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Writing a Book While Running a Company: The Question to Ask Before You Start

If you want to write a book while running a company, the first question you should ask isn’t how to do it. The question you need to start with is:

Should you write the book yourself or hire someone to write it for you?

There isn’t a right or wrong answer. It comes down to what you’re hoping to take from the experience.

For some people, the value of writing a book is the personal growth and accomplishment that comes from writing it themselves. If this is you, that’s great.

But for other people—especially those who run companies—time is a much more valuable asset. For them, the biggest benefits of writing a book come after they publish it.

If you fall into the latter group, there’s no reason to learn how to write a book. There are plenty of experts you can pay to write it with you. A good ghostwriter can help you finish your book in a fraction of the time while conveying your ideas with fidelity and integrity.

Again, there’s no right or wrong choice. But depending on which option you choose, the process is very different. And each path has unique challenges that you’ll need to overcome if you want your book to be successful. If you don’t understand and anticipate these challenges, you’ll end up with a bad or incomplete book.

In this article, I’ll teach you exactly what you need to know about each path. I’ll cover overviews of the challenges you’ll face and the proven processes you can use to solve them. And I’ll link out to articles that cover each step in more detail.

If you feel confident you know which option is for you, follow these links to skip to the path that appeals to you:

At Scribe, we’ve developed a proven method for guiding you through the writing and self-publishing process. It’s helped Authors like David Goggins, Tiffany Haddish, and Dan Sullivan publish massive bestselling books. If you’re serious about writing and publishing a book, schedule a consultation to speak with one of our Author Strategists.

Path #1: The Process to Write a Book Yourself While Running a Company

Countless startup founders and business owners dream about writing books, but most never get around to doing it.

Often they think it’s because they don’t have enough time—but that isn’t true. The real reasons they never write their book are:

  1. They don’t know where to start.
  2. They don’t create a realistic writing plan.
  3. They don’t have accountability or support to keep going when it’s hard.

As a result, they never get their book project off the ground. And they never get to experience the business benefits or intangible impacts that come with being a published Author.

If you’re running your own business and want to write a book yourself, you need a battle-tested process that you can follow. This is what we’ve designed in our Guided Author program. It was developed specifically for people who want to write a book while working full-time.

It breaks down into 3 core parts:

  1. Defining your book positioning (how it will help you and the reader).
  2. Creating a realistic writing plan.
  3. Finding support and accountability.

Below, I’ll cover each of these steps. If you follow them, you can finish your book—even while running a company.

Book Positioning

Most first time Authors haven’t heard of book positioning. But it’s absolutely essential to the success of your book.

Book positioning answers the question in your reader’s mind: Why should I read this book?

If you get it right, positioning makes both writing and marketing your book easy—and it ensures you get the outcome you want.

If you get it wrong, then no amount of hard work will save your book or make it successful.

When you write a nonfiction book, you should focus on your positioning first.

Here’s how the process works:

  1. Determine your objectives: Ask yourself what you’re hoping to get out of writing a book—for yourself. Get clear about your goals and what you hope to achieve with it.
  2. Define your target audience: Identify the specific group of people you’re writing your book to help. The narrower, the better.
  3. Lock in your book idea: Describe why our target reader will care about your book. How will they benefit from reading it?

It all ties together in a simple formula. If you follow it, you’ll pick a book topic that provides value for both you and the audience.

If you don’t know the answer to these questions before you start writing, chances are you’ll write a book that doesn’t serve an audience…or you.

To learn more about this process, check out my full article on book positioning.

Only once you’ve defined your book positioning should you move into the actual writing of your book. When you do, the next step is to create a writing plan.

Create a Writing Plan

In the same way that a successful business depends on a business plan, a successful book depends on a writing plan.

The first step to create one is to set a regular writing schedule. I recommend at least one hour per day of writing time. 2 hours per day is ideal. But if you only have a half hour, do that.

You should also set a goal of words per day. This works as a form of accountability to yourself and keeps you on track to make steady progress.

The quota I recommend is 250 words. It sounds small, but that’s the point. By making it easy, you’ll actually stick to it.

Most people don’t know this, but by writing ONLY 250 words per day, you can get a 120-page (30,000-word) first draft done in about 4 months. 

Lastly, just like in your business, if you don’t set deadlines, things don’t get done. Setting deadlines for your book is no different.

I recommend giving yourself 1-3 weeks per chapter, depending on how fast you want to go. At least shoot for a chapter per month. If you can’t do that, I’d question if you even have time to do this and consider ghostwriting instead (see below).

To learn more about this process, check out my full article on how to create a writing plan.

Get Accountability and Coaching

Creating a writing plan with a schedule and goals will set you on a path to make progress on your book. It’s a first step towards accountability.

But writing a book alone is difficult. If you don’t have support to help you navigate the fears and emotional hurdles along the way, there’s a good chance you won’t finish it without that help.

Authors are most likely to complete their books when they have forms of social accountability outside of themselves.

Here are some of my top recommendations:

  • Announce your book on social media to publicly claim your intention to write it.
  • Join a community of Authors who encourage and help each other.
  • Get a writing coach to help you work through problems and overcome fears during the writing process.

The tricky part is finding the right coach and community to join. This is harder than you might think. And this is the inspiration behind our Guided Author program.

How Scribe Can Help: Guided Author

Guided Author is our coaching service for nonfiction Authors. We’ve designed it exactly for the type of people who have limited time to write a book (but who are dedicated to making time to write it themselves).

If you’re running a company and you want to write your first book, there’s no better program out there.

Here’s what it includes:

Book Writing Workshop

The program kicks off with a 3-day book writing workshop (done virtually or in-person at our office in Austin).

We guide you through your book positioning and outline. And we teach you about Author psychology and how to navigate the emotional obstacles of writing a book.

Weekly Group Coaching Calls

After the workshop, you participate in weekly group coaching calls for 12 months.

You and your peers meet with our coaches and editors to work through obstacles you encounter in the writing process.

Quarterly Masterclasses

You’re invited to join a quarterly masterclass with me where I cover topics like book marketing, dealing with fear, and Author AMAs.

Community

You gain exclusive access to our Author community, where you and your peers can support and hold each other accountable as you write.

Three 1-on-1 Calls with Your Editor

In addition to weekly coaching calls, you receive 3 individual coaching sessions with an editor.

For each session, you send them the work you’d like reviewed beforehand. It can range from structural content (such as your positioning and outline) to sections of your manuscript (such as a chapter you’ve written).

They’ll provide you with specific, actionable feedback on your work.

Full Manuscript Evaluation

Finally, you receive a full manuscript evaluation once you’ve completed your first draft.

Our editors will point out exactly what needs to be done to make your book great. And they’ll provide you with a roadmap to get there.

Path #2: The Process to Ghostwrite Your Book

If you decide that the act of writing your own book isn’t that important to you, then hiring a ghostwriter is the best path to take.

The most important—and most difficult—part of having a book ghostwritten is finding the right person to work with. It’s hard because you need to filter out bad ghostwriters first (and there are a lot of them).

Then, among the qualified candidates you find, you have to figure out who is a good personal fit for you. Just because someone is good doesn’t mean they’ll work well with you. Connection is absolutely key to a successful ghostwriting engagement.

I’ve written previously about how to find and hire a great ghostwriter. Here I’ll summarize the process. But you should check out the full article if this is the path you’re considering.

Here’s a breakdown of how to approach it:

1. Curate a List of Quality Candidates

In our business ghostwriting guide, I compiled a comprehensive list of the many places to find ghostwriters.

Options range from LinkedIn and Google to freelance writer marketplaces like Reedsy and Mediabistro.

You can find great ghostwriters on these platforms. But the overarching challenge with using them is the time and effort required. Prepare to spend hours sifting through profiles, seeing who has credentials, and figuring out who’s worth contacting.

When evaluating online profiles of ghostwriters, the first 3 things you should pay attention to are:

  1. Price: What/how do they charge? In general, a reliable ghostwriter with good references will charge at least $40k.
  2. Reputation: Do they have testimonials?
  3. Experience: How many books have they ghostwritten? What Authors have they worked with?

These questions will help you start narrowing your search. Then, once you’ve created an initial list, you’ll want to read at least one of the books they’ve ghostwritten.

To evaluate the quality of their writing, you should ask:

  • How well do they capture the Author’s voice?
  • How engaged are you when you read?
  • Is it easy to follow along?

Through these filters (price, reputation, experience, and writing ability), you can narrow down your list to quality candidates. The next step is to sort out who would be a good fit for you.

2. Figure Out Which Candidates Would Be a Good Fit for You Specifically

Determining who will be a good fit for you comes down to having conversations with ghostwriters and their references. Through these talks, there are 2 questions you should seek to answer:

  1. Does their working style and process work for you?
  2. Do they get you and the message you want to deliver?

If you find a ghostwriter who is aligned with you on both of these fronts, you’re far more likely to have a successful engagement.

Before you begin talks, consider your own preferences for working style. This will allow you to come with an awareness of what’s ideal for you. Ask yourself questions like:

  • How do I want to work?
  • What time of day do I want to take calls?
  • Do I need to work with them in person, or am I okay with working together remotely?

Then, once you’ve figured out what you’re looking for, you can begin reaching out to ghostwriters and their references.

3. Hire Your Top Choice

Once you’ve decided who you want to work with, the last phase before writing begins is hiring.

Here are the key steps:

  • Set Price and Payment Terms: Get clear on how much you are paying and when those payments are due.
  • Set Deliverables: Determine the total length, word count, and revisions the ghostwriter will deliver.
  • Agree on Rights and Royalties: Make sure you retain 100% of the rights to your book. Do not let any ghostwriter try to keep these, ever.
  • Set Termination Rights: If you should terminate the contract for any reason, you should still maintain the rights to your book.
  • Determine Anonymity: This isn’t mandatory, but if you want their work on the book to be anonymous, have them sign an NDA.

4. Follow the Ghostwriting Process

The exact process of working with a ghostwriter varies depending on who you work with. The best ghostwriters have a highly detailed and defined process that they use to create books with clients.

In general, the key parts of the process include:

  • Define Your Book Idea: They work with you to define your book idea (similar to what I described earlier).
  • Outline Your Book: They help you structure your book, create a table of contents, and choose the topics for each chapter and the ideas you’ll cover.
  • Interviews: The writer performs a series of interviews with you. They record you describing the ideas of your book.
  • Writing: The writer takes the interview transcripts and begins the writing process. They send early samples to align on voice and writing style. Then they work on completing the first draft.
  • Revisions: You work together on a predetermined number of revisions to get a completed book manuscript.

The entire process of finding, hiring, and working with a ghostwriter to complete a manuscript typically takes somewhere between 9 months to 3 years.

But here’s a key point to understand: Ghostwriting typically doesn’t include editing, book design, book printing, or any of the other steps required to actually publish your book. 

This is why entrepreneurs are shocked when they learn about our ghostwriting service, Scribe Professional. For $40k—the average cost of a quality ghostwriter—we also include full publishing services.

How Scribe Can Help: Scribe Professional

Scribe Media's book writing workshop Zoom call

Scribe Professional is designed to make it easy for busy professionals to have a high-quality book ghostwritten and published on their behalf. It’s without the hassles, bad experiences, and failed attempts that are so common when hiring a ghostwriter by yourself.

In addition to ghostwriting your book, the entire process of positioning, writing, editing, designing, printing, and distributing your book is taken care of by our team.

We also help you create a marketing plan and do first week promotions—including a spot on our Author Hour podcast—to help you become an Amazon bestseller.

The process takes 9 months. And we offer a money back guarantee.

Why Entrepreneurs and Executives Choose Scribe

This post has covered a high level overview of the steps to write a book while running a company. But the reality is—regardless of whether you choose to ghostwrite your book or write it yourself—the process of writing and publishing a good book is complex.

Can you learn how these things work and do them on your own? Sure.

But if you’re running a business, the question is: Should you?

Should you spend the time and effort it takes to find and hire a great ghostwriter? Or the time it takes to find a writing coach and community to support you as you write it yourself?

For a long time, you wouldn’t have had a choice. There weren’t great services out there to help people in this position.

That’s why we started Scribe—to give people like you the support and resources you need to have a book written and published. Through our ghostwriting and coaching programs, we’ve helped over 2,000 Authors make their dream of publishing a book a reality.

And we can help you, too.

If you’re ready to take the leap—or just want to learn more about our services—schedule a consult to speak with one of our Author Strategists.