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How to Write and Self-publish your book & Turn it into a #1 Best-seller

Updated: Sep 13, 2022


In the last years, many people have asked me about my book: People Skills for Analytical Thinkers. I finally took the time to sit down and write down answers to the most frequent questions.

Writing a book was hard. It never seemed to end. However, when I had the first copy of the book in my hand, I realized: “This is the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my professional life.”

I hope this article will inspire you to write a book yourself, help you move closer to publishing, or reach more readers with your book.

I’ll share my experiences in 4 steps:

1. Ideation

2. Writing

3. Publishing

4. Marketing

How did you decide to write a book, what was the inspiration and what tipped you “over the edge” into action?

It's December 2019. I'm doing a hike in New Zealand.

One person I meet is Katharina. A German psychologist.

We have a pleasant talk. No surprises yet. But then, everything changes.

We speak about writing.

I tell her I've been writing online.

She asks me if she can read my latest piece.

I hand her my laptop, but I'm nervous for her response.

She nods.

I wonder what the nod means.

Too many long sentences? Too cliche?

Then she says: "This is really good."

I feel a fire inside. Confidence.

Katharina ignited a flame.

One week later, I'm writing the first chapter of my book:

People Skills for Analytical Thinkers.

Moral of the story: don't underestimate the power of your words.

A little encouragement —

Can make a huge impact.

Did you always want to write a book?

Yes, it was on my bucket list. But I thought I would save that for my retirement J

I was on a 6-month trip around the world. I planned to start my own company upon my return. And after a few months of hiking, sightseeing, and reading books, I wanted to do something productive. I wanted to create.

But my plan wasn’t to write a book. I just wanted to write a 10-page PDF document. My idea was to share all the lessons I learned since I started working. But that escalated quickly. That Word document grew to hundreds of pages. My editor helped me cut down and organize my writing.

Why was your book topic the thing you wanted to tell the world about?

Working as a Data Analyst, I struggled in communicating my ideas. I had the data (the truth – at least that’s what I thought). But often, people did not listen to my insights. This was frustrating. I saw other Data Analysts and Scientists have similar challenges.

I’ve always been interested in psychology (my academic background is in Behavioral Science). That’s why I decided to take the intersection of Data + Psychology.

How did you get started? Who did you talk to and what resources helped you get things going?

I searched for new books and reached out to those authors on LinkedIn. Some responded. We had a digital coffee and I could ask many questions. I learned a lot — and it was fun!

Also, I talked to hundreds of people to understand the main challenges:

  • Analytical Thinkers working in the field of data

  • Leaders in the Data & Analytics industry

What struggle do writers need to overcome?

1. Vulnerability

Writing is vulnerable. By definition. You put your thoughts into words without knowing how other people will view your work. Writing is a piece of art.

Also, the best writing makes a direct connection with the reader. And this connection requires vulnerability. If you are only writing about the content (whether your topic is Data Analytics, Career advice, or cooking), you’re distancing yourself. You’re far away from your reader. However, when you include personal examples of your own challenges, you make a direct connection with your reader. This is what every human appreciates.

So, writing is vulnerable. Twice.

2. Perfectionism

I’ve been perfectionistic. I remember one day; my goal was to write 2,000 words. But I wanted those 2,000 words to be great. So before writing down a sentence, I asked myself: is this great? Is this worth publishing? I barely made any progress. Until I adopted a new mindset.

The new mindset was: “I’m going to write 1 bad page.”

This focus on speed and incremental improvement helped me to move forward.

Recommended reading: Seth Godin: The Practice.

3. Concentration

It’s simple. But it’s not easy.

Douglas Fairbanks Jr. is quoted as saying: “Writing is 90 percent applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair”.

To do your best writing, you need to get into the flow.

Recommended reading: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – Flow

How did you improve your writing?

1. Writing online

In the years before writing my book, I wrote on Quora and I published several articles on LinkedIn. My work got little attention and my writing was mediocre. But I got into the habit of writing, getting the ideas out of my head, into the hands of people. This immediate feedback loop made my writing much better.

2. Journaling

I’ve done lots of journaling, trying to write something every day. Free writing. What I’m thinking, how I feel, what I’m excited about, what I’m worried about.

Tip: download the free app: DayOne.

3. Reading

  • In the last years, I’ve read >100 non-fiction books. This helped me to understand what a good book looks like.

  • I’ve learned from every author, but James Altucher taught me how to write in a vulnerable way that directly connects to your reader.

4. Writing courses

I also took this free writing course. I recommend it to everyone who wants to become a better writer. After the course, I binged all her articles. Henneke is a master at bringing your words to life.

How long did the writing take? What was the experience like?

11 months. But I was on sabbatical during 3 of those months. So, in that period, I had a lot of time and headspace. That last one is important. I can’t imagine writing a book with many other things on my mind.

(In Vietnam, getting some inspiration.)

(In Mexico, being a workaholic.)

“I’m a great speaker, but a poor writer.” How to “write” a book without sitting still hours behind a computer typing? 😅

Write like you speak!

I’ve written my book in conversational language and many people have told me they liked the writing style. Even for more serious topics, you can make it playful. Of course, every now and then you’ll have a long sentence. But mix it up. Just like I’m doing now.

To answer your question directly: if you want to write a book, you’ll need to sit for hours by your computer. Don’t like that idea? Hire a ghostwriter and send your ideas via voice message ;)

What’s a writing tip you can share?

Don’t write words. Write music.

What do you think is the biggest mistake non-fiction writers make?

1. Writing a book that doesn’t solve a problem

  • Before you start, you need to understand the key challenges of your ideal readers. I’ve had 1-on-1 conversations with many Analytical Thinkers to understand what their struggles are.

  • Ask what questions they have about your topic. Those questions can even be the outline of your book, every question you hear often is a chapter in your book.

2. Writing a book for a broad audience

  • If I would have written a general book about people skills, nobody would care. That’s why I’ve written a book about People Skills for Analytical Thinkers. It’s a new category. So, find your category.

Why did you self-publish? What were the pros and cons of this route vs hiring a publisher?

I was inspired by James Altucher who wrote a lot about self-publishing. And many authors told me they were unhappy with the marketing efforts of their publisher. And if they also take 90% of the profits, what’s left?

Well, there are probably good publishers. But I’m incredibly happy I chose to self-publish. Top reasons:

1. Connection with readers

  • I’m closer to my readers. Connection = feedback = improvement. Also, it’s fun to hear about the impact that you’re making.

2. Control

  • I have full control over what will be in the book. Publishers might insist on changes in the content that you might not be comfortable with.

3. Money

  • Self-publishing means you get to keep all of your royalties (apart from fees you pay to platforms where you sell your book).

  • Books are a wonderful way to generate passive income. But remember — many self-published authors sell 200 copies or less. It’s really hard. If your primary reason to write a book is to make money, think again. Online courses and other business models might be more profitable.

What are royalty rates when you self-publish?

When you sell at Amazon, you keep 70% for an e-book, and 60% for a paperback.