From Paralysis to Print: Write and Publish Your Book

I’ve heard different stats over the years, but it’s staggering that as many as 90% of Americans want to write a book! Now, I’m not entirely sure that I believe the number is that big, but I do think it’s pretty darn high. And with the rise of self-publishing to level the playing field, it’s now easier than ever.

The problem? It’s still really hard to do. Most of us, myself included, may feel like we have a book or two in us, but a much smaller percentage actually gets it done. And then, an even smaller number reaches the publishing process.

It also seems like a complicated industry, doesn’t it? From actually sitting down to write, to the editing process, to finding a publisher (if you want one), to seeing your little labor of love on a shelf—there’s a LOT to do. In fact, you probably have a lot of questions.

So, what’s a girl or guy to do? You can ask my friend, Sara Shelton, who has a few books under her belt as a ghostwriter, editor, and coach. If the process seems intriguing but daunting, Sara will take you from paralysis to print by answering five of your most asked questions about writing and publishing a book.

From Paralysis to Print: 5 Common Questions About Writing and Publishing Your Book

So, you want to write a book? That’s amazing!

As an avid reader myself, let me just go ahead and thank you in advance for sharing another story that I can read and recommend to my friends.

And as a fellow writer, let me stop here and encourage that you no matter how difficult, frustrating, and completely unglamorous the writing process actually is, you can do it. You do, in fact, have a story to share!

The truth is a lot of people do! But standing at the beginning of the writing process, so many writers feel paralyzed by the thought of actually trying to get their stories out on paper and into print.

That’s usually where I come in!

I’ve been working as a freelance writer and editor for five years now, and in that time, I’ve been fortunate enough to come alongside and work with several authors during the writing, editing, and eventual publishing of their books. No matter which hat I’m wearing in the writing process, I love helping my clients cross the finish line to see their words of wisdom, stories, and advice finally on the page in print.

But like I said, the process of moving beyond fear-induced paralysis at the thought of writing a book to actually holding your final printed copy in your hand isn’t an easy one. So to help you move from paralysis to print, here are answers to five of my most frequently asked questions about writing a book.

1)   Where do I start?

There’s no “right” answer to this question. My best advice? Just start! If you have an idea, a vision, a story you think is worth sharing in print, then decide right now that you’re going to share it.

Then, get organized. I can’t stress this enough! Spending time on the front end of the writing process thinking through and organizing your thoughts will save you a lot of time (and maybe even money!) on the back end.

Once you’ve got a clear idea for your book, sit down and create an outline. Think through each main point you hope to hit—the takeaways you want readers to leave with—and organize them into chapters.

Next, write down the details under each chapter that you’re going to use to support those main points or takeaways—the stories, research, anecdotes, history, and more that will reinforce your point. (Pro tip: Index cards spread out on the floor are a great way to see your outline come to life!)

You can dive as deep into the outline as you’d like, but at the very least, start with getting your thoughts into some kind of organized format. Trust me, you’ll be so thankful you did this when you finally sit down to write!

2)   What DOES the writing process like?

Everyone’s writing process is going to look different, but I can almost assure you it won’t be seamless and smooth. Sometimes your writing is done in the back of a crowded coffee shop. Sometimes it’s done in the early morning hours in your bedroom before the sun rises. Sometimes it’s done in the car pickup line, or the benches of basketball practice, or the middle of the night hours when you just can’t sleep.

My best advice for diving into the writing process is to do your best to give it a good mix of structure and grace. Wake up early or stay up late for some uninterrupted hours of writing. You know how much time you have to offer, so offer that to your process.

Don’t look at your phone, don’t answer your email, don’t scroll through social media. Just write.

Maybe even give yourself a word count goal to hit each day. And then, aim for it. Some days you’ll go above and beyond. Other days, you’ll barely get there (which is where the grace comes in). Whatever the writing process looks like for you, go into it with as much structure and dedication to it as you can and give yourself a break on the days it just doesn’t work.

3)   What do I do to get published?

For the most part, publishing still falls into one of two major groups: traditional publishing or self-publishing.

Traditional publishing means your book goes to a professional publishing house and it is printed and distributed under their umbrella. The pros? You’ve got an entire group of people whose time, energy, and resources are devoted to your book. They take care of editing, design, promotion, and more. And depending on your deal, you typically get paid up front for your manuscript as well as in royalties from sales.

The cons? It’s very difficult to get in the door of a traditional publishing house. It requires a lot of work—the research to find the right potential publishing houses or agents for your book, the writing of a query letter to get the editor’s interest, the compiling of a book proposal to pitch your book, and more. Agents and publishers will want to know things like how big your social media following or potential audience is. They want to see how they might be able to sell your book to that audience. And they often get the final say in how your book takes shape and is edited. In a lot of ways, you lose control.

But in self-publishing, the control stays in your hands. You get to decide how you want to edit, promote, and even sell your book. You get the freedom to write the book you want to write! And with programs like Create Space, IngramSpark, and Kindle Direct Publishing, the process is easy for even the most beginner of writers.

The bad news? The expense is all your own. You have to front the money for things like edits, design, promotion, and more. If you want your book to sell, it’s typically up to you. While it is most definitely a great option, writers who choose to self-publish need to know the hustle is real!

KP note: Even with most traditional publishers now, you will still be expected to do a little or a lot of the marketing and promotion. It depends on your existing audience, the publisher, and more. So, don’t just expect to get out of it with a traditional publisher! If you have a particular publishing house in mind, see if one of their existing authors will answer a few questions for you.

4)   Where is it important to invest my money in the process?

A lot of this depends on the publishing route you end up taking with your book. If you’re in a traditional space, those publishing houses and agents will likely have agents, designers, marketing teams, and more already lined up to help you. But if you’re not (or if you just want to turn in the most well-rounded and polished copy of your manuscript), your first expense needs to be a good editor.

By the time you’ve finished your book, it’s become a real labor of love. And that makes seeing it through fresh and unattached eyes a difficult thing to do.

If you’re working with a rough draft and unsure of the direction of your book, a developmental editor is a great investment to help craft a better structure and clearer overall picture for your book. They may do everything from telling you to reorganize your chapters to suggesting you cut some of your content altogether—and that’s okay! They’re reading the book with eyes to make it better!

A copy editor is key for any writer because they’ll read your book with a fine-tooth comb, checking and correcting every single grammatical and mechanical error. Though both types of editors are going to be an investment to your project, it’s one you most definitely want to make so that you walk away with the best possible product ready to print.

Beyond editorial costs, many authors need to look specifically into designers to help them layout their book and even create a professional, eye-catching cover. Others choose to set aside funds to hire a team to help them market the book.

My advice to writers who will have to make any kind of financial investment to get their book published is to choose where you spend your money wisely. What matters most to you in the process? Start there and then see what funds you have left to go elsewhere.

5)   How will people know I wrote a book?

How do people know anything about what’s going on in your life? Because you talk about it!

If you’re going to do the incredibly hard and amazing work of writing a book (something most people only ever dream about doing), then you have officially earned the right to shout this accomplishment from the rooftops! Or at the very least, from your social media, email, blog, website, and any other form of connection you have to your people. You, your family, your friends, the people in your office or on your team—those are the best ways to promote your book from the get go.

If you have the funds, you can of course hire a marketing team or booking agent to help get the word out. But don’t be discouraged if you don’t. Instead, be proud of the work you’ve done and find ways to share that work with the people in your networks through promotion on channels like social media, email, podcasts, and more.

Interested in writing a book? Have a few more questions about how to make the publishing process happen for yourself? Find me online at and let’s get connected!

Sara Shelton

Sara Shelton is a full-time writer and editor working with clients to bring their stories and words to life. When she’s not working on manuscripts, curriculum, website content, magazine articles, and more, you can find Sara sharing a bit of her own work at

Connect with on Instagram and Twitter at @saralaurence.  


The process of moving beyond fear-induced paralysis at the thought of writing a book to actually holding your final printed copy in your hand isn’t an easy one. So to help you move from paralysis to print in your writing, here are my answers to five of my most frequently asked questions about writing a book.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I’m Kristi Porter, and I help cause-focused organizations understand and execute effective marketing campaigns so they can move from stressed to strategic. Your resources may be limited, but your potential isn’t. Whether you’re a nonprofit, social enterprise, or small business who wants to give back, I’ll show you how to have a bigger impact.

Work ON Your Business, Not IN Your Business (Part 2)

There are a couple of stereotypes that come to mind when the word "entrepreneur" is brought up. First, is the more romanticized notion of being able to travel, take long lunches, and basically do what you want, when you want. On the other hand, there's the overworked, underpaid, and basically frazzled lump of a person. Those are the opposite ends of the spectrum, and honestly, depending on the day, either can be accurate.

We entrepreneurs are definitely lured away from more traditional jobs by the first persona, but for many of us, it's the second one that ends up taking root. And though none of us signs up for long hours and little pay long-term, those of us who are leading purpose-driven organizations often just chock it up to the cost of doing business differently. But I don't think this has to be the case.

Last week, I shared that I'd recently finished the book The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber, which made the phrase "working ON your business, not IN your business" popular. In that post, I recounted that he says there are three different types of personalities that all business owners must display in order to be successful: the entrepreneur, manager, and technician. Building on that idea, today I want to share his strategy for growth and scale. And, like last time, I'll also tell you what some of the nonprofit and social enterprise leaders I admire do to work on their business.

Work ON Your Business, Not IN Your Business (Part 2)

The first part of the book, the section which primarily deals with those three personalities, made perfect sense to me. I recognized those traits in myself, but also saw areas of improvement I know I need to work on if I want to making it in business, as well as see my social enterprise thrive.

However, there were aspects of this second part that initially rubbed me the wrong way. But I pushed through, and Gerber made a strong case for his argument. I think I even became a believer along the way.

So, what was it?

The Franchise Model

The stance Gerber takes in this book is a bold one, in my opinion. He submits that to grow and scale, all small businesses owners must adopt a franchise mentality. That is, they must on some level be able to replicate themselves through systems and processes.

Some of you might automatically get stuck after reading that paragraph. Even being a girl who loves systems, "I totally paused," to quote Clueless, when I started this section of the book. At this point, I don't see myself setting up numerous Signify offices around the country, or hiring hundreds of employees. In fact, that thought makes me kinda want to barf. However, I am flying solo on this venture right now, and it would be super terrific to one day maybe have a bookkeeper, a few specialists on retainer, or heck, even an intern. And those things mean that I need to think bigger. I need to think in terms of scaling. In Gerber's philosophy, I need to franchise.

If a business is to thrive, it must obviously move beyond the founder. It cannot be wholly dependent on me or my skills—or in your case, you. Otherwise, it can feel very burdensome. It's more of just a job at that point. If I am out on vacay or sick in bed or taking that glorious three-hour lunch, nothing's getting done. Sound familiar?

Gerber equates business growth to the development of a person, with an infancy, adolescence, and maturity stage. The infant stage is exciting. Everything is new, but it can also easily get overwhelming. There are so many tasks to complete, and not enough help or time to complete them. You enter the adolescence stage when you hire someone. This is pretty spectacular, but too many owners end up wanting a break so desperately that they shove everything on to the newbie, which creates a whole new set of problems. It's possible said newbie either becomes overwhelmed too, may not yet carry the vision, or may have a different take on doing things that they execute in your absence. None of those are good alternatives. Gerber calls it "managing by abdication rather than delegation."

At this point, he says the owner has two viable options: the first is to either return to their comfort zone of the one man band, or expand with a franchise model mindset. 

Turnkey Revolution

His solution to success is the "turnkey revolution," which is a model that allows basically anyone to complete the process. Yes, just like a franchise. He uses the example of McDonald's.

While many businesses fail every year, putting processes, systems, and organization in place allows 75% of franchises to succeed. Wow, that's crazy! This is because they are consistent and predictable. And we humans are often creatures of habit, so those two words are comforting.

There are four basic principles behind the turnkey model:

  1. Design for simplicity and efficiency. Your system should determine the outcome, not your people.

  2. Document everything in an operations manual. This includes the roles, the work itself, and everything between.

  3. Predictable service is a necessity. You must provide consistent value to your customers (or donors, for you nonprofit founders who are still with us).

  4. Be results-oriented. Create a profit for your business, and be able to measure goals and objectives. And, of course, be ready to tweak at any time.

My Hang-Ups

I've already mentioned my first issue, and that was trying to define what scaling meant to me. Through his examples in the book, he is definitely talking about becoming a big player, but again, at this point, I have no desire for that. But his case was strong enough to help me realize that even wanting to scale on a very small scale could benefit from what he had to say.

Item number two may have made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up as well, and that was "Your system should determine the outcome, not your people." Okay, ouch! I pursed my lips and scowled a bit when he started in on this idea. After all, if I'm one person now, and want to expand that to two, three, or five people, I want to hire great people! I want to love them, and be friends with them, and invite them for sleepovers. (Okay, maybe not that last one, but I haven't ruled it out.)

But, after thinking about it a little more, I'd heard something similar before that I did agree with, and that was to hire based on the capability of the person, not the job description. Gerber may not agree with me there, but I'm gonna go with it. His point is that when you get a good system in place, most anyone should be able to pick up the ball and run with it. You should make it that simple, efficient, and seamless. And there is a lot of that I can stand behind.

Along those lines, I was a little put off with his continued use of McDonald's as an example. I'm personally not a fan for many reasons. But I am smart enough to recognize the business sense and innovation that company, and Ray Kroc, had in the early days. It just took reframing that concept for me. An assembly line is not what I'm looking for, but because I love systems, I understand the value of putting a process in place to help guide or predict an outcome.

The other thing I'll say is that if you choose to read the book, he pretty much sticks to product-based businesses to illustrate his point. So, you service-based guys and gals like me will need to think a little more intuitively. 

Overall, I really did find the book interesting and worth my time. I would recommend it as well. There are some steps I've already started putting in place along these lines, and plenty more to come. If anything, it'll just get you thinking differently about your little engine that could.

If you've read The E-Myth Revisited, what did you think?

What It Looks Like in Action

I also asked a few small business owners that I know, or follow online, to share how they work on their business, not just in their business. Here's what they had to say:

"You can't do everything on your own. Outsource what you can to freelancers, so you can focus on scale and the North Star of your vision." – Grant Trahant, Causeartist

“Every year on January 2, the Plywood staff takes a retreat to focus on the year ahead. We turn off our email and spend the first few days of the year focusing on the big picture." – Callie Murray, Plywood People

“For sixteen years, through North Point and Orange, I have heard ‘work on it instead of just in it.’ I get it, but it is so difficult to live it out. With everything thing that needs to get done, stopping to theorize, dream, analyze, and ask tough questions often doesn’t make the list. But I declared summer of 2017 the summer of analysis. This summer we have worked on it instead of just in it, and it has changed the direction of our division in many ways. The greatest benefit of working on it, is the peace of mind that you are working on the right things.” – Ted Lowe, MarriedPeople

“To continually improve our effectiveness, we block four hours per week for the entire team to work 'on' the business. During this time, we may work on our marketing initiatives or redesign key business processes. There are weeks when it's really hard to protect the time on our calendars. However, even without a 100% success rate on our goal, we've seen our organization's projects move forward more consistently than ever before.” – Kevin Jennings, Junction 32

“The only way I actually find time to work on my businesses, instead of just in them, is by making them a priority. Think back to high school or college dating . . . if your crush was available to hang out, it didn’t matter if you had class in two hours, or a paper due tomorrow, or a project to work on. You can bet you were hanging out with your crush! You found time to meet up with them, because it was your priority. Your business is no different. You have to trust that the work that needs to get done will get done when you take the time to make working on your business a priority, just like it did when you were younger and you survived school work and a date with your crush all in one day.” - Christina Scalera, Founder of The Contract Shop

“The thing I've had to learn as Refuge is growing from a small mom-and-pop venture to a larger-scale nonprofit is to let go! Not to let go of vision and culture, but to let go of the details. That's not a problem for me in some areas—the things I don't like to do or don't do well—but anything having to do with messaging or partying, I want to have my hands in it. I have to find people I trust and let them lead. It's freeing, but hard at first. In the end, it's so worth it, not just for your organization and your own sanity, but for the people who take those details, learn, grow, and knock it out of the park. Plus, they get the credit and satisfaction, and that's really cool.” – Kitti Murray, Refuge Coffee Co.

Read the first part of the series.


I recently finished the book   The E-Myth Revisited   by Michael Gerber, which made the phrase "working ON your business, not IN your business" popular. Today I want to share his  strategy  for growth and scale. And I'll also tell you what some of the nonprofit and social enterprise leaders I admire do to work on their business.

(Amazon links are affiliate links.)

Kristi Porter, founder at

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.

Work ON Your Business, Not IN Your Business (Part 1)

I've recently become a little obsessed with the phrase "work ON your business, not IN your business," made popular by Michael Gerber. Since my own business turned one this summer, I've been in a constant state of reflection, evaluation, and motivation. And those words, and his book, The E-Myth Revisited, kept popping up in conversations and online. Not a coincidence! So, I finally decided give it a read (via Audible). I can say that it was well worth my time, and I think that it would be worth yours too.

Since nonprofits and social enterprises are mission-driven, and not profit-driven, it can be difficult to understand or incorporate a traditional "business mindset." Heck, that phrase may even sound a bit icky to you. After all, you and I aren't in this for business as usual. But, hang with me, because I believe there are some valuable lessons to pull from this book that you can use in your organization. Think about it, how much good can we do if we can't grow and scale? Serving a larger purpose takes a strong strategy. One person can absolutely make a difference, but the point is to bring others along, right? And if your organization continually struggles or gets stuck, you won't be available to help anyone. Ouch! I know that's not what you want, and it's not what I want for you.

Have you heard the phrase "work ON your business, not IN your business," made popular by Michael Gerber in The E-Myth? Since nonprofits and social enterprises are focused on the mission, and not solely the profit, it can be difficult to understand or maintain a traditional "business mindset." In fact, it may often be considered undesirable. But I think there are some valuable business lessons to pull from this book.

While there are many ideas in this book that are intriguing (some of which I admit that I was hesitant about at first), I'm only going to focus on two, over-arching themes of the book. I'm also going to share what a few other, stellar nonprofit and social enterprise leaders said when I asked them how they work on their business.

The big idea I want to chat about today are the three "personalities" Gerber notes that every business owner must identify and utilize: the entrepreneur, manager, and technician. He states that all business owners already have these personas inside them, but most people tend to lean heavily on one, and rely very little on the other two. However, he believes that it takes all three to be successful. He actually makes a case for that feeling you get of being pulled in multiple directions! To me, that's reassuring.


The entrepreneur is, as you'd expect, the dreamer, innovator, and visionary. On the other hand, the manager craves order, solves problems, and enjoys details. And the technician is the craftsman who actually gets the work done.

Every year, approximately one million small businesses literally or figuratively open their doors. One million! By the following year, 40% of them are closed. And four out of five don't make it to their five-year anniversary. Sad! I know you are out there trying to make the world a better place, and so, we need you to survive. Not only that, we need you to thrive!

Gerber says that the average small business owner is 10% entrepreneur, 20% manager, and 70% technician. Most small businesses fail because a technician isn't necessarily a good business owner. This guy/gal is a worker bee, but can't necessarily think long-term or accomplish large goals. They only focus on the task right in front of them. If that's the case, he/she is likely either burn out or continue to struggle because the work can only be sustained for so long by that one person, and they aren't making enough profit to bring in other people.

Likewise, if we rely too heavily on our inner entrepreneur, we'll have oodles of ideas, but never actually accomplish anything. And then the manager is stuck right in the middle without the other two, constantly pushing paper, answering emails, and posting on social media (hear: staying very busy), but with no direction or substance to back it up.

Which personality feels more dominant for you? Entrepreneur, manager, or technician? Gerber is right on target for me. I definitely have facets of all three, and value all three in myself, but I mostly rely on my technician, because she makes the moola. :) 

Oh, and this is a good exercise to think through even if you have a partner or small team. One of these personalities may be more prevalent across the board, and you'll need to find a way to bring some balance. 

Next week, we'll talk about Gerber's strategy for success. But I wanted to begin by understanding where we're all starting from. Again, his belief is that it takes all three of these personalities working in harmony for small businesses owner to achieve success.

I have no doubt that, like me, you got a little overwhelmed when you started your organization. You knew how to do one thing well, or maybe even a few things, but as a small business owner, you had to learn a whole bunch of skills to stay afloat . . . IT, marketing, admin, HR, fundraising, salesperson, social media manager, writer, coffee gopher, pep squad captain, etc. That definitely works for a while, but it's not sustainable. It's not going to allow you to grow (no matter how you apply that definition to your business), or help more people through your mission.

So, first identify your dominant personality. Then, consider ways that you can start developing the other two. Think of it as being holistic, well-rounded, or even just what it takes to be the #WorldsBestBoss. This is the beginning, the foundation.

Intrigued? Pick up a copy of the book. I highly recommend it!


And if you're looking for some ideas of how you can work on your business, rather than simply in your business, here's some feedback from a few pros:

“I prioritize goals weekly and quarterly, and make sure to keep them in a place where I see them every day. This helps me remember what's truly important, and keeps me moving toward bigger goals on a daily basis.” – Joanna Waterfall, Yellow Co.

“One of the best ways I know to guard time to work on it, not in it, is by ensuring I don't schedule most of my time away in meetings. I ensure that no more than 50% of my time is spent in meetings. Ideally, it's 30%. That way, I have 50-70% of my time to dream, write, create, and work on it, not in it.” – Carey Nieuwhof,

“I use time blocks on certain days throughout my week, which are for specific, higher-level projects that make my work easier in the long run. One of the things I do during these time blocks is work on my content library. These are spreadsheets of content focused on evergreen—undated, but always relevant—blog posts and quotes that I can schedule into my social media calendar. Cataloging this content and repurposing it in this way helps me to keep helpful and interesting content in front of my customer's eyes on social media, without always having to take the time to create new content. Between scheduling out this evergreen content from my library of spreadsheets, I sprinkle in current, dated, timely content and information that keeps things fresh on my channels.” - Jennifer Wilder, Voiceover Artist and Social Media Manager

"I utilize a To Do List organized by order of importance so I'm always engaged with the most important issues of our organization." – Larry Witherspoon, Automotive Training Center

“I work with a coach. Having regular check-ins and accountability helps me keep my eyes on the prize, as it were. I also invest in my development (and the development of my team). Professional development budgets are often overlooked in small businesses and organizations, but it means so much to me and to my staff to be able to focus on learning and growth." – Cindy Wagman, The Good Partnership

“I do find myself in the trap of working IN vs ON my business more frequently than I wish, but my best approach for getting above it and feeling like I am giving real strategic thought and leadership is by connecting and carving out time with others not directly involved with the business, but whom I trust and respect. This may be a lunch date with one person, a working session with a peer group, or a professional speaker event within my network circles. This ‘space’ and time always allow me to hear from others, learn from their challenges and focus, and think about intersecting opportunities for SparkFire Active. Every time, I come out energized, refreshed, and with a clearer roadmap for the plan I want to be working on. The spirit of creativity and collaboration elevates my focus. – Samantha Hodgkins, SparkFire Active



Have you heard the phrase "work ON your business, not IN your business," made popular by Michael Gerber in The E-Myth? Since nonprofits and social enterprises are focused on the mission, and not solely the profit, it can be difficult to understand or maintain a traditional "business mindset." In fact, it may often be considered undesirable. But I think there are some valuable business lessons to pull from this book.

(Amazon links are affiliate links.)

Kristi Porter, founder at

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.