From concept to launch: The account of a new author’s book-writing journey.
So you want to write a book. Maybe you’ve enjoyed success in writing articles, maybe even book chapters, but you want to do more. Your mastery of a certain area has turned into passion; you have taught the topic for years. But, that next step beckons: Providing your peers with a particular message that can only come from you. For some reason, writing this message will make you feel more fulfilled. It did me; why shouldn’t it you?
Before I wrote my first book, “The Building Blocks of Trabectome Surgery Volume 1: Patient Selection” (Kugler Publications), I felt the same. I didn’t write it because I was asked or told to, or because I was paid in advance. I wrote it because I was passionate about a topic that excited me, helped patients and I believed could help other doctors.*
How do you get from book idea to publication? Let me share with you my experience with the hope it can help you with yours.
Ten steps on how to write a book:
1. Make it relevant. The topic needs to be important to others. Why write a book if only you want to read it? One reason I chose Trabectome (NeoMedix) was that colleagues asked me all the time, “How do you choose a good Trabectome candidate?” That question made me realize that a book could be useful — a practical guide to help surgeons choose good patients for Trabectome. As I wrote it, I realized that it could also serve the purpose of introducing general concepts and secret pearls of micro-incision glaucoma surgery, or MIGS, that are similar across device spectrums.
2. Be passionate about the message. This point cannot be overstated, because writing a book is a true labor of love. Getting from concept to fruition will take time and patience because challenges and setbacks are inevitable. It took me nearly three years to finish “Trabectome Surgery” because challenges called “life” always intervened. However, if your passion is genuine, it will see you through to the end.
3. Outline the book. A good outline helps solidify what it is you want to say. It also provides a way for others, like publishers, to get a sense of where you are going with your book’s message. Once you have a solid outline, you can decide the order in which you will attack each section and add content.
4. Know your audience. Before you start writing, you need to decide who you are writing for. This will help you select the details to include. A wide audience may be better for publishers, but the level of detail required may make the book too much of an undertaking. The narrower the focus, the smaller your interested audience. I chose to write my topic so that it could benefit ophthalmologists, optometrists and doctors in training. In doing so, I structured the book to make it quick and easy to find what level of information was needed. I wrote in a conversational “coaching” tone directed at each group so that all could find value.
5. Research publishers. You likely own books with a content or format that you want to replicate. Check who published these books. Also, you may know specific publishers already in your field that you can contact. Go to the publisher’s website, search “write a book” and follow instructions. You can also find publishers at conferences, which also gives you a chance to look through their inventory. Ask the attendant how to go about submitting a book idea.
6. Make a pitch or two … or three. Go through the steps above, and then e-mail or call to find out who the correct contact is for book publications. Once found, make a one- to three-paragraph pitch of what your book is about, who the target audience is and how it is relevant or different from what is currently available. Also, provide an estimate of how long the book will be, whether hard or soft cover, and if there will be black and white or color images. This will give the contact an idea if the book topic will fit with the publisher’s brand and budget. This process may take several attempts before getting to terms you can agree to, but keep trying!
7. Solidify a publisher. If you are new to publishing, your leverage to negotiate is limited, especially with a larger company. Do some online research about book contracts to gain a better sense of what is expected or fair, but I recommend retaining a lawyer to review your contract. Settling on terms of a contract will solidify your publisher.
8. Write. This process can be easy at times and impossibly difficult at others. Just start. Don’t worry about it being perfect. You will have time to edit and revise and edit and revise again. I found it helpful to write out a timeline. Even though I did not follow it exactly, it gave me motivation to keep going. Just know you have to be flexible, as you cannot fully predict what the timeline will be. You may find benefit in dictating some sections out loud and having it transcribed. Also, try to write routinely — daily, if possible. I would write after putting the kids to bed for about 30 minutes to two hours. Whatever time you can find, you’re subtracting from the time left to the finish line every time you write something.
9. Edit with beta readers. I found it helpful to have others read my book at various stages after the first full draft was done. I got great feedback and also took some harsh criticism, but all the comments made my book better.
10. Publish. Many details pop up near the end when you thought you were almost done — like the index! I found that making a realistic deadline with my publisher for launch at a major conference helped me push through to the end.
What a wonderful feeling to hit “send” on that final piece before it goes to the printer. And how amazing that first moment when you see and touch the book and smell the new-book paper fragrance as you flip through your contribution to the written word!
May these 10 steps get you on your way. I would love to hear about your journey. Go on. Take that first step, which is always the hardest. OM