The things every author must know before writing a book

The things every author must know before writing a book

Guest post by Jon Card

Writing a book is tough but, with one already under his belt, author and journalist Jon Card offers advice for anyone currently slaving over a manuscript.

How To Make Your Company Famous by Jon CardA mixture of joy and relief overcame me when I finally received notification that How to Make Your Company Famous had been published. It had been a long slog to get it written; roughly two years from start to finish, albeit with a gap in the middle when I was ‘too busy’.

Yet I’m already thinking of the next one. However, this time, I’ll do things rather differently; I’ll learn from my mistakes and successes. I’ve discovered that writing a successful book relies on answering a few very simple questions:

Who?
The most important question you need to ask when you are writing a book is: ‘Who is it for?’

Your audience is everything and you need to keep them in mind throughout. Knowing and thinking about your reader will help you empathise with their position, feel their pain, understand their passions and write a book they feel belongs to them. My audience was entrepreneurs, I could literally picture them when I was writing. This made it easier for me to write a book they would find useful.

Why?
The next most important question is: ‘Why am I writing this book?’

I hope the answer isn’t money, as that won’t be sufficient motivation and there’s a good chance you won’t make much.

How to Make Your Company Famous actually started life as a seminar and workshop, and I wanted my messages to reach a wider audience. I was urged on by supporters who had heard me speak publicly. Writing my book felt like I was helping others, that was my ‘why’.

How?
Now this is a question I should have answered sooner – how are you going to do this?

Most writers need a routine, a point in the day when they can focus. If you’ve got a full-time job or run a business, this is tough. So, you’re going to need some support from your family, friends and wider network, who’ll provide you with the time you need. The full question is: ‘How am I going to do this and who is going to help me?’

Eventually I assembled a team. My wife, Corinne, was crucial in helping to free me up, sub-editing and offering constant feedback.

Book cover design by Meg Fenn of Shake It Up CreativeI also got a lot of support from Meg Fenn and Rachael Dines at Shake it Up Creative. Rachael read the entire book (twice) offering comments and edits. Meanwhile, Meg designed the cover, handled all the typesetting and helped us get the manuscript uploaded on to Amazon, which is easier said than done. Finally, my friend Dan Davies, a Sunday Times sub-editor, gave the whole book a final once-over. When writers often say they are indebted to the following people, they aren’t joking.

What?
If you know who you’re writing for and why then the next part becomes a lot easier. I’m not sure that there is any single, perfect way to write a book. But you are going to need some kind of a plan, even if it gets modified along the way. A list of chapters, adding in some bullet points, is a good place to start. But, also, think who is going to be in the book. Here’s a tip: People like being included in books – so send out some Q&As and get them to write some content for you.

When?
I’ll be honest; when I started writing my book I didn’t set a deadline – another mistake. Nothing gets done without one.

Where?
If you find a willing publisher then, lucky you, but be warned, it takes ages. I didn’t fancy waiting so self-published on Amazon. The quality is actually great but the process itself wasn’t easy. Again, I should have understood far more about this before I started.

One final question: are you sure you want to write a book?

Best of luck!

Jon Card is the author of How to Make Your Company Famous and has worked as a business journalist for The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and The Times. He is a public speaker and has delivered talks and workshops on business storytelling, media and press for entrepreneurial audiences at Innovate UK, University College London and The Supper Club.

3 thoughts on “The things every author must know before writing a book”

  1. Good advice, thank you Jon! I used to work in the Open University and when we started to write we made up little descriptions of the people who would read our work and gave them names. So we’d give a ‘reader’ a personal profile and say why they would want to read it and what they would hope to find. Sometimes we’d imagine when and how they would ‘access’ the material, because some was better presented as sound or video. We then checked our draft material against each profile and it helped a lot.

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  2. That sounds brilliant Viv! Great idea. Would love to know some of the names you chose. I know Jon does a lot of video and presenting online through their Facebook group too which is a good way of giving access to the material in different ways.

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