Of Course, You Need Writing Mentors

Reading the acknowledgment section of books has opened my eyes to the challenges of writing and promoting a book.

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

I recently finished Entrepreneurial You, by Dorie Clark. There’s a section about the benefits of writing a book as part of your personal branding. Dorie recommends reading the acknowledgments section of books similar to your book to learn about agents and publishers in your industry. I don’t normally read this section, but I made a mental note to start reading those extra pages.

In the last two weeks, I’ve read the acknowledgment section of every book I finish. The first time I read these extra pages was a wake-up call. It wasn’t filled with thanks yous to family and friends for reading drafts as I imagined. Rather, the pages talked about agents, publishers, mentors and other contributors. Real professionals that invested time and money into bringing this book to market, not love and moral support.

Devoured, a book with an impressive list of characters in the acknowledgment section was written by Sophia Egen. The book is informative, interesting, and well-written. It was published by William Morrow and sold by HarperCollins Publishers. I recognized those names. Then Sophia went on to thank Michael Pollen for being her mentor! He’s written nine books, mostly on food. He’s won prestigious awards for his work and he was on her team. Now I was intimidated and worried that I was in way over my head.

I never thought writing a book would be easy, but I never realized that it could be the easiest part of getting a book into people’s hands. I figured I had the experience and knowledge to write a book. Plus, the success of my writing career keeps surprising me. I thought I could figure the writing out.

The next step would be publishing the book. As suggested, I’ve been making a list of companies that publish books similar to the one I’m writing. I’ve started looking at their book proposal requirements. I assume most of these are a long shot, but the traditional route has some appeal. If those don’t work, there are other options for self-publishing or independent publishers.

As you can probably tell from my laissez-faire description of the process, I haven’t looked too deeply into this factette of publishing a book. I did find Jyssica Schwartz’s articles on Medium this weekend and signed up for her mailing list. This has provided a little more insight into a very opaque publishing world.

After the publishing is sorted out, the next hurdle would be promoting and eventually selling the book. I’ve read a few articles on the topic. I’ve also seen a lot of people in my LinkedIn network promoting books they’ve written or looking for events where they can promote their book. Right now, this feels very far away. I know, it’s not. It’s never too early to market, right?

I plan to make this book part of my business identity and as my brand grows demand for the book will grow too. Can’t they grow concurrently? Probably. That seems to be what people on my LinkedIn network are doing. But, successful marketing can’t be done haphazardly.

My plan

This was my loose plan. Write a book. While writing it try to sell it to a publisher. On the side, keep building my brand using the pending book release as part of my identity. It doesn’t sound too hard. Until I picked up Devoured, this random book I found at the local library. It was written by an extremely intelligent woman with the help of one of the most popular food authors in recent history. I was left asking questions about the book’s success. I’m interested in this topic and I’ve never heard of the book. I didn’t find it on any top 10 lists, but Sophia is working on her second book. So, people are reading it.

Suddenly, this whole process sounds a lot harder. After I recovered from the shock. I realized that I would need a mentor. Reading amazing authors and engaging with experts on these topics might fill my pages with amazing content. That might not be enough to get people to actually read my book.

Then I stopped and reflected. Why I didn’t realize I’d need advisors before reading the acknowledgment section of a book? At every other stage of my career, I’ve surrounded myself with other people that I admired and could guide me. This was true when I was a direct report and it’s even more applicable now that I’ve started my own business. Mentors help us in all aspects of our personal and professional life, why would writing a book be any different?

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