• Sally Collings

Let’s get real about dragons.


“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”

—JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit


Honestly? I’m not even writing about dragons today; I just really like that quote.

There are, however, calculations to be made, if you are to write that book that has been on your mind for so long. Planning, you might say.

But book-writing is a creative endeavor, right? The words simply well out of your fingers and flood across the page, while a celestial glow envelops your desk and the angels start strumming their silver harps.

Well, maybe for some writers. Not me. And not for the hundreds of authors I’ve worked with through these past (insert large number) years. As ghostwriter, editor, accountability buddy, and chief cheerleader, I’ve seen how the really successful writers remain (relatively) sane by coming up with a clear plan for getting their book written and published.

This plan doesn’t have to be complex. To the contrary. It must be so simple it can be summed up in six steps.

Step 1 is developing your book concept. This book concept will align with who you are, and what you’re inspired to accomplish.

It will answer two questions:

  1. What is your message, argument, or proposition?

  2. What will your book do for its readers—what benefits, what problems solved, what changes in thinking or behavior?

You know you’ve clinched this when you can describe the unique offering of your book in one or two clear, explanatory sentences.

For inspiration look at the cover copy for books that are similar to yours, or you admire. You’ll often find a single bold “standfirst” statement that captures the message.

Something like this from Rachel Hollis:

“Stop believing the lies about who you are so you can become who you were meant to be.”

(The cover line for her book Girl, Wash Your Face).

Or this line from the jacket copy for Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson’s book Remote:

“Jason and David persuasively argue that, often, the advantages of working ‘off-site’ far outweigh the drawbacks.”

Simple, yes? But like all the very best things, book concept development requires a world of thought and reflection. Getting to some authentic answers can be a little like therapy—it takes a ton of digging, a bunch of wrong turns, and maybe even a few tears along the way.

It helps enormously to have a savvy partner in the process. That’s where I come in. (Cue trumpets. And harps.) As your strategist and thinking partner, I can help you reach your answers.

In my next few blog posts, I’m going to talk a little about the four steps that come after you develop your book concept, and pave the way to your finished book.

If you’re working on your nonfiction book or book proposal right now, I want to tell you about a new online course I’ve just launched this month, Build Your Author Platform. This course contains everything I’ve learned about what it takes for authors to successfully connect with their readers.

You can read more and sign up here.

And if you know someone else who might be interested, get them to head on over and sign up too, or email me with any questions: sally [at] sallycollings.com.


Photo by Laith Abushaar on Unsplash