There’s one thing you need to do before you write your book.
We’ll get to that soon. But first, imagine this: you finish your manuscript. It’s a huge accomplishment. You’ve done something that most people never do: you wrote a book.
You breathe a sigh of relief. But now, what?
- What are you going to do with the manuscript?
- How are you going to get it to readers?
- Who will be interested in reading your book?
- Why will people want to listen to you?
- What will people get out of reading your book?
(Can you hear the crickets?)
If you’re thinking about writing a book you want to publish, it’s tempting to jump right into the process. We watched authors do this, over and over, only to have no idea where to take their book. Oftentimes, it means re-writing their book.
This is why we at Find Your Voice are so insistent that there’s one thing you need to do before you write your book: anyone who plans on publishing (self publishing or traditional publishing) should consider creating what we call a book map.
Before you write your book: make a book map
A book map is exactly what it sounds like: it tells your book where to go. It gives your manuscript a plan, including how you’re going to promote it, who will be interested in reading it, why they want to read it, why you’re qualified to write the book, how this book compares to others in it’s category, and how you plan to deliver on your promises to readers. A book map answers all these questions and more. So when you finish your manuscript, you never have to wonder what you’re doing next.
Some of you might think, “Isn’t it just as helpful to answer those questions after you finish writing your book?” We’ll give you this: it’s still a good idea. But the earlier you get to them, the better.
Here’s why we insist on making the book map first. A book map helps you better understand your book’s purpose, and purpose will definitely influence content. The end goal, where your manuscript will end up and what you’re going to do with it, matters for how you shape the narrative arc and how you write each chapter. When you have in mind who is reading it (and in what context), you’ll be amazed how clear your writing becomes. Best of all, you will save yourself time editing and re-writing, when you do finally clarify the purpose of your book.
Always, always write with the end in mind.
Book Map as Book Proposal
As a bonus, a book map can also serve as a book proposal document: a book proposal is your ticket to the publishing industry. It’s what you need to secure a literary agent, and it is what your agent will use to shop your book around to different editors. In fact, for nonfiction books, publishers do not want to see the entire manuscript. Perfecting your manuscript can end up being a waste of time. Instead, they are looking for a fully developed proposal and two sample chapters.
Before you write your book, plan your book’s future. We call this document a book map: whatever you want to call it, these questions are important.