How to write your book and get it in the hands of readers

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7 Truths to Becoming a Published Author, Shawndra Holmberg, CPO-CD

NAPO’s Annual Conference and Organizing Expo took place in Atlanta a couple of weeks ago, and it’s become a bit of a tradition around here to follow up with a series of guest posts from organizers who attended, to share their experience with those who didn’t.

Starting off this year’s series, we have Kathy Vines from Clever Girl Organizing, with an overview of Shawndra Holmberg’s session, “Seven Truths to Becoming a Published Author.”


While at NAPO2016, I attended “Seven Truths to Becoming a Published Author,” presented by Shawndra Holmberg, CPO-CD, owner of Dhucks Organizing Service. Shawndra spoke at Conference about her passion for guiding, mentoring, and coaching fellow writers, through her business, HYH (Hold Your Hand) Book Coach.

This session at NAPO2016 in Atlanta was one of my most anticipated slots on my schedule. I’ve been working on my first book and have been craving expertise on how to move this collection of thoughts and words out of Microsoft Word and into the hands of readers it will impact.

Shawndra’s session did not disappoint! The session gave me the guidance, tools and resources for helping me give birth to my first book, and even about what comes after that.

The session was designed to share the Seven Stages to take a book “From Your Head to Their Hands”, and to share Seven Truths about each step that help move you from one stage to the next. These stages are:

  1. Inspiration: “I’ve got an idea for a book; I should write it!”
  2. Motivation: “I’m going to start! (And then stop, and start)”
  3. Creation: Actually writing the content
  4. Construction: First draft is done, now comes editing and the pieces that make a book
  5. Publication: Getting the book to be a book
  6. Connection: Getting the word out
  7. Destination: From my head to their hands

There was so much in each section, I had to work hard to distill what my top takeaway was in each. Let me walk you through each stage, the “truth” she shared, and my top takeaway:

1) Inspiration

Truth #1: “It is not about BEING a writer today; it’s about BECOMING a writer.”

So many of us have ideas in our heads, and they’re just waiting to come out in one form or another. Don’t let “I’m not a good writer” stand in your way; practice makes progress!

My top takeaway: Knowing my definition of success before I start is going to be key for me to keep focused and motivated throughout the long process.

2) Motivation

Truth #2: “Shut up and WRITE!”

Find your motivation to create what you’re creating, and be sure to rely on your strengths and support systems, to help stay on track and focused. Make sure to minimize the self-doubt in my head that will always be there, ready to provide an excuse for me NOT to write.

My top takeaway: Find the support system or group that works best for MY style, needs and interaction. There are a lot of options.

3) Creation

Truth #3: “Your book is born from the process of writing.”

Here, Shawndra focused on tools to help the writing process, and some tactical information, like word counts and common grammatical and formatting hang-ups.

My top takeaway: I wasn’t using any special software to help with the process of creating my book, but I’m rethinking that for sure.

4) Construction

Truth #4: “All the parts and piece – step by step, item by item, will get you further down the road than thinking about the whole thing!”

In this stage, she discussed the many parts and pieces that go into a book, and the role of the editor. Understanding that not all editors and processes were the same, and that there are ways of vetting them in advance, was eye-opening!

My top takeaway: If you have only one place you’re going to spend money on this process, spend it on an editor.

5) Publication

Truth #5: “You only have to market if you want readers.”

Another meaty section, with information all about the digital publishing world, including, formats, services that help you format, royalties, and those “oh, yeah” items like ISBN and Library of Congress numbers.

My top takeaway: For e-books, Kindle is where is it at. Spending time with other formats is okay, but it isn’t going to make the broad reach that Kindle does.

6) Connection

Truth #6: “There is only one right way to connect: YOUR WAY.”

It’s about marketing! This one is about the “getting the word out” process, including everything from the digital marketplace to handling rejection and bad reviews! But most importantly: you need to have a Connection Plan that works for you to guide you, based on:

  • Definition of Success: How you define success in the beginning of your project
  • Comfort Level: What are your strengths in reaching out?
  • Readers’ Location: Find them where they are most likely to be.

My top takeaway: It’s easy to get distracted at this point by things like Amazon Rankings and sales numbers. If that’s not my definition of success at the beginning, I shouldn’t worry so much about it in the end.

7) Destination

Truth #7: “Success is a moving target. Remember what you defined it as, and move from there.”

This stage focused on getting the book out there, tracking how your efforts to market have gone, and getting the market and the customer to take action.

My top takeaway: This is great info to have… for when I write the NEXT book!

As you can see, this was a content-rich session, with everything from strategic guidance to tactical tips and tools I could put in place immediately. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my message; this was the perfect way to figure out how to get my message in the hands and minds of everyone else!

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Kathy Vines

Kathy Vines is the owner of Clever Girl Organizing, based in Melrose, MA, a professional organizing firm focusing on residential and small business settings. She works side-by-side with clients in the Boston area and the White Mountains, NH, and virtual-face-to-virtual-face with clients across the globe. She is an avid writer and speaker on strategic and tactical approaches to conquering disorganization in all areas of your spaces and systems.

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  1. Deb Lee Deb Lee on June 3, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    What I love about this post is that all the steps can be applied to blogging, especially if you’re not fond of or are afraid of writing. “Shut up and write!” is an excellent beginning step and stops overthinking and fear from taking over. Great post. =)

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on June 4, 2016 at 6:01 am

      Wow, Deb! I hadn’t thought of it that way but you are absolutely right. Thank you for sharing your brilliance. 😀

    • Avatar Kathy on June 4, 2016 at 6:31 pm

      Thanks! And I totally agree, Deb Lee! And plan to apply it all in that world, too!

  2. Avatar Seana Turner on June 6, 2016 at 7:17 am

    Very interesting idea about using special software. I would look into that. And I totally agree about the editing. Errors, grammatical mistakes and awkward wording definitely hurt one’s public image. I’ve been wrestling with the authorship concept. On the one hand, I know it elevates one’s standing and provides a “right to play.” On the other, I spend so much time with people for whom self-help books are creating a feeling of insufficiency that I’m conflicted. I only want to write the book that has something new to bring to the marketplace and would encourage, not deflate. Still thinking…

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on June 6, 2016 at 8:52 am

      That’s an interesting perspective, Seana. I totally get where you’re coming from.

      As to editing, I couldn’t agree more. There are many reasons that authors choose to self-publish, and although I respect their choice, I don’t think the fact that a book is self-published should be glaringly obvious due to typos and other errors. That’s a huge credibility killer for me.

    • Avatar Kathy Vines on June 6, 2016 at 9:42 am

      I hear ya, Seana!

      I’m looking at it less as “what do I need to put out there that is new in the world?” and more like “How can I bring the value that my in-person clients or blog readers already receive from me to a wider audience, in a different type of format?” I don’t need to be new; I need to be me, but louder 🙂

  3. Avatar Adam on June 10, 2016 at 10:10 am

    I’ve written my first novel and now I’m searching for a publisher. I’m considering self publishing as well but in this case I should do the whole marketing by myself, right?

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on June 10, 2016 at 4:22 pm

      Adam, neither Kathy nor I are experts on this topic, but I’m fairly certain that if you self publish, you are responsible for all aspects of getting your book out there, including marketing. A couple of the Related Posts at the bottom of this article touch on this subject, and I think you’ll find them very helpful.

      • Avatar Adam on June 15, 2016 at 6:45 am

        Thanks for the advice, Janet! I’ll read the posts.

  4. Avatar Sabrina Quairoli on June 24, 2019 at 7:17 am

    It is so important to find a good editor. As writers we can easily write and write, the editor will help you refine your piece. Great tips!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on June 24, 2019 at 12:43 pm

      Agreed! Not only is it hard to be objective about our own writing, but we’re apt to overlook errors, because we know what it’s supposed to say so that’s what we see.

  5. Linda Samuels Linda Samuels on June 24, 2019 at 4:33 pm

    What an excellent review by Kathy of Shawndra’s NAPO session on book publishing! So many of these points resonate with me. I remember when I wrote my book, the emphasis was on the writing, editing, and getting it published. But once it was published, the focus shifted to “now what?” I moved into the marketing phase, which I hadn’t concentrated on before getting the book completed. Because I self-published, the making of the book consumed my energy.

    My main marketing effort was to begin blogging. The posts were an extension of the ideas in the book. And even though I wasn’t overtly promoting my book, the blog gave me a platform to build an audience. It was a backward way of doing things, but this is how it worked out for me.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on June 25, 2019 at 12:35 pm

      I really appreciate you sharing your experience, both in this comment and in your guest post which is included below under “Related Posts.” Thank you, Linda!

  6. Avatar Janet Schiesl on June 24, 2019 at 5:30 pm

    We all have so much to share, but figuring out how to do it is hard. Writing a book has so many steps. It’s not so easy. Good information.

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