Should You Finally Write Your Business Book?
I was on the phone with a friend and former colleague and he mentioned that he has been thinking about writing a book for many years – yet has never found the time or inspiration to get started. This was surprising because he happens to be one of the best and most creative writers I know. Based on that conversation – and others I have had with would-be authors, I dusted off a 2015 blog post I wrote about book writing, including some lessons I learned when writing and publishing my book last year – The B2B Revenue Growth Playbook.
We’ve also worked with a couple of clients on their book projects, and even created a little publishing venture to launch and promote B2B books, so I have some perspective on the entire process. So please allow me to offer you a handful of reasons why you should and shouldn’t write a book and follow with some concise tips to make it happen in a more efficient and less painful way. Note that I said “less painful” not painless, because it can be a bit frustrating at times, despite the joy you feel at the end of the process. Kind of like how you feel when you stop hitting your head against the wall!
Why You Shouldn’t Write a Book
Let’s start with the reasons why you may not want to write a book:
- It takes a lot of time. However much time you think it will take to bring your book to fruition, double that. While there are ways to mitigate this, there is no getting around the fact that book writing and production is large time sink.
- There is an opportunity cost. Whatever time you devote to the book endeavor is time that you can’t spend on something else (business and personal).
- You don’t have something important to say. As I often talk about in branding and positioning, with a book, you must be different and you must be compelling. Readers will want to hear a new perspective, not just a stale list of general principles.
- You won’t make money. If you take the amount of royalties earned by the average non-fiction author and divide it by the number of hours he or she worked on the book, the hourly rate would shock you. Yes I know there are exceptions but generally speaking, writing books is a poorly paid profession.
- You don’t have sufficient discipline to complete the project. Before you start, you need to “gut check” your tenacity. For every published author, there are others who started to write and never completed their book.
Why You Should Write a Book
Enough with the reasons not to write the book. Here are some compelling reasons you should consider launching a book initiative:
- Assuming you produce a quality product (and you will) a book gives you cache in your industry and among your peer group. This can lead to not only greater awareness and credibility for your personal brand, but also speaking and writing opportunities.
- You will generate lots of material that you can use for other purposes. A book can give you a large amount of source material for your social media initiatives. For example, you can find many of the ideas from the B2B Revenue Growth Playbook repurposed for my white papers, blogs and articles.
- A book can lead to economic benefits, not just from the sale of the book, but also in terms of job promotions, new clients, and so forth.
- Writing is a great way to hone your expertise. Assuming that you want to be seen as a thought leader, writing a business book forces you to stay up on the newest aspects of your profession/business.
- Psychic benefits. Despite the challenges and hard work, there is a great deal of satisfaction to be gained from seeing your book in printed (or eBook) format. It is a good feeling to earn the title “author” to go along with your other professional accomplishments.
Strategies to Make the Process Easier
- You’re not writing War and Peace. Some very good business books are as short as 40,000 words, while others can be double or triple that amount. By the way, I do not agree with the concept of calling a 5,000-word PDF a book. Perhaps it’s a long white paper, but not a book.
- Getting it done is more important that getting it “just right.” As Voltaire put it: Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. Write a good book and get the darned thing out.
- Leverage existing content. My philosophy is to only create content that can be utilized for more than one purpose. For example, a blog post like this one is a bit over 1,000 words. Forty posts, written once a week, gives me enough material for a book draft in only 10 months. You can do this if you are intentional about your content strategy.
- Fit the writing into your existing schedule. Not all writing time requires the same flexibility. If I am updating existing content I can do this during commercial time while watching sports on TV. But if it is new and strategic material, I go into my “Deep Work” mode, popularized by the excellent Cal Newport book with that name. The book is so good that I bet he practiced his own methods.
- Work with a good editor. It’s very difficult to create good draft content and then turn it into a quality end product. In fact, I use two editors (plus a few reviewers who are brave enough to give me opinions on the initial content). Publishing something with typos and poor grammar is worse than not publishing at all and will damage your reputation.
- Writing is just the beginning. Of course you need to write a quality product. But the fact is, without an effective plan for producing, publishing and promoting (three P’s), you may have a great book, but few readers. Fortunately, there are many great resources to help you do this.
- My final tip is to treat the book as a project with identified deliverables. Meet your early deadlines and once the writing habit takes hold, the project takes on a life of its own and the sailing gets smoother. I promise.
On balance, I have decided six times that the pros of writing a business book outweigh the cons. Whether I will stop here or keep writing remains to be seen – but I am glad that each of my book projects has come to fruition. If you think that your pros outweigh the cons, and feel that you want to proceed, please contact me if I can assist you in fulfilling your authorship dream.