I don't believe in writer’s block. (I can hear the gasps of disbelief already.) Listen: If you hire a plumber to come to your house and fix a problem, do you expect him to say, "Sorry, I can't figure out what your problem is. I think I have plumber’s block"? Probably not, and if he did, you'd toss him out and call another guy faster than you can say Drano. Not that plumbing can be compared to writing, but if we follow the proper steps to get the job done, I find that writer’s block melts away, the drains are unclogged, and the words start flowing like water from a faucet. But what are these "steps"? Well, a big part of my job as a book marketing specialist is to help people create something they can actually market: a finished book. Many of us have ideas aplenty but not a clue how to get them down on paper.

Unlike other professions, authors operate under a whole different set of rules. We often can't just sit down and pound out a story, and those who do have created their own formula for doing so. We see this huge story with all sorts of directions we want to take it, we see the cover, we see the characters, we see the market potential. Then we see Katie Couric or Oprah smiling and holding up our book for the whole world to see. Then we glance back down at our monitor and see a tormenting blinking cursor and blank screen. And we are again reminded of what a failure we are. We have all these stories and nothing on paper. We are idea generators. We have zillions of them running through our minds, but none of them on paper. Unless you make your money in a think tank, operating this way probably isn't getting you any closer to your goals.

When a project looms before us, it’s like this big elephant -- huge, overwhelming and ready to stomp us flat any minute. There’s an old saying: "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." The same is true for writing. You finish a book, one step at a time. But to create these steps, you first have to break down your book into manageable, bite-size pieces. This can be accomplished by creating a TOC (table of contents) that can guide you through the book. My reasoning behind this is as follows: You'd never think of driving from California to New York without a map, right? Well, how can you expect to finish your book without one? Your TOC is your roadmap, guiding you through your book. If your chapters don't have individual headings, then write a 2-3 sentence description of what the chapter encompasses. Don't get too elaborate on this. Remember, it’s not going in your book; it’s just a brief descriptor. Once the TOC is outlined, you'll have a vision of your book from start to finish.

A few things that creating this TOC will do for you: It will show you any gaps in your story that might need to be fleshed out, and it will give you a sense of completion, of seeing the book or project actually done, and this is a serious psychological turn-on for most authors, because we often live in a world of half-completed projects. Sometimes this step alone can propel an author enough to get their book done, or at the very least give it a darned good kick-start.

Once you've developed your TOC, you'll want to go through it and create a "to do" list. Regardless of what genre your book is, you will always have a to-do list. Whether it’s getting endorsements, doing research, or getting approvals for quotes or excerpts for your book, this to-do list will become yet another item that will help propel your book toward completion.

Once the to-do list is done, set it aside. Now you should have your completed TOC with a vision of the entire book and a growing list of items that will need to be handled for the book to get done. Now the real fun begins.

Some books on writing will tell you to set aside a day or two a week, or an evening here and there to get your book completed. I disagree with this theory, and here’s why: You need to stay dialed into your topic. When I was working on an upcoming book, I would often put the project aside for days or weeks at a time, promising myself to schedule time "as soon as I could." Well, that rarely happened. What I found is that if I set aside some time every day to do something on the book, I got it completed a lot quicker.

The more you keep your hands in your project, the more it will stay at the front of your mind and on your radar screen, and the more energy you will invest to finish it. I won't tell you to set aside hours of your time each day -- in fact, you don't even have to set aside an hour. Take 15 minutes, or even five -- whatever your schedule permits. If this seems like a ridiculously short amount of time, consider this: You now have your to-do list and your outlined TOC! . If you are short on time one day, pick a quickie item from your to-do list and get it done. If you have more time, then pound out a chapter or two. The idea behind creating the to-do lists and a TOC is to not only give your project a structure, but to also eliminate any and all excuses for getting it done. Don't feel like writing today? No problem. There’s probably a mountain of research just waiting to be traversed. Get the picture?

But let’s say you can't even get through the TOC. "My book has too many layers," you lament. "Too many back stories, tons of stuff going on. I can't possibly be expected to filter it down into a neat little TOC." Yes, you can, and you must. If your book has no focus, your book will have no focus. It’s as simple as that. But it doesn't stop there -- if your book is all over the place and you do actually manage to get it done, you'll never be able to keep a reader interested because you will be the only one who will get it, and what’s the point of that? What you'll need to do in this case is find the "core" of your book or the focus of your story. Ask yourself this: What’s the one thing this book cannot do without? What’s the one thing this story circles around? That’s your core. If you're still coming up with three or four things that your story circles around, you aren’t focused enough and neither is your book. Find that one thing and build your story or book around it.

If you follow these steps, your book will get finished quicker than you could have ever imagined. And the once-dreaded writer’s block will go from a stumbling block to a building block.

Most people will attempt to write a book. No matter how many times people tell you how difficult it is to do, nearly everyone wants to do it. There hangs a certain romance around writers. I think it's a kind of nostalgia or grieving for some forgotten part of ourselves. We long to return to a place where magic and imagination are revered.

Others may just want the quick glory or fast buck they associate with being an author. But whatever you want, getting a six figure book advance is possible if you have the skill, drive and know-how. Here are five tips to get you started on achieving the dream of becoming a well-paid, respected author.

1. Know the Industry

Educate yourself on how the publishing industry works. Unlike the old days when publishers were looking to cultivate long-term relationships with authors who would be in their stable, today their top priority is just to sell books.

When I was traveling in Mexico this year I met a woman whose husband has been a best-selling author for twenty years in England. He has had the same agent and publisher for those same twenty years. Every time he came out with a new book his publishers expected it to be "number one" on the English equivalent of the New York Times bestseller list. They worked with him to make it so. In America the bottom line is king. You must be able to substantiate your claim that your book will fly off the shelves, without any help from the publisher.

2. Prove There is a Market for Your Book

In today's world you need to show that your book will sell to one large audience, or many smaller niche audiences. Quantify each audience with statistics that show that they buy books on that subject. It's not enough to say that this audience would be interested in your topic. You must be able to prove beyond a doubt with your well-researched facts that your readers are a *book buying* audience.

3. Develop a Platform

This is the most important aspect of your proposal after you've proven that there is a pressing need for your book and that book buying audiences will scoop it up. A platform is simply YOUR ability to sell books to the audience that you have said will buy-from you.

It's all about the numbers. How many people are on your e-zine list? How many people do you speak to every month? How many people buy your products and services now? Do you have big name corporations or organizations that will buy your books in bulk? Do you have a regular column, or write for publications? Are you frequently seen in the media? If you don't have an impressive platform you don't get a 6-figure advance.

4. Map out a Marketing Plan to Promote Your Book.

Your plan should include everything from speaking engagements, online marketing, licensing, and media placements. It must be realistic and do-able. In other words you can't say that you'll speak to organizations of 1000 people or more if you've never done it.

What do publishers hate most?

When you say that you're right for Oprah. Unless you've already been a guest and taped the show please NEVER say this if you don't want your reputation instantly sullied.

Instead show how you will build on your past publicity. If hosts or producers say that they want you back for another segment because you did such a good job the first time, say it. But if you haven't done much media to date, don't fret.

You can begin today and get a substantial number of profiles, features, and comments in the media in a few months by joining PRLeads,a service which delivers reporters queries (the stories they need experts for) daily to your email box.

5. Get Endorsements

Big names sell products in a big way. Getting known names of celebrities, best-selling authors, actors, athletes, well- known experts in your field, media personalities, any famous name that has glitter gives you the kind of credibility that can't be bought.

One of my clients, who got a number of New York Times best-selling authors to write about him, accomplished three things with his endorsements. Each person who wrote about him told a different story about why he would be a winning author. The first one lauded him as a highly successful professional. The second stated that my client's book filled a gap that her book failed to address. The third demonstrated that the people my client was trying to reach were an avid book buying market hungry for his type of book- as they had bought hers.

These meaningful endorsements effectively helped him get his  six figure advance. (And he got media coached by me before he met the editors at the big New York Publishing houses who then bid on his book at auction).

Don't just get endorsements saying you're terrific. Make your endorsements do double duty by helping you prove there is a market and that you're the one they want to buy from. This is the type of information that makes you stand out from the other 150,000 authors who are published every year, most of whom never earn back their advance. Don't be one of them. Instead, follow this advice and you'll be well on your way to earning a 6 figure book advance. Good luck!