What It Takes to Publish Your Book on Natural Health, and Why You Want to Do It
By Rory Lipsky, LAc
During my first years in practice, I found that I was repeating the same basic instructions and information to my patients. I recommended different books, but none of them effectively communicated the vision of what I was trying to express.
I realized I had to write a book in order to distill all of the knowledge I was trying to share with my patients into a cohesive message of health and well-being.
Now, after journeying through the desert of writing and publishing a book on natural health, I would like to share some of the insights I have gained. First off, it is a long and challenging journey, so it may not be for everyone. After writing my manuscript, spending my own money with a professional editor (I highly recommend working with a professional), submitting my manuscript and proposal, and being rejected about 50 times from agents and publishers, it was especially sweet the first time I held a printed copy of my book. I was at the biggest book trade show of the year, the Book Expo of America in Los Angeles (www.bea.com). I'd met my publisher in New York only a year prior, and as he handed me my book for the first time, my eyes welled up. It's not every day that you get to hold your dream in your hands.
Concept to Creation: Uniting Qi, Jing and Shen
Every person has a special vision within. As acupuncturists, we have gone through years of training to strengthen and refine that vision. When you first begin to conceptualize writing a book, the first thing to do is connect with the unique message you have for the world. It is this passionate voice that will carry you through the bumps in the road - and trust me, there will be many bumps - to the other side: being published. The unique message I was called to express is the notion that we are all implicitly connected to the world around us, and that by adjusting our lifestyles we can take advantage of energies throughout the year as they are available. This vision was encapsulated in the book's title. I'm sure everyone is aware of the importance of a great title, but I want to stress it.
The more clear and effective you are at communicating the message that is individually yours, the more likely publishers will be willing to "roll the dice" on your project. As hard as it is to make the time to sit down and write and edit your manuscript, it is even harder to sell your project. Because of this, it's vital that you develop a clear and powerful purpose from the beginning.
When writing your book, you want to be detail-oriented, yet write in easy-to-digest, snappy copy. No one will read - much less publish - a long, boring recital of TCM factoids. It is important to flush out your project with stories, case studies, poems, and anything else you can think of to make your project stand out and be easy and exciting to read. It is often best to start your project with an outline, as this will help you organize your thoughts and material, and will show you areas in which to improve.
Writing Your Manuscript - Floating With the Chi
The definition of a writer is someone who writes. In my experience, it is imperative that while you are writing your book, you write every day. A great way to get started is by "journaling" on a daily basis. This will help you find your groove and get you tuned in to your most creative rhythm. You may the kind of person who gets up early in the morning and writes for a couple of hours, or you may be a night bird. The key is to find your flow and ride it. I wrote my first book in the time between graduation and licensing; my rhythm was to wake early, practice chi kung and then eat breakfast. Right after breakfast, I would write for several hours. If my routine was disrupted, it was very difficult to get back on track. Schedule a writing time and stay committed to it. As Jack London said, "You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."
Selling Your Project: The Needles and Herbs
In addition to an awesome manuscript, you will need to develop a strong proposal. A proposal consists of an outline, one to three chapters, your CV, and a full marketing plan that includes what makes your message special, your competition, which markets you plan to sell in, and how you will promote and publicize your published book. Once you have all of these things, you can begin the submission process. First, get a copy of the literary marketplace (a compendium of everyone in the book business) and find the people in the industry who handle the material you wish to submit (i.e., natural medicine/health). You will notice that each person (agents and acquisition editors) will want something slightly different from you, so the best thing you can do is post various parts of the proposal on the Internet, send the links via e-mail, and let them choose what to read. If you are not computer savvy, you can do all of this via regular mail, but it makes for a longer time cycle. E-mail submissions usually receive responses within six weeks, whereas snail mail submissions can take three to six months for a response.
The Query Letter: Can I Take Your Pulse?
The first contact you make with the publishing industry is via the query letter. It is a one-page opportunity for you to attract the interest of the person you are contacting, and to get them to read your proposal and take you seriously. The first line is called the hook; its job is to grab the attention of the person you have worked to contact and say, "I'm special!" It is on the strength of the first line of your query letter that you will get the person to read the rest of the letter, and it is on the strength of the query letter that the person will move on to read your proposal, so make it great!
Why You Want to Publish: Sharing the Golden Elixir
The moment you are published, you instantly garner extra credibility and are thought of as an "expert." This offers you the opportunity to promote yourself and your practice in a much larger and more respected way. Imagine being on radio shows, writing articles for magazines and newspapers, holding a public relations tour, and speaking in front of lots of people. By spreading your message of natural wellness, you are offering people a more effective way to live. You are adding credibility to the acupuncture profession and creating the best marketing vehicle for your practice. So, sharpen your pencils (or warm up your laptop), and begin your book!
Rory Lipsky, LAc, is the author of One Trip Around the Sun: A Guide to Using Diet, Herbs, Exercise and Meditation to Harmonize with the Seasons. He practices in Los Angeles, California, and can be reached at