self-motivation. He was one of my teachers and I’ll tell you more about the importance of teachers in a minute.
From Stone, I got motivated to go to graduate school and, later, I got a contract for an educational book about motivating students in the classroom. Great that I got a book deal, right? Well, I still had to write the book.
Picture this. It’s now 1975 and I’m working and going to school to support my wife and new-born baby. Now I have to write a book titled 100 Ways to Enhance Self-Concept in the Classroom – and I only have 20 ways. So I came up with a strategy, a blueprint really, for creating the book. I sat in my kitchen at a “desk” made of two filing cabinets with a hollow core door on top on which I put my IBM Selectric typewriter. And then I wrote one way to build self-concept and self-esteem for the classroom every 3 ½ days. That equaled two ways a week and 100 by the end of the year.
Know what? The plan worked. The book sold 400,000 copies and became a bestseller. My life changed quickly and for the better. I became a consultant to school districts, spoke at educational conferences and made more money to support my family. I felt fulfilled creatively and motivated professionally because I was on the right path.
The path that started in that little kitchen led to me co-authoring the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. The books have sold over 123 million copies in North America with more than 500 million copies in print world wide. But even that took a strategy for success. Many, many people said that Chicken Soup would never work as a book. It was initially rejected by 144 publishers. When I finally did get a publisher, he said we’d be lucky to sell 20,000 books. I told him my goal was to sell a million-and-a-half in the first 18 months. He laughed and said I was crazy. Well, today he laughs on his private jet!
Here’s what I know: If you have a plan and the right teachers, you too can become a successful author.
Here’s how to get started and make your book a success:
1 – Declare yourself an author NOW. Come up with a working title for your book and start telling people you’re the author of the “upcoming book titled XYZ.” One big reason to do this is it will create positive momentum for you. Once you start telling people you’ve got a book coming out, it makes it much easier to get it done. Plus, you can start enjoying some of the ancillary benefits of being an author, such as getting publicity on radio/TV, print publications and online. As with many things in life the key is to just get started – even if you don’t feel quite ready.
2 – Be selfish with your time. Writing a book is important – to you, your family and your future – and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Share your goal with your spouse, your parents and your friends. Ask them to help you create the time to write, even if it’s just 15 minutes every day. Create the habit. Good or bad, habits always deliver results. If you only write one page a day, in a year, you will have written 365 pages—more than enough for a book!
3 – Find your message. There is a book inside of you. It might be a business book, a memoir, a cookbook or something funny, a how-to or how-not to, a what-for or why-not. What are you good at? What is your passion? What can you teach other people to do?
4 – Identify your niche. Who needs to learn what you have to teach? Who would be most interested in your story? Get specific. For example, the Chicken Soup series includes Chicken Soup for the Christian Woman's Soul, Chicken Soup for the Military Wife’s Soul, Chicken Soup for the Working Woman’s Soul and others. Knowing your niche will help you write the book and market it.
5 – Consider co-authors. Think a whole book is too much work? Get a co-author. I had co-authors on my Chicken Soup books. MaryEllen Tribby had a co-author for her first book. That person can share in the writing and, later, in marketing the book.
6 – Think marketing from day one. One of the biggest mistakes most new authors make is to spend all their time and energy writing the book, without sufficient thought to how they’ll market it. Ideally you want to consider marketing issues while writing your book. For instance, consider short snappy chapter titles which easily lend themselves to being blog posts and/or radio/TV show segments.
7 – Meditate on problems. This might sound counter intuitive. When you meditate, you try to relax, right? Well, not really. Meditating is harnessing your brain power and if you focus that energy on the problems you encounter – and every creative venture encounters problems – you’ll solve them. Meditate, go for a long walk or take a hot bath. Give your mind a problem to solve and give it the room to do so, and it will. That’s how I came up with the title Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Yes, there are other things you need to know. But the most important things are to get started, work hard and have the right mindset. I’ll share one of my favorite quotes with you. When oil tycoon J. Paul Getty was asked how he became one of the richest men in the world, he said, "One, get up early. Two, work hard. Three, find oil.”