Christopher Hitchens once said, “Everyone has a book in them.” As an optimist, I like to ignore the second part of that quote. People experience the endless variety of life through a kaleidoscope of their beliefs and preconceived notions. As a result, each one has something unique to offer to other people — whether it’s a commentary about an issue, a manual for using or repairing specific equipment, a guide about putting up a certain type of business, a collection of helpful tips for navigating a universal event in life, or a story. That’s why I firmly believe everyone has an idea for a book, and I’m here to help you make that a reality.
First, let’s start with your options. There are two ways of getting your book idea into print: writing it yourself and getting someone to write it. Let’s discuss them here.
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You can take your idea and write your own book
I may be biased here, but ideally, this should be your choice. But I’m not here to preach or push you into doing anything, so let me give you the things you need to consider before choosing this path.
Pros of writing your book
With the exception of editor and alpha reader inputs, you have full creative control of your vision, and you can take it in whatever direction you want. Writing on your own has the advantage of being the purest, most accurate representation of the idea that popped into your head because you’re the one writing it.
A deeper understanding of your chosen subject
You’re going to do research for this one (more on that later), so it will widen your understanding of the subject. There are also other subjects that you might need to look into to develop your book, so that means more knowledge for you.
A lot of personal satisfaction
Not a lot of people can say that they’re written a published book, so that is a point of pride for anyone who does it. I’ve personally celebrated after writing a book, or even just finishing a draft. There’s this warm glow of accomplishment that comes with the end of the work, so I suggest you try writing just to know how it feels.
Cons of writing your book
Time and effort
Can you fit four hours of writing time into your day? Are you willing to sacrifice partying, drinking, or other activities for the sake of reaching your daily word count? Writing a book is going to take serious time and effort, and if you think you’ll have problems accommodating those demands, then I suggest you look at your other options.
Bias and perspective
People are limited to their own experiences and perspective. You can widen it by reading and talking to others, but it can only go so far. This particular weakness can be mitigated by collaborating with other writers and people who can offer their unique insight into your subject matter, but not everyone is built for collaboration.
Writing a book is no walk in the park. You need to have a few things before you decide to do it, which neatly leads us to the next section.
Skills and traits you need to turn your idea into a book
Writing and communication skills
You can’t write a book if you can’t write. It’s more than putting words on a page; it’s arranging your thoughts so that they’re easy to understand. You also need to grab your reader’s attention and make the words jump out of the paper.
You’re going to have to juggle a lot if you want to turn your idea into a book. And it’s not always about writing; research takes time as well. Speaking of which—
Even experts need to supplement their stock knowledge with new information. And this is more than just putting in words on a Google search page. You need to discern if the information is credible. Plus, not everything you read or watch will be useful for your book.
Editing and proofreading
You can have editors work on your manuscript, but writers are still expected to edit and proofread their work. You’ll also have to go through draft after draft until you’re sure that your work is readable.
Perseverance and resilience
Motivation dries up. Writer’s block is a thing. You’re going to get negative feedback. You can only drink so much coffee before your kidneys shut down. And, most importantly, life happens. You must be able to get through all of this and more if you want to write.
Steps for developing your idea into a book
So you read the list of requirements above and figured that you have what it takes to turn your idea into a book yourself. Congratulations! Now let’s talk about how you’re actually going to do that.
The important questions
There are very few things writers unanimously agree about, and this is one of them. Anyone writing anything needs to ask themselves these important questions before putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard):
- What is my book about?
- Why am I writing this?
- Who will read this?
- What will the reader get from it?
- What will I get from it?
Answering these questions will help you figure out your goals, target audience, and expected results, which can then be used as guideposts while developing your idea into a book.
Book ideas rarely come in complete packages. Start by writing down everything you want to put in your book. Don’t worry about plotting, organization, or anything else; those will come later. Just dump everything you can think of into a piece of paper or a digital document. You’re going to have to expand them into something that can fit in a book. Then, once your ideas and goals are in place, you need to do a bit of research.
A “bit” of research for your book idea
I lied. There’s lots of research to be done.
First, you need to figure out if your idea has already been turned into a book. And — I’m going to be straight with you — it probably already has. Does that mean you get to throw in the towel? Sure, I guess. But know that I reserve the right to make fun of you if you give up that easily.
With the staggering amount of books out there (about 156 million unique titles since anyone bothered to start counting), it’s hard to put out something that has never been done before in one form or another. What you need to do is put a personal spin on your book idea to make it stand out from the rest.
Do you want to publish a recipe book for Italian cuisine in an Asian country? Write one that substitutes ingredients that are locally unavailable for ones that are easily purchased there. Want to write a horror story about a house? Get it published with freaky typographic oddities like different fonts, inverted texts, blank chapters, repeating lines that go for pages, and other strange stuff. Want to put out a business memoir? Write it like a film script.
Remember, ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s what you do with them that makes them unique.
Next, you need to know if your book idea is marketable. This may sound like drudgework for some of us (like me), but it’s a necessary part of developing your idea into a book. You’d want to know if anyone is even remotely interested in buying it. Check out the competition on sites like Amazon or Goodreads. Google is also your friend here. Find out what the top-selling books are doing so you can emulate them.
Manage goals and expectations
Do you want to be an Amazon or USA Today best-selling author? Do you want to sell a gazillion books and become rich? There’s no shame in aiming high, but you still need to manage your expectations. For example, fiction books typically sell more than nonfiction ones, but the latter presents the opportunity to tap into different streams of income. It’s also far more likely to get your work adapted into a movie or TV series if it’s written as a story. You need to consider what you want to accomplish in deciding what you want to do.
Actually writing your book
Now the real work starts. Prepare to put your nose’s A-game to the grindstone (while hopefully avoiding mixing idioms and metaphors along the way.) And when I say writing, I do mean a lot of writing. The average author can write a book in about 6 to 8 months. Tack on a few more months if your work is research-heavy or needs further investigation or specific processes. Now add a few more days or weeks for the inevitable writer’s block. Then consider your drafting process and how many times you need to proof your work, and the length of time it takes to turn your idea into a book can easily last a year. If you’re passionate about it, then I don’t think a year or any number would deter you from writing your book. However, some of us might not have that kind of time. Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean your idea will be consigned to the inky-black void of unpublished works. We’ll discuss your options in a later section.
Publishing and marketing
Next up is how you’ll get your book out to market. There are a lot of options for us writers. Let’s start with the usual choices, traditional vs. self-publishing. There are different advantages for each path, so figure out which one fits your resources and goals. There are also a few places where you can publish your book, like Amazon Kindle, Google, Barnes and Noble, and Rakuten Kobo, to name a few. Then, you’ll need to promote your book. We have a handy guide for self-publishers and tips to get your book more publicity. There’s also social media, mailing lists, and other things for you to try.
Now that we’ve covered writing and developing your own book idea, let’s look at the other option.
Hire someone to turn your idea into a book
Say you have a great idea for your book, but work and life will not allow you the time to write it. Or maybe you just don’t have the necessary skills to see it to the end (there’s no shame in that; everyone has their own skills and talents, not everyone can have it all.)
This is where ghostwriters come in.
They’re the people you hire to write for you. They take your ideas and your plans for them, and then they work their magic and turn them into books. It’s a far more common practice than one would think.
Pros of hiring a ghostwriter to write your book idea
It saves a lot of time
Celebrities, businesspeople, entrepreneurs, and politicians are the ones that usually take advantage of ghostwriting services. It’s understandable, given that their chosen careers eat up a lot of their time. You don’t have to do the heavy lifting; you just need to lay out your vision and goals, and the writer will take it from there.
You get the services of a pro
Some ghostwriters are all-around writers, but a lot of them have specialties and preferred niches, making them experts in their chosen genre. That means they don’t need to do too much research and save time, they know what the target audience likes, and they know how to deliver a great end product.
Cons of hiring a ghostwriter
It costs money
This is to be expected since you are getting service. Ghostwriting can be charged per word, hourly, or for one book, and the cost ranges between $5,000 to $100,000, depending on the writer’s experience and expertise.
You won’t have total creative control
Writers have their own unique voices. Having someone else write your book idea means that the finished work will have the ghostwriter’s distinct writer’s voice. It is possible to tone it down, but still, the work won’t be fully yours. There are also things like the organization of topics and delivery of overall message which the ghostwriter will have more control over. Don’t get me wrong, your input is still valuable, and your vision needs to be followed, but they’re the expert and they usually have a say in all things writing.
How ghostwriting works
As I said, different ghostwriters offer specific coverage, like a particular genre, business, or type of media. They also come with different price tags, so take that into consideration. And, of course, they also have different skill levels. Finding one that fits your goal, budget, and skill requirement often takes a lot of time and effort.
However, you don’t have to look for a single ghostwriter to get your idea off the ground. There are companies that keep several writers in their roster who specialize in different categories or forms of books. It’s easier to find them, and you get to check their publication history to see if it fits with what you want.
Now the usual ghostwriting process involves you talking to the writer about your idea and vision. You get to explore the ideas and see which directions you can take them. Depending on the type of writer you get, you’ll either build a detailed outline with them, or you’ll give them the things you want in your book and they will take it from there.
For the usual ghostwriting services, the whole deal ends here. The writer hands over the complete manuscript, and you start with printing, packaging, marketing, publicity, and eventual publishing of your book.
But if you work with Leaders Press, we’ll handle everything — and we’ll throw in the opportunity to get your book into a bestseller list to sweeten the deal.
I’ve made my choice. Now what?
Once you’ve chosen the path that fits your objective, there’s really nothing else to do but to see it through. You’ll need a bit of help if you choose to write your own book idea. We have a lot of articles on the site that cover important topics about the process. Feel free to take a look at your leisure.
If you want to go the ghostwriting route, Leaders Press offers different packages for different needs. Schedule a chat with us, or check out our different services to learn more.