One piece of advice for writing your first book.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from doing Q&As at live events, it’s that not all questions are created equal. Some questions are just easier to answer than others.

For example, “Do you want some queso?” is an easy question to answer. (The answer is “yes,” always yes.) That’s actually what we in the business call ‘rhetorical.’

Then there’s the other end of the spectrum. Questions that are impossible to answer, like:

“What are you more afraid of: bear attacks or Lorenzo Lamas from his ‘Renegade’ days?”


“How would you react if Michael W. Smith and Prince boarded a flight you were on but they sat far away from each other so it wasn’t easy for you to stare at both of them with your hands to your face like Stefon from Saturday Night Live?”


“What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to write a book?”

Those are tough. And that last one? That might be the toughest.

You don’t need me to tell you this, but writing a book is a daunting task. There’s so much that goes into it that I understand why it feels like any little nugget of advice to demystify the process will help.

And don’t get me wrong, my advice is legendarily great. There’s a reason they call me the UDL in some circles (Unibrowed Dalai Lama). But ONE piece of advice to cover the WHOLE process of dreaming up, writing, editing, publishing, and selling a book? I get sweaty just thinking about how to answer that. And people ask me that regularly on Twitter. They’ll tweet, “I’m thinking about writing a book, what should I do?”

Which is a somewhat silly question to ask via Twitter if you think about it. How in a 140 character tweet can I possibly give an answer with value? What kind of book? Fiction or non-fiction? When are you writing it? Why are you writing it? Do you want to go with traditional publishing or self publishing? Do you have an audience already or is your goal to build one with the book?

There are so many questions that come up with the book writing process, that’s why I’m so excited to see some friends of mine getting behind a new project to help authors not just launch books, but launch GREAT books. (Yes, there is a difference.)

It’s called Author Launch, and it’s a 46-week course that features a 50,000-word workbook, weekly videos to help you along your journey, and a private community of authors who are writing their own book alongside you.

(Update: the course is now closed, but registration will re-open in Spring 2015.)

I’m a big fan of it for three reasons:

1. I know almost all of the people involved in the project. Ally Vesterfelt, Jeff Goins, Donald Miller, Derek Webb, Crystal Paine, and Carlos Whittaker to name a few. They’re all legit writers and legit people. It’s an impressive roster of mentors for any aspiring author.

2. Every great book needs a great team behind it. Traditional publishers already offer that, but if you’re self-publishing, this is an amazing way to get qualified people on your side. They had established authors create unique content, they had a professional video crew package that content, and they provide milestones and objectives for you to hit along the way.

3. It’s a 46-week course! 46 weeks! Having written a few books before, that feels about right to me. Anyone who tells you they can help you write a great book in a month is probably wearing a jacket lined with rolexes. Writing books is easy. Writing great books is hard. But having this roster of authors come alongside you for a full 10 months? That’s the type of guidance you need to start AND finish a great book.

When people tell me they want to start a blog, I always tell them the same thing, “read Michael Hyatt’s book Platform.” It’s my go to resource for launching a social media platform. I’ll never become an affiliate for things I don’t think will genuinely help people. That’s why I became an affiliate of Author Launch along with my fellow writer and good friend Bryan Allain, who helped me with this post. We both honestly think it will help you write a great book.

If your goal is to write not just a book, but a GREAT book in 2015, you’re gonna need some help. And the resources and guidance you’ll get throughout the 46-weeks of Author Launch is comprehensive help from great authors doing great work.

Check it out and see for yourself.

UPDATE: Here are a few video samples of what you’ll find in the course:

Thoughts on your marketing campaign with Crystal Paine:

Thoughts on finalizing your title with Donald Miller:

Want to learn more: Click here.

(UPDATE: the course is currently closed, but will re-open in the Spring of 2015)

About Author

Bryan Allain


  1. Ken

    Excited to see this – thank you!

    • Jon Acuff Jon Acuff

      Glad you like it Ken! Are you thinking about writing a book?

      • Ken

        I’ve written and self-published five so far, but it wasn’t easy. Lamott’s Bird by Bird and King’s On Writing helped, but I sure could have used more personalized instruction and guidance (I still could!).

  2. Thanks for this Jon. Can you join at any time or are there open enrollment periods?

  3. Angie

    I’m going to be real here. Every English professor I had gave me an A, and I have been told I should write a book more times I can count beginning in 6th grade. A college professor even accused me of plagiarizing a phrase that he said there was no way a junior in college could have written. (Yes, I really did write the line. It was in a paper about The Damnation of Theron Ware. I still remember the phrase because it came from my brain. I would never plagiarize.) Another professor, at different times, said the following, “I didn’t realize you were a freshman. You write better than most seniors.” “Even your worst papers are better than most others’ best.” And finally on the last paper for her, she said “I truly hope you’ll choose a career that makes use of your writing and analytical skills.” Yet another professor, “I sincerely hope you will try your hand at writing a novel someday.”

    So if just one person had suggested I write a book, I would have laughed it off. But I have had something said to me so often, that it’s become paralyzing. So much that I think about writing every day, but I never start. (I know, I know. I read about about that once.)

    I can’t determine if it’s fear of failure, fear of success or just not knowing where to go. It’s just plain scary when you feel it’s actually part of why you’re on earth. And now you have this new suggestion that makes it seem a bit less scary. It seems rather awesome, in fact. Somehow, I still feel scared just thinking of signing up.

    And thank you internet for allowing me to be faceless while saying these things. You’re kind that way.

    So what do you suggest, Jon? How do you cross that bridge from fear to hustle? How can I feel convinced I am not wasting $599?

    • Jon Acuff Jon Acuff

      Great question. Here’s what I’d say, the cost of something isn’t what makes it a waste of money. What you do with what you purchase is. If you buy something and don’t actually use it the effect is the same, whether you buy a $10 book or a $599 course. I know some folks have found that if they invest significant money in something they are more likely to do it, but not everybody reacts that way. My suggestion is to buy Anne Lamott’s book, “Bird by Bird.” It’s my favorite book on writing. Read that and commit to a small amount of writing. If you can keep that commitment then maybe the writing course is something to check out next. If not, no big deal.

      • Ashley

        I second that emotion.

        Anne rules.

        I always tell myself that I can’t write a book because I’m too busy becoming a teacher, and what if someone thinks what I write about sucks and then connects it with me professionally? But is there anything better than a high school English teacher who does what they teach even if they fail in the traditional sense and no one likes it or buys it?

        I want to teach my students to take big risks. Fail gloriously. I know I have to practice it in my own life first.

      • Angie

        Thanks for your response. I’ll start with the book this weekend.

    • Bryan Allain

      [My two cents]

      I don’t know anything about you except what you just wrote, but I’m pretty sure you are going to live the rest of your life wondering if you should write a book until you write a book.

      Just because one person has told you you’re a good writer doesn’t mean you should write a book. And just because a bunch of people have told you that doesn’t mean anything either. I mean, I’m sure it makes you feel good…and it should! Encouragement like that is wonderful and you should take it to heart.

      But writing a book is a huge commitment of time and energy and passion. So much so that you need to remember you’re not doing it for your college professors or for anyone else other than yourself. To be blunt, they don’t care if you write a book.

      Whether or not you need this course, I can’t say. But whether or not you need to write a book seems clear. You’re scared because writing a book is hard work and it’s something that’s always been inside of you. Make this the year you do it, otherwise you will be asking the same questions in 2016, 2017, 2018, and so on…

      And if this course gives you the best chance for success, which I think it does, then it’s probably not a waste of money at all. But whether you sign up or not, I really hope you start that book this year!

      The worst thing that could happen is that you write a book and it is not very good or no one reads it. But guess what, you still wrote a book! What an accomplishment! (and I bet book #2 will be even better!)

      [/My two cents]

  4. marc

    Jon, i’m now on year 4 of a book that i’m writing about dating and relationships and you’ve been a big inspiration for me for not giving up on it. I don’t know when i’ll finish, but i’m enjoying every page of it. I worked at a christian bookstore for 2 plus years and read everything on the shelf in that category and didn’t see one that i liked and so i decided i’d tackle it just for fun. if anything, i want it to be a resource for my youth group if it doesn’t get published.
    God bless!

  5. KC

    Dang! This sounds awesome. I’ve gone through some courses before and appreciate the long-term community that follows after the course content is complete. A 46-week course with this group of authors is intense. Looking forward to checking it out.

    P.S. I think the Twitter advice character limit applies to a lot of questions. 🙂

  6. Ok, I’m going against the grain here, and I’m going to say there are numerous reasons why you shouldn’t write a book. But I’ve come up with the top 5… Check out my blog post on this, along with the one reason why you should pursue writing a book, and if you’re still determined to go ahead, then go for it! http://anniecarter.com/2014/01/22/5-reasons-why-you-shouldnt-write-a-book-and-the-1-reason-why-you-should/

  7. Chuck Ellison

    I just finished reading “Start” and have enjoyed it a lot. It is now considered to be my #2 book on my best read books. Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits” is the only book in front of it (outside of the Bible). I believe that puts you in with some pretty good company. I’d recommend anyone to read your book first mainly because it is a lot shorter and easier reading than the “Seven Habits” book.

    I have written to the Dave Ramsey organization twice now only to find out that you are no longer with them. I was sorry to hear about you leaving and they said that they regretted your having made the decision to leave as well.

    I was seeking some advice about starting a Blog but you have already answered that question about “Platform”. I thank you for that advice.

    Keep up the good work and “I’ll be keeping an eye on you”.

  8. for the record, unibroweddalailama.com is available.

  9. This looks fantastic. Do you have any tips on getting a writing schedule? I’m trying to start blogging everyday but I’m kind of struggling getting in a good rhythm.

  10. Brandi

    The video, “Thoughts on your marketing campaign with Crystal Paine:” was like an answer to my prayers for “wisdom and discernment for next steps.” It was EXACTLY what I needed to hear. Hearing this short bit alone is sure to save me from many of the rookie mistakes that I was blindly heading for.

    Thank you so much for this network connection.