Writing a business book is the best thing you can do to take your career to the next level.
A book is an invaluable tool to help you build your credibility and grow wealth. It provides a new income stream for your business for you to grow over time. If you’re a speaker, a book will allow you to charge higher speaking fees.
If you’re in business for yourself, a book may be the ticket to raising your rates; a book makes you available to a larger audience, so clients who receive your one-on-one attention can pay a higher premium.
Yet there’s a problem: writing a book is hard. (Isn’t it?)
For many, writing a book is simply too intimidating. These people believe that they are not qualified to be the authority on any subject. This may be because they. . .
- Don’t have enough education (“Only Ph.D.’s can write books!”)
- Believe their writing isn’t strong enough
- Don’t enjoy writing
- Are scared by the process and don’t know where to start
There’s good news. There are many professionals who can help birth a book, from author coaches to ghostwriters to editors to book marketers. . .etc. Writing a book can be a team sport.
And it can be fun! Let’s rid ourselves of the stereotype of the solitary genius in a gable, typing away. You can work that way if you want to–but it is entirely optional.
So: once you decide to write a book. . .what’s the next step? Here are six tips for those just starting out on their journey to author:
1) Get clear on your publishing goals
Do you want to be traditionally published or self-published?
It’s a big question, and one you should ask yourself at the beginning. One is not “better” than the other, but you must determine which one bests suits your needs.
In traditional publishing, you will most likely be represented by a literary agent, to whom you pitch your book proposal. The agent’s job is to sell your book to publishers. You get an advance in traditional publishing, the size of which may vary greatly depending on the publishing house. Expect to wait about a year (or longer) from the time the book sells to the time it’s published.
If you self-publish, you can get the book out much quicker. However, you will pay more money upfront. Expect to hire professionals to help with editing, book formatting, cover design, and marketing. Also, be aware that most bookstores will not sell self-published works.
If you want to establish your credibility further and receive attention from established institutions–let’s say The New York Times, for example–traditional publishing is your best bet. If you want to get a book out quickly to grow your brand, create a product and launch a new revenue stream, or elevate your business in any other way, self-publishing is a perfectly viable choice.
2) Identify your ideal reader
You need to have an ideal reader in mind. Otherwise, your message will be unfocused. (If you try to write to everyone, you’ll end up writing to no one).
Is your message for CEO’s? People who want to lose weight? Parents who find they are no longer able to talk to their teenagers? Folks in the midst of midlife career crises?
The more specific you can be in this step, the more your message will come into focus. Remember: the specific is universal.
Don’t worry about whether your book will become too “niche” by your focusing on one ideal reader. Rather, think about providing as much value as possible to your reader; then, readers who are not your ideal reader will be more likely to find your book and be helped by it, too. (It’s funny how that works).
3) Hone your message (what is it you want your reader to DO?)
It’s your job to take your reader on a journey. If your reader is at Point A, your job to take her to Point B or C (or maybe all the way to Point Z). You have to meet the reader where she is, and take her where you believe she should go.
Let’s say you’ve identified your audience as new CEO’s. You want to help them become effective leaders through listening. Every chapter you write should come back to this theme of listening, whether it’s to the board, C-suite members, or their own internal guidance system. “Listening” is your north star. You may provide plenty of other actionable tips for the new CEO, but you always come back to helping the new leader “lead through listening.”
4) Create an outline
This step freaks a lot of people out. They believe an outline amounts to writing the whole book twice: first for the outline, then for the actual book, and that they have to know every word that will be in the book before they can begin.
It’s important to remember that your outline is a tool, not the law. The outline is for your benefit. It’s meant to make the actual writing process easier. (Yes, easier!)
Write a flexible outline with the understanding that it will change. That’s only natural; writing is a process of discovery. You may think a topic deserves a whole chapter at the outline stage–but then when you write, you realize there’s only enough material for a sidebar, or even a paragraph.
That’s okay! Outlines aren’t ironclad; they always change. You don’t have to know everything: just meet the reader where they are, think of where you want them to end up, and fill in the steps on how to get from “here” to “there.”
5) Leave space for the reader to learn
Remember that your book is a dialogue with the reader. Your reader will learn by reading, but he will learn more by doing. Incorporate learning space in each chapter.
You may end the chapter with questions for the reader to reflect on, or an activity which will force her out of her comfort zone. Think of yourself as the “guide on the side” rather than the “sage on the stage.”
Ask yourself: what experience would drive this message home? Service to your reader should be your number one goal; you are invested in her growth. Engage your creativity and your teaching skills to craft learning experiences which will help your reader reach a new level of development.
6) Make your title and subtitle work for you
Last but not least, it’s time to craft your title! (Or maybe you did this at the very beginning. Some people choose a title first, some choose it last – no author or book is the same, and that’s all right.)
You have to make your title and subtitle work for you. Your title should stop people in their tracks. Think of your ideal reader browsing the shelves at Barnes and Noble; he sees your title and his eyes stop roving as his brain forms a question. Now what does that mean?
Then, your subtitle tells them. Take a look at some examples:
- The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
- 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story by Dan Harris
- Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead by Tara Mohr
See how these titles and subtitles deliver a one-two punch? The title reels you in, the subtitle keeps you there. The title is short and snappy; the subtitle is longer and gives context.
Think of a title that would make your book stand out to someone who is not already in your community. The right title can take someone from a bookstore browser to a fan.
If you’re ready to seriously uplevel your business, it may be time to write a book. Know that you can do it, and that there are countless resources–and people–who are available to help you.