Writing a Book: Come out punching!

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Some days it seems like everyone is overworked. Business book readers must carve out time from their demanding schedules to devote to reading. They want you to help them solve a problem or answer a question. They want to be able to do something better after they read your book. They don’t want to wait for you to get to the good parts.

Let me be blunt. Today’s business reader doesn’t want you to fill up your book with a bunch of stuff that doesn’t help. Unless it’s relevant to them, they don’t care why you wrote the book. Put that in the preface so you get right down to work in the introduction. They don’t want you to tell them how wonderful it’s going to be later in the book. They want you to start delivering value right away. In the words of legendary speaker Patricia Fripp, “Come out punching!”

The Introduction Should Be Helpful and Lean

Open your book with something powerful or provocative. If you can make it part of the promise of the book, that’s great, too. A powerful, provocative, and promise-filled opening gets the reader’s attention.

Draw the reader in with a short example of someone like him or her who benefited from your book’s lessons. You want them to think, “Yep. That’s me, too.” You want them to keep reading.

Promise them what they’ll find in the book. Sketch out the content in as few words as possible. Briefly describe how each section and chapter will help them. Then, lure them to the first chapter with a simple promise about what they’ll find when they turn the page.

Chapters Should Deliver Value

Every chapter should deliver value. Get your reader’s attention with something provocative, something that gives them an idea of what they’ll find in the chapter and how it will help them.

Draw them into the chapter with a story that they find so interesting they’re compelled to keep reading. The story should lead them into the meat of the chapter. Briefly sketch the points or examples that they’ll find in the chapter.

As you make each point, support it with a story or anecdote, some research, and a statement about how the reader will benefit from following your advice. Add a tip or two to spice up your chapter.

If you’re looking for examples of business books that do this, let me suggest two. Scaling Up Excellence by Bob Sutton and Huggy Rao and Originals by Adam Grant.

Wrap up the chapter with a brief review of your key points. Many business readers really love these summaries. Bullet points are a favorite way to summarize key points.

Bottom Line

Business book readers don’t have a lot of time to spend and they want great ideas that make a difference. Get their attention. Tell them what’s in it for them. And enrich your points with stories and research.

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