FAQs About Producing a Book

May 2023
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If you’ve been following my columns this year about planning, writing, publishing and marketing a book, then I hope the information here has been helpful.

For this final installment, I’m answering some of the most common questions people ask about the process. (And I get a lot of questions — it seems that everyone I meet has an idea for a book!)

What if I’m stuck? 

My Second City instructors used to say that there’s no such thing as writer’s block. You can always write something. It may not be good, but at least it’s something.

So turn off your internal editor and just plow forward. Or get the gears turning by writing about something else entirely.

Try sketching out a “manifesto” — everything you strongly believe about your subject. That might spark your motivation.

And think small. The idea of writing a whole book is intimidating. But writing a paragraph or a page or a chapter is manageable. Just put one foot in front of the other.

It’s also possible that you haven’t defined your purpose or target audience well enough. It’s hard to write when you’re not sure why or for whom you’re doing it.

How long should the book be? 

The simple but unsatisfying answer is that your book should be as long as it needs to be to say what needs to be said.

But here are some specifics. First, assuming it’s a business book, err to the shorter side. 

A typical novel is around 80,000-100,000 words. That’s too long for a business book. Aim for 30,000-to-50,000 words, which works out to roughly 150-to-250 pages.

If that still sounds like a lot, then just get started. You’re likely to find that you have more to say than you think.

How in-depth should I go? 

Few things are more frustrating than a book that’s long on the “why” but short on the “how.” It’s basically a dressed-up sales pitch, requiring you to hire the author or take their course to put the concepts into action.

On the other hand, if you’ve got too much content, then consider turning your book into a series broken up by sub-topic or audience. That’s also smart marketing. Each book in the series feeds sales for the others.

How do I handle bad reviews? 

Don’t get too hung up on negative reviews — it’s just one person’s opinion. So discount the outliers, both negative and positive, and focus on the middle.

On the other hand, I often learn something from a bad review. Perhaps a concept needed better explaining or a useful topic was overlooked.

And sometimes a negative review will simply reinforce my thinking. A person who feels my book should be much longer or more technical is not my target reader. I like to keep it simple and straightforward.

Is it impossible to get a publishing deal?

Nothing’s impossible, of course, but it’s very hard. Also, keep in mind that these columns have been geared toward the “part-time” author — a PR pro or senior leader who wants to publish a book on the side of their regular work.

I know a number of people who have book deals with publishers. But they’re typically full-time authors or they have a plan for multiple books. Most publishers aren’t interested in “one-off” deals. They want to invest in someone who has ongoing revenue potential.

Where can I get more help? 

Writing a book can be a lonely process. There are so many big decisions to make about the content, design, publishing and more. 

I keep a running list of resources that I’ve found helpful — books, blogs, experts and websites — along with tips like the ones I’ve included in these columns. If you’d like a copy, then shoot me an email at rob@robbiesenbach.com.

And as a reminder, I am not a book coach, so I won’t be spamming you with a sales pitch. I’m simply sharing what I’ve learned in the interest of bringing better books into the world! 

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