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How to write a book in 8 steps

(MoneyWatch) For all of the people who fret about the decline of books, books don't seem to be in short supply these days. Indeed, Fast Company got some buzz for a piece labeling books as "the ultimate new business card." Even if no one reads your book, the fact that you wrote 50,000-plus words on a topic means you can call yourself an expert.

"Today, authors are in the idea-making business, not the book business," writes the author of the piece, Ryan Holiday, a media strategist and himself a published author. "In short, this means that publishing a book is less about sales and much more about creating a brand. The real customers of books are no longer just readers but now include speaking agents, CEOs, investors and startups."

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Of course, if I had a dollar for every time someone told me he wanted to write a book, I wouldn't have to write books anymore. There is a major gap between thinking a book would be a smart marketing move and actually writing one. The easiest way to bridge that gap? Hire a ghostwriter (a good one will run you $50,000 or more). If you want to make time in your life to write your book yourself, here are some strategies"

1. Choose a topic you can't stop talking about. Why? Because you will likely be talking about it for at least a couple of years. If you find yourself bored after two weeks, get a different topic.

2. Sketch it out. Think about how you'd sum up your book idea in a PowerPoint presentation. Chapter outlines and abstracts give you a blueprint for researching and an idea of how you'll space out your favorite anecdotes.

3. Make a marathon plan. Anyone training to run 26.2 miles has a schedule of long runs, "tempo" runs, speed drills and so forth -- writing a book is a marathon of a different sort. Look at your calendar and plan when you're going to write: four hours on Sunday morning, one hour before work on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, etc. for the next 12 weeks. Give yourself word-count targets for each writing session. If you get yourself up to 50,000 words, you at least have a start.

4. Bribe yourself. Sticking to a word count goal is tough. I believe in frequent rewards for successful execution, even if it's just letting yourself wander around the Web for 30 minutes when you hit your target.

5. Let it marinate. Your first draft is probably going to be awful, so don't spoil the moment of completion by reading it.

6. Make a second marathon plan. This one is for editing. Figure roughly the same amount of time as the original writing, but I find this stage much more pleasant.

7. Beta-test. Get a bunch of people in the target market to read your manuscript and comment. "I like it" and "I hate it" are not helpful. "My attention wandered in the second paragraph on page 10" is.

8. Brace yourself. If you're going the commercial publishing route, sit back and enjoy your editor's feedback. If you're self-publishing, hire an editor with a masochistic streak. If your book helps you launch multiple new income streams, it will all be worth it in the end .

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Laineys Repertoire
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