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Tips to Write and Publish Your First Medical Book

When it comes to writing and publishing any book, there are two distinct but equally important aspects — writing and publishing.

If you’re considering writing and publishing a medical book, it’s crucial to know that the writing you’ll do and the work it will take to get a book published can both be monumental. And it doesn’t make sense to do one without the other.

If you don’t do the hard work of writing, you’ll never get published. If you don’t do the hard work of publishing, it doesn’t matter how brilliant your book is.

Before we dive into the world of writing and publishing a book, here’s a quick overview of the options available in today’s writing industry. It’s helpful to consider three major factors to put your book into the hands of your future readers:


Publisher or self-publish

Print book or eBook

Medical Book Genres:






Let’s get started!

To Publish or Self-Publish?

Whether you decide to do the hard work of finding a publisher or do the hard work of self-publishing, here are the main pros and cons of each:

1. Publishing house

Pro: They cover all the printing costs and have a marketing machine to get your book to market

Con: You give up complete control over your book

2. Self-publishing

Pro: You exercise complete control over the content, the title, the graphics, and every other detail of your book

Con: You are responsible for every piece of content and graphics, plus the printing, marketing, and a million more details.

Print Book or eBook

While traditional book releases are done in a printed format, there is a burgeoning interest in the profitable market of eBooks. Many printed books are now simultaneously released in an eBook format.

With the proper marketing and release to an audience, you can create a healthy monthly residual income from publishing an eBook without releasing a hard copy version of your book.

What Type of Medical Book are You Writing?

I found that most medical books can fall into one of the categories I mentioned above. Digging a little deeper into these genres might help clarify which is best suited for the type of book you’d like to write, along with an example of two brilliant books in each group.

If you think writing a medical book means writing a textbook, you’ll see four types of medical books (broadly speaking) other than strictly academic ones.

Textbook: a book used as a standard work for the study of a particular subject

Atlas of Human Anatomy

Clinical Pathophysiology Made Ridiculously Simple

Guide: a book that gives helpful information about a particular subject

Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom

Bad Science

Memoir: a historical account or biography written from personal knowledge

This is Going to Hurt (now a BBC comedy-drama)

When Breath Becomes Air (also released a Study Guide: When Breath Becomes Air)

Non-Fiction: prose writing that is based on facts, actual events, and real people

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

Fiction: prose writing describing imaginary events and people

The House of God (also released aStudy Guide: The House of God)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (also an award-winning academy movie)

Many influential, helpful, and bestselling medical books fall outside the textbook designation.

Should I Start Writing?

Before you plunge headfirst into writing your opus, answering some key questions will allow you to laser-focus the writing. This pre-work can save you much time and agony.

There are many, many medical books out in the world already. To interest anyone in publishing or purchasing your book, you need to identify a gap in the market.

Should I Start Writing

It will be helpful to ask yourself these questions:

Is this an original idea?

How is your book different from others out there?

What is your book’s unique selling point?

What would your book add to a reader’s understanding of medicine?

Will your book have a broad appeal?

You also need to count the cost of writing a book. This is not for the faint of heart. And here I’m talking about the personal costs, not just the financial ones. Some basic questions you need to answer are:

Am I a writer?

Do I have the time?

Will people buy my book?

1. Am I a Writer?

Writing is hard work. It’s hard work for people who make their living by writing.

When your full-time career is something other than an author, the pain and grind of writing can make you want to bang your head off a desk.

Whether you enjoy writing can be a helpful indicator of whether you can make it through the process of writing a book. If you don’t enjoy it before you begin, you will probably hate it by the time you’re done — if you even finish it.

2. Do I Have the Time?

Very few first-time authors can quit their day job to write something that will only reward them on the back end.

Best-selling authors can negotiate an advance on their next project, but this is almost unheard of for first-time writers. Will you be able to carve out the time it takes to finish a quality manuscript?

3. Will People Buy My Book?

If your family, friends, and colleagues find your book idea compelling, that’s a good start. But for any publisher to be interested in working with you, they want to know if enough people will buy your book.

Publishing houses typically calculate how many potential readers may buy your book. If the numbers don’t appear to make them a profit, you’ll be considering self-publishing, or your project will grind to a halt.

Now that you’ve considered whether you have the skill and talent to write an interesting book (and you’ve settled on the genre of medical book you’re interested in writing) – let’s talk about publishing.

Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Publishing.

According to a report on publishing trends for 2022-2024, the industry generates around $26 billion in revenue in the US alone. However, there’s been a sizeable shift in how that money is spent.

During the past ten years, demand for print books has steadily decreased while demand for eBooks and audiobooks has skyrocketed. Today, there are still more people buying print books than eBooks, but these numbers are rapidly changing, and that change looks to continue.

This is excellent news for a first-time author. With traditional publishing houses covering costs but taking control (and giving smaller royalties), self-publishing is becoming more realistic and attractive.

Tech platforms are making self-publishing more accessible than ever, and companies like Fiverr allow you to shop professional services at an attractive price point.

And self-publishing an eBook might be the sweetest spot of all.

The Process of Finding a Publisher

Here’s some good news about the value of finding a publisher:

“Although getting a book accepted for publication may be difficult, it is not hopeless. Printed work is still the most powerful form of communication, and book publishing shows no sign of disappearing despite the electronic revolution. On the contrary, anecdotal evidence suggests that these two media are complementary. Thus, although publishers may be inundated with proposals for new books and seem cautious about accepting them, they are always looking for the real gems — the original ideas that will translate into bestsellers.” – Mary Banks.

The process for publishing your book with a publishing house includes these stages:

1. Select a publisher appropriate for your book

Few publishing companies publish every genre of writing. Do your research to make sure you submit your work to the right publisher. The top 19 publishers of medical books list publishers who specialize in the medical textbook and academic field.

Zeshan Qureshi of the Unofficial Guide to Medicine wrote this article on the top 10 tips for writing a medical textbook.

Next, do you need an agent? The “big five” publishing houses:Penguin/Random House,Hachette Book Group,Harper Collins,Simon and Schuster, and Macmillan all assure hopeful authors that they will not read submitted manuscripts. They also guarantee any overly-optimistic manuscripts submissions will go right into the recycle bin.

These big publishing houses only work with literary agents. You can search for an agent at theLiterary Market Place, a reference guide that “brings the power of automated searching to the world’s largest, most complete database of the book publishing industry.” Another excellent source is The Writer’s Market.

Literary agents vet your book idea and do all the work of sending it to suitable publishers. They will also negotiate the terms of your contract. Literary agents fees come from a percentage of your future royalties.

2. Write a book proposal that includes:

A synopsis or outline

The unique selling point

A paragraph explaining the need for the book

The target audience (who and where, and the appeal and relevance of the book)

A list of complementing and competing books

Approximate length of the book

Approximate number and type of illustrations

A few sample chapters

Make sure to read the submission guidelines for each publisher you approach and include any other items they stipulate.

My brutal advice is that if you look to work with a publisher, do not write an entire book. Working with a publisher means they will want significant input and give direction. This ensures they have an author who sells.

3. If your book proposal is accepted, pop the champagne and make sure to:

Read the contract

Pay attention to any feedback you get

Stick to the agreed deadlines

When reading a proposed contract, have the answers to these questions:

Are you being offered a royalty or a one-time fee?

Which pay structure will make you the most money?

Who holds the copyright while your book is in print?

Who is responsible for the clearance of copyright material?

What is the agreement on:

Manuscript delivery date?

Length of the manuscript?

The number of illustrations and how they are to be presented?

What is the liability for manuscript accuracy?

What is the reversion of rights when the book is out of print?

4. If your book proposal is not accepted:

Don’t give up

Incorporate any feedback you get into your proposal

Submit to another publisher

You may make book proposal submissions to more than one publisher simultaneously, but make sure you inform all publishers you are doing so.

The Process of Self-Publishing

The journey of self-publishing your book is considerably different from that of working with a publisher. As I wrote above, when you self-publish your work, you retain complete control and carry full responsibility for every detail.

Self-publishing requires a team effort to cover every aspect of getting a book into the hands of readers. Fortunately, in today’s economy, you can find online talent and vendors to take care of each step.

The process for self-publishing your book includes these stages:

Write your book

Develop an outline

Write a rough draft

Write and rewrite new drafts

Hire a proofreader

Unlike having a publisher direct and manage your writing, you will be taking on this role. Think of yourself as a contractor — you can contract out as much or as little of this work as you want (or can afford).

No matter how good a writer you are, I highly recommend hiring at least an editor and proofreader. A development editor will ensure your book has a good structure, while a copy/content editor will ensure your writing is clear, concise, and accurate. A line editor is one step up from copy editing and involves creative feedback on your project.

It’s virtually impossible to proofread a book you’ve written. When your writing is ready for a proofreader’s eyes, you will have written and rewritten your book more times than you can count. You need a fresh set of eyes to catch what your brain and your eyes will skip over.

Check out this list of recommended editors and proofreaders.

Build your book

Hire a graphic designer to prepare interior layout and design cover

Hire a book printer

Purchase an ISBN

A graphic designer will create a design layout for your book in a printable format. This will include acover design, table of contents, copyright information, etc. Creating an eBook can easily be done with the same graphic designer you hired for a printed book.

When printing physical copies of your book, you can choose offset printing or print-on-demand. Offset printing requires you to print a set number of books which will require storage and an order fulfillment system (by you or a third party).

An ISBN is a unique identifier for a book that specifies its format, edition, and publisher. Most retailers require one and having one improves the likelihood that your book will be found and purchased.

You now have a book to sell. Of course, by self-publishing, your work isn’t yet done. You will still need to create a marketing strategy and promote your book, a blog post all its own!

If you’re looking for more writing inspiration, here are the 10 Most Influential Books for Doctors  as voted on by readers.

And if you’re interested in learning more about what EntreMD can offer you,contact me. I’d love an opportunity to talk with you.