"........When Change is the Challenge."
SO.You Want to Write a Book?!
by Laurie Weiss, Ph.D.
"Are you going on a book tour?" and, "I've been thinking about
writing a book too," are frequent responses I hear when people learn
that I am the author of the beautiful book I am carrying with me. You
wrote that! Wow! It must have been a lot of work. How did you find a
publisher? Is this your first book? You must be very proud. Why did
you decide to write a book? and (rarely) What is your book about?
Some books are written by professionals, people who actually earn
their livelihood by writing. Most writers, like me, earn their income
in other areas and write for other reasons. For me, writing is a
joyful experience. Yes, of course it is work, and yes, of course, it
requires discipline; but it is work I love, and I am always surprised
at how much time has passed when I complete a writing session. My
body protests, I am stiff, and discover I have forgotten important
things like eating, stretching, and going to the bathroom.
Creating a book is in many ways like producing a child. In fact,
this particular book was started after participating in an "intuition
at work" seminar in which we were asked to draw pictures that
represented the current state of our lives, and other pictures that
represent what an ideal life would look like. Drawing quickly, I
produced a picture of a drooping plant in a flowerpot as the current
state. The second picture showed a stick figure carrying a baby stick
figure-my desired future.
Since my children are adults, I immediately recognized that my
creative self was ready to cure my mild depression (the drooping
flower), by creating another book (the baby). I wasn't really too
surprised; I had been thinking about doing another book, and had even
opened talks with an editor, who was asking me to do a project I
wasn't especially excited about. I was dragging my feet, and
consequently, my life was dragging.
In a discussion with others about the meaning of the pictures we
had produced, I was drawn to a very friendly, articulate woman. I
learned that Karen was a publisher who was attending the conference
in order to locate writers for a new line of transformational
Coincidences like this happen to me occasionally, and I like to
think that they are not accidents. I showed my new publisher friend
one of my older self-help books and told her that I had been thinking
of rewriting it for a business audience. That wasn't exactly what
Karen had in mind, but as she shared her vision, I grew increasingly
intrigued. We parted with her promise to send me her guidelines, and
mine to think about creating a proposal for a book that would meet
Years before, after 30 or so rejections of my first book
manuscript, I had decided never to write another book until I had
sold it to a publisher first. That is the recommended procedure, but
amateur writers like me often must learn by going through the agony,
and then the numbness of having our "baby" be rejected over and over
again by disinterested editors. It isn't their fault; editors want to
produce books that people will buy, and most budding authors don't
take the time to learn how to help the book publishers sell books and
For me, the most challenging part of creating a book is figuring
out exactly what I want to say, why I want to say it, and to whom I
want to say it. I need to know what actions I want my audience to
take after they have read my book. Thinking about the problems my
clients shared with me, I realized that an important common concern
was deception in the workplace. Everyone was trying to figure out how
to decide whom to trust, or ruefully recovering from trusting the
wrong people. Perhaps a book on that subject would make a
contribution to peace and prosperity in the business community.
It took about three months of exchanging e-mails with Karen
before I mailed my proposal and sample chapters, and another two
months (quick for the publishing industry), until I received the
contract to write the book. The writing was completed in eight months
of weekends, where I was excused from some of the ordinary routines
of life like shopping, laundry, and boring meetings, because, after
all, I was writing a book.
From my perspective as a personal and professional development
coach, management consultant, and psychotherapist, publishing is a
weird business. Most books that are published are not expected to
earn much money, and therefore, not much is done to bring them to the
attention of potential readers. Karen, my clear thinking, wonderfully
fair and supportive publisher explained it this way: A publisher is
to a book as an obstetrician is to a baby. Raising the infant child
is the responsibility of the parent, not the doctor, and raising the
infant book is the responsibility of the author, not the publisher.
Raising the infant book means letting the world know it exists!
This can be a daunting proposition in world where over 50,000 new
books are published each year in this country alone. Of course the
publisher's catalog lists the book, along with dozens of others, and
the publisher's sales rep takes the catalogue to bookstores and shows
it to buyers. However, most buyers want books by known authors, and
although I have three previously published self-help books, I am not
a known business writer. Sure enough, when I ask bookstores if they
have What Is The Emperor Wearing? Truth-telling In Business
Relationships they usually say no.
Fortunately, since a disappointing experience with an earlier
book, I have been reading books and attending seminars on book
marketing. In fact, my own marketing started before I submitted my
original book proposal. I actually thought about why potential
readers buy books and used the information to design this book. I
included lots of stories, catchy chapter titles, and problems most
business people have experienced.
of contents is on my web site.)
I also took part of my small advance on royalties and hired a
publicist to guide me as I started on my book marketing career. We
decided that media coverage was one way I might be able to arouse
interest in the book. We started that process before the baby was
born-while the book manuscript was being edited, typeset, and
Newspaper reporters and magazine editors are busy people. They
seldom answer their telephones and rarely have time to return phone
calls to people they don't know. They are inundated with faxes,
letters, e-mails and packages which regularly get buried, lost and
discarded. They do know (and need) the publicists, who lead them to
interesting stories. My publicist was able to arrange two major
newspaper interviews, some Internet publicity, and several radio
I take on the project of sending copies of the newspaper articles
to magazine editors along with "query letters" asking if they are
interested in publishing an excerpt from the book. Of course, we
first must find out which editor of which magazine just might be
interested in stories about truth-telling in business relationships.
I learn that if these editors are not contacted by phone shortly
after I send them information, I am wasting my time. I hire a
publicists' assistant who loves to talk on the phone, to follow up
with the editors, and we do place some articles.
Speaking to people is another way to interest them in my baby
book. I call bookstore community relations representatives, and offer
to do "events." At The Tattered Cover, about fifty people come, and I
am thrilled. Events at other stores draw only a few people, but I
love to see the signs in the stores that inform shoppers about my
book and the book displays do sell books.
I send letters and e-mail to everyone I know, and I ask them to
invite me to speak to groups, and to ask bookstores to order my book.
They are encouraging and full of suggestions. I am invited to speak
at breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings. In fact, I spend so much
time raising my baby book that I forget that I still need to earn a
Will I write another book? Yes, eventually. I'm not ready yet; I
believe that proper spacing of children is important.
Laurie Weiss, Ph.D., is an internationally known personal and
professional development coach, psychotherapist, and author. She
practices in Littleton, Colorado, and is also available for telephone
consultation at 303.794.5379.
Laurie Weiss' fourth book, What Is The Emperor Wearing?
Truth-Telling In Business Relationships, was released in March,
What Is The Emperor Wearing? Truth-Telling In Business
Relationships is filled with tales of ordinary individuals in the
workplace who are striving to steer a course between deception and
damaging confrontation by developing truth-telling skills. As you
relate to their struggles and successes, you will learn the
techniques and strategies that will help you to steer your own course
through the treacherous business environment of the approaching
Copyright ©1998, Laurie Weiss, Ph.D.