Everything You Need to Know About Writing a Book, From a First (and Last) Time Author

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Hi, I’m Jay Steinfeld, and I’m a first-time author. I’m also announcing my retirement from writing books.

I’ll explain the retirement in a bit.

But let’s start with the juicy stuff, first.

I built the world’s #1 online window coverings retailer in the world, Blinds.com. The bootstrapped business took me almost 20 years from founding to being acquired by Home Depot in 2014.

Three years later, in 2017, I started writing Lead from the Core:The 4 Principles for Profit and Prosperity, and it launched on November 30th, 2021. A good four years later.

I wrote it because, when I finally stepped away from my company, I wanted to help my current and future employees understand what got us to where we were and what will get us into the future.

As I did with my book, I want to share what I learned from writing and marketing a book.


WHY you’re writing the book is more important than WHAT the book is about.


It’s good to know WHY you’re writing as opposed to what you’re writing, so the writing itself is more focused on its intended audience.

Your why is 10x more important than the topic. The reason is that the process of writing a good book will break you if you’re not in it for the right reasons.

So, before writing, you should have answers to at least these two questions:

    1. Who are you writing it for, and what do you want them to do after reading it?



    1. What do your readers need that they cannot get elsewhere?




You will know nothing, and that’s OK.


The overall process, from start to “finish,” has been an unbelievably rewarding experience. But, wow, was it much harder than I ever imagined.

I knew as much about writing a book as I did when I started my first company:

Which brings me to the first trivia question of the day:  What’s the difference between starting a company and writing a book?

Trick question. They’re identical.

In both cases, you start with hope, a dream, and a lot of energy. Halfway through, you start regretting it, but when it gets near the finish line, you’re glad you went through all the pain to do it.

The only real difference between the two is that a book has a defined end date, which is the publish date. And I found out the hard way that even that isn’t true.

The work behind writing a book doesn’t actually start until after it’s written!


The amount of work to get a publisher is harder than I thought.


Just getting somebody to publish a book is a big process and much more involved than I thought, with query letters, interviews, publish vs. self-publish vs. hybrid publish,  decisions, contracts, liability, and so forth.

Creating a book is an entirely different process than I’m used to.

I had so many questions–which I eventually figured out–about what goes into a book. From the interior and exterior art, distribution, awareness, social personas, audio book recording, promotions, book blurbs, etc.


Have fun with your marketing.


My book was in Times Square! For real. Not an edit. I even got Elmo to look as well. I haven’t heard back from Sesame Street if he read the book yet, but this picture is all I need.

The little secret behind this is that it didn’t cost thousands of dollars to display the ad in Times Square. I can’t reveal all my secrets, but this was fun to do.

The second thing we did was hire Brian Cox, a.k.a Logan Roy from Succession, to say a few “nice” words about my book. This was all done through a wonderful service called Cameo.


Tap into current news events.


While I’ve been marketing the book, one subject that has been trending for quite a while was “The Great Resignation.”

Although my book wasn’t about quitting, or even finding a new job, it did help leaders build a better strategy for retaining their employees and helping their employees become better versions of themselves.

We used this trending topic to reach out to blog writers, podcast hosts, and media outlets who covered “The Great Resignation.”


It’s worth every single second.


Let me put it this way. If you’re in it for the money, you’re going to have a hard time.

For me, it was worth every single second. I channeled my inner #Enjoytheride belief, and I really did enjoy it.

But it’s safe to say that I’m done writing books. This one will last me a lifetime.

I just came up with another idea for a book! “Hello, Publisher, this is Jay.”


The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.


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