Why do professionals take so long to publish their first book and what can they do about it?
Have you ever heard the phrase tomorrow is another day? While this saying is a welcome reprieve for workaholics who are on the brink of burnout; it can lull you into a mental space which destroys your dreams, and that place is called procrastination. Before we wade through the murky waters of procrastination, in the interest of mental health, it is important to recognize the difference between burnout and procrastination before embarking on a new project.
Burnout comes from excessive and prolonged stress and can be extremely debilitating. While burnout can leave people feeling empty, mentally exhausted and can manifest as procrastination while feeling devoid of motivation; it is not the same procrastination.
Many of us know that procrastination can prevent you from reaching your full potential. But we rarely understand why we procrastinate and what we can do about it. Over the years, I have seen many of my clients struggle with procrastination and have noticed some regular stumbling blocks. These include:
- Lack of defined goals
- Lack of knowledge
- Not creating a writing schedule
- Fear of failure
- Fear of criticism
- Low self-esteem
- A tendency to self-defeat
- Trouble focusing
I deal with a lot of professionals who have reached a level of excellence in their profession, and this is in part because of their drive to improve. It is very hard for them to enter a new project where they have not yet built up a level of confidence. The deficit of knowledge of when they want to be and where they are now in publishing can be crippling to their self esteem at the start, leading to a series of “Not now” excuses. As a published author, I am not immune to this procrastination technique and so I understand why authors struggle with this form or self sabotage.
One of the greatest enemies of progress in a new book is perfectionism. When you want things to be perfect or fear what people will think of you if your book doesn’t live up to the standards that you set for yourself, you are more likely to procrastinate on finishing that book. When you understand the book writing process, you can minimise this stumbling block because even accomplished authors have editors who help them perfect their writing.
This perceived stumbling block and other areas of lack of knowledge is important to have a mentor or coach who can guide you through the process. A coach can help you set defined goals. Writing a book is just like any project you are working on. You may be an expert in your field, but you must develop a project management plan, which includes understanding the scope, budget and timeline of a project.
While you have to align yourself with a team of self publishing professionals who will help you cross the finish line, the first and most important resource is you. You are the factory that is going to produce the product. That means get your “bum in the seat,” as we like to call it in the industry, and develop a writing schedule.
One of the starting points is to see how many words you write a minute, so you can plot how long this book is going to take you to write. Free style writing is faster, but if you have to do research, this can take longer.
In our April the Book Writers Master Mind I had guest author Jacques de Villiers chat to our group about the aspects of writing a book which included a writing schedule, editing and cover design costs. But his breakdown of how to get your book written was an AHA moment for any authors. In his example, by writing 350 words a day, you could complete two manuscripts 35 000 word manuscripts in a year.
I typically write over 70 000 word books in my fiction genre, so wanted to look at how his example would work for longer books. So let’s investigate what that process looks like. Set aside about 30 minutes to 60 minutes to write. Set a timer on your phone and just start writing. You can choose any topic or you can ask your writing coach to give you a writing prompt. Once you have completed this exercise, have a look at your results and what your hourly word target should be.
10 words/minute X 60 minutes = 600 words in an hour
20 words/minute X 60 minutes = 1,200 words in an hour
Now we can use these figures to help you set a reasonable writing target. If you are just starting out, then you may not be able to imagine putting aside an hour every day. So let’s make this easier and give a 30 to 45 minutes a day target to write, sticking to working days only. If we set your target to 350 words per day times 5 days, then you could write 1,750 words per week. Or you could decide to only write on Saturday mornings. If you only write from 07H00 to 12H00, you could meet your target before lunch time. That leaves plenty of time to go on that movie date or dinner date. You will even have enough time to go tenpin bowling with your children or nieces and nephews.
Now what does that 1,750 words per week mean to your progress? Over 4 weeks, it means that you would write 7,000 words per month. If you are a self-employed consultant who has some flexibility, you could do two sessions of 2.5 hours per week and still meet your target. It is all about routine. Now I know you are not a machine. Let’s give you one month off a year to recharge and spend time with your family.
Your calculation is now based on eleven months. In that time, you could have written 77,000 words. Given that there are on average 450 words on an A5 page, that translates into a 171 page book, excluding the front matter such as copyright page, contents page, etc.
With this in mind, you can see that it is possible to complete a manuscript every year, which will go a long way in building up a catalogue of books that can help you expand your influence and build ongoing revenue for your business. So what are you waiting for? Start that writing schedule today.
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There are millions of books on Amazon. That is a lot of competition for most authors but particularly for a new author who does not have a marketing or launch strategy.
Hello, I am Kim Vermaak
I spent most of my adult life helping other companies build their dream and their brands.
After I turned 40, I wondered if there was more to life than taking care of children and slaving away to earn a living.
I wanted to create a legacy for my children and the next generation. I found that through my books I could celebrate who I am as well as teach others to earn a living through their writing.
Being an author is not a hobby. It is a business, and it is my passion to teach authors how to thrive in that business. I look forward to seeing your book business grow.
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