So You Want to Write a Book?

by David Holdaway

So you want to write a book? That’s fantastic! But where do you start and how do you finish? How is it going to get published?

I wrote my first book more than twenty years ago and since then have written almost 30 more with over 750,000 books sold and in print worldwide in several languages. Since that time my wife Jan and I have also helped many other authors produce and publish their books.

We have learned a great deal about writing and book publishing on our journey. Here are some of the lessons.

First, the majority of unsolicited book manuscripts sent to book publishers are returned without being read. In the first few years this was a frustrating and demoralising experience. The letters, if they even replied, were basically all the same thanking me for the manuscript and saying Jesus we know and Paul we know but who are you (Acts 19:15)?

The book Chicken Soup for the Soul is a world best seller and also a series and franchise. But its author, Jack Canfield, had 144 rejections from different publishers before finally getting it into print.

In one rejection letter Rudyard Kipling received from a publisher he was told he didn’t know how to use the English language. While Agatha Christie had to wait four years for her first book to be published.

It’s very difficult to get a book published by a mainstream publisher where they cover all the expenses and pay you a royalty, unless you are known to them or have previously published and sold many books. These companies receive huge numbers of unrequested manuscripts and only publish a certain number of titles each year. They stay in business by publishing what they believe is both beneficial and commercial. If they want to take a book on, cover all the costs and pay you royalties be prepared for them to own the copyright, decide the title, cover, the content, the price they will sell it for and be prepared for the wait while they fit it into their publishing schedule.

Some publishers will help produce your book only if you agree to purchase hundreds or even thousands of copies from them and this can work out extremely expensive for you.

There are other companies that for a fee will produce your book but it may be for only a very small number. Again be careful because this can also work out very expensive especially if they charge for proof reading and editing and design services. Make sure you know exactly what is being provided and all the costs involved. Your book may need several revisions before it is ready for print and this is often not provided by some publishing companies.

So what other ways can you get your book published?

You can do this yourself but to do it well and produce a high quality book will require much more than just a spell checker! The book will need proofreading by someone who ideally is qualified to do so. There is nothing worse than reading your printed book and finding mistakes every few pages. You will need to have the book edited and designed and it will also need to be well laid out and have a high quality cover design. Then you will need to find a suitable printer and not pay a small fortune for getting it printed.

About ten years ago my wife Jan and I set up Life Publications to help authors write and publish their books. We provide what we call ‘assisted publishing’ which means we work with the author through the writing of their book doing everything necessary to produce a high quality book and arrange for it to be printed and delivered. We give advice and help on distribution, print quality and quantity and provide editing, layout, design, professional proofreading, hard and electronic proofs and also ISBNs and registration which make the books accessible to a worldwide market.

Jan is a qualified journalist having trained in newspapers and worked as a journalist and editor on newspapers and magazines across the UK. She also has a degree in Divinity which proves especially useful in editing Christian books.

But what about writing the book itself, getting it started and completed? There are no set rules but here are some helpful guidelines.

  1. Decide what kind of book you are going to write – autobiography, fact, fiction or teaching etc
  2. Once you have the theme or subject do your research and gather your material.

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading; in order to write a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”
— Samuel Johnson

  1. Decide on a title or at least a working title to help with the content and direction of the book.
  2. Write down ideas for chapters and chapter titles and an outline for the book.
  3. Look at other books and writers and pick up ideas but keep your own style. Use all the brains you’ve got and borrow as much as you can.
  4. Think about the size you want the book to be with regard to page count. This affects readability and cost.
  5. Decide the primary audience you are writing for. Sometimes books become too complicated and technical because scholars are writing to scholars and they miss the masses. Their books become boring and hard work to read. You want your book to entice the reader in.
  6. Be prepared for the manuscript to go through several revisions and don’t be too defensive about what others say or suggest. Writing your book can be a deeply personal experience and expression of who you are and it’s easy to take suggestions as criticism. Your book can become your baby and no one likes their child criticised.
  7. Think of your book as primarily for ministry and not for profit. Writing books can become a source of income but if a Christian book it should be first and foremost to minister and help and inspire others.

Your book can reach so many people. The pen is still mightier than the sword. Everyone who reads it or hears from it can be touched and also every life they touch if your book has impacted and affected them.

If you want to know more about publishing a book you have written then do get in touch with us.