When Writing a Nonfiction Book, Don't Put the Cart Before the Horse
What's the point of writing a book? Publishing it. In the end, that's what we're all after because writing is about sharing our ideas and knowledge. However, although publication is the ultimate goal, focusing too heavily on that-particularly when your book idea isn't fully formed, let alone written-can prevent you from ever getting it done.
I was on the phone with someone this morning who had an idea for a book but wasn't sure how to proceed. She had an idea, but hadn't written a word. So what was her most pressing question? How do I get it published? Whoa, Nelly! If you haven't written a book, getting published is a long way off. When people ask me about things like the ins and outs of publishing, how much it costs to hire an editor, and how to find an agent, before they've written a word in many cases, they're putting the cart before the horse. (And they often get frustrated when I tell them, "It depends. You need to write the book first.")
How you publish, how much you spend on editing, how you find an agent, and a number of other publishing considerations all depend on the book you write. So you have to write it first. And you have to ask yourself: If the cost of hiring an editor seems outside your budget right now, it that going to stop you from writing your book? Are you going to stop wanting to write the book you have inside you because it costs a couple thousand dollars to self-publish? And if some aspect of finding an agent seems difficult or time consuming, are you going to forget about the book altogether? I don't mean to be harsh, but if your answer is yes, then the book probably isn't that important to you in the first place and, honestly, you'd probably never finish it anyway.
Really, what does it matter? If you're meant to write this book, if this story is burning inside you, and if you can't sleep at night thinking about getting it out, then don't waste your time worrying about how to get it published-WRITE! Get the book out of you, and worry about publishing later.
Figuring out the writing part is more than enough to keep you busy for the next few months, and it's the most important factor that will affect publishing. For example, if your book isn't outstanding, agents aren't going to be interested. And if it's not well-written, editing will cost you a fortune.
If you want to write a book, the most important step you can take right now is writing. Write the absolute best book you can, and then start looking at your options. Don't get me wrong, it's never a bad idea to understand your options. But don't let that keep you from doing the writing, because without a strong, compelling book manuscript, you won't have to worry about it.