From Idea To Published Author in 16 Months

    from idea to published author

    Which is worse – not having written a book, or having a garage full of unpublished books?

    Some would say it’s worse to not ‘ship’ your book, or better to have written and lost than never to have written at all.

    I disagree. There’s another option.

    Instead of being a lone endurance racer with your book, consider a more strategic approach. Yeah, ‘strategic’ sounds less cathartic and more scary.

    But a garage full of books (and 3 Kindle sales) sounds worse, right?

    This approach isn’t for everyone, but I believe there are steps we can take to reduce our level of insecurity, be more attractive to publishers, and become better communicators!

    A Case Study

    Not every success story is a template, but there are principles that can apply to everyone’s writing aspirations.

    Each person has unique insights and stories, so each one can create a book or blog that reaches beyond their circle of existing relationships.

    But it takes more than just writing.

    Recently, in the span of 16 months, I helped a hopeful nonfiction non-author go from an idea (more a cautious hunch, really) to a solid two-book publishing contract with a major NYC house.

    On Day One, this writer didn’t have a blog – or even a Twitter account. I’d love to take the sole credit for this success, but the truth is that we followed a process, and we followed it rigorously.

    The Road We Walked

    1. Establish a brand

    Who is this author? Why should I care?

    Notice this has nothing to do with your book idea! Books come and go, so focus on your author brand. This can be as simple as having a website that is up to the standard of the career you want to have.

    But let’s face it – intensive focus on self (photos, ‘About-Me’ text, logo, graphics) is unappealing, and brings out even more insecurities for a writer. And so many writers don’t invest in this area.

    But if you want to be published, you will need an author brand. Remember, nonfiction publishers don’t just pick books, they pick people! This may also be true for the buying public.

    With a website, instead of your going on a book tour, you can send your book out on an AUTHOR tour!

    2. Develop one other book idea

    Let this idea be different than your pet project.

    When you think about what you’d like to be known for, what other unique insights are you driven to share? If it helps, play out this future scenario to spur brainstorming:

    My book just flopped… what’s next?

    Create a formal book proposal for both books. This is a business plan for your book. It is what a publisher wants to see.

    I can see the artist in you squirming, but you need a business plan.

    Create one by answering these questions:

    • Why does this book exist? (Amazon already carries some pretty good ones on this topic.)
    • What’s the reader-outcome you’re looking for? (“I loved this book because…”)
    • The readers and their motivation – who will buy this book, and why?
    • Who are your competitors? (And how is your book different from theirs?)
    • How will this book strengthen your brand?

    Another benefit of this process is that it helps you frame a self-publishing strategy.

    Publishers can be like banks – only eager to lend money to people who don’t need it. If you don’t think you can get a return on your self-publishing investment, why would a publisher risk their money on you?

    3. Write the book

    A little.

    Insecurity is something all writers share. It is natural for us to want to hide and write, only to unveil our massive works to an audience that… will probably feel too sorry for us to give honest feedback.

    Instead, create simple focus groups in your target audience and send them sample chapters. (Yes – chapters, even ideas in your book proposal.) Then brace yourself. You will get numerous ideas to help you improve your writing.

    Listen to their feedback. Let this pull better writing out of you.

    Repeat the above until you’re both humbled and ecstatic about your book. It may take months. Sorry.

    These steps are insecurity-busters because you’ll experience the satisfaction of both affirmation and constructive feedback!

    4. Self-publish the book

    Get a GREAT title, subtitle and cover.

    Does this mean more pride-killing feedback? Uh huh. It also means you need to get professional help. You might be a great writer, but you are probably not a great designer.

    The confidence you gained in the steps above will ooze into your marketing and sales!

    5. Sell 10,000 copies in 7 months

    Okay, that’s a stretch, but it happened in this case, with less than 500 social media connections. These sales would not have happened without following each step of the process in a disciplined manner.

    Publisher conversations are much different if you are able to quote sales you’ve achieved by yourself. It helps remove the scent of desperation from the dialogue, and is often a game changer.

    6. Get a nice TWO-book deal

    When a publisher is reviewing one book, why not have a worthy second book for them to consider? If you were a publisher, you’d want to see this depth from an author.

    However, this last is more the exception than the norm.

    Most aspiring authors don’t succeed because they write first and ask questions later.

    What if you follow the process outlined above and still don’t find a publisher? You’ll be a better writer, and in a much stronger position to be successful as a publisher as well!

    Have you tried any of the above steps? What worked? What didn’t? Please share your reactions, questions, and ideas  in the comments below.


    About the author: 

    Mike Loomis helps people launch their dream projects and books. He’s strategic partner to bestselling authors, non-profits, publishers as well as startups, and aspiring messengers. He and his wife live in the mountains of Colorado with their pet moose.

    Image: Published Author courtesy of

    About the author

      Mike Loomis

      Mike Loomis helps people launch their dream projects and books. He’s the author of Your Brand Is Calling, and My Book Launch Planner. He and his wife live in the mountains of Colorado with their pet moose.www.MikeLoomis.CO

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    • Paige says:

      You have broken it down into such actionable and achievable steps that the whole idea of getting a book published is transforming from just a dream in my head to something that I can make a reality.

    • I like this strategy, and it’s sort of what I’m aiming to do right now. I’m building a brand, and showing who I am as a writer, but I need a really solid book idea. Right now, I’m hoping that by blogging consistently in my niche, a great book idea will start to form.

      • Sarah – really appreciate your comment. (And your site – and blogging – is terrific!) Courageous. Love it.

        I believe you’re on to something with the hope that as you continue writing a book will form. I also like to mess with clients by asking them “What are you the best in the world at?” (Questionable grammar aside)

    • Search says:

      I love what you guys are usually up too. This type of clever work and reporting! Keep up the wonderful works guys I’ve incorporated you guys to my blogroll.

    • I’m really new to writing books, but a lot of what you said actually mirrors what has happened with my first effort. I’m trying the traditional approach to publishing though. I started my book in December and it’s in front of editors right now – fingers crossed! I like the idea of the two book deal too – I just starting on my second in the series this month.

      • Congrats on landing an agent, David! Love the unbridled personality of your site/brand BTW. Thanks for commenting!

    • Interesting thoughts about self-publishing. Great post!

      • Thanks, Tony!
        Imagine how good it could have been if I watched less TV!
        (Check out Tony’s blog to get the reference)

    • Hey Mike,

      Pet Moose … awesome.

      If I still wanted to be cold in winter (I’m from Saskatchewan) and I had to pick a State to live in, it would be Colorado. So many positives in that state.

      Are the steps in this post the entire process?

      Thanks for the entertaining and interesting article.


      • It’s a free-range moose, BTW… the spare room did not work out…

        Anyway, Chris, thank you for reading and commenting!

        Yes there were many more steps, including huge emotional swings, and having one publisher say the book was “strange.” So, as you can tell, the above is the condensed version.

        Once we thought the first book was ready for prime-time, we sought endorsements from influencers in the field – that was nerve wracking but ended up being a big help in gaining credibility for a first-time author.

        And the marketing plan, was crucial, and detailed. Email campaigns, promotional PDF’s, sample books, etc.

        Thanks, again! Colorado is wonderful, but I think you have bigger fish in Saskatchewan!

    • Great article Mike. I always enjoy your insight. I have not tried any of the steps that you list, but I loom forward to the opportunity to do so.

      Now, about that pet moose….

      • Thank you, Jody – Hope these experiences are helpful, and take some of the guesswork out. Off to feed the moose…

    • Natalija says:

      Thank you. I appreciate your taking the time to visit my blog. I plan on providing the photography for my book(s) along with that “something unique”.

      Great point on every market being crowded. Competition is everywhere and is the perfect motivator to think differently, though taking the next step is never easy.

      One quote from Bryan Peterson (photographer) that I keep in mind is: “Do what you do – and do it better than anyone else – and you’ll have the world at your doorstep.”

      • Right on! Love this – “Do what you do – and do it better than anyone else – and you’ll have the world at your doorstep.”

        In my vocabulary, “weirder” = better


    • Natalija says:

      The link to your post appeared in my Twitter feed today at the precise moment I was Googling “finding a publisher”. I had been planning on self-publishing (still might) and have more than one idea but, as many people know, the cookbook market is saturated with competitors. “Why does this book exist?” and “…how is your book different from theirs?” are great questions to consider.

      • Natalija – Many thanks for taking time to comment, and I’m SO glad the post was helpful.

        Yes – the market is crowded – but guess what? EVERY market is crowded! So we’re gonna UP our game.

        With the photography and writing I see on your site- you’re on the right path!

    • I like the idea of having a second book. It just makes sense to have as a backup, and the previously released book can serve as a promotional piece for the second one. Nice post!

      • Thanks, Joe! Books come and go, and I’ve seen many authors put all their eggs (hopes, dreams) in one book-basket. It’s about building an author brand.

    • “Let this pull better writing out of you.”

      -Best line from this post.

      Thanks buddy. We need to talk soon.


    • Mike, what a great post!

      I love the part about having a second interest. And the part about having a chapter to send out for review.

      I want to write a chapter about a former slave I know. My blog is all about abolition in Canada. I have met people who have been slaves in Canada. Child slaves. It’s really real.

      What is amazing about this one person is that she is so incredibly fascinating. A one-in-a-million transcender. And PERSONALITY? Oh yes!

      I need to do this. I need to get one chapter on this incredible woman. She is, right now, adopting her fourth child; a baby born with crack addiction. She speaks, she travels . . . only problem is her connections with gangs. That little bit of bother . . . can be dangerous.

      Do you have any advice for people interested in biography?

      • Thank you, Marilyn! This person, and her story sound amazing.

        As you know, there are SO many ways a story can be told, in terms of writing style, perspective, treatment, etc. – AND so many ways a book could be developed (as a collection of stories, to bring attention to a cause, etc, etc.) I like your idea of writing a chapter as a starting point. Less pressure.

        Just get the story told – a piece of it anyway. Then start thinking of book development, and get feedback.

        I believe we get the right ideas and inspiration as we take small steps – and believe you will, too!

        • Hi Mike.

          Yes. One small step. A piece of that story.

          Direction and inspiration will come. Here here to that!


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