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6 Ways to Publish a Book Without Writing a Book

Hot Take: writing a book is hard! Even for those of us with a lifelong passion for writing, the idea of sitting down and writing a book can be daunting and, at times, entirely insurmountable. So I can only imagine that for the people who haven’t spent their entire lives chipping away at Word doc after Word doc, that idea is even more overwhelming. 

I assume that when we say things like “a book can be a great way to support your brand!” or “a book is an excellent way to create some passive revenue and sell a new product to your customers!” many of y’all are thinking “… okay, but I don’t want to write a book, that sounds like a lot of work.” But here’s the thing… you don’t have to write a book. At least in the sense of sitting down in front of a computer and pouring tens of thousands of words into a doc, anyway. There are ways ‌you can create and publish a book that would be a perfect addition to your brand without actually writing very much at all. 

How? By publishing a no or low content book like a journal! Whether you want to stay minimal with your content by creating a bullet journal or prompt journal, add a little more content with a daily habit journal, or go the extra step with a fully guided journal, there are so many great ways for you to create something amazing for your audience.

Level One: No (or Very Little) Written Content

“No/Low Content Books” is a category that encompasses an incredibly broad range of different products, some as bare bones and basic as a notebook full of plain blank pages, some as elaborate as customized planners, and some that stretch the limits of “low content” pretty far into the “interactive workbook” genre. To understand a little more about no or low content books before we get started, I’d encourage you to check out this episode of Lulu University: 

Bullet Journals

In certain corners of the internet, bullet journaling has been all the rage for the last few years. If you’re not familiar with the idea, it largely involves using a dot-grid journal (like graph paper but with small, light-colored dots instead of solid lines) to create your own journal pages. Some people use bullet journals to chart monthly activities and goal tracking, some people use them to make reading journals, some people use them as customizable weekly planners. 

So how can you hop on the bullet journal bandwagon, if the book’s content is supposed to be created by the user? Easy – all you need is a dot grid interior file (which you can download from Lulu for free) and cover art. 

The cover art, of course, is what makes this a great opportunity for you to create something unique that doesn’t involve any writing at all.

  • Are you an author? Create a few bullet journals with your book covers (or maybe some cool art you created for the book?) as the cover!
  • Are you an artist or photographer? Use your art or photographs as journal covers!
  • Selling any t-shirts, stickers, magnets with your brand’s logo or motto or maybe your favorite quote on it? Bam, bullet journal cover. Make a few different versions to add to your product line up – the more options you have, the better chance a potential customer will find one they like. 

Writing Required: Absolutely None

Prompt Journals

Similar to the bullet journal, a prompt journal is a journal that largely consists of blank or lined pages. But in this case, you would also add the occasional prompt to inform or influence what the user writes about (or maybe draws) on those pages. 

So, what do I mean by “prompts?” That’s the part that you could customize to best reflect your brand identity and best support your customers. So, for example:

  • If your customers are people that are trying to write more – aspiring authors, bloggers, content creators, etc. – inspire them with thematically appropriate writing prompts. 
  • If you’re a mental/physical health, fitness, or lifestyle brand, encourage your customers with prompts asking them what motivates them, what their goals are, how they can achieve those goals, how they will reward themselves when they do, etc. 
  • If you’re an artist, photographer, creative type, etc., put together a list of creative inspiration for your followers in the style of something like #drawtober and give them blank journal pages on which to fill those prompts. 

The layout for journals like this is slightly more complicated than a bullet journal, but still pretty easy for anyone new to book publishing. I would recommend using either lined or blank pages (and yes, you can also download those from Lulu here) and sharing your prompts in one of two ways:

  1. Share your prompts one at a time by posting one at the top of a page and then inserting some blank space for users to respond to that specific prompt immediately.  
  2. List all your prompts at the very beginning of the book, allowing users to set their own pace and ensuring they don’t run out of room mid-thought. 

Writing Required: Minimal – Drafting the List of Prompts

Level Two: Light on the Written Content 

Habitual journalers – or maybe, more likely, aspiring habitual journalers – are usually the ‌people that like having a written, physical record of their progress or efforts towards a goal. We are the ideal target audience for many different kinds of journals, notebooks, planners, and other no/low content books, but perhaps none more so than the three types of journals I have listed below. But more importantly for you, these journals are a great way to dip your toe in the publishing pool without writing an entire book. 

Most of these journals will require some design work, but nothing more complicated than what can be done using Canva, Affinity, PhotoPea, and other user-friendly design platforms. And the real beauty of them is that the interior content is repetitive. Depending on how complicated you want your journal to be, you can get away with designing just 1-2 pages and filling your entire book interior with just those pages repeated again and again. 

Repetitive Content Journals

In case this isn’t clear yet, I’m totally making up most of these journal names as I’m going (I can’t take credit for bullet journals). So, what do I mean by repetitive content journals? Journals that repeat the same content over and over again, duh. 

Kidding aside, it really is that straightforward. I’m talking about things like recipe journals, reading journals, songwriting journals, dream journals, tarot journals, and prayer journals. In these kinds of journals, every page or every spread – the left and right pages of a book together – is the same, formatted specifically to that journal’s theme.

A recipe journal might have 50 identical spreads with space for users to enter the recipe name, a list of ingredients, step-by-step instructions, oven temperature, cook time, where the recipe is from, etc. A reading journal might be the same “book review” page repeated 100 times, letting users track the title, author, format, genre, page count, star rating, and review of all the books they read in a year. 

Does your brand encourage your fans or followers to learn something new, like clean eating or working out or dream interpretation? Are you all enthusiasts of the same hobby or craft, like reading books, playing music, or doing yoga? A repetitive content journal that allows them to track their own progress or record what they’ve learned from you could be the perfect product to add to your store! 

Writing Required: Varies Based On Journal Type – Absolutely None to Very Little

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Habit Trackers

Habit trackers are a unique kind of journal, in that they’re essentially a hybrid of two other (and way more popular) types of no/low content books – day planners and repetitive content journals. What makes habit trackers stand out is that they’re specifically designed to help users develop (or break!) habits by giving them a space to record their daily progress toward their goals. 

How is this different from a day planner, you ask? In some ways it isn’t, especially lately; more and more planners these days also have habit trackers built into them. But traditionally, planners are ‌used to keep track of a person’s plans, engagements, activity, work schedule, whatever… things that involve engaging with the outside world. Habit trackers are much more introspective. 

Then how is this different from a repetitive content journal? Again; in some ways, it isn’t. Both types of journals are providing space for users to track their progress towards a certain goal or outcome. And like a repetitive content journal, habit trackers can be created by designing just a few unique pages (daily pages, maybe a monthly round-up page or two) and then repeating them throughout the whole book. 

Let’s take, for example, a reading journal versus a habit tracker. I’m a big reader, so I have both a reading journal and a habit tracker that includes space for me to track my daily reading progress. I update my habit tracker every night, checking off whether or not I hit my goal of reading for one hour that day and, if so, what I was reading. I only log a new book in my reading journal once I’ve read the entire thing, so I’m updating that one on a much more sporadic basis. 

If your role as a business owner, educator, mental health practitioner, influencer, or whatever your brand may be involves helping your audience develop daily practices or habits, this kind of journal could be absolutely perfect for you! And, even better, for your audience. The best part, though, is that habit trackers are… well, habitual. If you get in the habit of recording your daily progress, you’ll want to continue that habit, even after you run out of pages in your current journal. Which means unlike books, which tend to be one-time purchases, habit trackers can often turn one-time shoppers into repeat customers. 

Writing Required: Varies Based On Journal Type – Absolutely None to Very Little

Affirmation & Gratitude Journals

The last of the three repetitive types of journals, these are the combination of habit trackers and prompt journals. This style of journal is very popular in the self-help/personal growth community, mental health community, parenting / childcare / childhood education communities, and pretty much any community that encourages positive behavioral reinforcement. The idea is very simple: these journals ask the user to take a few minutes every day to sit and write down three things. 

What three things can vary, and that’s where you have the most room as a creator to theme a journal to your particular business, brand, or content. As the name suggests, gratitude journals tend to ask users to list three things they’re grateful for. Affirmation journals ask users to write ‌and stick to a daily affirmation or mantra (or three). Maybe you’ll ask your customers to record three good things that happened to them that day, or three things they did toward achieving their goals, or three things they like about themselves, or three achievements they’re proud of, or three things they hope to accomplish tomorrow, or… 

You can also be a little creative with this style of journal, if that matches your brand better. Make it a family activity by designing pages (again, you can usually get away with designing just one page and repeating it throughout the entire book) with space for everyone in the family to share their three things each day. Deviate from the repetition and change it up every day, or every week, or every month, with a different “three things” prompt. Or eschew the positivity and turn the idea on its head by giving users a space to vent their frustrations with the day – three things that grind their gears, three people that annoyed them that day, three things they wish they’d said, etc. 

While gratitude, affirmation, daily thoughts, etc. journals are the repetitive journal that will involve the most writing (still very little writing, but you will need to come up with the specific content prompts), they are generally the easiest of the three to format, so it all balances out! 

Writing Required: Minimal – Drafting the Daily Prompt(s)

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Level Three: May Involve Some Actual Writing  

This is the part where we stretch the limits of “a low content book” and actually get into some writing. Don’t worry, you still don’t have to write a complete, novel-length book.  A guided journal is still a journal. You’re still asking the user to create their own content, providing them with the space they need to achieve whatever goal they’re hoping to accomplish. There’s just more… well, guidance. 

Guided Journals

For many aspiring journal-users, a blank page can be incredibly intimidating. They don’t know where to start, they don’t know what to write about, or maybe they don’t know how to articulate the things that they want to journal about. Guided journals are the perfect way to guide a new user through the experience of journaling and of processing their thoughts. 

Depending on your field, guided journals create a fantastic opportunity for you to share your expertise and educate your audience. We’ve talked before about all the ways publishing a book can benefit your brand, and that works just as well with a book like a guided journal. But they can also be a fantastic opportunity for you to create a lifelong fan out of a one-time shopper. Journaling, especially the kind of journaling that usually goes hand in hand with guided journaling, can be a very personal and intimate experience. If a user comes to trust your authority as you guide them through the journaling process, they might just remember that next time they need a trusted expert in your particular field. 

So, what kind of guided journals can you make? All kinds! I’ve found some amazing guided journals in the Lulu Bookstore that cover a broad range of topics. Some guide users through processing negative emotions or experiences – journals guiding through grief after loss, after divorce, after abuse. Some guide users through mental health and recovery – interactive beginners guides to shadow work, or guided questions to help you unpack after a therapy session, or job-specific journaling for high-stress professionals like nurses, doctors, and teachers. 

Of course, there are positive guided journals too! Self-esteem builders with practices to help you boost your confidence, prompts and guides to help you become a better public speaker, personal growth guides designed to help you uncover your best self. Guided journals are also a great way to unpack and record family histories – legacy journals with prompts asking for stories like “How did your grandparents meet? What was your mother’s first job?” etc.

It’s easy to get creative with a guided journal, both in terms of the content and the formatting of the pages. Of all the journal ideas here, guided journals are definitely the most complex – and time-consuming – but if you do your work well, they can also be the most rewarding for you and for your customers! 

Writing Required: A Decent Amount – Not a Full Book, But Maybe 30-50% of One

Journals Are For Everyone

Whether you’re looking for new products for your existing ecommerce business, brainstorming ideas for a future side-hustle, or considering ways to monetize your brand and your expertise, no/low content books can be a great solution. With so many different types you could create and sell – without having to do that much writing – the opportunities to be creative with a unique journal for your audience are endless! So… what will you create? Now’s your chance to find out: 

Custom Journals & Planners

Custom notebooks make the perfect gifts,
promotional items, or personal projects!

Custom Journals & Planners

Custom notebooks make the perfect gifts, promotional items, or personal projects!

Lauren is the Social Media Manager at Lulu, which means she gets paid to spend a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram every day. When she’s not browsing social media she can often be found voraciously reading romance novels, collecting books, or attempting to exorcize her cat.

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