How to Write and Publish a Medical Book

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Why write a book?
Writing your own book may seem daunting, but with the right idea, motivation and effort, it is definitely possible. Writing a book looks good on your CV, provides a small supplementary income, and opens doors to other writing opportunities.Writing and publishing a book takes several steps:
1.    The idea
2.    Planning the book
3.    Writing the book
4.    Publishing the book

Step 1: The idea 
There are many medical books out there already. You need to identify a gap in the market.
Consider the following points:

  • What is your book’s unique selling point?
  • Research what’s already out there – how is your book different? What is good about them, and what can your book add?
  • Are you the right person to write this book? E.g. A medical student writing on how to pass the MRCS is not appropriate.
  • Conduct market research amongst the target audience – is this something they’d be interested in? Is there anything they particularly want to be included?

Step 2: Planning the book
Moving from an idea to a plan is a vital step for success.

  • What type of book is it? E.g. careers advice/revision/textbook/practice questions.
  • Who is your target audience? – Level, specialty, country.
  • Scope – which things will your book cover, and which things will it not.
  • Authors – will it be written alone/as a group? Do you need to enlist help?
  • Creating an outline – creating a mock contents page can be useful.
  • Identify a mentor – Is there somebody who has knowledge in this field that can help you? It is best if they have experience in publishing, especially with a particular publisher you’re aiming for.

Step 3: Writing the book
It is important to ensure the idea, research and planning have been thoroughly considered before moving onto writing. If you’re going to send it to a publisher, you will only need to write the first few chapters.

  • Make a timetable for writing, ideally doing a bit everyday. Hake realistic deadlines, and stick to them. Schedule breaks for when you have holidays/exams/on-calls.
  • Make use of trusted colleagues – ask them to review and proof read what you’ve written

Step 4: Publishing the book
There are two (not necessarily mutually independent) ways to publish a book:

  • Online
  • In print


Publishing a book online

If you don’t want to publish through an established publishing house, you can publish your work independently, for example through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.
PROS – Easy, quick, reaches a wide audience, more autonomy
CONS – Less kudos, not reviewed

Publishing in print
For many people, this may be the most daunting part. Having done the earlier planning stages will help you write a good book proposal. Try not to be demoralised if your proposal is rejected, there are plenty of publishers out there. If you receive several rejections you’ll have to consider if your book is really needed.

The process to publishing your book will include the following stages:

  • Select a publisher appropriate for your book
  • Write a robust book proposal, this should include:
    • A synopsis of your book
    • The target audience
    • The unique selling point
    • The likely length of the book
    • A list of complementing and competing books
    • A few sample chapters
    • Some publishers will also stipulate other details – please ensure you check
  • If accepted, you’ll sign a contract – know your rights.
  • If rejected, submit to another publisher
  • Stick to agreed deadlines – contracts may become void if they are breached
  • Pay attention to feedback
  • Once you’ve completed a final draft, there are several steps before your book is printed:
    • Submit final draft to publisher
    • Peer review
    • Draft accepted
    • Publisher typesets manuscript
    • Author sent proof from publisher, makes changes, then agrees final proof
    • Indexing book
    • Book published

PROS – More status, support/advice/reviews given
CONS – Takes longer, less autonomy


Summary

  • Writing a book is a good way to boost your CV, and give you more opportunities in medical writing
  • Writing a book requires discipline – good planning is essential!
  • Books can be published through publishing houses, or increasingly self-published online

Useful links
Kindle Direct Publishing – https://kdp.amazon.com/edu
European Medical Writers Association – http://www.emwa.org/