Connie Hamilton wrote a book. What’s the big deal? Like most would-be writers, Connie wondered if she could do it.
In Episode 79 of the Hack Learning Podcast, educator/presenter and popular Twitter influencer Connie Hamilton explains how she went from self-doubting, wannabe writer to a published author whose book hit Number 1 on Amazon in its first week. Best of all, she gives you a success plan with some hacks you probably didn’t know.
Listen to “79: Nail Your New Year’s Resolution: Learn how to write a book” on Spreaker.
An Author’s Journey
I’m trying to remember how long I’ve been saying this. Years, for sure. I had the typical negative talk inside my head keeping this dream from becoming a realistic goal.
- Who would read your book?
- What do you have to say that hasn’t already been said?
- You’re not a very good writer.
- Where would you find the time?
When a friend of mine, Laura Pitari, pointed out how my mindset was preventing me from making this wish a goal, I consciously tried to be more growth-minded and shifted my thinking to:
- Teachers and administrators are interested in my perspective on educational topics.
- I have fresh thoughts to share.
- My writing skills can grow through this process. An editor can help me.
- When something is made a priority, I always get it done.
Make a Plan
With a can-do attitude and recharged motivation, I began to organize and plan. Here’s my 5-point how to write a book and get it published plan:
- Get specific with a book topic
Many authors have multiple passions and interests. Narrowing down the specific focus for a future book is an important step to prepare a pitch to a publisher.
Making a list of possible topics can help a writer determine where to begin, if there is enough content to fill a book, and consider how the topic has already been shared.
- Check publishers’ requirements
Most publishers have a link on their website that lays out how a writer can prepare a submission for review. Companies like ASCD and Corwin provide guidelines on how to prepare a manuscript and the process for submitting a proposal.
Hack Learning offers a Hack Learning Author Handbook that provides potential Hack Learning authors with a manuscript template, some specific do’s and don’ts and even a list of current topics of interest.
- Take advantage of connections
Reach out to current authors and ask them about their involvement with different publishers. Seek advice from first-time authors and use their experiences to guide you in your selection process.
Writers like Starr Sackstein who have written books for multiple publishers are especially helpful in sharing key points for consideration. Even if you don’t know an author or publisher personally, what better way to introduce yourself than by reaching out and asking for some advice about getting published. If you aren’t too pushy, most authors will reply to a quick tweet.
ASCD has offered a breakout session at their national conference for aspiring authors. One year I attended and Doug Fisher spoke about publishing and offered to review a summary of an idea and give his opinion on if it was “book-worthy”. ASCD had editors at the session who also provided honest feedback.
- Give publishers both the big idea and the details
An overview of the components of the book helps a writer determine if there is enough content to justify a complete book. A powerful message can be shared through a blog or journal article without a full book if the focus is narrow and brief.
Only having an outline of the ideas probably doesn’t provide a publisher with enough of a sample. A completed chapter highlights the writer’s style and provides a more detailed summary of the content.
The “elevator speech” approach is what landed a deal for me with Mark Barnes and Hack Learning. A two-minute pitch with a glimpse at half of the hacks was my foot in the door for Hacking Homework. Mark was interested and offered Starr and me a contract.
- Don’t quit — seek feedback
If your book is turned down, rinse and repeat steps 1-4. Don’t trash your idea. Perhaps a publisher already has a book with similar content. Maybe your style is a better match for a different audience. Don’t leave yourself wondering. Ask for feedback and consider it.
If you hear repeatedly, “this topic is exhausted,” then either give your perspective a facelift or consider one of your other passions and try again. My first pitch to Hack Learning was Hacking Questions. Barnes quickly informed me that the topic was saturated; plus, he showed his loyalty to current Hack Learning authors. If he were to take on a project about questioning, he said that Starr Sackstein, Hack Learning’s assessment guru, would have first dibs. This feedback was invaluable.
What about co-authoring?
You may be wondering if my dialogue with the publisher is what led to Sackstein and I partnering to create Hacking Homework. Something like that. Writing with a co-author is a risk. My experience writing with Starr was amazing — a true collaboration and a real friendship formed.
Now that the process is complete, we have shared the fears we held privately during the initial stages of the project:
- Would we get along?
- Do our work styles mesh?
- Can we blend our two voices into one?
- When considering a writing partner, consider the pros and cons. I can’t speak from experience about disagreement or conflict because we simply didn’t have any, but I can imagine how these struggles could sour the process.
If you’re ready to launch your New Year’s Resolution to write a book, here are a three quick tips to start immediately.
- Carve out some time to make your dream a reality.
- Dedicate a couple of hours a week to narrow your focus.
- Research publishers and prepare your submission the way they want it; this will move you closer to becoming a published author.
The pride you’ll feel when other educators tweet out your words, blog about your ideas, or put your strategies into action is marvelous.
The process from idea to publication is challenging and rewarding and certainly worth the time and effort that goes into it.
I’ve learned how to write a book and get it published. Now I can say with confidence, “I’ll write another one someday.”
Connie Hamilton Ed.S. is the Curriculum Director in Saranac Community Schools and national presenter specializing in best practice instructional strategies, leadership, and questioning. She is the author of Hacking Homework: 10 Ways to Inspire Learning Outside the Classroom. Connect with her on Twitter @conniehamilton and on her website.