There are a lot of side gigs that doctors can take advantage of to create alternative streams of income. However, doctors would be hard pressed to find one more fulfilling than learning to write a book on a topic that they are passionate about (whatever that may be!).
I have actually completed the process. My Amazon best-selling book is “Doctor Incorporated: Stop The Insanity of Traditional Employment and Preserve Your Professional Autonomy”.--it happens to be one of my friend Dr. Jordan Frey's, aka The Prudent Plastic Surgeon, favorite books and and is on his list of books that he recommends for every doctor to read.
A few months ago, Jordan asked me to write this post for his blog, so I thought I would share it with you too.
Our medical tribe embraces the mantra of “see one, do one, teach one” as one of the major mindsets associated with our medical education.
We are voracious readers. We quickly decipher and assimilate critical information into our highly trained brains—reading comprehension is a skill that we tend to master.
Adding these two physician-centric competencies together is what gave me the confidence that I could write a book and can do the same for you. Filled with confidence, a love for reading, and a passion to communicate a message—I began the journey of writing a book over 3 years ago.
Let me begin this post by sharing my personal book-writing experiences and then I will break down the 10 steps for everyone who writes a book.
My dad is a construction contractor. He always said the hardest parts of building a house are starting, and then wrapping it up. Writing a book has a similar feel.
It takes some determination and courage to start—especially if you are not a writer.
Once you jump in—the length of the process makes it feel like it’s ever-present and non-ending. Working a full-time clinical job, cranking out 12,000 + wRVUs per year, and taking OB call—leaves little extra time to tackle a book writing endeavor. Thus any of my free time through the week and weekends—were default book writing times for me. To be honest, I think there were times that my wife felt like she was competing for my attention with “the book.” Thus, by the end of the multi-year process, she was happy to see it wrap up.
My first stab at the process became a rambling conglomeration of feelings, ideas, and observations that were pretty raw and almost cathartic. It followed a self-created outline with catchy titles that made sense to me. My junior editors—who were my dutiful medical school son, and my big pharma son-in-law —courageously gave me their editorial comments. I thought my first manuscript was pretty good. But they thought it was pretty rough, and certainly nowhere near ready to publish.
I eagerly revised the manuscript and re-shaped it based on their feedback. believing that it would be ready to publish.
I was naive to think that one solid revision would shape it into a publish-worthy manuscript. Now, looking back and knowing that it took 10 versions of my manuscript before I reached the final version—I can let you know that you should expect the following experiences if you write a book:
- You will have multiple revisions of your manuscript and this is normal.
- You will remove and discard portions of your writing in the process. This trimming and editing process is hard—because throwing away carefully crafted words that you labored over is difficult. Some of these portions are just conceptual stepping stones- intellectual landing pages that lead to clearer ideas. Just know that you will “throw away” some of your precious writings as part of the process. For example, by 2nd editor wisely gutted so much of my manuscript that I saved all of those chapters for a 2nd book—if I choose to do this again.
- You will get tired of re-writing your manuscript. You will sometimes feel lost trying to reconnect thoughts and ideas that have been moved around within the book.
- Your editor may ask you to create an entire new chapter, or bridges between concepts—because they are looking at the flow of information—not just the content itself.
Help from the knowledgable
In my 2nd attempt at self-publishing, I decided I needed a bit more knowledgeable book-writing coaching & editing than my family members. Thus I leaned into my medical partner’s wife who has her MBA and majored in English at a prestigious undergraduate school. She agreed to help guide me with some critical questions and after looking at my “nearly done” version of my book, she broke it down with some really critical feedback (I asked for it). It kinda stung-cause I’m not gonna lie—once again I naively thought it was ready. Turns out it was far from ready.
With some outstanding feedback from her, I massively reorganized my manuscript and removed multiple entire chapters. At this point, I recognized that I was mistaken to ask her to do what I thought was a small side job to help me self-publish. This was not due to her but because I failed to recognize the scope of work that was still needed. I quickly realized it was unfair to request a woman who was already working a full-time job and just had her first baby—to take on the large task still ahead. So I paid her and released her of any further responsibilities with the book.
After some soul searching and diligently working on multiple versions of the manuscript—I finally came to the realization that I really needed to pay a professional to take it to the next stage. My ideas were good as my second editor kindly noted. But they just needed to be organized and crafted into a readable and concise book format.
So as I sat along a beach in Maui and reflected on the half-baked state of “my book”—which was nearly 2 years in—with my wife tired of hearing me talk about it-and with my almost obsessive focus on it—I had to make a decision. Should I press on with a hired professional? Or should I abandon the project as a simple intellectual diversion that amounted to a glorified professional diary? At a minimum I reasoned —the musings could be translated into content for my blog site for doctors on the business of medicine called Dr. Incorporated.
Being a highly driven and self-determined individual, I was used to being able to complete nearly any project with a high degree of success. But I knew I had taken things as far as I could on my own with this book, and decided to swallow my pride and ask for help from a real professional. I wanted to publish a book that I personally would want to grab off the shelf—not just a “friends and family” book that only those who knew me would buy.
I wanted to bring something into the world that would make a difference for all doctors.
So it was time to evaluate and source a self-publishing company that I could align with. I checked out multiple options but eventually landed on Scribe Media. They turned out to be a perfect choice for me.
Help from a professional
In retrospect, I am thankful that I did press on and sought help from professionals who assist self-publishers. The following summarizes some key ideas that were part of my outstanding experience with Scribe Media.
If you are considering this yourself, let me outline the necessary steps involved in the process of writing a book.
But I suggest you save yourself some time and simply let Scribe Media guide your self-publishing efforts from the beginning. These services do cost some money, but it is well worth it. I highly recommend them and you get check out their prices and services here.
I definitely credit them for helping me publish a best-selling book on Amazon.
Writing a self-published book as a physician can be a rewarding way to share your knowledge, expertise, and experiences with a broader audience. If you have that little niggle to write a book, let me encourage you to do it, and here are some steps to help you navigate the process:
Know your why
First, you have to ask yourself: What is inspiring you to write your book?
This is the story, experience, or person that compels you to create a book. Writing a book can be time-consuming and expensive—especially if you are self-publishing. During the grinding process of putting your book, together-this will be a shining light that guides you.
For me, the inspiration involved my long-standing passion and belief that the life of a doctor was the best job in the world, but the burnout crisis was an onerous threat to all of us. I absolutely love my professional life and instilled that same passion for medicine into my firstborn son who has followed in my shoes. Quite simply, my book represents the best “dad advice” that I can offer my son on how to thrive in the modern world of medicine. Of course, it is informed by my own experiences. But also colored by my advice on how to navigate through the corporatization of medicine.
It is a book whose purpose is to be a roadmap for all doctors to live their best life as autonomous “doers of good” wherever they reside.
10 Steps for doctors to write a book
After reflecting on your inspiration, now you will need to begin walking through the following necessary steps:
1. Determine your book’s focus
Decide on the topic or theme of your book. Consider your areas of expertise, interests, and what you want to convey to readers. It could be a medical guide, memoir, research-based book, or even a patient education resource.
2. Plan your book
Outline the structure and content of your book. Break it down into chapters or sections and decide on the key points you want to cover. This will provide a roadmap for your writing process. One of the things that I found especially helpful in my chapter breakdown was to do two things: Identify a story about a real doctor to frame the main point, and create bullet point chapter summaries at the end of each chapter. This helped me make the book personal and practical.
3. Set aside dedicated writing time
Establish a writing routine that works for you. Allocate specific times or days for writing and create a conducive environment where you can focus and be productive. For me, this was a physical spot in my home, separated from the normal flow of activity. And entering this space signaled to both me and my family that I was “at work”.
4. Research and gather information
Conduct thorough research on your chosen topic. Read relevant medical literature, consult reputable sources, and review existing books. This will ensure your work is well-informed and offers valuable insights. It’s important to cite and reference sources appropriately.
My ritual involved reading blog posts and podcasts each week from my favorite influencers in the physician personal and professional finance space, as well as podcasts on human behavior like “Hidden Brain”. The content inspired me to think more deeply and diversely as I approached my writing time.
One of my favorite routines was to have my company “Dr. Incorporated” rent my STR from my LLC for writing retreats. The purpose was to get away to a quiet undistracted space to do focused writing. My STR is in South Haven, MI—right on Lake Michigan and only 1.5 hours from my home. Thus it was a great escape spot for me—serene natural beauty—and a large enough dwelling for my wife and me to be there together—but not be in each other’s space.
5. Write the manuscript
Now, doctors, begin to write a book! Start with an introduction that hooks the reader and clearly outlines your book’s purpose. Progress through each chapter, providing detailed information, personal anecdotes, case studies, or any other relevant content. Write in a clear, concise, and engaging manner, keeping your target audience in mind.
6. Edit and revise
Once you’ve completed the first draft, go through multiple rounds of editing and revision. Check for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. Ensure your ideas flow logically and your writing is coherent. Consider seeking feedback from trusted colleagues, editors, or beta readers who can provide valuable insights and suggestions.
You have to have thick skin to work with editors who ask critical questions and authentically make you remove material (this was especially hard for me) or completely revise an entire chapter. For instance, the editors of my book made me re-organize 3/4 of my chapters and remove several chapters altogether. Turns out they were right because the end product was much better than the original—but in the midst of it—it feels incredibly frustrating to have re-do everything. I know many doctors tend to be perfectionists and like to get things right the first time. Multiple revisions are a reminder that it’s hard to get things right when writing a book. And thus it is tedious and a bit challenging for the ego. But good editors truly dive in and provide the critical feedback needed to make the end product turn out fantastic.
7. Design a book cover and layout
Create an eye-catching and professional book cover that accurately represents your content. You may consider hiring a professional designer or utilizing self-publishing platforms that offer templates and design tools. Pay attention to the interior layout, including fonts, headings, and overall readability. My first attempts at doing this myself were shot down, and therefore I turned to professional help. I am really glad I did.
8. Choose a self-publishing platform
There are various platforms available for self-publishing, such as Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), Smashwords, or Lulu. Research these platforms to determine which one aligns best with your goals and preferences. The company that I worked with Scribe Media figured all this out for me and connected all the necessary dots with KDP.
9. Format and publish your book
Format your manuscript according to the guidelines provided by your chosen self-publishing platform. This may involve converting it into an appropriate file format (e.g., MOBI or EPUB) and ensuring it meets the platform’s requirements. Follow the platform’s instructions to upload your book, set the price, and make it available for purchase.
10. Promote your book
Once doctors write a book and get it published, they need to engage in marketing and promotion to reach your target audience. Leverage social media, author websites, blogs, and professional networks to raise awareness about your book. Consider offering promotional discounts, participating in author interviews (here is an example of an author hour podcast on my book), or guest blogging to expand your reach. Built into Scribe Media’s service was a launch week marketing plan. I found this very helpful-especially because of their awareness of how to build up your books’ visibility on Amazon as well as garner reviews. This is much better than just organically hoping things go well.
Remember, self-publishing as doctors write a book requires dedication, effort, and attention to detail. While it allows you to maintain creative control and retain higher royalties, it also means taking on additional responsibilities such as editing, formatting, and marketing.
Again, I highly recommend you consider Scribe Media for helping you write your self-published book. They were highly professional, and fully organized, and guided me through every necessary step with amazing support.
Wrapping it Up
Writing a book is just one example of a business hack for doctors. There are many more. To learn about 7 Business Hacks for The Modern Physician, you can download my free e-book here.