What does it take to become a best-selling business book author? Should I try and get my book published by a traditional publisher? What are the typical mistakes people make when writing a business book? In this article I aim to answers these questions and dispels some of the myths out there about writing a book. Read on to find out the six things that I wished I had known before I started to write my 1st book.
1. Writing a business book: firstly write the right book
All too often we get seduced into writing a business book. It could be because our ego is talking, or we think that a book will be the answer to all our lead generation problems.
A business book is not the answer to your lead generation problems
Before you even put pen to the page (or finger to the keyboard) ask yourself, why you want to write a book, and how will it help you with your business or career? The book that you write will come to define your personal brand and reputation for many years. The question you have to ask is whether the book you are planning to write is one which you want to be defined by for years to come. All too often authors write the wrong book.
All too often authors write the wrong book.
The value in writing a business book is normally not in the amount of money you will make from royalties or book sales. It is from the extended reach, authority and credibility you automatically gain as an author. This is why a business book is often affectionately referred to as a business card on steroids. However, if you write the wrong book all you will succeed in doing is attracting the wrong sort of clients and customers to your business door.
2. Be realistic about what it will take
Having written 4 books (‘The FT Guide to Business Networking, 1st and 2nd Edition’, ‘How to make partner and still have a life‘, ‘The Go-To Expert‘, and ‘Poised for Partnership‘) writing a business book isn’t something you can hastily scribble down on a few weekends whilst the kids are at the park. I think of a book as a 12-18 month project. 6-9 months to plan and write, then 6-9 months to market and launch, before moving to a ‘maintenance’ level of marketing. These periods of writing and marketing are often in parallel. Do you have the time to put 2-4 days a month over the next 12 months to this book? Too often authors don’t devote enough time to marketing their book and wonder why it isn’t selling. Or they put out a poorly edited or structured book and don’t realise the reputational damage it is doing to them.
On a slight tangent, be aware that writing a 50k book is a tough ask. If you struggle to write one 500-word blog post a month, are you really going to have the discipline to write a 50k word book? It can be tempting to think that if you write 50 x 1000-word blog posts you have a book. It doesn’t really work that way. A book needs to flow from section to section and chapter to chapter. Books based on blog articles rarely do that.
3. Know what publishers will and wouldn’t do for you
Many wannabe authors think that being published by one of the big commercial/traditional publishers is the path to instant riches and reward. Being blunt it isn’t. Most traditional publishers will do a great job at producing a high quality book for you. They do a lousy job of marketing it for you. That’s your job as the author. In return for producing the book and handling the stocking and fulfilment of orders they will normally take 90% of royalties. You, the author, also tend to be the best customer for your book. They will sell your book back to you for a 50% discount off recommended retail price. This means that if I buy a copy of The FT Guide To Business Networking it costs me £10 a pop. That means if I want to run a campaign where I sent out the book to 100 potential clients, by the time postage and packing has been taken into account, I will be spending £1500. Whereas if I self published, this cost would be nearer to £500. Whether you publish or self-publish, there is very little margin in print books. After all when you have taken out the printing and marketing costs, the wholesaler’s cut and the publisher’s cut there is very little left for the author.
4. Understand what publishers want to commission
Publishers are looking for books with mass appeal. They are generally not good at making a success out of niche books. (Which is why ‘Poised for Partnership’ was self published.) If your proposed book fits their specialism AND you can demonstrate you can personally shift over 2000+ books AND they have a gap on their list for a book like yours, then they will probably be interested in commissioning your book. It is much easier to be commissioned to write for a publisher when they have approached you for you to write the book. If you are serious about approaching publishers it is much easier to get them to consider your idea for a book if you have been introduced to them by one of their authors. One more tip about approaching publishers, use their book submission document to pitch your book to them. This is not something you can rattle off overnight. I normally take 3 months to research and write this document. It then forms the plan I implement to write, structure and market my book.
5. An editor is an author’s best friend
95+% of self-published books need to have had a better edit.
95+% of self-published books need to have had a better edit. That is, of course, my personal opinion. An editor isn’t your proof reader. They are the person that lets you know if the book reads well and you get the point across. Writing a business book becomes much easier when you work alongside an editor as you write your book. The best editors can do the high level structure stuff and also nit pick at the detail level. A good editor is a very special person and should be treated with extreme respect. A well-edited book should be easy to read, succinct and to the point.
6. Start marketing your book the day you commit to writing the book
There is no such thing as an overnight success as a business book author. (Or a fiction author for that matter) All too often authors finish their book and then start to think about how to market it. If you have followed my advice about writing the right book you will have also started the marketing of the book right at the start of your journey to become an author. That is because the book will fit nicely within your business’s marketing objectives and plans.