An extract from my forthcoming book "Make Your Own Job
Anytime, Anywhere, At Any Age" to be published in February, 2020

Writing a Book

Often the most rapid way to establish credibility in a field is to write a book about a hot topic and use this book as a springboard to access members of the print and broadcast media. This initial exposure will not only help you sell copies of your book, but will also open the much more lucrative market as a paid lecturer and self-help guru. You will then be able to do group consultations with industry in addition to attracting private clients.
Generally such books are non-fiction and on very specific topics, say Home Modernization for the Resale Market. In such a title there would be chapters on how to select a home with the idea of modernizing it and flipping it in a hot housing market. This book may be set in the city where you now live or you may elect to move to another city with greater growth potential to gain true-to-life experiences.
In some markets like New York or Los Angeles the entry price for any structure with a clear title may be so great as to be beyond your present means, and it is likely that any potential house-flipper would have to obtain bank financing to complete his project. A chapter showing how to prepare a presentation for the bank including how you evaluated the house, how you planned to improve it, and its potential resale value would be logical and practical information to include in your book.
Locating contractors and dealing with them in real time with associated delays, etc., would be interesting items to include, and this chapter might have contact information for the contractors that you used and listings for other specialists that you might employ to lay natural stone around a fireplace, for example.
To expand the utility of the book for do-it-yourselfers, information about materials needed, codes that must be followed, tools for aiding putting up sheetrock, painting hints, plumbing, etc. should also be included. At some stage your building must be inspected not only to make sure the construction methods and materials were up to code, but also for insect pests. The last would likely have already been required to obtain a bank loan on the property.
Your improvements to the house will not have gone unnoticed by the Tax assessors who would have received a copy of your building permit from the municipality or governmental that granted it.
Let’s assume that you have your rebuilt home completed and by doing so have finished the research stage of your book. I have selected this topic as an example, but the research portion of your book might be confined to a limited time period, or accumulated over a lifetime. That might be your sixth rebuild project in three different cities, so you have a much larger fund of information to draw on. No worthwhile non-fiction book can be completed without some solid knowledge base. Even fiction books muchly benefit if there are factual events that the novelist draws upon to provide a feeling of truth to his tale.
Once the topic has been selected and perhaps a tentative title decided on, the general approach to book writing is to outline the chapters and perhaps put in headings and sub-headings as they occur to you. It is not likely that the initial outline will be the final one. These will change as you add headings and topics that you forgot on the first pass or what others, or later events, suggest to you.
In our hypothetical book we might have the following chapters which are an effective outline that may be used to guide your book-writing project:

Home Modernization for the Resale Market

1. House Flipping to Accumulate Wealth
2. Selecting Your Region and City
3. Natural Hazards
4. Choosing a House
5. Financing
6. Building Permits
7. Construction Codes
8. Redesign
9. Selecting Contractors
10. What Do I Do Myself
11. Needed Tools and Skills
12. Finishing on Time
13. Occupy, Sell, or Rent
14. Leaving Your Baby

Outlining your chapters provides the needed backbone for your book. While the first chapter should almost always communicate why the book is needed and what benefits may be derived from it, the following chapters with their headings and subheadings help you flesh out the details of what additional information is required and where you need to find additional details to reasonably present the topic. For example in Chapter 3, Natural Hazards, potential subheadings might be:

• Climate Change
• Flood
• Earthquake
• Hurricanes
• Tornadoes
• Landslides
• Sinkholes
• Lightning

Many potential house-flippers have not given these things a thought only to find that the house they plan to renovate must be elevated 10 feet to get it above flood level or, in fact, their only option should they purchase it would be to sell it to a governmental agency that would remove the entire subdivision to restore a floodplain.
Similarly, houses built on cliffs overlooking a section of considerable scenic beauty may someday find themselves rendered into a pile of rubble at the bottom of the cliff because of slippage of water lubricated rock or a reaction to an earthquake - obviously not a good investment. While the biblical admonition is to, “build your house upon the rock,” you want to select your rocky home site to be on level ground, away from cliffs and not in the flood-prone valley of a mountain stream.

How to Write Your Book

Most people who have never written a book imagine that the writer sits down at his typewriter with a bottle of gin on one side of him and a pile of smokes on the other and writes, drinks, and smokes day and night until the book is finished. Romantic as that may sound, that is not quite how it is done. In the first place books are often hundreds of pages to over 1000 pages long. While there should not be any set length for a book, few can write one in a sustained alcohol or drug-driven frenzy. This is a task that requires sustained work over a period of three months or so to get through a typical non-fiction book of 200 pages or more.
Two hundred pages is an average length for a book, but it should be no longer than is needed to say what the writer has to say. These days, shorter, rather than longer, books are preferred by many readers as long as they have the content that the reader wants.
A writer needs to work on his book every, every day and get something down on paper. Some days this might be 10 pages of text, but other work periods might produce only a few paragraphs. The trick is to keep after it until you have finished it. Then the second stage is the reorganization, revisions, and corrections. When you are at the point where you are just changing words without making any meaningful changes to the text then you are done. Your book writing stage is finished.


Popular non-fiction books are heavily dependent on photography. In a professional publishing house a designer might look at the text and order the company photographer to produce a series of shots to illustrate the book. The end result might be that the book is 75 percent photos and only 25 percent text.
If you are writing your own book, you should be taking photographs all along throughout the information- gathering stage so that you already have high-quality photos to present with the manuscript. In our home reconstruction example it would be appropriate to have a photograph at each chapter head and others throughout the book to illustrate significant aspects of the house’s reconstruction. It is also useful to have shot videos of the events and reference these in the text.
Today’s modern readers are never without their smartphones, and if a passage interests them they are likely to look up a referenced video as they read. Multitasking reading is more common with those who are 30-years-old and younger, than with the baby-boomer population. Giving the reader this added option increases the potential sales of your non-fiction title to a generation who is more visually driven and frankly does not like to read – short and visual is the way to get the younger readers to purchase your book.

Autobiographical Nonfiction

Fewer illustrations are desired in nonfiction books where the story is how you overcame some personal life challenge with drug addiction, limb loss, blindness, deftness, or the death of love ones. Many such books have no illustrations, except perhaps a picture of the author. If it is not too much of a stretch, a photo might be used to head up the chapters provided that it has some direct relationship with the reader. If the book is too much like a photo-album it relates less well to readers, and they are likely to lose interest, regardless of how significant the photo might be to you.

Non-Fiction E-books

E-books can be thought of as inexpensively produced trial balloons for your writing projects. As an outdoor writer who commonly uses and hunts with muzzleloading guns, I serve an enthusiastic, but tiny, part of the world’s readers. While hunting with black powder and round balls was a part of nearly every culture’s past history from the 1400s to the present, the numbers of hunters using these old techniques has steadily diminished from the majority of hunters in the 1860s to very few today.
Nonetheless, guns replicating patterns that were made centuries ago are readily available from a variety of makers to supply reenactors, movie makers, and hunters. For some decades I wrote about these guns in popular magazines and for The Gun Digest Annual which bills itself as “the world’s greatest gun book.”
Because of the small size of this market, the cost of producing a conventional soft-cover title outweighed the book’s potential return, and the less expensive e-book option was used to write a series of specialized books featuring different types of muzzleloading firearms. This project started in 2013 and continues today with my most recent title in the Short Shot Series being number 6, Hunting with Muzzleloading Revolvers. These are short, specialized titles where the proceeds from the sales of the previous books are used to finance the production of the present one.
If you did not have a clear feeling that your non-fiction book would have a sufficiently broad audience to be an economic success, or at least break even, then writing an e-book provides a practical market test and provides valuable feedback that can be used to write a better paperback or hardcover version.
Should the book have content that can be incorporated in printed training materials, then sections may be printed out as needed. Now you have the benefits of being a published author, and almost anyone in the world can access them. Although located in the U.S., I have fans in Europe and Asia who purchase and download my e-books from and other on-line book sellers. My e-books frequently retail for less than $5.00, compared to over $20.00 for some of my paperbacks.

The Novel

Novels can have many uses besides telling a rip-roaring adventure. Some successful speakers on the international circuit started with a novel which did tell a good story, but also examined some underlying human condition using a fictionalized tale. This might be a story set in a post-nuclear-war world to dramatize the dangers of using nuclear weapons. The novel can be a thought exercise where an artificial world is created. In that world any number of options might be tested, such as relying on robots to the extent that the physical work once done by humans have been largely replaced by robots. With no work to do, what kind of physical and intellectual existence will our species have? This is the kind of question that can be examined in a novel that has real significance in the modern world where we are already seeing large-scale replacement of factory workers by ever more efficient automated machinery. Fiction can precede fact and provide an advance warning of dangers ahead. It is always the writer’s hope that mankind is smart enough to heed them.
In my novel, Father of the Grooms, I examine the underlying reasons for the rise and persistence of the Mafia in Sicily. I use the misadventures of an American family of Sicilian origin who takes a vacation to their home island. The six of them include a dad, his wife, their daughter, two sons, and the dad’s gay brother. In correspondence the dad mentions that his two sons are having difficulty in getting or staying married, and he feels it is time for him to have some grandchildren. Due to the instability of the criminal organization caused by the arrest of the heads of one of the families, Luigi The Claw, a retired enforcer, is brought back into the organization as caretaker. Concerned for the safety of his daughter and niece, Luigi seizes on this opportunity and arranges for them to be married to the Dad’s sons and flown out of the country.
All of this comes as an abrupt surprise to the Americans who are informed after their arrival on Monday that the weddings will take place on Friday. Should the two sons refuse to accept “two of the fairest flowers of the island” along with a dowry of $100,000 euros a year, the entire family may meet with “an unfortunate accident” while on their Sicilian vacation. Complexities in the plot include interactions with undercover agents of the Italian Anti-Mafia Organization (AIA), the FBI, an Irish Priest, and the U.S. Airforce.
The characters in the novel fight with the issues of obligations to family ties and the fact that their Mafia relatives have many admirable characteristics, despite regularly practicing extortion, theft, murder, drug dealing, prostitution, etc. The entire family finds themselves in danger from some unknown sources and multiple attempts are made on their lives. A plot is hatched by the Irish Priest and the Sons’ Uncle to have the Sons found in bed with two gay men, in the hopes that their intended brides will call off the wedding and everyone can be extracted from the island alive.
Using these elements I document the island’s bloody history from the time of the Greeks and Romans through the Mafia Wars, many natural disasters, and the parade of seventeen different cultures that have successively pillaged the island. For the most part, these foreign elements extracted much and gave back little. Even today many Sicilians feel that the government in Rome sees the island as a colony to provide resources for the Italian state and gives only minimal benefits in return. Luigi feels that he is defending his culture, his own family, and looking after their interest. “If people did not want the stuff we smuggle and the services we provide, there would be no Mafia,” he explains.

When and Where to Start

Most people who write books toy with the general concept for some time before putting things on paper. I have been mentally writing my novel for five years during which time I came up with the general outline of the plot and the main characters. Last year I made a nine-day trip to Sicily to gather on-ground experiences from which to build the details that I put in the book and the scenes that I would want to replicate in the screenplay and movie to follow.

To get started:

• Select a potential subject.
• Test it with an outline.
• See where more information is needed.
• Gather information.
• Write your book.

When you have sufficient information, start writing your book. I will often write a preface to put on paper the purpose of the book. This evolves into the first chapter and the others follow the chapter outline that I have already done. Delay is not often the writer’s friend, particularly if that delay has its roots in doubt or fear of failure. It makes no difference if your first draft of any book is full of errors and frankly terrible. Real writing comes with the rewriting. That is when you can fine-tune your work and get it as close to perfect as you can. Then you can rely on editors to complete the clean-up process and produce an acceptable manuscript.
For books based on life experiences where you already have the information the time to start your book is now. Do not wait. Put it down on paper with a pen if you must. If inspiration comes for a scene in your book or a chapter topic, write it down. Get started, get going, and keep at it.
Some people can write in noisy newsrooms, and I have done that. However, I prefer to work alone in my library-office with my computers and reference materials at hand. I most often write between 2:00 and 5:00 AM, because at that time I am fresh, do not have interrupting telephone calls or other distractions. If at all possible set aside a writing area where you can keep your materials in work close at hand without having to clear off a kitchen table several times a day and set it up again for family meals.
I find pets better than people as writing companions. It is good and desirable to check in with the wider swath of humanity from time to time, but when you are on a book project stay on it and stay with it as long as your personal stamina and life conditions will allow. When you are tired, sleep. When you are hungry, eat. When you are making too many mistakes, quit for a time and pick it up later.
The final analysis is to live with your book concept for a time, research it, start it, write it, revise it, and publish it. Simple enough. Now go write your book. You are in for a good ride to accomplish a worthy aim. Enjoy the experience.

Author's Bio: 

Wm. Hovey Smith is the author of more than twenty books and e-books and has more than 750 YouTube videos on line on outdoor and business related topics. Twenty of the videos trace the different stages of business development. The new book, Create Your Own Job is now being readied for publication and will be available in February, 2020, from Strattford Press.