In interviewing women in midlife, I come across many who are writing, or wish to write, their first book in their 40s, 50s, and beyond. As a professional book writing coach, focusing on nonfiction, do you think everyone has a book in them?
Not necessarily everyone, but many, many people do—and many of them question whether they can really do it. Often, people were shut down in some way at an early age—told they could not write well or told to be quiet and not make waves. So, there may be some challenges in overcoming that self-doubt.
One thing I tell aspiring authors is that they don’t have to do it alone. They can get guidance, feedback, and editing. You don’t have to be an expert in writing a book in order to write one. You just need to pull together a qualified team of support and be coachable.
What is the appeal of writing a book specific to women as we age?
Certainly a woman at midlife has half a lifetime of experiences. That’s a lot. It may be that your expertise can help others. You may have skills, tips, or even a systematic approach to a problem that can help others. In addition, our lives provide many stories to share. At midlife, women start to think about how they can share those stories to make a difference. You may have even heard people tell you, “You should write a book” enough times that you’re finally taking it seriously.
And then there’s also the sense of truly stepping into your power in a deeper way. Writing a book helps you claim that power—living a life of purpose. Writing a book may well be a calling for you.
I would also say that at midlife, women often decide to start a new business, be it consulting, coaching, or any kind of business. Your book can help you stand out from the crowd, define your brand, and attract the specific people you’ve identified as your ideal clients or customers. It can help you get additional media attention. So, it can be a great business decision as well.
Are there particular challenges women in midlife and beyond must face to pursue and complete their dream of publishing their first book? On the flip side, do these women enjoy certain opportunities that help them toward their goal?
Certainly the self-doubt I mentioned earlier. Supportive friends and family members can help you overcome that. Or think of the wonderful things you’ve done in your life—big and small—that you’re proud of. You can do this. And with professional help, you can do a really good job of it.
A good coach can help you clarify exactly what kind of support you need. Similarly, one challenge is that if you’ve never written a book before, you don’t know all the steps. It took me seven years to go from idea to published book, way back when I worked on my first book. It doesn’t have to take that long. So, again, I recommend finding resources. Nowadays, there are so many more resources out there for you to write your book—from excellent books, to book writing blogs and publishing blogs, to professional book coaches, editors, and book shepherds.
How do you help people in your role as a book writing coach?
I love helping people at the beginning of a project—really clarifying that book concept. I have a self-study program Quick Start to Kick Start Your Book (it’s $97) that helps people understand all the things you need to know before you start writing: vision, goals, market, features, tone, content and structure. Quick Start includes several engaging exercises that help you explore and get clarity. That way, you’ll save lots of time by writing the “right book” that will help you bring your vision to life. After that, I suggest a book concept consultation where we can further refine your ideas and make it both marvelous and marketable!
I also help people write a high quality book proposal, which is what agents and publishers will want to see if they are interested in considering your book for publication. I’m offering a course in May and June called Fast Track Your Book Proposal to help aspiring authors write a book proposal. If you’ve never written a book proposal before, I suggest starting with Michael Larsen’s How to Write a Book Proposal, particularly if you’re writing a self-help or how-to book, which is one of the easier genres to break into. However, even with a book like that, there’s just so much you’d don’t know about the industry, so it’s very helpful to have someone to guide you and give you feedback on the proposal—even to edit it line by line. The course can help with all of that. And if you can use accountability and support to actually get it done, the course is going to be super-helpful.
One bit of advice: Don’t send out your book proposal without first making sure an agent or publisher wants to see it. You’ll need a query letter for that, unless it’s a smaller or academic publisher that actually says on their website that you can send the proposal in your first email.
In addition, I find that many authors don’t have what we call a “platform” in the industry, or that their model for marketing their book is not sustainable (they don’t have a plan to bring in income with the book, in addition to book sales). With a background in business (an MS from MIT’s Sloan School of Management—now it’s an MBA program) and several national marketing and business awards under my belt, as well as years of experience as a six figure entrepreneur, I find I can help women develop a solid plan that makes the book a sustainable and even lucrative endeavor. And, an endeavor that can make other dreams come true—like world travel or public speaking.
Do you have examples of women 40 or older who you helped publish their first book?
Most of my clients are women 40 or older. I’ve worked closely with over 60 of them to become published authors and about half of them are self-published and half traditionally published. Here are just a few examples:
Cara Bradley, yoga and mindfulness expert, started her book in her late 40s and published at 51: Cara’s book, On the Verge: Wake Up, Show Up, and Shine just came out days ago. It’s published by New World Library.
In her forties, Kimber Simpkins self published her memoir Full: How I Learned to Satisfy My Insatiable Hunger and Feed My Soul and heard from her publisher, New Harbinger, within one month of self publishing. They made an offer to re-publish her book, which promptly won a prestigious Nautilus Award.
Cathy Turney won both international and national Stevie Awards for Best Business Book of the Year in 2015 for her self-published book, Laugh Your Way to Real Estate Sales Success: For Real Estate Agents, WannaBes, UsedToBes, & Those Who Love Them!
Patricia Hoy, conductor, arts administrator, and woodwind doublist, wrote and published Arts Awareness – A Fieldbook for Awakening Creative Consciousness in Everyday Life in her 60s. In her words, “I decided to write because I felt as if my experiences and relationships were piling up, connecting, and growing into one big accumulation filled with depth and meaning. Writing helped me discover more about it and share it with others.”
Pat Hastings, author of Simply a Woman of Faith, started writing in her 50s and published at 60, fulfilling her dream of world travel, when she published her book and began teaching workshops in Bermuda, on cruise ships en route to Mayan ruins, and in her life dream, Hawaii, where she promptly resettled and met the love of her life! She now lives on the ocean in Maui with her soul mate–and she attributes all these dreams-come-true to becoming a published author.
Carrie Barron was 52 when she published her book,The Creativity Cure: How to Build Happiness with Your Own Two Hands, which she co-authored with her husband. She says, “I did it because I wanted to elucidate the relationship between creativity and wellness.” Through her book, Dr. Barron has interacted with and impacted people all over the world.
Marla O’Brien wrote Wine Within Your Comfort Zone when she first retired from her career as a teacher-librarian. She shared that, “Next to 35 years of marriage, the birth of my children, and a successful teaching career, [publishing and writing my book] is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Martha Rhodes’ self-published memoir, 3,000 Pulses Later: A Memoir of Surviving Depression Without Medication, landed her in the New York Times twice, prompted a speaking tour in the UK, paid for by the British government (health services), and landed her a keynote speaking gig for the San Francisco press. It also prompted her working closely with Emory University, which is producing videos that feature her story.
What advice and resources do you wish to share with would-be authors?
If you feel an inner urge to write a book, listen to it. Explore. If you feel self-doubt, remember that the 10,000-foot journey starts with one step. You will find many guides, fellow pilgrims, and guardian angels along the way. Editors as well!
For information on how to get published and writing a book proposal, I recommend the book How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen, as well as my many blog posts on the subject. You can find them all organized in this article: How to Write a Book Proposal.
For more general information on how to write a book, visit my writing blog, search for relevant articles and feel free to ask questions—I love to answer.
Publishers Marketplace is a great website for all things traditional publishing.
Regina Brooks’ You Should Really Write a Book: How to Write, Sell, and Market Your Memoir is a terrific book if you are writing a memoir.
And my colleague Rusty Shelton has just co-authored a terrific book, Mastering the New Media Landscape: Embrace the Micromedia Mindset that is super helpful for writers, since social media plays such a big role in reaching readers. Another excellent book is Social Media Just for Writers: The Best Online Marketing Tips for Selling Your Books by Frances Caballo.
If you’re writing a health-related book, consider attending Harvard Medical School’s CME publishing course, which offers a deep dive into the world of book writing and publishing.
Attend a writers’ conference. One of my favorites is the San Francisco Writers Conference.
Contact Lisa Tener via her Contact Page Contact Lisa
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An authority on book writing and publishing, and winner of the Silver Stevie Award for Coach/Mentor of the Year, Lisa Tener guides you to joyfully write and publish your book. She blogs for the Huffington Post, serves on the faculty of Harvard Medical School’s publishing course, and teaches Award Winning Book Writing Courses. Connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.