I get asked a lot of questions about writing and publishing books and there are some frequently asked questions I could list for an hour or so, but I often don’t get asked about the things that authors seem to blindly just plunge into making big mistakes along the way, so I thought I’d have more fun listing these. Over the next few week’s I’ll go through them one by one. 

The first one, and by far the biggest one in my view is thinking either too much or not enough about your content. Often an author will start writing and overthink how much content they have, and how they might fit it all into one book. The chances of ending up with ‘word salad’ are all too high when you overthink your content.

For example, you may be an expert about leadership. And you run workshops or offer leadership training. If you’re pretty good at – all the way to being bloody amazing at this topic, then I bet you could fill several books with what you know. In fact, you could probably fill a whole book with what might really be relegated to FAQs in your mind. Never mind getting into the nitty-gritty – why not write about the surface stuff. Or, alternatively, write about all the misconceptions about your topic. Maybe for fun, write about the silly side of your topic. Overall when you start to list all you know about the topic you know most about, or the industry you are most comfortable in, you could easily fill several books. So go with that from the start. When you sit and plot out your chapters, sections, and subtitles, stick to what is one general area and relegate all the rest that doesn’t really fit into THIS book into your plans for the next book you’ll write.

Then, of course, there are the under-thinkers. The author’s who think that 10,000 words and a lot of blank pages is still a decent-sized book. It’s not. That’s what we around here call a ‘report’ or maybe a ‘book-ette’. Think about this …  a 45-minute speech might add up to around 5,000 words. If you know you could easily talk about your favourite subject for at least an hour and a half, that’s maybe 10,000 words. But seriously, if you know a lot more than that – and you should if it’s your topic of expertise – then a two- or three-hour effort when speaking should at least equate to 25,000 words. At 2,000 per chapter (approx 6-8 pages) that’s a lot closer to 100+ pages (allowing for spacing, diagrams, images, book size, and a number of other things.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve written a couple of books that were only around 50 pages – and they served their purpose well. But a decent sized book should be a lot bigger than that.

When plotting your content, try to remember this: 

2000 words, divided into 3 is approximately 650-700 words per section. Aim for 3 – 4 sections per chapter. Writing 500-700 words per day x 4 days per week is probably manageable if you’re serious about writing a book at all. That might level out at around an hour (tops) per section – so up to four hours per week. If you can’t see your way clear to that commitment then halve it and take twice as long to write your book.

Try not to get overwhelmed. A simple 12 chapter-length book is is a good target – you don’t have to write War and Peace – just a good solid, well-crafted series of closely linked articles about one aspect of your expertise is ideal.


If you’re unaware of just what mistakes to avoid when writing a book – especially your first one – talk to me. Or join us on Thursday mornings online for FREE advice and ideas…