As I was preparing this week's The Thought Leadership School podcast, I did some quick research about how many people want to write a book. In my quick search I couldn't find a recent statistic (I'm sure there is one somewhere), but a survey from 2002 claimed that 81% of people said that they have a book in them somewhere and that they believed they should write it. Dang, that's a whole lot of people who want to write a book. That you're here means you're very likely one of those people – and even more important I'm confident that your book will change lives.

People often ask me in various forms, “Michelle, how did you write your book?” I've realized this is really two questions woven together. “How did you decide exactly what to write on the pages?” and, “How did you get it published?” And I’ve got answers for both of those questions today.

Tune into this episode to learn how to write your own book, like I did, in two months. I’m sharing the resources that I used in making my book as great as it could be. So if you’ve got a book somewhere inside of you but it just needs a little encouragement to come out, this episode is just for you.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • What it takes to write a book.
  • How I found a way to get my words from my mind and onto the page.
  • Which options you have to choose from when it comes to publishing your book.
  • Why my experiences writing different books differed so much.
  • How to identify exactly what it is you have inside you that will add value to the world.
  • Why I know that you can do it.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

Full Episode Transcript:


Welcome to The Thought Leadership School podcast. If you're on a mission to make a difference in the world with your message, you are in the right place. I'm Michelle Barry Franco, and I'm thrilled that you're here.

Hello, my thought leadership friends. What is happening in your world? Dang. If I'm honest, it has been a doozy of a few weeks around here. I'm just being real about it right now because this thought leadership adventure and the business building, just all of it together can be such a flurry at times. I'm pretty sure that that's because I've got a whole restructuring of how I'm doing things coming up soon. We have all kinds of new things we're doing. We have old stuff that we're continuing to do that we're still doing that I know is going to fade out, but I haven't taken the time to just kind of step back and look at it all. We need to do that sometimes. When you're out there, just trying to serve in the next way that makes the most sense, there are these periods where there's just a lot of overlap from the old world of it and all of your new idea world. That's window into my world right now.

You know, probably, that I'm in the middle of a launch. We ran for master classes these last couple of weeks, and I had two trips. One was pretty much cross country in the midst of it. It was training, and it was training on new material. I was facilitating a training for a company, so it was just a lot. You know this isn't just … This isn't so we can have a big sad pity party for Michelle. I just kind of want to be real about it. I know that a lot … I hear this from people all the time that I think when you're putting out things like a podcast, and you've got masterclass out there, and whatever the picture looks like on the outside, sometimes things are working with a beautiful system. But right now, the backstage area is looking a little bit like the chef in the Muppets. That's what I feel like a lot of times.

But, we are on the other side of much of the launch, and I'm excited about that. Actually, this was super fun to be out there and talking about what I love so much, which is really, at the heart of it, lifting up voices for good like yours. It's my mission that your beautiful message, your story, your lessons learned, and your desire to serve through all of that is like the loudest voice in the world. I want good voices, positive voices for humanity and care, and love, and compassion to drown out any other bad, negative, hurtful voices that we might be hearing out there. So one new level of mission accomplished.

So yes, traveling and that was poor planning on my part, but this is how this works, and we do have to learn. We learn as we go. Do you know that kids' book, I was thinking about it today, called … I think it's called Going on a Bear Hunt. The repeating line in there is something like, “Uh-oh a,” and then insert huge barrier, like, “A rushing river. We can't go over it. We can't go under it. We've got to go through it.” I feel like that's the life of a business owner and a thought leader. You can prep, you can consult, you can hire help, but ultimately the rushing river, or those tall reeds, or whatever other things that sweet little family is traversing on their bear hunt, they're going to show up. The only thing to do when you come to that moment is just go through it. It's not even that bad when you just know that this is how it goes. This is I think the gift of 11 years in business, I suppose.

Now, this might seem like a wacky transition, but this is what it's been like for me writing my books, too, and that's what I want to talk with you about today. I just did a search on how many people want to write a book, because I thought that'd be a good statistic to share with you, and I found this statistic from like 2002 that 81% of people said that they have a book in them living in them and that they believe they should write it. But then, I decided that that statistic was really too old. I mean, that's kind of a long time ago, right? What is that 2002 is 17 years ago.

Then, I started to search further and somehow I ended up down the rabbit hole on the debate between whether you should self-publish or traditionally published. Then, I decided that that statistic about how many people feel like they have a book living in them doesn't really matter because there's a really good chance the statistic is probably even higher that you feel like that rightfully because you have a story to share, and you have a message that's going to change the world. So, I'm going to go ahead and guess that there's a really good chance that writing a book has come up in your mind, whether it's high on your list, and it might very well be, maybe you've already written a book and you're already thinking about the next one, or it's just something that's kind of visited the back of your mind at times.

So when people learn that I've written and published a book, they often ask me how I did it. I think this happens for most of us who've written a book. Maybe it's happened to you, too. I always think this is kind of funny because I just sat my fanny down and I wrote it. Ultimately, that's what it takes, is just putting words on the page. The truth is I actually spoke a bunch of my book, and I'll tell you a little bit more about that in a minute. But in the end, it is about getting the words from your mind to your heart, your experience onto some kind of a page so that it can eventually turn into a book.

The truth is I've actually written three books. The first one was actually a complete accident. The second one was sort of a workbook, but really more book than I planned. Then, this third one is the most traditional-style book of all of them.

I know that when people ask me this question they really mean two things woven together. I've learned that over time. The first thing they're really asking is, “How did you decide what to write? Literally, you know what? How did you decide to focus in on one topic and say that particular thing? How'd you get it all organized? How'd you write all those words, like sit down and do it? How'd you do the editing? How'd you make it make sense, edit again?” and all of the other kind of horrific stuff when we think too much about it that it takes to actually get a completed manuscript.

Then, they also mean, how did you get it published? So I actually … I'm going to talk about both of these things today. I actually did the bulk of my writing in about two months. This is of I'm going to talk mostly about Beyond Applause , though I'll give you just little tidbits about the first two books that I wrote as well as we go. But, Beyond Applause is my most recent book. It is the book I most proud of, not because I'm not proud of the first two, but Beyond Applause right now feels like my gift to those who are joining me on this mission, which is rising up voices for good, because I really feel like it is an actionable guide to help you rise into leadership.

I did the bulk of my writing of that book in about two months. The rewriting and the design took another six months, interestingly. Once the manuscript was written, I felt pretty amazing. So even though it was … It was actually May 25th. It was my birthday when I decided, yep, I'm going to write this book. I'll tell you a little more about that story in a minute. Then, it actually was published and did sort of the big book reveal in the beginning of February. So what is that? It's about about eight months or nine months, something like that.

So once the first manuscript, the first full draft was written, it felt for me like I can't stop now kind of situation. I know that's not true for everyone, and there are many people who write a first draft manuscript or even a second draft and they put it in a drawer somewhere. I couldn't imagine doing that after all of the painful, the many painful hours that I had spent getting to that point. So for me, it just felt like I just needed to complete this thing, even though I actually basically rewrote the whole book in a way. I mean, structurally, I rewrote the whole thing after that first two months but getting there was a big deal. I just kind of want to put that in your head. That didn't take very long to get to what felt like a fully complete manuscript.

I'm going to talk about both of these things. I'm going to talk about writing the book and I'm going to talk about how I went through publishing it. So let me dive deeper on the manuscript writing my first book, which I wrote in 2010. I held that pretty thing, and it really was a lovely book, is a lovely book, in my hands within about nine weeks. It was not in the plan. I was not planning to write a book at all. In fact, I was writing a PDF download as a freebie for my website. So I was putting a new freebie on the website for list building, and pretty soon I'm spending all day writing. I didn't have as many clients back then for sure, so I would spend all day writing into the night.

Then, because I knew so little about the process, I had sent the book over to the designer, my wonderful designer who is still my amazing designer nine years later. I had sent it over to her, I guess, not just comprehending that it wasn't fully edited. So she would send back … She sends back the book, and it needs all this editing. So then I give it to Jim, my husband and business partner, who is my copy editor, and he's sending. He's literally writing on at 4:00 AM writing on the pages, and then I'm translating them back into digital format to send them to my amazing, lovely, compassionate designer Edina in Spain and she's making the changes.

Multiple working retreats is really how I finished that one. That is how I do a lot of my writing. I go on writing retreats, working retreats by myself near my house. You may have heard me talk about these before. And I will write and work for 16 hours at a time. It just works for me to burst like that. I like it. I sink into it. I stay there. I get really good ideas in the depths of it like that. I do go for some walks and that kind of thing, so it's not like I'm just hunched over. But, the book, even that book, just kind of kept writing itself.

So it was a book, and you held it, and I held it in my hand, and it had a beautiful cover, which I had designed by another designer who I knew and adore. It was a book, but it really became a whole program, and it's a whole story in itself. But basically, in 2010, there was a lot of talk about information products and creating these products, and I kind of got caught up in that excitement. The book had this digital, had DVDs, literally, that came with it. I bought all the supplies to put the DVDs into the sleeve, seriously, because things just weren't online the way they are now. We were online. That was how you did these things. It was these programs like you went to a speaking event and there'd be a book at the back of the room that would have a bunch of DVDs with it or CDs with it. So, I got a little lost in that flurry.

And really, probably 10 people, maybe 15 people, have that book. It's a beautiful book. It actually has tons of really good content, but it was about messaging really from a branding perspective and really wasn't … Well, at the time, it is what I was doing a lot of my work around. I changed my focus pretty quickly after that. So there's that book sitting on my shelf, lots of money and time, and a whole lot of learning that I've used over and over again since then, so I don't feel too bad about it.

My second book was published in 2013. For that book, I interviewed two of my awesome, amazing, beloved mentors from afar, Jen Louden and Chris Brogan. I couldn't believe when I asked him if I could interview them that they both said yes. It was amazing. I think back on how I handled those interviews, the questions I asked that I just so many things I would do different now, but it was really cool. They are both, those interviews are in that book. That book is called Soul Power to Your Message. It is still, I believe, available on Amazon.

But, I've changed the way I talk about some of the concepts in there now, so I don't refer people there very often. Although, the book is super useful. It's just that there's some … I'd use different language to describe some of those things, so it could be confusing. It was before, for example, I came up with the rooftop message. That's become such a central part of the way that I help people get to clarity around their message, and it's not in there.

So anyway, the second book I felt super fancy and amazing because I got to interview these amazing thought leaders. It is a very useful book. I shared it with a lot of people and many people tell me it was a true companion for them. It was like a workshop in a box kind of. That one, too, I wrote, I just … I think I did that one in about five months. But really, that was just because I had more clients then and couldn't spend days on end writing.

But really, it was just I just sat down and wrote the book. That one also has a lot more kind of forms and things to … worksheets as part of it, so there wasn't as much writing in there to get done. I hired a designer, well, Edina. I used Edina for the interior, and I used the same wonderful team for my cover design. That's how I got that book out there.

Again, with Soul Power to Your Message, I was starting by writing a downloadable PDF. Then, pretty soon, I caught onto myself this time. I even started to think, “Hey, I wonder if this is how I trick my brain into writing a book.” I remember I wrote an article for a magazine soon after that that was titled something like How to Trick Yourself into Writing Your Book because that's how I had written both of those books.

So when it came time to write Beyond Applause , that was much more of a … I guess I'll call it a deliberate decision. I was really thinking about writing a book, and this time I wanted to come at it really intentionally, and I wanted to have something that I could hand to my clients, to people who couldn't become my clients. Because by that point, I actually had a lot of people in my world who just … I didn't have an easy way to work with me that wasn't high-level one-on-one, and I wanted something that they could have that would actually get them into action toward getting their beautiful voice for good out there in the world. So, it was really a decision for me.

Some right around that time, I learned about Angela Lauria. She has a company business called The Author Incubator. So I don't know. I went to one of our webinars and did a couple of other sort of things, checking out what she does. I spent, I think, a couple months just off and on in her world getting to know about her about her process. Finally, on my birthday, which is May 25th, I decided to sign on for her program. It's a nine-week program. It is a sizable investment. But, I also had a lot of trust that she would help me write the book that I really wanted to write. I was really busy and juggling a lot of clients at the time, too, and I knew that I didn't have the same kind of time and space to manage my own process as well.

It really was … It was an excellent program. I wrote I think, an excellent book, largely because I have the structure that she had. You have to complete your book within the nine weeks of the program, otherwise, she will not edit it. She will professionally edit the book, she and her editing team. That was, to me, a really big value. I mean you spend thousands of dollars on a good editor, so that was part of the big value for me, besides the coaching across the nine months, and the supported program just guiding me around how to actually do an outline in a way that had worked for others many times before, and ways to write the book such that it would serve my clients really well, and meet my goals for my business as well, and that's all before I did almost an entire overhaul. But, I was feeling really good about where I was going with the book by nine weeks.

Then, I hired my own external editor. I used a company called Reedsy, R-E-E-D-S-Y. On Reedsy, I found my cover designer for the book and my editor, and I already had my interior designer. So that's I'm kind of moving into some of the publishing part, but let me back up because I'll cover that a little bit in more detail and tell you how I thought through publishing.

On Reedsy, I found an excellent editor who really became my partner in making this book really as great as I feel like it could be. That is the form of the book you see now. We basically kind of turned it inside out and totally changed the structure. I added more stories and different kinds of explanation. It was a really cool process.

Then, the book was finished. I can't remember how long that process took. Again, a lot of it was just me. I didn't have as much time to do the rewriting. So probably a couple of months of going back and forth with the editor, and then it was time to decide how I was going to have it published. I was already starting to do some of that research. When I wrote my first two books, I never questioned whether I would look for a traditional publisher. I mean, there probably were moments where I was like, “Oh, wouldn't that be fun?” but I just … I didn't have that much patience. I knew that I didn't have the kind of audience that … I had read about what it takes to get a traditional publisher and I just … I knew I didn't have the kind of audience that would make me an exciting author for them as far as book sales, so I just was happy to publish it myself.

I really learned so much going that route. I learned what it … I had to find my own editors, and I did it a variety of ways. My first book, remember, Jim edited it at 4:00 AM after it was already designed. Don't do that. That's the worst scenario. The second book, Jim did first level editing, and then I brought in another editor who just helped make it sound really good. Then, on this third book, Jim was also busy with lots of things. I knew that I wanted a partner around the editing, a higher level editor than I had had before, really kind of a content editor. So, I brought in that level of expertise.

Then, I knew that I wanted … Because I knew that I was publishing it myself, I knew that editing had to go all the way through. When you have a traditional publishing team, because you've been taken on by a traditional publisher, they do the editing. They design the cover of your book. They design the interior of your book. They do all those things. Since I knew that I wasn't going to have all of that, I needed to find all of those.

Now, I did research hybrid publishers and get pretty far down that path. I found a couple of hybrid publishers that I thought that I would really enjoy working with. With a hybrid publisher, you do pay into that process, and it is multiple thousands of dollars, but they do some of the marketing for you. And if it's a good one, they can do some pretty significant marketing. They can be well known by a bookstore. They can help you get into bookstores, a lot of the things that it's almost impossible to do as a self-published author. That's one of the reasons that a hybrid publisher can be really helpful. They also handle the design of the cover and the interior. They collaborate with you on the editing depending on what level you come in.

I went through that process and they still actually, at least the one that I was working with, they still turned away some projects. It's definitely not like a done deal just because you want to write a book they take you on. They do assess your manuscript and let you know whether they think that your book is appropriate for their portfolio of books that they represent.

I went down that path with one hybrid publisher. They said, “Yes, we would love to go through this process with you. It'll be 18 months before your book is actually published.” I was like, “What? My book is done. It's professionally edited. It's pretty much ready.” And I have an amazing interior designer in Edina. I'm going to put a link to her LinkedIn profile or whatever she has. I don't even know if she has like a regular website, but we'll put that in the show notes.

So, I knew I had Edina. I knew that I could find a designer for the exterior of my book. I had found many amazing designers in the last many number of years for websites and other projects that I was doing. So I knew I'd find a cover designer, and I was just like, “My book is ready to go out there. There are people right now who need this information.” I get asked this question all the time. “How do I get on great stages? How do I get out there and share my message further?” I knew this book would answer that question.

So, I ultimately decided I'll publish it myself because I knew how. Then, I just did what I had done before, but I didn't … So the design team that did my first two books, they weren't available in the same. They weren't in business in the same way. They weren't doing that kind of work anymore. Collaborating with some designer friends and other people who are really smart about visuals, I was able to work with a designer that I found on Reedsy and get a cover that I really liked for Beyond Applause . That's basically how the book got designed. That's how the book got written, edited, and design on the interior and the exterior.

Then, of course, you have the question of printing or are you going to print it. Are you going to do Kindle? Edina can do, and had done for my previous books, Kindle versions, other PDF versions, color and black and white, and then also a print copy version. I had her do all of those. Then, I also … So, I decided to use Amazon's print services, which had previously been CreateSpace and now I think they just call it their Amazon print services. I'm not exactly sure. They may have changed that now. Amazon digital services or something.

I ultimately decided that that's the way I wanted to go. There are other ways you can print your book. That's just the easiest. You can print on demand. The books aren't very expensive. If I want to buy a big supply for myself, I can do that, and I did. I ordered like, I don't know, 80 at first and then another hundred pretty soon after because I had … I wanted to gift them to some people. I did kind of a mini little books celebration and did a few little events around it.

Then, I bring books with me when I go places. I give them out a lot. One time, I gave one of my books to a Lyft driver. I can't tell you how many Lyft drivers want to be speakers. Listen to me, or have written books that sounded really interesting and intriguing. Lyft drivers really fascinate me. Anyway, so I have given one to a Lyft driver. I've given them to lots of people. I carry them around. I love that I have this book that feels like such a gift to the person who's wondering how they can get out there with their message, but that I also really do believe is serving the world. And I know you have that, too.

Whatever it is that you want to say, it's in there. You can write that book. Believe me. Listen to me. I have diagnosed ADHD, so my brain does fight. I get confused. I get confused when there are a lot of different details that I need to manage or try to figure out, but you can't come at a project like this that way. You probably know that. If you think about all these different things that you have to do, there's no way that you'll start the project. So I know that your book is meant to be written, and I also know that you can write it.

I went to a fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club years ago, and I'll never forget the opening keynote. He was a neurosurgeon. I can't even remember what he was speaking about exactly, but I'll never forget this bit of what he said. He said, “You don't become a neurosurgeon by thinking about everything it takes to become a neurosurgeon. You'd never do it. Who in their right mind would agree to all that? You become a neurosurgeon by deciding you want to become a neurosurgeon, then figuring out the next thing you need to do to get on that path.” See, here's the cool news, we're not even trying to be neurosurgeons. We just want to write a book.

It turns out there really is just kind of a system you can go through. You sit your fanny down and write it or like I did, you speak into your voice memo on your phone. I did that into my iPhone for probably about a third, maybe up to a half of my first draft of my manuscript of Beyond Applause . I sent it into a transcription service. I used rev.com, but I know there are lots of great ones out there. Then, miraculously, like an hour or two later, back to me would come all my words in writing, like pages were written. As someone who has a really hard time sitting down to write things, less so now, it used to be absolute torture for me. That was mostly my mind going crazy and me listening to my mind, which is where all the danger happens there. Now I know just not even to listen. That's just my mind doing its thing.

But still, you can write this book by starting to speak it. Then, you'll get some words on a page and it gets you started. Then, you get a first draft done. Then, you write a second draft, and maybe you bring in an editor right then because it's too overwhelming. That can work so beautifully. I did it after probably a second Rev. And really, I remember thinking, “You know, would have been cool to have her a little sooner because there are things I just wouldn't have spent my time trying to rewrite now that we're doing a whole kind of content restructure.” So, bring someone else in. Collaborate, support yourself in creating something that you are so proud of that you can't wait to get it into the hands of the people that you wrote it for. It feels so good to feel that way about Beyond Applause , and I know that you can feel that way about your book, too.

So we're not trying to be neurosurgeons, but that is how it is kind of with writing a book. It can feel really big, and like there are so many different pieces, and how am I going to do all these things, how will I find the right designer, how will I find the right editor, and I didn't know almost all those things either when I first started. I just started. Then, amazingly, each step I somehow handled it. I know that if I can do it, you can absolutely do it.

I've got two ideas floating around right now. Am I daunted when I think about everything that's going to take to get these books written, especially since they're still in that swirly idea phase? Yup, which is why I try not to think about everything it's going to take to get them written. Here's what I know now. At some point, I'll start writing the book. Maybe it'll feel like I decide. Maybe I'll just notice it's happening, as what happened with my first two books. Either way, as long as I keep on doing the next thing, eventually I can hold that sweet book baby in my hand. It really is completely in my control, and it's completely in your control, too.

My favorite thing about having written this book, Beyond Applause , is that I can share it with you. Really, I'm not kidding. I'm not kidding about that. I'm ridiculously proud of it, and I want you to have it. So maybe you already have it, in which case hooray. You can get a hard copy of this book on Amazon. I really honestly feel like it's as good, even better, than many traditionally published books that you buy at your local bookstore or online, but I made it.

I also get to give it away for free if I want to. That's one of the things you can decide to do if you self-publish. You think that's crazy? I get it. A lot of people would never do this with their full-service book. This isn't just my ebook. I actually wrote the full book. But every day, that book brings beautiful souls into my world who are called to make our world a better place with their message, people like you, and I get to be a part of rising up their voice, your voice for good in our world. You can have the same impact on the people who are meant to read your book.

So, that's my mission, rising up your voice for good, making our world a better place, a more loving place by filling the airwaves with voices for humanity, love, compassion, health, and wellness. You don't have to give your book away, but you do have to write it because no one else can write your book.

So do you have your copy of Beyond Applause yet? Because you can get it at speaksoitmatters.com/101. That's the numbers 101. Here's the thing you just need to take way into your bones, my beautiful, beautiful friend, you were made for this. That feeling you have in you that tells you you're meant to change lives by sharing your lessons learned and your story, that is your sign. It just takes one next step and you're on the path, and I am cheering you on all the way. See you next week.

Thanks so much for being here with me on The Thought Leadership School podcast. If you want specific and actionable guidance on how to become a recognized leader in your industry, you can download a free copy of my book, Beyond Applause: Make a Meaningful Difference Through Transformational Speaking, at speaksoitmatters.com/freebook.

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