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The Difference Between Writing and Publishing a Book


Publishing and writing seem like they should go together seamlessly. One should flow into the other. It just makes sense that if you’re good at writing, publishing should be a natural next step. 


But the truth is, what it takes to write a book and what it takes to publish are actually quite different skill sets. Authors are often surprised or even shocked when publishers tell them that they’re responsible to sell their books. They find themselves ill-equipped for the next stages of sharing their book. They feel frustratedand like they’ve been set up: nobody told them that writing and publishing were so different. 


Writers should know what they’re getting themselves into with publishing: they should have the knowledge and tools to both write a book true to themselves and publish in the way that makes sense to them. 


Knowing the difference, from the beginning, between writing a book and publishing a book will set you up to confidently choose a path for your book, prepare for that future, and, ultimately, write a book you’re proud of. 


Let’s go over some overarching differences between writing a book and publishing a book:


Art vs. Business


Writing a book is an artistic practice. A writer crafts a story or a message. When you’re write a book, you face problems such as organization, diction (word choice), and grammar. You struggle with how to say what you really mean, and how to arrange the content in your book. You’re concerned with the beauty and clarity of the written word. 


Publishing a book is a business endeavor. When you decide to publish, you’ve decided to sell to a market. You, in effect, become a small business owner. This is true with traditional publishing and with self-publishing: you, the author, are responsible to market and sell your book. 


Process vs. Product 


Writing a book is process-oriented. It’s all about the journey of finding the right words, of getting to the heart of your message, and of getting down what you need to get down. 


Publishing a book is product-oriented. That means, the book you write has to be a topic or problem which people want to hear about. It needs to benefit people’s lives. It needs to give them something: a story to inspire them, a method or strategy to address a problem in their life or business, or maybe a fantasy world to escape from reality, just for a minute. When publishing, you ask: What problem does this book address? What conversation is happening around this topic right now? What is this book adding to that conversation? 


Writer-Orientation vs. Reader-Orientation


In general, writing gears itself toward the writer’s own emotional healing and idea development. Writers work out their thoughts, feelings, and ideas on paper. 


Publishing, on the other hand, turns toward the person reading: what are their thoughts, feelings, and ideas? How does the content in the book connect with their life circumstances?


Questions to consider:


So, when you’re sitting down to write a book, ask yourselves these questions: 

  • Who am I writing this for? For myself? For my community? For a particular audience?
  • Who am I writing this to? Who needs to hear this?
  • What am I working out through this book? What am I processing? 
  • Might it help other people work out theirs? Is it marketable?


So, how do you write and publish successfully?


Do you have to choose? Can you be successful in both endeavors: writing an artistic, authentic piece and selling it? 


You do not have to choose. You can succeed in both. You can avoid the feelings of frustration and defeat which come from having a manuscript you don’t know what to do with it. You don’t have to sacrifice authenticity for marketing or your publishing dreams to write what’s actually on your heart. 


The secret is: there’s overlap between writing an authentic, artistic work and truly answering a need in the marketplace. 


There’s lots more to say on this: how to both write a meaningful book, true to your voice, that also reaches other people in a way which makes sense to them. It’s why we created our Prepare to Publish Self Study Course. This online resource, including videos and a three month workbook assignment, will walk you through the steps to finally share your message. We’ve used this exact process to help thousands of writers finally finish their books. If you’re interested in taking your book idea, writing it down, and sharing it with others, Prepare to Publish Self Study is for you.


Go ahead and take another step toward your writing and publishing goals: sign up here.


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