The first moment you hold a book with your byline on the cover will be a proud one.
Beyond that, you’ll have created an evergreen marketing tool for your practice and contributed to the profession as a whole. Do you dream of writing a book about health, lifestyle, or chiropractic but have no idea where to start?
If so, you’re not alone. As the author of eight nonfiction books, I’m often asked how to go about writing one. But first things first—if you’ve never written anything before, don’t start with a book. Instead, begin with developing articles for your blog (or another platform) that you’d like to incorporate as future chapters of a longer piece. When you think it’s time to tackle the beast of a full book, breaking up the work into sections with shorter timelines can help you stay on track until the end.
In a nutshell
Initially, you’ll have a few big-picture tasks to address. The first step is to determine the focus of the book.
On paper, formulate a one-paragraph synopsis of your book idea. If you can’t summarize the purpose of your book in this short space, narrow your focus. Read the back covers of books in your field to gain inspiration.
- Who is your target audience?
- Who will buy or read your book, and why?
- What “pain points” or needs will your book meet?
Crafting the table of contents
The second step is to outline your book by chapter headings to get a feel for the table of contents. Need help? Study health books currently on the market. Go to a bookstore and look at the contents page of at least six publications to generate chapter headings, or browse books online.
Which chiropractic leaders and authors have influenced you the most? Their books should be of particular interest as you formulate your own.
Browse the top-selling health books on Amazon to get an idea of what is out there, what is selling, and what you’d like to include in your book.
Bonus tip: While perusing other works, you may discover research findings or a quote you want to include in your book. If so, make a copy of the page that interests you, as well as the book title and publisher information to give the author proper credit.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
It’s all about writing smart. You may have content on hand from your blog or in-house workshops to compile into book format. Have you written an assortment of health articles or material for a series of health talks that you’d like to incorporate? Collect the content and decide which items are a good fit for your book.
Organize the chapters and determine their order. What other topics should be included that you haven’t already written? Decide where these should appear in your table of contents.
Developing chapter summaries
The next stage is writing a summary of each chapter. This will help you deter- mine where to place content and decide if you are covering too much ground (or not enough) in each one.
Writing a description of each section will help you see the direction of your book. Your ideas will take shape during this important step. Enacting discipline
You schedule meetings, appointments, time to exercise, and other items of importance. Writing a book also requires an allotment of uninterrupted time throughout the week.
Determine how many hours you can devote to a book project, and at what times of day you write at your best. It may be first thing in the morning, during lunch, or in the quiet of the evening. Consistency is the key to accomplishing any worthwhile project.
Selecting a ghostwriter
As a healthcare professional, most of your workday is spent helping patients. Making time for writing can be a challenge. If you’re too busy or don’t consider writing to be one of your strengths, a ghostwriter can help you. Here are some tips for making the partnership successful:
Find a good match. Consult with a few potential ghostwriters to assess whether they’re a good fit for your project, and the type of working relationship to expect over several weeks or months. You can search for freelance writers online, look at the classified ads in your trade journals for sources, and ask colleagues for recommendations.
Expect and require confidentiality. Although ghostwriters cannot present any previously ghostwritten materials for review, request samples of their public work.
Provide adequate resources. Ghostwriters should be able to adapt their writing to your voice and commu- nication style. Furnish a potential ghostwriter with several articles you’ve written to serve as examples. If you don’t have articles on hand, share other materials that reflect your desired tone, including videos or podcasts.
Consider the writer’s background. If you are writing a book to reach the general public rather than your colleagues, you likely won’t need to hire a medical writer or a doctor with writing expertise. But the more familiar the writer is with your profession, the better. Because you will be in close communication with the writer, select someone who shares your passion and philosophy to propel the project and working relationship in the right direction.
Account for cost. Freelance writers are paid by the word or a flat fee for an article, white paper, or blog post. For larger projects such as a book, you may pay a set project fee in advance or in periodic installments.
Writing the rough draft yourself, then hiring a writer to polish your work is a viable option that will not only save you money but also set the desired tone and style of the publication.
The editing phase
If you get to this point, congratulations! You’ve accomplished something many people talk about doing but never complete—the rough draft.
Proofreading your manuscript from start to finish is the next step. Make corrections and edit a chapter at a time for clarity. Use spell-check to identify mistakes.
Then, print the manuscript in double-spaced format (or at least 1.5- line spacing) and place it on a clipboard. Read the manuscript with a pen in hand to pinpoint additional changes and corrections. Reading your book aloud while editing is a great way to determine how well your text reads.
Once you have edited the entire book yourself, it’s time for the special magic a professional editor can perform with your text. You may be tempted to skip this step; perhaps you’re a good writer or think the expense isn’t necessary.
Yet successful professional writers always have their work reviewed by a qualified editing service. So why shouldn’t you? You’ve taken months or even years to write your book, now take the extra step to make it great. The last thing you want is for a reader to get distracted from your text due to glaring errors. Your patients may overlook a typo or two, but a book filled with mistakes lowers your credibility. Show readers that you took the time to do your research, gather accurate information, and present it with precision.
If you used a ghostwriting firm, it should be able to do the final editing.
Publishing and marketing
With the popularity of e-books and print-on-demand publishing, books have never been easier to self-publish. Now you only have to print exactly as many copies of your book that you need. If you plan on going this route, decide which photographs or infographics to include and where they will be placed in the text. In addition, paperback books are affordable to print, and you can make them available to the public at health presentations and community events.
One option for distribution is an e-book, which can also serve as a marketing tool. On your website, you might offer a free e-book download for your e- newsletter subscribers. Some chiropractors host in-house workshops that include discussions of their featured book.
When you finally have your finished product and can flip through the bound pages with your thumb (or a mouse), you’ll be thankful you stuck with the arduous process.
Those who share their knowledge of the industry can spread positive publicity about chiropractic and enhance its reach. Plus, there’s no better book to sell, give, or discuss with your patients than one from their own doctor.
Deborah Tukua is a natural health and lifestyle writer, and the editor of Journey to Natural Living. She is the author of Marketing Strategies for Chiropractic Success, and as a freelance writer she serves those in the chiropractic field by writing professional profiles, articles, and other informative and promotional materials. She welcomes chiropractors to join a group she hosts on Facebook, chiropractors’ Write Hand. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through journeytonatliv.com.