I love producing short books fast, and I often teach workshops on this topic. Writers get very excited about becoming a published author in under a month. What better time to try writing and publishing a short book fast than during Write Nonfiction in November (WNFIN), when you are challenged to start and finish a work of nonfiction in 30 days? If you are just joining WNFIN, are feeling overwhelmed by your project and unable to complete it or feel your current project isn't working out, here's a post that will give you some ideas for book projects that are totally doable--even in just three weeks.
Three Ways to Write a Short Book in Under 30 Days
By Nina Amir
If you are like me, sometimes you just don’t have the time or the energy to write long. You want to produce a book, but churning out 150-250 pages seems like too big a project to tackle. This might be especially true when you want to get something done in, say, 30 days. Rather than have this stop you in your tracks, take on a smaller project. You can still produce a book—just not a 100+ page book.
Short books—a booklet, tip book, small-sized paperback book, or e-book—can be anywhere from 16 to 100 pages in length. Fast and much less intimidating to produce, you even can create them out of repurposed material, such as blog posts, e-zine articles or sections of books.
Despite their length, a short book’s content should remain top notch. That said, you don’t necessarily have to focus on producing your best content. You are not writing your magnum opus after all. Save your best material for your full-length book—the one that will be over 150 pages in length.
When you write a short book fast, do the following:
- Decide on a topic or idea that isn’t the book “you’ve always wanted to write” but that possibly supports it—that will create reader interest for that book.
- Choose a topic you know you can write about without trouble, producing at least 16 pages easily and quickly.
How to Write a Tip Book
Tip books may be the easiest books to write, especially in a short amount of time. These little gems usually feature a list of 10-101 tips, one per page. Each tip might be just a sentence long or you can include a paragraph or two of explanation.
Writing a tip book is pretty simple. Just compose a list of tips about something you know a lot about. In what subject are you an expert? What problem have you solved? Can you tell people 20 ways to keep a deer from eating their plants or offer 50 tips for baking better bread? If so, you’re an expert on that topic and can write a tip book. For example, you might have 50 Tips for Better Gardening, 101 Tips for Baking Better Cupcakes or 99 Tips for Sewing Sensational Halloween Costumes. If you prefer, you can create a step book, such as 20 Steps Toward Better Parenting or 50 Steps for a Better Blog. You can also call your tips or steps “ways,” as in 10 Ways to Improve Your Sex Life.
If you create a simple design even in Microsoft Word and a nice cover, a printer with a booklet press or Kinko’s can print this very inexpensively for you. Depending upon the page count and size, you might even be able to produce these as print on demand (POD) books.
How to Write a Booklet
Booklets may be my favorite form of short book. These are saddle-stitched (stapled) books in any assortment of sizes. They can be produced most effectively on a booklet press, but I’ve had them done at Kinko’s as well.
What content can you put in a booklet? How about:
- a condensed version of a longer book you plan on writing
- a topic related to a longer book you plan to write
- an edited transcript of a telesminar or webinar you taught
- the introduction or first chapter of your book
- recycled previously-written work (blog posts, short articles, e-zine articles, recipes, etc.)
- content based on an idea you want to test market
- information related to a speech you give (so you can sell it at the back of the room before you have a full-length book to sell)
- tips including longer explanations
How to Write a Book from Repurposed Material
Most writers have a lot of previously used content that could be put to use in new ways. (You might also have unused content you’d like to put to use.) You can quickly and easily create a booklet, e-book or a short POD book using material you have previously written. To create a book from repurposed material compile:
- a series of blog posts on one topic
- any part of an unfinished book that stands alone
- a series of e-zine articles on one topic
- one or two print articles on the same topic
- handouts used in your workshops
- transcripts from one or two related teleseminars you’ve given
Then edit and revise this copy. Add to it, smooth over the transitions, delete redundancies, weave it all together so it becomes one document. Break it into four or five short chapters. Viola! You’ve written a short book without having to write much of any content from scratch. You are now ready to have it designed and printed using the POD service of your choice.
How to Publish Your Short Book
Once your short book is written, it’s time to think about getting it published. If you want it to hold up to traditionally published standards be sure to:
- Hire a professional editor.
- Hire a proofreader.
- Hire a professional interior and cover designer.
Just because these books are short, don’t think they don’t need a professional touch. They do. That said, covers on booklets and tip books can be simple. I sold a lot of saddle-stitched books with so-so covers over the years, and I’ve seen some tip books with boring covers that sell thousands per year. E-book covers need to stand out and be legible as a thumbnail size, though, and all POD books need covers that look as good as any traditional book. However, the more professional your book—any book, the more sales you’ll get.
And when it comes to what goes between your book covers, one fact remains true: Content is king. You must produce top-notch copy—well written and full of superb information. Do that and you’ll have readers who are pleasantly surprised with how much value they find in your short books.
Once you produce one or two short books, you’ll also be pleased to realize how many of these you can write and publish each year if you set your mind to it—even one per month!
About the Author
Nina Amir, Your Inspiration-to-Creation Coach, inspires writers to create the results they desire—published products and careers as writers and authors. She is the author of the forthcoming book, How to Blog a Book: Write, Publish and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time (Writer’s Digest Books, April 2012), as well as a freelance editor, and writing, book, blogging, and author coach who blogs at Write Nonfiction NOW and How to Blog a Book and writes the National Jewish Issues and the National Self-Improvement columns for www.examiner.com. She is also the founder of Write Nonfiction in November, a challenge and blog, and the weekly writing and publishing expert on Michael Ray Dresser’s popular radio show Dresser After Dark. She has also published 9 short books, including How to Evaluate Your Book for Success. Find out more about her at ninaamir.com or at www.copywrightcommunications.com.
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