As we become established fitness instructors, we search for new ways to increase our business and our presence in the industry. One way that many have tried, with varying degrees of success, is to publish a book.
I used to relate trying to figure out how to become a published author to a tourist trying to navigate New York City without a map. It's a little overwhelming, and for the most part you don't even know which way to turn first. The situation was no different for me as I tried to navigate the world of publishing.
Although I had self-published a 307-page body transformation manual and a series of successful eBooks on various exercise, nutrition and healthy lifestyle plans, I had no real knowledge of how to break into the book publishing industry. Sure, I had read a few articles and courses telling me how to become a "Best-Selling Author," but none of them had any real information on what it takes to get a book published.
However, all of that changed earlier this year when I got a call from a major fitness publisher inquiring about whether I'd be interested in writing a book that they had in mind. Now, after a full year of learning the ropes, I'm happy to be able to share my experience with you.
STAGE 1: Write a Professional Proposal and Preface
This is the most important piece of the process since it is what you will be sending off to the acquisitions editor of the book publisher that you choose. My proposal ended up being 19 single-space typed pages with a nine-page preface.
The proposal is basically a complete, super-detailed outline of your book, including what each chapter will be about, how many photos it will include, the page count and how the book will be laid out. Be as specific as possible and show them you did you homework by comparing or contrasting it to other popular books that yours would end up competing against in the market.
The preface is double-spaced and is basically the introduction to your actual book that gives the publisher's acquisition team the gist of what your book will be about while demonstrating your unique writing style.
Once you get everything to flow properly, look up the physical mailing address (and email) of the acquisitions editor of a publisher and priority mail them your professional proposal and preface. I would also include a cover sheet summarizing your intent. You can then follow up by email or phone to see if they received it and got a chance to review your book proposal.
STAGE 2: Getting the Green Light
The acquisitions team will either say they like your proposal and would like to move forward with it or will turn you down if it's not what they're looking for at this time. If they are willing to consider it, then prepare for another three to five rounds of edits over the course of about two or three months, depending on how busy they are with other proposals they are working on.
Once your finished proposal is accepted, it marks just the beginning. The acquisitions editor then has to take it to the publishing committee and sell it to them. This is when you just cross your fingers and wait for the call...
STAGE 3: Contract Negotiations
Once your book proposal gets accepted, it's time to talk contracts and compensation! I'll be honest with you though; as a new author, don't expect a large advance or to play hardball.
Basically, most publishers have a set of rules that they play by where you can receive an advance up front, but that money will be taken out of your initial book sale's royalties. So although you may receive a few thousand dollars up front, all the real money comes from your royalty fees when books are sold. The royalties will vary from publisher to publisher, but typically there are two to three tiers with you receiving a slightly larger percentage after a certain number of books are sold.
Also, the contract is pretty straight forward and just spells out both parties' responsibilities throughout the writing process, acceptance and eventual publishing. It also states what will happen throughout the course of the book's lifespan.
STAGE 4: Get Writing!
Most major publishers are smart and realize that when there isn't a timeline in place, many writers will leave things to the last minute or stretch out their writing over the course of a year (or two). Therefore, as a contracted writer you will most likely be asked to submit a new chapter about every two weeks, depending on the length of the book and time allotted to write it.
If you don't follow up on your end of the bargain, your contract can be voided and any advance you were afforded may need to be paid back.
STAGE 5: The Photo Shoot
A fitness book cannot be complete without demonstrations of each exercise in the book. I can either submit my own personal photo to be accepted as the book's fitness model, or I may choose to find another model for the shoot. There are pros and cons to both and I haven't quite decided what I will do this time around (previously I have modeled for my shoots).
STAGE 6: Editing
They never mention this part, but after you complete all the writing for your book, it could take another three to six months for it to be edited, sent back to you for approval, re-edited if need be and then given the final stamp of approval. At this time, the finished product will need to be professionally typeset and the layout has to be designed. You will have some say over how the finished book looks as long as you negotiate that up front.
STAGE 7: Choosing a Title
Although every book proposal has a "working title," the finished book's title may change. It depends on market research, how the book took shape and whom you're competing against in the market. Again, you do have some say on this, but major book publishers have entire departments dedicated to marketing, so you better bring your own market research as well if you are passionate about a certain title.
STAGE 8: From Pen to Published
The entire process from submitting your first professional proposal and preface to actually seeing your book in Barnes & Noble or another big bookstore is about 18 months. When I first learned this, I thought that timeline was nuts, but after speaking with several published authors, they all agreed it takes between 12 and 24 months for the final product to appear in a bookstore.
STAGE 9: Marketing
Although publishers have their own marketing departments, distribution lists and other advertising mediums, they will certainly look to you to market your own work. Believe it or not, one of the reasons why you were chosen was because they thought you could actually sell books. You have to keep in mind that they get dozens of qualified book proposals from experts every week; therefore, if you can show that you have your own following and will aggressively market your book (and why wouldn't you?) then you'll look like a stronger candidate when it comes time to final author selections.
STAGE 10: The Insider Secret
Ready for the BIG insider secret that I've learned from many authors who have come before me and were gracious enough to share their insights?
The real money isn't made from selling books. Sure, you'll make a couple of dollars every time a book is sold, but you could make 10 times that much self-publishing or selling eBooks online. The real reason you write a published book is for the recognition it brings you and the prestige it bestows upon you. From there, you can use your "published author status" for your business and marketing purposes, as well as to create higher end coaching programs that will eclipse any amount of money that could ever come from book sales.
I feel compelled to make one last point. Even tough I enjoy writing and I'm excited to see my book in print on bookshelves nationwide, writing a book is a sizable amount of work to undertake, and your motives can't just be about the money. Personally, I love the health and fitness industry and I'm passionate about helping people all around the world to achieve their goals. That's what gets me out of bed every morning...
Stephen Cabral, CSCS, CPT, NS is a world renowned health and fitness author, writer, studio owner and fitness professional with over 1,100 published articles and 13,657 completed client training sessions. He also consults and coaches a select group of fitness professionals as a fitness business success coach. For more details and to contact Stephen Cabral visit: www.StephenCabralCoaching.com.