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« A Typical Medical Device Company | Main | Writing A Book Proposal Is Like Writing An Rx »

5 Reasons Your Book Isn’t Written Yet (And The Cure For Each)

Are you still hoping to write your book “some day”?

Here are 5 reasons your book isn’t complete (or maybe even started) and how you can turn it around:

1. You Have No Time: No one has time to write a book. Yet, I’d venture that the people who get published are often the busiest people of all. No matter how busy you are, you can find time by temporarily limiting or even cutting out certain activities (cut back on e-mail, web surfing, TV, cooking or reading). Or employ help for certain tasks to get an extra few hours a week to write. Maybe you can even negotiate time off. Or wake up an hour earlier each day. I’ve seen many of my book writing students find time when they didn’t think they had any.

2. You’re Afraid You’re Not Saying Anything New: Maybe  there’s nothing new under the sun, but trust that you have a unique voice and unique way of saying things that will resonate for a certain group of readers—your niche. I’ve seen many people in my book writing classes who started out sounding trite. As they mined their personal experiences and asked themselves what their patients/clients/friends/colleagues liked most about them, they found their “voice” as a writer and that made all the difference. Certainly research the other books in your area and see how you can add something new to the picture—experiential exercises, a fresh perspective or engaging anecdotes.

3. You’re Just Plain Stuck: Most times that people get stuck they just don’t have a detailed enough outline. Go deeper in your outline and you may just pull yourself out of a hole.

4. You’re Confused by How to Structure the Book: Many people come to a standstill when they wrestle with the book’s structure, or even the market or concept of the book. If you can’t tackle this one on your own, a session with a writing coach can provide the clarity you need to move forward. I take my clients through exercises that help you clarify your audience, gain clarity on your book’s outline and structure and create the tone and features that will wow your readers.

5. You’re Discouraged: Maybe the book doesn’t seem to be going where you wanted or the writing just doesn’t compel. Maybe the whole process overwhelms you. The cure for this is getting support—to write better, gain clarity or move forward. Show your book to a trusted friend or colleague to get feedback. Or, if you know it needs work, work with a professional. Or sign up for a book writing class to get the support, motivation, community and structure to see the project to completion.

Reader Comments (9)

So happens I just had a conversation with my publisher this morning to discuss the terms of a contract to write a book on bioentrepreneurship. The contract he proposed was chock full of legalese and proposed terms that didn't pass the smell test.
What should authors look for before signing a publishing contract?

Great question, Arlen. I would have loved to have had a little primer on book contracts prior to signing the deal to begin editing our textbook on Expedition Medicine. I probably still would have signed, but it would have been nice to have gone into it a little less blindly.

Negotiating points:
1. Royalty percentage?
2. How often the royalties are paid?
3. Number of free copies?
4. What happens to the materials if only a few books sell-gi ve-back rights?
5. Copyright releases from other sources?
6. Who writes the index to the book?
7. Who provides the graphics and art for the book?
8. Marketing expenses?
9. Up front advance?
10. Pricing and promotional requirements ?

Others to suggest?

Again, all good questions, Arlen. I believe this topic needs to be discussed in detail. I'd like to begin a new category under our physician community to discuss these contract questions (should be up later today) and we can move the in depth discussion over there and see if we can get Lisa and Julie Silver to give us some advice. I'm also going to reach out to the other author members of our ExpedMed and Medcial Fusion groups and ask them to weigh in.

This is a perfect example of how a lack of knowledge and collaboration within the medical community can hurt physicians. As a new author/editor, when you enter into a contract with a publisher you are negotiating in their area of expertise. How are you to know what is appropriate?

Thanks once again to Arlen for raising this issue. Hopefully, by harnessing the collective knowledge of the FreelanceMD community we can shed some light on this issue.

We'll answer the detailed questions in a separate post, but I strongly suggest you seek a reputable literary agent. Since you already have a publisher, an agent is likely to agree to a smaller percentage of your royalties (maybe 10%) since they did not have to pitch the book.

They are likely to be able to get you:
1. A bigger advance
2. Additional negotiating points you would not think of
3. Possibly even a higher percentage royalty (not always)

In addition, they can read through all the legalese and make sure you keep many of the rights, such as foreign rights (to negotiate separately), negotiate deadlines and other things you would not think to negotiate.

Perhaps even more important than this, they can be an advocate for your book:
1) If the publisher suggests a title or book cover that is less than ideal
2) if your acquisitions editor leaves the company
3) If there are any other issues with the book further into the process.

This is no small thing. Two of my book-writing clients were with the same publisher when the acquisitions editor left. The one with an agent got an even better deal. The one without an agent was told that, now that the editor left, they had no immediate plans to publish his book. It's not uncommon for acquisitions editors to come and go, so having an agent to keep things going is a great advantage.

Dec 10 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Tener

Thanks very much for your suggestions. A few other questions for the group:

1. Would you have a different opinion if we are talking about a smaller, targeted audience v the general public. I have no pretense that my book will be a NYT best seller. I'm told that even in the best of circumstances, few books sell more than 5K copies during the life of the book. I"ve published several technical/medical/scientific books and have never used an agent. Of course, I've done it mostly to build my academic reputation and to satisfy promotion and tenure criteria, not for the money...up until now.

2. Also, if you are writng for a broader public audience, what is the best way to find an agent?

3. What are your thoughts about writing for Yahoo!Associated Content or other online syndicated sites?

Lisa's article and all the comments are all very interesting to me. I've written a memoir of a dark chapter in my life that has significantly interrupted my medical career and personal life. I have minimal understanding of how to proceed with the publishing process that seems to be full of intricacies and traps for the poorly informed. I appreciate all the posts. Thanks!

Dec 12 | Unregistered CommenterD.Mobley MD


First, the best place to meet an agent for a book that's related to health, well being, healing or medical issues is Publishing Books, Memoirs and Other Creative Nonfiction through Harvard Medical School:

Agents are still sometimes happy to negotiate a contract for a smaller book and smaller press if you already have the publisher. It really depends on the agent and the book.

I don't know much about Yahoo!Associated Content. I do know that, overall, some of those articles sites have less SEO link value than they used to have and that people may be more likely to go to a site that's more niched to their interest. However, I can't speak about that one specifically.

And to D. Mobley,
Welcome and I commend your courage to be writing about your experience. I will be sure to post some articles for beginners about the process.

Dec 12 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Tener

Thanks, Lisa. Happy to report that I've just received $3.82 in my PayPal account for an article I posted on Yahoo!Associated Content. Not exactly like posting your first earned dolllar on the back of the bar, but a start.

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