Three Words That Open Doors

Do you remember the first time you ever said, "I'm a writer"?

I mean out loud and in response to someone asking what you do. Not something you said to yourself.

Pretty cool feeling, right?

Two weeks after Bootcamp 2008, a friend who owned a sales training business asked me what I was doing now. "I'm a copywriter," I said (for the first time ever).

His response: "Really?! Because we just fired our copywriter."

He hired me initially for a small assignment, but I went on to work with them for six months.

"I'm a writer" opens doors. It's a great icebreaker, for one, plus it connects you to interesting people and projects.

But there are three other words that are more powerful and open even more doors.

"I'm an author."

That sounds even more interesting and prestigious, doesn't it? It is.

We've been talking all week about becoming an authority. In my opinion, there's no quicker way to establish yourself as an authority in your niche than by writing a book.

Authors command respect. They're instantly considered an expert in whatever subject their book is about. And they're admired. Think about it – how many times have you heard someone say, "I'm writing a book," or "I'm planning to write a book"? The follow-through is what matters.

I know because for years I've been telling people I'm going to write a book. Yet I still can't utter those three magical words, "I'm an author."

That's about to change.

I was inspired when I discovered that November is National Novel Writing Month (

Last year, over 200,000 aspiring authors signed up, and by November 30, more than 30,000 of them crossed the finish line, completing a 50,000-word novel (approximately 175 pages).

NaNoWriMo is a program for everyone who's ever thought of writing a book but has been scared off by the time and effort involved. Instead of taking months or years to finish, participants are encouraged to write fast and furiously for 30 days without endless self-scrutiny and editing.

So how does this apply to you and me?

I propose that for us freelance writers we change it to NaBoWriMo – Nat'l Book Writing Month.

Writing a book on your area of expertise gives you instant credibility.

You'll have a great lead-generation piece to promote on your website, a tool to help land projects, and a thank-you gift to clients they’ll be able to use to improve their business. You might even make money from it, but that's not the main goal.

What do you write about? A good starting point is to combine a copywriting style or technique you're good at along with an industry niche that you're passionate about.

Let's say you've just read Autoresponder Apprentice, and it clicked for you. You also love writing about products to help baby boomer women get in great shape. You could write a book, "How Fitness Marketers Can Attract More Women by Selling Less."

Here's another example. Your specialty as a web copywriter is landing pages, and you've decided to focus on the higher education niche. "Your Landing Page Could Be Landing More Applicants" is something you could promote to prep schools and boarding schools (okay, it's a corny name for a book, but you get the idea).

The point is, your book isn't going to be on The New York Times Best Sellers list. It's designed to be a specialized title that will appeal to a very narrow audience (your targeted prospects). But those prospects will see you as a respected authority because you've written a book and offered a possible solution to their problems.

Your book doesn't have to be 175 pages. For a non-fiction book showcasing your knowledge and expertise, a 50-page book will probably suffice. That's about 14,250 words – only 475 words a day for a month. That's doable, right?

Here are some tips to help you turn a potentially monumental task into something you can check off your to-do list on November 30:

  1. Use a program like to keep yourself on track. It's meant for fiction writers, but there's no reason you can't use it for any type of book (see NaNo Rebels on the Forum page). The benefits are that you can see your daily progress online, you connect with a group of like-minded writers, you set a public goal for yourself, and it's free.
  2. Don't obsess over quality. Aim for getting started and quantity to start with. You can always go back later and edit.
  3. Take a day or two to brainstorm topics, titles, and chapter titles (similar to creating headlines and sub-heads). This is a great outline to work from. Again, think about what you're particularly good at and what your areas of interest are.

    If you're a gifted storyteller with a flair for dialogue, and you're enthusiastic about travel, "A Tour Operator's Guide to Telling Stories (and Booking Every Tour Fast)" could be a working title. Chapter titles? "No more selling," "Confessions of a disgruntled traveler," and "The real reason tour companies fail," are just a few ideas off the top of my head.

  4. Wait until you're done to investigate self-publishing options and your next step. Write the book first, and then figure out what to do with it.

Writing a book is one of those things that won't make you money in the short run, but could really pay off long term. Follow this plan, write for an hour or two a day, and before the year is over, you'll have another answer when people ask, "What do you do?"

Who's with me? Leave me a note in the comments below and let me know if you have plans to write a book someday and if you're going to jump in and take the challenge.

Tomorrow, we'll wrap up this week of "How to Become an Authority in 60 Days" with a few final tips for polishing your image.

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Published: October 20, 2011

35 Responses to “Three Words That Open Doors”

  1. LOVED today's message. Something I've known I needed to do for a long time...and have ideas and chapters and everything to boot. Just need to jump in.

    Cindy Cyr

  2. I was inspired to write my book 'Manage Your IT For Profit' (Hodder) after reading Robert Gentle's 'Consultant, Market Yourself.' It's well worth a look (as is mine of course)! Being an author means you have a powerful calling card at your disposal - I always keep a few copies around to impress clients and potential clients!

    Guest (Michael Pagan)

  3. Hi Steve, I've been participating in NaNoWriMo for three years now. This year is the perfect one to participate because for the first time it doesn't overlap AWAI Bootcamp. Very difficult to put in the 1,667 words a day (total 50,000 for NaNoWriMo). I recommend signing up with NaNo - there are many local groups organized and they often meet to have a big write-in...great fun.

    Penny Thomas

  4. I remember well when I began telling people "I'm a writer". I received a variety of responses, from "Really? What do you write?" to "You make money for doing that?" I was in a hurry today, intending to skim your passage, but read it word for word. It was a very inspirational article that moved me to follow your advice and begin writing right away.

    Cathryn Whitehead

  5. Loved the article and nice to have another resource for writing. I have written 3 short books & in process of publishing to Kindle. Will give this a try and see how it goes.

    Having a book is a great resource no matter the topic.

    Guest (debby)

  6. Oh, you have so inspired me to get my outline finished, and my book for Children's Ministry Workers written.

    You are exactly right. . .it does not need to be perfect. . .it just needs to be DONE!

    Thank you so much for your inspiration.


  7. Hi Steve, I made several attempts at writing novels on three different occasions. They ended up in the bottom draw of my desk, uncompleted. On November 1, 2009, I joined the National Novel Writing Month contest, met area writers at Panera Bread for support, laughs and comfort food which enabled me to write my first 71,000 word novel in 28-days. I won a free publishing certificate, along with the satisfaction of finally completing my first novel entitled, Consequences. Now, I am a writer. However, there is another path to publishing known as editing which is an expensive final process. I did the first round of reorganizing chapters, cutting and pasting paragraphs to other areas in the book, and editing. In March 2011, I finally relinquished the editing process to an editor who lets me pay as she edits. My novel will be ready for self publishing in December 2011. Then I can say, I am an author! I am looking forward to doing this again, but I'll certainly create an outline first. I sugge

    Edith Brown

  8. Steve I am going to give it a try. It was the topic d'jour in my on line writer's chat last night. The topics are limitless. I am also encouraging the fans of my author page to join me as so many have said they want to write a book. I have a print book currently, "The Con" and 2 other short e-books. Thanks for the challenge

    Guest (Gael McCarte)

  9. I have already written TWO books, plus at least 15 ebooks. None of them is in my niche. In fact, I don't even have a niche. I've been studying copywriting for a couple of years but only just now deciding that it's something I really need to do.

    Jeff Kontur

  10. Sounds Fab Steve, thanks.

    Nov 30th is my birthday and I see no reason to give this a whirl for cranking out my book "Copywriting for Twitter Impact!"

    See you on the site ~ and in print.

    Peace and profits, Tia D.

    Guest (Tia Dobi)

  11. Just like many others, I have done NaNoWriMo for 3 years in a row. Sadly, never finished. I am also a full time grad student and it never seems to fail that I lack the hours needed to complete all of my projects. My local group is awesome, and at least I try. However, I want to write my memoir more than a novel, even finish my book of poetry. I love the idea of "book" rather than novel. I believe November is also Memoir writing month. I was thinking we should make December, being the last month of the year, the month to finish our New Years resolution and finish our book, no matter what style/genrea it is. Who wants to help me with :)

    Guest (Chrystal)

  12. Great post! I am working on a nonfiction book...NaNoWriMo gives me the perfect motivation to get going. I tried last year, but got busy and only got to 25,000 words. But it was a great way to stay on track.

    Guest (julie mcelroy)

  13. First time I have heard of NaBoWriMo. I have had a couple novel I had been thinking about writing. One was a Christian version of a Titanic survivor, the trial and tribulations and learning to trust in the Lord , plus a inspirational mystery,

    Need to do a lot of research before tackling these.

    I would like to write some kind of book about writing email copy. Since this the area of copywriting I want to specialize in.

    I believe I'll join next week … thanks for the great advice Steve


  14. Excellent tips. thank you.

    I wrote my first, probably only, book, Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion. Took about three months to write and another three months to finish up and get published through Outskirts Press, a subsidy publisher. Now available at and

    I am an author! It does sound nice.

    Next venture is helping others write and self-publish their own books.

    Guest (Douglas Winslow Cooper)

  15. Steve, three of us here in Minneapolis have challenged each other to write books in our respective specialties. One's writing about blogging, one's writing about content marketing, and because I'm a rebel and a contrarian, I'm writing about how to work with a custom jewelry designer to get the ring of your dreams.

    And we ain't waitin' 'til November. We're already off & runnin'!

    Ed in Minnesota

  16. I have already planned to write the biography of a local politician here in my county, Kenya. I sought his authorization. He liked the idea and promised to cooperate. It is now three months since he promised to do so. But a friend of mind as encouraged me to continue writing and doing research on his life without seeking any further cooperation. My friend thinks it is good that I have started the project and I should do it until I finish. I lack resources to first tract my work. Can anybody give some suggestions?

    Guest (Ronald C Zochin)

  17. Went to local NaNoWriMo Kickoff meeting yesterday. I will do 50,000+ words. I have to. I've told everybody including a blurb in the local paper. A checker 3 isles over yelled, "Author, Author" at me in front of a full store. I will do 50,000 words...or move.


  18. Wow! I am very interested in the idea of making that claim for myself. After having read all of the remarkable comments, I must admit that I feel just a touch out of my league; but, even as I write this, it comes to mind that all persons who ever aspired to be an author began "out of their own league". They aspired, as we do, to make a claim of grandeur which motivated them to do what they presumed impossible. I have talked myself out of this and then right back into it. :-)
    Count me in.


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