In this Feel Good Effect podcast episode, we are talking about how to write a book in four phases. I’m sharing the three surprising lessons I learned during the book-writing process and answering listener questions about methods.

How to Write and Publish a Book: Three Surprising Lessons Learned During the Book Writing Process

The Feel Good Effect

I announced just last week that my book is now available, the cover has been revealed, the title has been unveiled, and it is available for preorder right now.

The title is The Feel Good Effect: Reclaim Your Wellness by Finding Small Shifts that Create Big Change.

If you like this podcast, you will love this book.

Writing a book in four phases

Phase 1
1.1 | Start writing + share it.

When we have big goals, big dreams, we sometimes fall into the trap of forgetting about the small steps to get there.

If you want to write a book, you have to start writing.

Then, you have to share your writing in some way.

Sure, you can write for yourself, but if you aren’t sharing your writing and building an audience around it, it’s difficult to put a book into the world.

If you have even a small audience who gets what you’re trying to say that you can show a publisher, it goes a long way.

Write and share to (1) build an audience and momentum and (2) get feedback from those people.

When I was writing my book, I wrote it exactly for you because I knew how you would respond, since I’ve been writing publicly and getting feedback for years, primarily on Instagram.

1.2 | Know what kind of book you want to write.

The Feel Good Effect is really 15+ years in the making, and over the years I just didn’t know exactly what kind of book I wanted to write.

Tactical tip: keep a running list of books that are similar to the kind of book you would want to write, noting what it is about each book that resonates with you and how your book will be similar yet different.

On my list, I had Present Over Perfect, by Shauna Niequist, which I wanted my book to be similar to by speaking to an audience of people who were trying really hard but still felt like they were falling short, but mine would be different because it would not be a memoir and I would include a framework for different mindsets and strategies.

Other books on my list were: 

These books made a huge difference for me, and I felt like I could write something with pieces of them, with my own spin.

I was also able to use this to write a book proposal and communicate what I wanted to an agent.

1.3 | Know what kind of book you want to want to publish (self publish vs. a publisher).

Knowing what route you want to take is important because it will change your strategy from the beginning.

You can self-publish, in which case you would skip some of the following phases.

Phase 2 

*This phase is more relevant is you were going for the traditional publishing route

2.1 | Write a proposal.

Often, agents want to see a proposal from you before they take you on as a client, and many publishers want to be pitched to by an agent versus you pitching to them directly.

Writing a proposal isn’t a small thing, but it’s your shot to show your agent and publisher what your book is about.

There are templates out there, but it would ultimately include: the title of your book, an overview of what it’s about, comps (which the tactical exercise from phase one really helps with), an author bio, a media marketing plan, an outline for the book, and a sample chapter.

2.2 | Find an agent.

Tactical tip: If you don’t already have connections, go to the back of your favorite books and read the acknowledgments (most of the time, authors thank their agents).

Look up those agents, because if they represent a book that your book is like, there’s a chance they will want to represent you.

See if they are accepting queries, if they are, follow the directions on their site, and send them your proposal.

2.3 | Pitch your proposal to publishers.

Once you have an agent, you will work with them to pitch your proposal to various publishers.

If you’re on your own, consider where your book would best fit.

Where you publish makes a difference in the kinds of books they made and invested in as well as the marketing reach publishers have.

Phase 3

Now you’re writing the book.

Different authors might have different writing processes, but I will share mine as food for thought.

Find your own process.

Just as wellness is customizable to you, so is the creative process.

Learn from others, take what you need, and leave what you don’t.

3.1 | Outline your book.

If you wrote a proposal, you already have an outline. 

If not, start there.

What are the chapters, what is in each chapter, and how does it fit together?

More on this: check out Gretchen Rubin’s first interview on FGE when dove into how she decided how many and what chapters to include in her book.

Quote on starting with okay by Robyn Conley Downs on the Feel Good Effect Podcast #realfoodwholelife #feelgoodeffectpodcast #motivationalquote #positivityquote #inspirationalquote #progressquote #persistencequote #hardworkquote
3.2 | Write the book.

When I feel stuck, I go to Steven Pressfield’s ‘The War of Art’, who talks about “the resistance”, something that comes up when you’re doing something that matters to you, that you know is important.

It’s often a mix of perfectionism, all or nothing thinking, and comparison, really a pressure to get it right the first time.

The only way though is to write one word at a time, even if it’s not what you hoped for or feel like is “good”.

The only way to get to good is to start with just okay.

The revision and editing process is twice as long as the writing process, so you might as well get started with writing.

Other go-to’s for me are Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Big Magic’ and Cheryl Strayed’s ‘Tiny, Beautiful Things’.

When you sit down to do the work, it might not be easy and it might not feel fun, and that does not mean you’re doing it wrong; if it feels vulnerable or scary, you might be doing it exactly right.

3.3 | Time management and time-blocking.

It might be a different process for you, but for me, I found that I needed to write first thing in the morning (after a morning wellness routine).

Tactical tip: set a timer and do not look at your email or phone, just write.

If you can, set these time blocks for three or four times throughout the day.

I also had to take a lot of things off my plate, even really important things that mattered to me, like teaching yoga, because, in order to be able to do the writing, I needed to give some things up.

It is always about finding the things that are important to you and not existing in the lie that you can do everything.

Tactical tip: reverse engineer it, look at what needs to be done, and figure out what needs to be done each day, month, or year.

Quote on doing the work by Robyn Conley Downs on the Feel Good Effect Podcast #realfoodwholelife #feelgoodeffectpodcast #motivationalquote #positivityquote #inspirationalquote #progressquote #hardworkquote

Quote on finding the important things by Robyn Conley Downs on the Feel Good Effect Podcast #realfoodwholelife #feelgoodeffectpodcast #motivationalquote #positivityquote #inspirationalquote #meaningfulquote #purposequote #selfcarequote

Phase 4
4.1 | Editing.

Once you finish a manuscript, it’s not really done, because once you have the draft completed, the editing phase begins, which requires the same amount of time and effort if not doubled.

Editors are there to make your book better, despite the editing process being a surprise to some.

Revisions and editing are what makes a good book a great book.

4.2 | Let go.

I was attached to the final draft that I submitted and it was hard to see what edits were made, even cutting multiple chapters.

Part of the writing process is being able to let go and just let it be.

4.3 | Design.

Book design is incredibly important from typography to layout to colors to paper type, all of those things make a difference in the reader experience.

3 Surprising lessons I learned in the writing process
1 | How everything in my life coalesced to make this book.

It’s only something that someone with my life experience and background could have written.

Despite not having a background in wellness, everything came together to make this book.

“To do something you want to do doesn’t always mean you had to do it in the past”.

2 | Figuring out what kind of book I was writing.

Certainly from the perspective of comps and fiction versus non-fiction, but also whether it was putting forward new ideas or more of step by step personal development kind of book.

I ended up working very much in the middle.

3 | That I could do it.

I could do it without sacrificing my life, my wellness, my routines, or being with my family, and I actually felt better after I wrote it.

Q & A
How do you know who the right people are to turn your book over to once it’s written, in terms of getting it published?

Reach out to an agent! They would definitely be able to help you figure out which publisher is the best fit for you.

If you’re not using an agent, look at books similar to the kinds that you want to write and find out who publishes them

What was more difficult, writing a book, or writing a thesis?

Writing a book was so much more difficult and personal for me.

It was like putting my soul on the paper, versus a research paper without a personal narrative.

Should I write an outline first, or just dive in and start writing?

Having an outline can be helpful, but there is something that can be said about just starting to write, which might help you create an outline.

Write daily and see what comes.

Whichever comes easier, start there, knowing that eventually, you’ll need both

How much time should you devote to writing per day and per week?

It depends on your goals.

Reverse engineer based on your timeline and ask yourself how much you can prioritize? Focused work is better than distracted work.

How did you get started?

Creating that comps list helped me get started and then from there writing what the book was about.

I then put together a table of contents and wrote one chapter to start with.

How much time are you able to spend writing in one go?

Usually in 1-hour blocks and four hours a day

How do you get your brain into writing mode?

I don’t open my email or my phone in the morning, it’s a new habit (check out The Secret to Creating Good Habits with Dr. Wendy Wood and How to Break Up with Your Phone with Catherine Price)

Find rituals that bring you joy and remember that it’s normal if you don’t feel incredibly motivated when you sit down to write.

How did you do a fast first draft? Mine is taking me ages.

If your first draft is taking you a long time, it’s probably something in the perfectionism, comparison, or all or nothing thinking or not doing focused work.

It helped me or break it down by how many words I needed to write each day, which helped with my perfectionism.

If you’re not famous and this is your first book, is it possible to get a book deal and get it published?

I do not consider myself to be famous, so no, I do not think you have to be famous.

But I do think it’s hard for a publisher to take a risk on a new author without an existing audience. 

They want to know that there’s an audience that exists and that your message resonates with people

You can do that with a podcast, Instagram, Youtube channel, or a blog.

Writing and finding an audience is the first step.

How to just write without worrying about what other people think?

It’s about embracing the feel-good mindset: self-compassion, gratitude, and finding your magic middle.

Remember why you’re writing the book and who it is for.

Who are you writing it for and what do they need to hear?


Preorder The Feel Good Effect

Follow on Instagram @realfoodwholelife

Gretchen Rubin on the Feel Good Effect

How to Break Up with Your Phone with Catherine Price

The Secret to Creating Good Habits with Dr. Wendy Wood

Books to inspire

Other Feel Good Effect Episodes You’ll Love

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