115. My Book Update!

My Book Update!

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Have you ever considered writing a book? There’s a stat floating around that says 81% of people hope to write a book one day, so chances are you’re one of them — and so am I! I’m going to share tips I’ve learned from my writing coach as well as what I’ve discovered myself during the writing process.

Be sure to listen to the full episode to hear the full story on my book — which currently has an agent!

In this episode, you’ll hear… 

  • Why I’ve always wanted to write a book
  • Where I’m at in the writing and publishing process
  • Tips I’ve learned for getting your book published

Listen to the full episode of On Your Terms™ on your favorite podcast platform

Listen to episode 115, follow along so you never miss an episode, and leave a review to help introduce the show to more online business owners just like you!

If you leave a review on Apple Podcasts, be sure to send a screenshot of it to me on Instagram (at)samvanderwielen & you’ll be entered for the chance to win a $20 Starbucks gift card! 

Tip #1: Focus on Building a Business First

The idea of writing a book was on my mind very early, but looking back, I’m glad that I didn’t start it sooner. My business has opened a lot of doors for me in this process. Not only would I have faced much more rejection earlier, but I would have had less clarity on what I was writing for and why. Having a set of clients, a proven product, a unique system, and a voice that makes you unique is so important.

Tip #2: Get Clear on Who You’re Writing it For & Why

Like I said before, most people want to write a book — but why is it that few actually do? One reason is that you have to be clear about why you want to write a book. Not only will this keep you motivated, but it will help inform every decision you make: What to write about, what tone to use, how you cover information.

Tip #3: Understand Your Unique Angle

Another benefit to focusing on your business before writing a book is that over time you will learn what makes you unique. It takes time to develop that understanding, as well as to gain the confidence to own that.

Lastly, I highly recommend working with a professional to help you draft a book proposal. My book coach, Richelle Fredson, has been invaluable to me. If you can’t work with her directly, she has a course, The Book Proposal Blueprint, that you should check out.

Episode Transcript

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Sam Vander Wielen: Hey, welcome back to On Your Terms. I’m your host, Sam Vander Wielen. I’m an attorney turned entrepreneur. But today, I’m talking with you all about the book writing process, or at least the book proposal writing process because that’s the only one I know about right now. So, I hope that you’re excited to talk about what writing a book proposal has been like and this process. I’m going to share the behind the scenes story and where we’re at and all that kind of stuff.

I call it the little audible here, and I didn’t even tell my team about this, but my dad, Norm, he passed away last May, and so I decided that for all of the episodes of all of May, I’m going to give you a little Norm Tip at the beginning of every single episode, because my friends always love the tips that I tell them that my dad had.

And I can give you a disclaimer ahead of time. Some of them, most of them probably, will not be rocket science. Today, it’s definitely not. But they’re just like little things that my dad always said. So, these are not things that, like, I’m saying, are completely novel, incredible ideas. I’m just saying, like, my dad said this all the time. And a lot of this stuff he said to me when I was little, so I didn’t know any better, you know. So, hopefully, you’re okay with that. You can indulge me and listen to these for the month of May. I’ll, real quick, start off every episode with a little Norm Tip.

Okay. So, my first Norm Tip of the month, since it’s May 1st today, as this episode comes out, Norm would want you to know – well, Norm would want you to know a lot of things. He was a natural born teacher. He just wanted to always tell everybody tips – he really, really loved Trader Joe’s. He loved grocery shopping in general.

And we would always go to Trader Joe’s, but he had this whole system with Trader Joe’s about how he would tell you that when you go to Trader Joe’s, you got to dig around in the back for the best sell by dates. Because a lot of the stuff that they put in the front, which is typical in any grocery store, but I don’t know why he is right about this with Trader Joe’s, if you really dig, you can find way better sell by dates when you dig into the back. They usually put that stuff back there.

And in the section where they have bread and stuff like that, those drawers, they all roll out, which I did not know until my dad told me that. But you can roll those bread drawers out and the new bread is always in the back. So, do that.

He would also want me to give you a bonus tip and tell you to park uphill whenever you go to Trader Joe’s. Like, look to see where the parking lot slopes because it always slopes to help with the rainwater. And you should park uphill so that the carts don’t roll into your car because they have red carts and they leave really, really bad marks on your car. So, he was a car guy and he raised me to be a car girl, so he would want you to know that.

So, Dad, don’t worry. I’m still digging around for all the best sell by dates. Him and I used to spend an inordinate amount of time looking through the pizza dough for the best date.

Okay. So, moving on. Talking about books. Today, we’re going to talk all about books and what’s going on with mine. So, I have always wanted to write a book. Maybe it’s because I really love to read. I don’t know, ever since I was a kid, I loved to read. But it just has always felt a book or the idea of somebody writing a book, it felt so substantial. It felt so long lasting, probably more than anything. Which, maybe the further I got into my business, especially having an online business, it felt like such a nice contrast, the idea of a book felt like such a nice contrast to the quickness and what sometimes feels like such a surface level way of producing content.

And, you know, the old lady in me, the old grandmother that’s been stuck inside me since the day I was born – which sounds creepier than it is – I feel like I’ve been frustrated over the years that, like, I understand that everybody’s attention span is getting shorter and shorter and shorter. But there’s been this part of me that has really resisted that and has felt frustrated about it and has felt like, well, it shouldn’t be that short. We should be able to enjoy it.

And I don’t know about you, but I still watch long form content. I enjoy it. I like podcasts. I listen to YouTube episodes. I also like Reels and TikToks and things like that are fun and entertaining. But, to me, it’s like they have their place. And there are many other times when I want to sit down and read or I want to sit down and watch a YouTube video of my favorite creator or something like that. For me, they’re always day in the life videos. I have a weird side obsession with day in the life videos. I don’t know why.

So, that, I guess was what really attracted me to the idea of writing a book. And when I thought about writing a book for my business or a business related book, I knew pretty early on from just hearing from people in the industry and hearing people talk about this kind of stuff, and my husband is a professor who writes books all the time – academic style books – that books for the most part are not moneymaking ventures.

Actually, speaking of Norm, my dad, he used to run a badminton class for the town that he lived in up until COVID and up until his cancer got pretty bad. And there’s actually a famous author in his badminton class, Pam Jenoff, who was actually also a law professor at my law school where I went to law school. And she is an incredible fiction author. She writes historical fiction. If you like historical fiction, you should look Pam up. We can link to her. But she’s a really famous author. I’m not telling you anything groundbreaking.

But I remember having a conversation with her really early on and being like, "I want to write a book one day." And she was like, "Great. Don’t plan to make any money off of it." Like, it took her a long time to get really popular with her book and have her books do really well and all that kind of stuff. And she writes fiction. It’s a different situation. I wanted to write non-fiction.

So, for me, I thought of the book as being more of this long form, long lasting content for my business, something that would be more establishing for my business. I feel like it gives a lot of legitimacy. And it would be something that, if you’ve listened to any of my content before, then you know I’m really into evergreen content, things that are consistently working for me in my business and pushing traffic and leads to my business over time versus creating a lot of content that just has one single purpose and kind of dies out and expires very quickly. So, for me, I was thinking like, "Oh. A book is a perfect way to do that," as long as I write about something that’s not too time sensitive or anything like that.

So, here’s how kind of the whole process got started. I think it’s a funny start given me. I’m not anti-woo. I’m just not a woo person. I don’t know, I’m just not drawn to it too much, although I really like the moon. I just am kind of agnostic, I guess that’s what I would say. I seriously don’t have bad feelings about it. It’s just that I’m not really, really into it either.

But I had gone to a birth chart session with Amy – who I can link to below – because I had gotten connected to her through a friend and I kind of was going into this birth chart thing thinking like, "I don’t know if I believe in this." But it actually turned out to be really cool. Like, the more we met and when we talked, I was like, "Wow. She really had some interesting insight." And I feel like everyone says this, but it was one of those things where she said stuff that I was just like, "There’s no way that she could know that. There’s something higher going on here." It was really weird.

And in that session, I had never mentioned to Amy that I wanted to write a book because it was still very much something that was just in the back of my mind. It was not something I had ever talked about before. And so, in that session, Amy was like, "By the way, you’re going to publish a book and it’s going to be a big deal." And she was like, "And you’re going to get a big publisher. It’s going to be for your business and it’s going to be about helping other people to work through, maybe they’ve gone through some hard stuff, but you’re going to inspire them and you’re going to teach them at the same time," and all this kind of stuff. And she was like, "Also, I’m seeing this really clearly in your chart that you’re going to get. Like, the process is going to be really easy for you. Not easy in the sense that it’s not a lot of work, but you’re not going to run up against a lot of pushback."

And I remember as she was saying this, I was like, "That would be nice, but that seems like a pipe dream. Like, why would it work out easily?" And she’s like, "Well, something is going to happen. It’s going to kind of naturally and organically unfold for you through a series of your network and your friends." And I was like, "I don’t know anybody who knows anything about books or getting books published." And that just seems like such an insane idea to me.

So, fast forward just a couple of weeks and I’m talking with Jen Racioppi, who has her own book. She had just had her book published and we were talking about something related to it. And I was like, "You know, I’d really love to write a book someday." And that was kind of the first time that I had voiced it to anybody. And she was like, "You do? You have to contact Richelle Fredson. She’s the go-to person to get your book proposal." You’ve got to write a book proposal, and then she’s going to get the book proposal into the right hands. And I was like, "Wait, what? Like, who’s Richelle?"

So, I look up Richelle, and I contact Rachelle and I apply to get a consult with her. I get the consult with Richelle, and Richelle decides to take me on as a private client to work with me to write a book proposal. So, immediately, I was like, "Oh wow. That must have been what Amy meant," like, this process just worked out really, really smoothly for me.

And Richelle is just the most wonderful person, let alone wonderful book coach and book proposal writing expert, and all of the things. And she has experience on all sides of the market, and so it’s really, really helpful to get her perspective both from marketing, and the proposal, and getting an agent, and finding a publisher, all the things. She’s just fantastic.

So, I start working with Richelle. We start the proposal process. So, essentially, Richelle teaches you this is what a book proposal is and the point of it. And in case you don’t know, because I didn’t know, you put together a book proposal, which is the document that then you send to agents to try to get them to take you on. They take your proposal and shop the proposal around to publishers. I’m not explaining this in any expert way because I am not close to being an expert on this topic. But I’m just telling you kind of generally my understanding of how this all works.

But you write the proposal and the proposal has all these different pieces in it. Like, there’s an overview of the book, and there are chapter summaries of every single chapter, and then there are sample chapters of, like, two full chapters. And you do some market research, you do a comparative analysis of what other titles are out there and how your book’s going to be different or the same. All kinds of things. You do reader avatars – that was my favorite part. You get to write about what the kind of common buckets are of readers who will read your book. So, there are all these different pieces.

And so, Richelle kind of goes through methodically and teaches you. At least for me, what we did was one book proposal section at a time. And you don’t necessarily go in order. So, from what I remember, we started with chapter summaries, and so we did that and we would work on one section at a time. And she doesn’t write anything for you. She reviews and gives feedback and coaches you on it. Just like any good coach, she’s not doing stuff for you or telling you what to do, but she’s giving you support and giving you all her expertise.

So, we go through this process for the first several months. And during that time, I learn about a book agent named Wendy Sherman. And for some reason, I just remember when I found out about Wendy, I was like, "I want Wendy Sherman to be my agent one day." But I also, at the same time, felt very intimidated and like I was a crazy person because I was like, "Well, Wendy represents some really big deals. And clearly, I’m not in that category, so she’s not going to want me, but Wendy Sherman is my dream person." And it just became this thing that was always in the back of my head. And as you’ll hear that this process took a long time, as this time went on and I saw Wendy taking on other people in our industry, I was like, "Oh, I want to be with Wendy." So, you’ll hear about that in a sec.

So, a few months into my writing of the proposal – I’m not anywhere close to being done. We’re just, like, working on the first several sections – I kind of quickly find out that we’re making a big move, at least for me, from Philly to New York, to the north shore of Long Island where I live now. And it all happened really, really fast. And at that time, the summer of 2021, the housing market was crazy. And so, getting a house was like an Olympic sport, which we, I guess, won in the sense that I got the house of my dreams out here. And so, that was the whole thing. And it just really ate up a lot of my life.

And at the same time, my dad was sick. My dad had leukemia. And I was having him at home in Philly, but then trying to figure out am I going to move him here and like, "Okay. I’ll just come back to Philly constantly." So, I was running back to Philly constantly and then trying to start a new life up here. And this was all still while the pandemic was kind of raging on still at that point.

I was sort of on and off with my book proposal from, like, the summer of 2021, from that point all the way through to April 2022, just last spring. And during that time, my business was growing a ton too. So, I was always joking with Richelle like, "What does somebody do who can’t work on their proposal because their business is too busy?" You know, it was a good thing, but it was annoying to me at the same time because I really, really wanted to get to the proposal because I just really loved this idea of writing a book and I really wanted to do it.

So, in April of 2022, just last year, I start working on it more hardcore. I’m like, "All right. I’m back in. I’m head down. I’m working on this." And I was literally working on it when my dad falls. He breaks his hip, his leukemia goes out of control, and he passes away within a couple of days. And I, for lack of a better term, go into a dark hole from May until – I don’t know – let’s say, at least this fall of 2022.

And slowly but surely, this past winter, late 2022, starting at the beginning of 2023, I emerged a bit more and decide I definitely had a shift in something, and this is in general, not just with the book, where I kind of either accept it or decided that my grief could coincide with doing a couple of things for me, like doing things that I really wanted to do. And the book was just a huge priority for me. It was something that I really, really wanted to do. And it’s like a drawer that you’ve been neglecting or a closet you’ve never cleaned out.

I was just like, "That’s it. I’m getting this done. I will get it done." And my goal was to not start 2023 without having it done. That didn’t happen still, but I was like, "I’m still pressing on. I’m going to get this done." And I got it done in February 2023. So, I finally finished the book proposal.

So, basically, the way that it works at the end, with Richelle at least, is, when you’re done with the book proposal, then she reads through the whole thing. And we barely had any little changes that we wanted to make, but we did all that. We cleaned it up. I sent it to a designer to lightly design it because you don’t super duper design it. But the cover and stuff like that, we do all that.

And then, I start talking to Richelle about agents, about who do we want to be my book agent, who are we sending this book proposal to. So, at least with the way that this process worked is that we only sent it to one agent at a time. We gave them the right of first refusal. And so, I told her, "Wendy Sherman. Wendy Sherman is my number one. That’s who I want to send it to." I mean, it’s like applying to Harvard and see if you get rejected first and then we’ll go from there.

So, I was hoping that it would work out, but I really wasn’t sure. And it turns out it did work out. What do you know? Wendy Sherman is my book agent. I, literally, for two years had this in the back of my mind. I was like, "Wendy Sherman. Wendy Sherman. Wendy Sherman." And, boom, Wendy Sherman. So, Wendy looked at my proposal. Apparently she liked it a lot. And we set up a meeting and signed on and everything’s all good. So, it’s now being shopped around to publishers.

I’ll link to Richelle’s podcast below because Richelle has a fantastic podcast and so many resources. Her podcast is called Bound and Determined, so I’ll make sure you have a link to that below. But on Richelle’s podcast, she talks so much about what the process is like, and the different kinds of books you can get published, and you can self-publish, you can hybrid, you can do traditional. There’s a million different kinds. And I don’t even pretend to understand all of the differences.

I do know that I’ve been very bullish about the fact that I wanted traditional publishing and I wanted to try, at least, to shoot for one of the big five publishers. That was my goal. So, I want Penguin, Simon & Schuster kind of deal. That’s what I want. And you get some subsidiary, some like House of Them. But that’s what I really, really want to do. Whether or not I should actually be tied to this goal, I’m not sure, but I just am.

You know, I’m a Scorpio, so at least I’m going to use that for my excuse right now, like I get my mindset on something and then I’m like, "This is what we’re going to do," and somehow we’re going to make it happen.

So, I might actually know a lot more by the time that you listen to this. I might not. It’ll still be early on in the process. I imagine we’ll still be shopping it around. I will definitely keep you updated if you want me to keep you updated. If you liked this episode, let me know because I would be happy to record an update. My thought was that I would record this about the book proposal process, since that really is step one. Like, if you want to write your book, this is step one. I’m going to give you a couple tips in a second, besides just going and listening to all of Richelle’s things.

But I will be happy to then do one about what was it like then get a publisher, and then what was it like to write the book, and then what was it like to market the book. I’d be happy to update along the way. But I wanted to know from you, Do you want to hear about this? Do you like hearing about this? Do you want to write a book? I was curious, if you want to write a book, if that’s something that you would want to do for your business.

I was thinking today, actually, while I was doing laundry in the middle of the afternoon, "I want to focus on the book. I want to focus on SEO. And I want to focus on my email." I love certain parts of social media. I also love how I’ve built this business to be so built on evergreen content that’s searchable, and people can find, and it can put them to the right place in my business. I don’t know, the slowness of that and the calmness of it really is very attractive to me. And so, maybe that’s something that speaks to me about a book. And I’m curious whether you’ve thought about that.

My dad used to joke that I should print out all my emails and I could put them together in a book. He used to read all my emails I sent to my list because he loved, loved, loved my emails. But he also thought I was so much more vulnerable with my writing and he thought it was beautiful, which I thought was really sweet. And I’m hoping to make the book like that and keep this personal touch. I don’t want it to be just a legal book.

So, I’d love to hear from you. Well, for one, are you excited that I’m going to write a book? I hope so. I hope that you will read it one day. I hope it’ll be in your hands. That’s a dream for me. I would love to hear if you’re interested in writing a book, if it’s something that you would want to do for your business, where you see that fitting in for you. That’s something that I would think of like, Why do you want to do this? How is this going to help support your business?

And I wanted to give you a couple of tips because I think there were a couple of things that really helped me along the way to getting even to the book proposal writing process, which is an accomplishment in and of itself. It’s a hefty document. It’s almost 100 pages, I think.

So, tip number one was that I would encourage you to focus on building a solid business foundation first. Because I see how far this has gotten me in the process and how many doors this has opened for me. And I know that the idea of writing a book was on my mind very, very early. But I look back now and I’m like, "Oh, good thing I didn’t do it then." Because, probably, for one, I would have faced a lot of rejection, but also I wouldn’t really had the clarity of what I would want to do and why.

So, really having a solid business foundation where you have a set of clients, and you have a proven product, and you really have a method or a system of some sort that’s unique, you have your voice – I think knowing your voice is really important – knowing what makes you unique in your industry.

And then, yes, having an audience and a following has been helpful. Although, I would encourage you to focus on what matters as well, like having a strong email list, having a strong relations with your community. We’ll see how much all of this pays off. I’m just hearing about it on the frontend. So, I’ll be able to tell you soon more of like, "Yeah. This was super helpful," but I can tell you that it certainly perked some eyebrows to be like, "Whoa. You have that many people on your email list? That’s really cool. And we have that many customers? That’s really helpful."

So, focusing everything that you’re doing in your business right now will help you ultimately to write a book. I guess that’s what I want you to know.

I would also encourage you – and I know Richelle talks about this a lot and she’ll have more resources for you about this – you also want to be really clear about why a book. Like, I was talking about how I didn’t go into it thinking that it was a moneymaking venture. I thought it would be more supportive to my business, more supplemental. But then, how? How is it supplemental? And that helped me to be clear on who I’m writing it for and why. What do I hope for them to get out of it, because it really should be beneficial just for them, not for me.

And focusing on this unique angle and experience. And I think that’s what came with time of having a business for several years. By the time I entered into this process, I knew a bit more and I felt much more confident about what made me unique. Which, personally, I would say is breaking down complicated legal topics in a very simple way. But also the way that I kind of uniquely weaved together legal tips and information with business building advice for the long term, like building a sustainable evergreen business, teaching you an alternative way to scale your business that’s not gross and yucky.

And so, that, I kind of knew over time like, "Oh. This is why people keep coming back to me" or "This is why people buy my legal templates or buy the Ultimate Bundle, but they stick around and they read every single email that I write." So, that really helped me to more confidently stand in that and say to a publisher in a book proposal like, "Hey, this is what people really like. This is why I’m writing it." Like, I know that this works already.

And then, my last tip is that I highly recommend working with a pro to draft a proposal. If you can’t work with Richelle privately, then I definitely recommend going out and getting Richelle’s course, The Book Proposal Blueprint, which I will link to down below. In the Book Proposal Blueprint, she literally is walking you through step by step the different parts of the proposal. So, I would check that out. If I were you, I would get that if you’re at the stage where you’re ready to start putting pen to paper for a proposal. And so, those are my biggest tips.

And I would also just say, too, last but not least, after working with Richelle now for so long and seeing so many of her other clients go on to get book deals, people have a very wide range of audience sizes. And so, that was just something that I had in my head for a long time. I was like, "Oh. You have to have this huge audience. You have to have this huge audience." And I have seen a lot of people go and get book deals who don’t necessarily have the following that you might think you need to have. So, I wouldn’t let that stand in your way while also working on your business foundation. And Richelle has a lot of resources around that, so I’ll make sure that we link to her below.

But like I said, let me know if you want to hear updates along the way. Let me know if you’re excited because that’ll help me to get through some of the rejection I might be facing right now or some of the imposter syndrome or anything else. But I would really appreciate hearing from you and just hearing what you think about all of this and what comes up for you about writing a book. And I want to hear what your book’s going to be about if you want to write it one day.

So, thank you so much for listening and I can’t wait to chat with you later this week.

Thanks so much for listening to the On Your Terms Podcast. Make sure to follow on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you like to listen to podcasts. You can also check out all of our podcast episodes, show notes, links, and more at samvanderwielen.com/podcast. You can learn more about legally protecting your business and take my free legal workshop, Five Steps to Legally Protect and Grow Your Online Business, at samvanderwielen.com. And to stay connected and follow along, follow me on Instagram, @samvanderwielen, and send me a DM to say hi.

Just remember that although I am a attorney, I am not your attorney and I am not offering you legal advice in today’s episode. This episode and all of my episodes are informational and educational only. It is not a substitute for seeking out your own advice from your own lawyer. And please keep in mind that I can’t offer you legal advice. I don’t ever offer any legal services. But I think I offer some pretty good information.


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