Four Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Published A Book
by Tracie Miles
Today, we have a guest post from Proverbs 31 Ministries writer and speaker, Whitney Capps. Whitney released her first book this year, Sick of Me, as well as her first bible study with LifeWay, We Over Me. Speaking from her first-hand experience as a first-time author, Whitney shares how long it actually takes to write a book, what the hardest part of the writing journey is and why a great relationship with your publishing team matters.
I’ve been so, so fortunate to be on the Proverbs 31 Ministries team for more than a decade. In that time, I thought about publishing a book. Honestly though, I wasn’t sure it would ever become a reality. I watched nearly all of my P31 sisters publish books, many of them multiple books. So while I waited and prayed, I would constantly ask them for their advice, best practices and pitfalls. I got more help from our sweet sisterhood than any person deserves. My journey of developing a proposal, meeting with publishers and the writing process in general were made infinitely easier than they would have been otherwise. I didn’t go in blind and for that I am incredibly glad.
As helpful, insightful and encouraging as this sorority was, there were still things about the process that I didn’t understand. And, God willing, if I ever publish again, things I’ll do differently. So because others helped me along the way, I’d like to return the favor. Here are the four things I wish I’d known before publishing:
1. I Need More Time to Write Than I Thought I Would
My book, Sick of Me, was published in March 2019 and I turned in my manuscript in March of 2018. I signed my contract and began writing in April 2017. I had a year to write 60,000 words. That would be more than enough time, right? Yes and no. Friend, I grossly under estimated how long it would take me to write my manuscript. You see, I had put a ton of work into the proposal. I had done a mountain of research, fleshed out chapters and mapped out core content. So I thought I had most of the hard work done. Well, I was wrong.
Thankfully, I didn’t put off jumping into the writing process. Because in my mind, I could probably knock it out in a few months, I had planned to turn it in early! Bless my sweet, naive heart. As I began writing, I discovered the hard truth that some days it’s just like running in mud. I was so, so glad that I didn’t put it off. As it turned out, I would need every single minute of wiring time I had blocked out.
2. Writing a Book Takes Different Kinds of Writing Skill
Part of the reason writing took longer than I expected was that I didn’t think about all the writing skills that would be needed to complete a solid, readable, engaging book. I’m not a proven, accomplished writer. But having written for years for the Proverbs 31 First 5 app, I had plenty of experience teaching a bible passage, explaining the context and offering a few practical take-aways. I love this kind of writing. I come alive teaching a passage, and helping women have light bulb, “ah-ha” moments. That’s my jam. And that part of writing was like breathing.
But there’s so much more to writing a book. There are personal stories, illustrations, contemporary examples, analogies and applications. And those parts of writing were tedious, difficult and incredibly time consuming for me. I’m sadly not good at it. Now you may find that personal stories, practical examples and illustrations are your sweet spot. Maybe you’re nothing like me. You may be good at all the things. But if you kind of lean into one aspect of writing over the other, then be prepared. Your “weaker” writing style is still necessary for your reader and for a robust, creative manuscript. It will be hard, but it will be so worth it.
3. The Manuscript Isn’t the Hardest Part
Were you surprised that I was expected to turn in my manuscript a full year before my book as released? Because I was! That was news to me. I thought writing the manuscript was most of the hard work. I remember thinking, “what will I do for year while I wait on my book to be released?” Again, bless it, y’all. I soon discovered the truth… there was so, so much work to be done after the manuscript! Edits, for example, took about two months. I had a chapter to re-write, my conclusion needed more work, and a few illustrations that had to be tightened up. We also had to re-think some of the chapter breaks.
My publisher then started sending me cover options. We had marketing calls. I was asked (and happily agreed) to write blog posts and articles. We spent weeks combing the book for sticky statements and pull quotes. Then we had to get all of those designed for share squares and social posts. We had long meetings discussing the book trailer, the launch team and our promotions strategy. I had to answer questions for press releases and approve copy. We launched a podcast branded for the book, so we had to record those 6 episodes. I was also given the opportunity to narrate my manuscript for the audio version of my book. Before release, I did more than dozen interviews and podcast recordings. It was all unbelievably exciting, wonderfully difficult, significantly time-consuming. I’m grateful for all of it, but I wasn’t quite prepared for how much work remained even after the manuscript was done.
4. Your Publishing Team Matters
Can you believe how much work went into making my book happen after I finished writing?! I was stunned. But all the credit goes to my incredible publishing partners: B&H Publishing Group and LifeWay. Their team was second to none. I cannot tell you what a gift every single person on that team has been. From day one they believed in me and the message I was writing. And because I was a publishing newbie, their experience, enthusiasm and proactive planning helped me keep my head above water. They knew things I didn’t know I didn’t know! They were patient, thoughtful and gracious. Having heard about less than favorable experiences from other authors, I can tell you that having a great relationship with your team can make all the difference. Do your homework. Ask good questions. Pray, pray, pray. And don’t sign with someone that doesn’t seem completely sold on you and your idea.
Friend, I know all of this can feel little bit overwhelming. So let me tell you something that I did know before I published, but that I had to cling to over and over again throughout the process. The One who called you is faithful. I can guarantee you that no matter how prepared you are, at some point in the process, your knees will buckle and the tears will fall over the magnitude of it all. Let it come. It’s normal. It’s helpful. It reminds us that this work is hard. That it’s bigger than us. And that it’s the kind of writing that matters no matter how hard it is. It’s worth it. He’s worth it. So stay the course. That message that’s burning inside you? Don’t snuff it out. There are a whole bunch of us cheering you on!
Are you looking for a way to polish your book proposal or take a deeper dive into the publishing industry? Check out our latest COMPEL Course featuring Proverbs 31 Ministries writers and speakers, Tracie Miles and Suzie Eller. Both have published multiple books and both have been where you’ve been! In this course, Tracie and Suzie teach you everything you need to know to begin your publishing journey with confidence and readiness.
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Thanks for these tips! I’ve thought about putting a book together but for now just post weekly on my blog. Do you think going with a publisher is better than self-publishing because of the marketing and connections they have primarily?
Writing an author bio feels so weird and hard! Where do i start, what do i write? How much is to much? I dont wanna sound cheesy but i wanna be honest.
Make it a mix of both your expertise and personality. Go to author pages of authors you respect and love their work. Note how they share their bios!