How To Leverage Your Team to Finally Write Your Book
by Zach Obront
As an entrepreneur, you already know the ways that writing a book would help your business.
It might be by building your authority, securing media attention, closing more sales, or developing customer loyalty. But whatever the reason is, you’re confident that having a book would impact your bottom line.
The challenge? The people (like you) who’d benefit most from writing a book (and who have the most valuable content for readers) are also too busy doing interesting things. They are so busy doing that they don’t have time or will power left over for writing.
So their best ideas stay in their head, holding back their business and depriving potential readers of great ideas, until eventually a competitor comes along and creates the definitive book instead.
The Biggest Mistake Entrepreneurs Make When Writing Their Books
Imagine I told you that, as the co-founder of Book In A Box, I do 100% of the bookkeeping. Sure, it takes 10-20 hours per week and holds me back from important writing, meetings, and strategy, but it’s important that I understand my numbers, so it’s worthwhile.
As a responsible business owner, you’d tell me I’m crazy.
Knowing my numbers is important, but being the one to do the bookkeeping isn’t a valuable use of my time. Someone else on the team (or a professional bookkeeper) should be handling the majority of the work, and I should be focused only on the work where I add the most value.
Entrepreneurs are usually great at this skill: analyzing their work, deciding which pieces are most valuable, and delegating / outsourcing the rest.
Except for one situation, where they totally ignore their wisdom and do it all themselves: writing a book.
In the process of writing a book, there are a few steps that are extremely high value uses of your time: understanding your audience to refine your idea, explaining your ideas, ensuring the final product reflects you properly, and overseeing big creative decisions.
Everything else — the stuff that takes up 90% of the time — is a low-value use of time. It’s a hireable task. And that’s exactly how you should see it.
How Entrepreneurs Can Leverage a Team to Write and Publish Their Book
When we wrote The Book In A Box Method, we focused on teaching people to apply our process to write a better book, faster and more effectively.
It worked. The average book takes 1,500+ hours to write, and with our process, authors were getting that time down to 250 hours or less.
But, for busy entrepreneurs, 250 hours of focused, hard work is still a huge commitment. And when we analyzed how that time was spent, we realized that those with the resources to have a team support them could do it much faster.
With our process (where we provide a team to support you), the full process only takes 40-50 hours of the author’s time. With the right team, you should be able to get that number almost as low, without sacrificing quality.
Below is a full explanation of the process that we recommend business owners use to leverage their team (or outsourced professionals) to help them create an incredible book in less time.
1) Choose a Project Manager
Your Supporting Team: N/A
This step is the easiest to skip (especially if you’re a control freak like me), but is one of the most crucial. Although writing, editing, and designing are all major components of writing a book, one of the biggest time sucks is managing the process.
Choosing the rest of the team, overseeing the timeline, bridging communication gaps, and fixing things when they (inevitably) go wrong are all major contributors to the time it takes to write a book. More than just time, these are things that take up mental energy.
The first thing to do when kicking off a book project is to choose someone on your team to own the process. They don’t need to be extremely experienced. You just need to trust their taste, judgement, and willingness to learn.
As the Project Manager, their job will be to oversee the rest of the process below.
Once they’re officially on board, you can think of them as the CEO of your book. You’re just an employee on the book team, “the idea person”, but they’re in charge of making sure the trains run on time.
2) Put Together Your Team
Your Supporting Team: Project Manager
Before you start with your book, you’ll want to work with your Project Manager to put together the rest of your team.
The people you’ll need are as follows:
- Book Developer: A smart person on your team who really “gets” your book’s target audience. Their primary job will be to bounce ideas around as you position and outline your book.
- Scribe: This is the core writer on the book, who will interview you, write the first draft, and work with you on revisions. It should be someone with a strong writing background, and ideally some experience interviewing (like journalism).
- Editors: You’ll want to get edits from others beyond just your Scribe. You’ll want at least one reader focused on content feedback (someone who understands your audience) and at least one editor focused on style (someone with a writing background). You’ll also want to ensure you have a professional proofreader for a final readthrough.
- Designers: You will need both a cover design and an interior layout design. This can be the same person, but they should be familiar with both Illustrator (for the cover) and InDesign (for the layout). These roles can be outsourced if you don’t have them in-house.
- Book Marketer: Book marketing isn’t that different from any other marketing. Someone in your marketing department with hustle and creativity will do great helping to take the book to the next level once it’s released.
The details of what each of these people will do are explained below, but your job for now is to decide who on your team fits each of these roles and, if there isn’t someone, put together a game plan to find the right person.
3) Positioning and Outlining
Your Supporting Team: Book Developer, Project Manager
The Positioning and Outlining phase of the process is where you will concentrate as much of your creative energy as possible. Instead of you spending hundreds of hours sitting in front of a keyboard — mixing the thinking process with the writing process — you’re going to distill your thinking independently of writing.
Your goal in this phase is to get your book positioning totally clear, and outline the ideas in a way that sets the groundwork for the rest of the team.
The first step is to focus on positioning. Deeply think through exactly what you want to accomplish with your book, which audience it needs to reach to accomplish those goals, and what exact value proposition you can provide that that audience cares about.
This happens best through conversation, so spend this time with your Book Developer talking through these ideas. Challenge each other (and yourselves) and play devil’s advocate until you find answers that you’re comfortable with.
For example, when I wrote The Book In A Box Method, I wanted to raise awareness about our process in the business community to build authority and generate leads. In order to accomplish this, I needed to reach the types of business people who couldn’t afford our services, but had great ideas and wanted to write books. To do this, I wrote a book that made the non-fiction book writing process easy, something that audience was looking for.
To make sure you have this down, ask yourself: “If my ideal target reader was at a party with another target reader, how would it come up in conversation? And, when it did, how would they describe the book?”
If your answer flows logically and feels natural, you have your positioning.
Once that’s done, your job is to flesh out that topic into a detailed outline. The simplest way to do this is to work backwards from your audience’s goal in reading the book, and think about the steps they would need to take to get there. Each of these steps is a chapter. For each chapter, think about the things they need to understand to comfortably accomplish this step, as well as the stories that support each of these points.
Get as detailed as possible for each chapter. Don’t try to move quickly through this phase — we’re concentrating all the thinking from the whole book writing process into one short process, so take your time and make sure you really get it right.
4) Interviewing and Translation
Your Supporting Team: Scribe, Project Manager
Once you’ve finished your outline, it’s time to really start leveraging your team.
With the outline complete, you have all the ideas that are to be contained in your book organized, broken down by chapter, and ready to write.
Now, instead of writing anything, you’re going to speak.
The most time consuming piece of the book writing process is the writing itself. For most business owners, we’re better (and certainly faster) at expressing our ideas verbally. So that’s what we’re going to do.
Have your Scribe sit down with you (in person or over the phone) and talk through the outline from top to bottom. Their job is to make the conversation natural for you, and ask follow up questions until enough has been said on each topic. Your job is to give them your full attention, and explain each concept in the book fully and completely so they have material to work with.
Each hour of interview time translates into approximately 25 pages of final book text. So, if you’re wanting to write a 200 page book, try to keep the interviews around 8 hours.
Once these interviews are complete, your Scribe should take the recordings, transcribe them (using a service like Rev.com), and organize them by chapter. Then, their job is to go through, paragraph by paragraph, and rewrite the messy transcription into well written prose.
Their job is to maintain your voice, style, quirks, and ideas, while smoothing out the language so it reads clearly and the ideas connect.
Once that’s done, you officially have a first draft of your book!
Your Supporting Team: Scribe, Project Manager
As Justice Louis Brandeis once said, “There is no great writing, only great rewriting.”
If you’ve followed this process properly, you should be far ahead of most authors after their first draft. Instead of rethinking your entire idea or realizing your structure is broken, you’ll have a solid draft written on the incredibly strong foundation of your early Positioning and Outlining. You should be close.
But there will certainly be more to do. At this point, your job is to go through and make the manuscript your own.
There are a few different ways to do that, depending on your preferences:
- You can edit it yourself, going through and making all changes until you’re happy with the final product.
- You can “mark it up” with edits and pass those back to your Scribe to implement. This is faster on your end, but may lead to some more back and forth to get it completely right.
- You can sit down with your Scribe and read the entire manuscript out loud, talking out any issues. This feels like a hassle, but there are a ton of benefits in capturing your voice to read things out loud, and this process keeps you from ever needing to block time to sit at your keyboard.
Once these back and forth’s are complete and you have a manuscript you and your Scribe are happy with, it’s time to move on to the next phase.
6) Additional Edits
Your Supporting Team: Editors, Project Manager
You thought you were finished, didn’t you? Not quite!
The truth is, you and your Scribe are so deep in your content by this point, you need an outside perspective. This comes in the form of your Editors.
[Note: Remember, your Project Manager should be handling all the back and forth with these Editors. Don’t be a typical entrepreneur taking it all on yourself!]
This will come in three phases:
First, get edits on the content. You can hire a content editor for this, or simply send the manuscript to 3-5 people you trust to ask for feedback. As they aren’t professionals, don’t take their opinions too seriously, but gather up feedback and look for patterns. Especially, look for what they liked / didn’t like, not what they would do to fix it.
You can get back with your Scribe to implement their feedback, if there are major changes.
Second, have a line edit done. Again, you can hire an editor for this, or ask someone on your team with an editing / writing background. This phase is focused on the readability of text and the smoothness of the prose, as well as the accuracy and consistency of the text.
If the first round of edits is feedback on the content, this round is feedback on the style.
Finally, have a proofread done. Like the last two phases, there are many quality freelancers available for proofreading, or you can give the task to someone on your team with obsessive attention to detail. The goal here is to catch any final typos, grammatical errors, or spelling mistakes before moving on to the design phase.
With this step complete, you officially have a locked manuscript. Now it’s time to turn it into a book.
Your Supporting Team: Designers, Project Manager
There are two types of design that every author needs (and an optional third type).
The first is the cover. Before doing anything else, have a designer on your team create a cover for the book (or have your Project Manager hire a cover designer).
They should put together a number of concepts for the cover for you to discuss and think about. Once you’ve confirmed, they can polish the front cover, get that confirmed, and then move on to the back and spine.
When they’re done, the cover designer should send you over both a JPG of the front cover (for the Kindle edition) and a PDF of the full jacket (for the physical edition).
The second is the interior. Despite that it may seem easy, designing the layout for the interior of the book is one of the most common things that self-published authors get wrong. It fundamentally changes the perception of the book.
To create an interior, your designer must be skilled with Adobe InDesign. If they aren’t, hire an external company to help out.
When they’re done, the interior layout designer should send you a PDF (for the print edition), a MOBI file (for the Kindle edition), and an EPUB file (for non-Kindle ebook editions).
You now have your final files, and all that’s left is to get them on Amazon and into readers’ hands.
Your Supporting Team: Project Manager
Your Project Manager should handle this step almost entirely on their own.
To keep things simple, I recommend using KDP and CreateSpace. They are straightforward to use, and will have your book live on Amazon in less than a week.
Your Supporting Team: Book Marketer, Project Manager
Marketing your book could be an entire post (or book) of its own. There are hundreds of actions you could take as an author that would help your book reach new audiences and spread.
Here are the top three actions we recommend for entrepreneurs:
- Physical Mailouts: Have your team order 50-100 copies, and put together packages with handwritten notes for your top contacts. You can send out an email (and should), but a physical book sticks in people’s memory much better. This gesture will find an initial base of readers, create instant word of mouth for the book, and build goodwill and authority with your existing connections.
- Podcasts: For some reason, being a guest on podcasts sells books better than almost any other form of media. Have your marketing team research relevant podcasts in your space (hint: they can look up competitors to find podcasts they’ve been on) and pitch them with the idea of having you on.
- Contributed Content: People who like reading books also tend to read a lot online. Have your marketing team go through your book and pull out content for 15-20 short articles. Edit them so they’re more “web-friendly” (shorter paragraphs, clear intro and conclusion) and pitch media outlets in your space with the idea of running them. Make sure to link to your book in the article!
There is a lot that goes into writing a book, but that doesn’t mean it needs to take thousands of hours of your time.
Like other areas in your business, you can leverage your team to get your book done faster, more efficiently, and without spending your time and anything but your areas of genius.
For many entrepreneurs, accomplishing their goals happens close to automatically. But, for some reason, writing a book always eludes them.
By following the process above, you can make writing a book like accomplishing your other goals — a joint effort where you focus only on what’s most important, and work with your team to get it done intelligently and effectively.
Time to get started.