So what if being a writer really isn’t your thing?
There are all sorts of reasons why you need a book as part of your career and your business. It’s a publish or perish world out there, after all. And books help legitimize you as an expert, just for starters—that alone is reason enough.
But writing a book takes more than just “hard work” and the discipline to come back to the page every day—it requires a specialized skill set that can be daunting (and time consuming) to develop. And that’s all you need … one more thing to soak up your time. All you really want, sometimes, is to just do the work you love without being bogged down by “extras.”
Chances are, you probably outsource some portion of your business, such as marketing or scheduling or curating email. You may outsource your blog and social media posts, too. Those are repeatable activities that net you a big return on investment (ROI), making it worth the money you shell out for it. The good news is, a book can be one of those outsourced tasks, with an ROI even bigger than you’d expect.
Here are three ways to outsource the writing of your book—
Dictate and transcribe
If you’re a keynote speaker, this may be a natural fit. But even for coaches and consultants, dictating your book can make it easier to see a book through to completion. All you have to do is talk.
For professional speakers, you likely already have a ton of presentations and outlines that would give you talking points for a book, which shortcuts things significantly. You may even have some of your talks recorded as video. All of this is grist for the mill of a book, and it can be converted to text quickly through transcription (more on this in a second).
For other experts and professionals, you’ll want to add the step of sitting with your topic to create an outline, so that you have your ideas organized in a way that tells your story and engages your audience. This will help you move from topic to topic as you speak, and keep a narrative flow that makes sense for the story you’re weaving.
Once you have the outline of your topic, it’s time to create an audio file of your thoughts.
There are endless ways to do this, but some of the best are free. If you happen to own an iPhone or other smartphone, there are usually voice memo recorders you can use to record each section of your book. You can transfer these recordings off your phone by syncing to a computer or sending them via email.
You’ll want to keep your audio files as organized as your outline, with “digestible chunks”—small files instead of huge files, which let you knock out the book a bit at a time.
The best method for this is to record a separate audio file for each section of the book, sometimes even within a chapter. Immediately label that file using a notation from your outline, to make it easier to identify later.
For example, if you have dictated section 1.a from your outline, and that section was titled “How to tie your shoe laces,” name your newly dictated file “1.a - How to tie your shoe laces,” or whatever’s appropriate.
Repeat this for every section of your book, until you have a complete audio version ready for transcription.
If you don’t have a smartphone, or would prefer another method, try Googling “dictation software” or “recording software” and pick something that works for you. On Macs, you can use GarageBand, which comes free with OSX. For PCs, there’s Sound Recorder, which also comes free with your operating system. You can also download a free piece of shareware called Audacity, which has a bit of a learning curve, but is a go-to audio recording tool for a lot of people.
If you prefer a hardware solution that’s easy to tote around, consider the Zoom H1 or Zoom H2. These are powerful, high-quality audio recorders that you can fit in your pocket. They produce studio-quality sound, and range from $100 to $150. With them, you can easily record sections of your book wherever you happen to be, and create individual files for each, organized by time and date, and even by folder. You can copy files from these devices into your computer by using a USB cable, and then send them for transcription.
Speaking of transcription …
It’s surprisingly easy and inexpensive to get good transcription these days. In the “old days,” it could cost tens of thousands of dollars to have several hours of audio or video transcribed. One of the best (and most economical) transcription services around is Scribie. This site makes it as simple as uploading your audio file, choosing your timeframe, and waiting. The best rates come to those who wait (couldn’t resist that one), so if you can give it 30 days or so you’ll save a lot of money.
There are other options for transcription, including voice-to-text transcription software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking. This software works well, but the results aren’t perfect. It makes for a good starting point, if you’re willing to sit with the text afterward to clean it up. Since you should be editing anything you publish anyway (or, better yet, hiring an editor to do it for you), this isn’t such a tremendous sacrifice. But the volume of errors is a lot higher with transcription software, so it can get tedious.
Hire a ghostwriter
If that sort of “lone wolf” dictation method doesn’t sound appealing, you can accomplish the same task with the help of an honest to goodness human being.
Ghostwriters are professionals who work with you to get your ideas out of your head and onto the page. Their methods may vary, but in large part there will always be a lot of interviewing and research. A good ghostwriter will start with helping you organize an outline of the book, getting you to approve it before digging in to find the bits and pieces that they’ll use to expand each section and complete the book.
The method used by Happy Pants Books is similar to the transcription model above, and we’ve found that it’s one of the fastest and easiest ways to produce a book.
You start by arranging a couple of one-hour calls with a ghostwriter, who will record the calls for later transcription. Those first calls are all about creating your outline, to get the sketch of your idea onto the page so it can be expanded.
After that, it’s more calls, scheduled around you time. Over the course of 30 days or so, you’ll do about 10 hours of calls with your writer, going point-by-point through the outline to get your ideas down. The writer also takes notes during these calls, marking concepts that may have had a bigger note of passion behind them, or jotting questions for follow up later.
By the end of the process, you have as series of recordings that form the basis of your book. These get transcribed, and the writer uses them as a first draft of sorts, organizing, refining, and fine-tuning the language to make sure it’s in your voice and style, and that it conveys the message you’re trying to convey.
This is probably one of the fastest methods for producing a book that you’ll ever encounter. With some ghostwriters, it’s possible to get a book written in 30 days or less, depending on the transcription speed. So if you find that you have an event coming up in a couple of months, and you want something to sell that helps further your cause, this is going to be your best shot.
Ghostwriting can be quite a bit pricier than other methods listed here, but the balance is speed and access to a professional who knows how to produce a high quality book.
The final tip is a sort of hybrid of the first two. Collaboration is a great way to not only get your book written but leverage the knowledge and expertise of a partner. It can be very energizing to work closely with someone you already know and trust, to build something that can extend the reach of your business and build instant credibility for you with an audience.
The simplest steps for collaborating to create a book start with using your recording method of choice to capture a conversation about the topic on audio. You may want to start with an outline of the topic, as discussed above, so that you have something to guide the conversation. But as the two (or more) of you chat about each topic on that outline, you’ll notice that new ideas emerge, related to the topic, giving it more depth.
If you are not able to sit in the same room as your collaborator, however, there is one method that is used effectively by thousands of professionals.
Skype is a free voice-chat tool produced by Microsoft, and it runs on both Mac and PC. It even runs on mobile devices such as iPhone and iPad, or Android phones. With Skype, you can chat directly with your partner about the work, no matter where they are in the world, at no cost.
To really boost this, you should record your Skype call using a plug-in from Ecamm called Call Recorder. This lets you record both audio and video, and even screen sharing, during your call.
Once you’re done with the audio for you book, you can send the recorded file to a transcriptionist, and then use the text of the calls to form the first draft of your book.
You’ll still need to edit your content, or hire someone to do so. But if you’re organized from the start, and stick to your outline, you’ll find that editing is more about polishing the final product rather than hunting for typos and errors and mistakes.
These are three pretty powerful methods for writing a book without actually writing a book. In their own right, they’re just as much work as putting pen to paper. But they may have the advantage of feeling much more comfortable and natural to you as a speaker or consultant. They leverage your strength, rather than forcing you to adapt to a method that isn’t in your wheelhouse.
If you need help with any of the above, you can feel free to contact us here at Happy Pants Books. We offer ghostwriting and other author services that can not only help you write your book but publish and market it as well.