Self Publishing Success Summit – What I Learned from Zach Obront

Write A Better Book In Half The Time (the internal book writing process for Book In A Box) w/ Zach Obront

In this webinar, Zach Obront talked about how his product, Book in a Box, takes writers through the process of writing and publishing a book.

The first step in the publishing process is to pin down your idea – what are your goals for the book? You need to ask yourself what your personal goals for the book are – why do you want to write a book – dig deep past the socially acceptable answers and be honest with yourself. Some common book goals include:

  • Thought leadership
  • Leads for business
  • To advance your career
  • Speaking/consulting
  • Share important wisdom
  • Be a bestseller
  • Make money from sales
  • “I Just want to write it”

Incidentally, when I first started my I fell under the “I just want to write it” goal, now my goal is more to share important wisdom, and also to help make it easier for people to start working from home, because I think it’s something everyone can and should be doing at least part of the time.  His double-check question for this step is to imagine you hit the goals you described, but everything else goes wrong- are you happy? If not you need to re-evaluate your goals. You also need to pin down your audience – you can do this by starting with your goals and reverse engineering from there. You also need to ask yourself what problem is this person facing that would make them read your book. Then you need to figure out what book idea serves that audience and also helps you reach your personal goals. Another double check question he had was to imagine how your ideal reader would describe your book to friends and family at a party.

The next step is to create an outline. To do this you need to start by determining your genre – for Book in a Box, the three genres are How-to, Memoir, and Argument/Advocacy. Then you need to create your skeleton – for a how-to book the skeleton is going to be the step by step process from A to Z. When you’re creating a skeleton for a how-to book, Zach’s tip is to imagine you’re sitting with someone at a party who wants to know the process for doing something – how would you describe the process to them?  This is actually how I’m thinking of going about making “Your Work At Home Journey” into a how-to type of book. For a memoir, the outline is going to be the story of the person’s life from beginning to end,and for an argument/advocacy book you’re going to have to explain what the situation is and why it’s important, what the argument is, and you’ll have to address possible counter arguments. You’ll have to flesh out your outline – it should have subpoints, question and story prompts, and support material. The introduction should have a hook – a statement or story that gets the reader’s attention. The lessons in the book should relate to this story. It should also show what value your readers are goign to get from following the advice presented in the book, and what will happen if they don’t follow your advice. The conclusion should recap the points you made in the outline and give a call to arms or leave the reader with food for thought.

Once the outline is done, the next step is to record your content. You can either record it yourself, or have a friend ask you questions about what you’re writing. According to Zach, one hour of talking will convert to about 10,000 words of transcript, but the actual edited transcript will end up being about 5,000 to 7,000 words. When doing this step, Zach suggests to be a blabbermouth – get as much content as you can onto the page. If you think you explained something badly, explain it again. He also suggested when you’re explaining things to pretend you’re talking to a little kid, also give a lot of stories and examples and tell them in a slow, fleshed-out way, and talk to the ideal reader that you envisioned before – frame all your examples so that your ideal reader will understand what you’re saying. His suggestions for recording included using Skype Call Recorder, which is $29, using Google Voice, setting up your computer to record, or sitting down with a friend and having them record you.

The next step is to translate your transcription – in other words, get your interviews or ramblings to yourself transcribed. You can do it yourself, or use a service to transcribe it for you. You can find transcribers on Elance (now called Upwork), Fiverr, Speechpad or Rev (shameless plug: I do transcription both on Elance and on Fiverr, though lately I’ve been doing more transcription on Fiverr. If you’re interested in having me transcribe your audios please contact me). Upwork and Elance cost about $1 per minute, and prices on Fiverr and Elance vary depending on the transcriber. I generally charge about $10 per audio hour on Elance, and on Fiverr my prices vary depending on whether the person wants the transcription full verbatim or clean verbatim. After you’ve have your audio transcribed, you’ll want to create separate documents in Microsoft Word for each chapter of your outline, then plug the transcript into the outline. After the transcript is plugged into the outline, the next step is to translate it – change it from transcript language to manuscript language. You can either do this yourself or hire an editor. If you do it yourself you’ll want to read through the outline, read through the transcript, then go through each chapter, one paragraph at a time and re-write it. Once you’ve done all that, re-read the chapter to make sure it reads the way you want it to. If you choose to hire an editor, you’ll want to find a great editor or ghost writer – you’ll want to look at their writing rather than their editing work. You can use Elance or Upwork for this. You can also use MediaBistro but it costs money to post an ad. You can also find editors on Fiverr, but depending on how long your manuscript is, you  may have order quite a few gigs to get it done. When looking for an editor, make sure you’re clear on what you want done.

After you receive the edited manuscript, the last step is to edit it yourself. When you do this you want to go through the manuscript twice – once for style and once for content. When going through the style for content, ask yourself  what point you’re trying to make in this paragraph, if it’s clear and if it’s as simple as possible. When you go through your book for style, you’ll want to print your book and read it out loud.

That’s the process that Zach outlined for how to use Book in a Box to create a non-fiction book. I look forward to using some of these ideas when I write my non-fiction books. If you want to learn more about Book in a Box, you can do so here.


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