14 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Wrote My First Book

As they say, hindsight has 20/20 vision. Having published five books in the past 16 years, I’ve certainly had a painfully clear hindsight moment or two (or 14). As we prepare to embark upon a new year (in advance of which many entrepreneurs will profess, “This is the year I’m getting my book written”), I thought I’d pass some of my learnings along to save you from experiencing the surprising moments (or at least provide fair warning before you do)! 

  1. Organizing 867 million thoughts and events that occurred over the course of between six months and four decades is challenging. This is true for every author, regardless of how many books she’s written. Like an initial therapy session, you wonder, “Where do I start?” (and then proceed not to start because you can’t identify the most logical starting point!). While there is no right or wrong way to begin, the most successful approach, in my experience, is to identify a pivotal moment in your story. Where were you? How old were you? What feelings did you have that you can still feel today when you take yourself back to that place? What were you most afraid of? Describe all of it. Start there. 
  2. Being vulnerable is scary. And sometimes really (really) hard. Post the declaration I am writing this book because [insert reasons] in a place where you can refer to it each time resistance shows up. 
  3. People care about your unique story and perspective. No one wants to turn pages just to reach the end; they want to turn pages without realizing they’re turning pages! They want to get to the end of a chapter and think, “Just one more,” not “Thank God I’m done with that!”
  4. Bestseller status (unless it’s through The New York Times or USA Today) won’t do much for your long-term trajectory. Your ego? Yes. But it’s not the “golden-touch” moment many assume it to be. 
  5. Some people won’t like your book. People will say unkind things in reviews. Just move on. Their feelings aren’t about you or your message. If they were, they would’ve communicated them more tactfully. 
  6. Your credibility and authority will increase only if you write and publish a high-quality book. The book doesn’t have to appeal to everyone. But you have to put the same time, energy, and investment into it as you would any other aspect of your business. 
  7. Title, subtitle, and cover design are critical. It’s your first opportunity make an impression that grabs the attention of a new reader. 
  8. Don’t overthink title, subtitle, or cover design! At some point, the notion that you’ll release the book when you figure out the perfect title or best cover imagery is simply code for “I’m terrified to release the book.”
  9. Just because you write it doesn’t mean anyone will read iteven your closest friends. You must be very clear about how readers will benefit from your book. The compelling answer isn’t simply “You’ll get clarity” or “You’ll feel happier.” You must be clear about how the reader will achieve this transformation in a way they’ve not yet tried.
  10. The tone of your book must match the real you. When someone reads your book and then meets you in person (or sees you on a TV segment or in a LIVE Facebook post) they should not be in any way surprised.  
  11. You probably won’t love the writing part. At all. But you’ll forever be in love with the final product. 
  12. Get accountability. Otherwise, you’ll never start. Or, if you do start, you’ll find yourself reporting one day, “I’ve been writing a book…for 18 years.” 
  13. YOUR STORY MATTERSnot because it’s more powerful or more tragic or more exciting or more harrowing than someone else’s but because it’s YOURS!
  14. Nothing we experience is purposeless. We may never fully understand all (or any) of it, but we are all energetically tied together through the nuances of our unique stories.


Elizabeth Lyons

Book writing coach and author of 5 books, most recently Enough: The Simple Path to Everything You WantA Field Guide for Perpetually Exhausted Entrepreneurs