Most authors in today’s marketplace don’t know how to write books that will sell, nor do they know how to effectively promote. Profitable Authors Institute was created to change that. We are profitable authors. We want to show you how to be one, too (without wasting time spinning your wheels and still not selling books.)
12 industry professionals, including Stories To Tell founder Nancy Barnes, offer forty-eight video courses online in three tracks:
- Book Promotion
It’s the question so many people ask. As writers, I’m sure you know what it is. It’s the question that brings both great delight and great discomfort. It’s the question that makes us smile with pride yet also makes us suddenly shy. It’s the coaxing out of information we tend to clutch tightly to our chests. The one we are secretly longing to be asked.
“So how’s the book going?”
There it is. What do we say? Do we tell them what we’re writing about, what stage the book is in, what we want it to become? I’ve been asked this question recently by my editors, by the baristas at my favorite coffee shop, and by a friend while I was visiting her house. I actually love to be asked this question as it keeps me accountable to keep writing and it gives me opportunity to share about a topic I love.
Here at “Stories to Tell,” we know many of you are going through the same process of writing, editing, and publishing your book so we thought it would be fun and informative if we created a blog series around the process of me putting my book together.
Here’s one for the top-ten of our Frequently Asked Questions: How do I get started writing a book? First, let’s focus on how to get started with a non-fiction book. (Fiction is a question for another blog.)
Consider your reason for writing a non-fiction book. It may be that you have extensive, perhaps professional experience, you’ve acquired a lot of knowledge and insight about a subject, and now you want to share it. How should you share it? There are choices. Do you prefer to be an instructor, to offer advice in a how-to book?
Nearly every genealogist talks about collecting her research and writing a family history book – someday. Make this October the month that you actually do it.
I know a lot of you are saying, “I’d like to do that, but I’m not finished with my research.” I understand. But you never will be finished. Research is a lifetime pursuit. Family historians should all pin a comment by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Barbara Tuchman to their wall or better yet use it as a screen saver. Tuchman said, “The most important thing about research is to know when to stop. How does one recognize the moment? …One must stop before one is finished; otherwise, one will never stop and never finish.”
So get started with your book!
Let’s look at a simple process to plan and organize your family history.
You’ve been thinking about creating a memoir or family history book. But you may feel a bit like you’re set off on a bit of an uncharted course. Creating a book seems like an overwhelming task. Looking at creating a book as a six-step process helps give you a roadmap which will make successfully seeing your book through to publication much less daunting.
What do a book and a pair of shoes have in common? A slogan.
Nike has made a fortune admonishing people to “Just do it!” The writer, staring hesitatingly, at the blank first page of a book would be well served by the same advice.
The holidays are a time when lots of us resolve to get a record of our lives down on paper. That’s great! But before you begin banging away at your keyboard take some time to consider your goals for the book.
There are several ways to tell your story. We work with a lot of genealogists who have been researching for years and want to turn their research into a factual chronicle which documents their family’s history. Others are raconteurs who love to spin a good yarn. They are practiced storytellers who want to regale their audience with the best stories from their lives. But others seek to reflect upon the facts or the stories to draw meaning from them and to see what lessons their life experiences have to teach. These are the memoir writers.
It is with people from that last category that New York Times columnist and author of the recently released book, The Social Animal: The Hidden Source of Love, Character and Achievement, David Brooks, conducted a project that should interest anyone who cares about memoirs.
It's National Novel Writing Month.
According to the National Association of Memoir Writers it's also National Memoir Writing Month.
Can you write a book in a month? I once saw the prolific pulp mystery writer Mickey Spillane on the Tonight Show. Johnny Carson asked him how long it took him to write a book.
“Depends on how bad I need the money,” said Spillane.
“What's the fastest you ever wrote one,” asked Johnny.
“I wrote one over a three-day weekend once,” he replied.
So it can be done, if you're skilled and experienced, not to mention highly motivated.
However, if you've never written a book, expecting to finish a manuscript in a month might be a tad unrealistic.
We had a wonderful weekend in San Luis Obispo, California, for the Central Coast Book and Author Festival. Reflecting on the numerous conversations we had with authors, I can think of a few pieces of advice to people thinking about writing a book or maybe already in the process of doing so
When you set out to write a person’s life story – your own in a memoir, an ancestor’s story in a family history, or a biography – one of the most difficult problems is deciding what to leave out.
Many of us, particularly if we are inexperienced writers, see our principal job as reporting. We try to create a factual chronicle of what happened. All events great and small. That’s legitimate, but it’s not necessarily very dramatic, or interesting.
If we want to engage our readers we need to root around in the facts to discover the stories buried there, because stories create meaning from events.
The gathering and organization of biographical details is the initial task of any memoirist or family historian. For a memoirist it’s a matter of recalling the event. For a family historian it’s a matter of researching them. In either case one collects a list of factual events and experiences, usually assembling them into a chronological sequence.
But as William Zinsser wrote in his Introduction to Extraordinary Lives: The Art and Craft of American Biography, “Research, however, is only research. After all the facts have been marshaled, all the documents studied, all the locales visited, all the survivors interviewed, what then? What do the facts add up to?”
Writers can use mind maps in two distinctly different ways.
The first is visual brainstorming to trigger creativity and capture ideas. It’s sometimes referred to as clustering. From a central idea you create radials leading to related sub topics. Each subtopic may suggest additional details radiating out from them.
The second way to use mapping is to focus on details.
We’ve explored, in recent posts, some technological tools to help you organize your memoir or family history book project. Today let’s look at a low tech, or even no tech, approach to the organizational process.
Writing a book can be a very complex and daunting task, especially if you have never written one before. You have gathered a mountain of research and jotted down notes on ideas and anecdotes you want in the book. How do you get started and stay organized throughout the process?
The Scrivener software program from Literature and Latte, a small shareware company, may be just the tool to help you do it.
When you begin to think about writing a memoir or family history it’s best to do so from two perspectives.
The first is, of course, your own perspective as the book’s author.
But there’s another perspective to consider as well. Who will read your book?
How much research is enough?
When we speak at family history conferences we talk to many people who say they would like to write a family book. But not right now. They need to do a little more research before they are ready.
I thought about those dedicated researchers recently as I was rereading Practicing History, a collection of essays by historian Barbara Tuchman, winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, one for The Guns of August, an account of the first month of World War I, and the second for Stillwell and the American Experience in China. Tuchman offered a great piece of advice on when to quit researching and begin writing.
I love tools that make it easier to do things. We just discovered a simple web app that will help you plan and organize your book. It's called Thoughtboxes. The app will allow you to brainstorm ideas and organize them into categories and subcategories. This is exactly what an author does in developing an outline for a book. Let's look at how that might work.
“I plan to write a family history book someday, I just don’t have time to work on it right now,” said person after person at the Colorado Family History Expo in Loveland where we spent the weekend. They all wanted to write a family history, but believed that it would never happen or at least it would be a good long time before it did.
That’s too bad. It doesn’t have to be that way.
In our last post we looked at the first steps in organizing your family history book: listing ideas you want to include and taking inventory of your existing research to see what your already have and what you still need to gather to write about those ideas. Today we’ll focus on makin
Nancy and I are here for the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree. We taught our first class, “The Many Ways to Organize a Family History Book,” this morning.
The class reminded me that many genealogists and family historians think the process of creating a book begins after they finish their research. That’s just not true. What we need to understand is that if we begin planning our book as soon as we decide we want to write one we’ll save ourselves a lot of time and effort by avoiding detours we might otherwise have encountered.