This is the story of the book, The Coaching Habit, by Michael Bungay Stanier. It meets all the criteria for a great business book.
Michael’s company, Box of Crayons, has trained more than 10,000 working managers in coaching on the job. That tells you that Michael knows a thing or two about coaching and how to convey the essence of it to busy managers. He definitely has both the expertise and the passion that you need to write a great business book.
Obviously, the book fits in with his business and strategy. And coaching is a hot topic right now which increases the odds of commercial success. All Michael had to do was write the book.
That definitely did not go as planned. Michael figured that this would be like other writing projects. He thought he would lay out the key points, then write to fill in the details. He contracted with a traditional publisher and went to work.
The publisher didn’t like the first draft. They didn’t like the second either. Or the third. Or even the fourth.
Michael thought the publisher wasn’t getting it. But he also admits that all the publisher’s criticisms were valid. The book he was writing wasn’t very good.
I’ve seen that situation before. The author has an idea of what the book should be or could be. The publishing house knows what they want the book to be. Most of the time that works out fine, but sometimes it doesn’t.
That brought Michael and the publishing house to December 2014. After four versions he went to the publishers and said, in essence, “Here’s my vision for this book. Do you want to publish it?” The answer was “No.”
That was a good outcome for both. The publisher got to put time and money into books that they thought would be profitable. Michael was free to approach another publisher or self-publish. He chose self-publishing and wrote the book he wanted to write, now that he knew what he wanted it to be.
It was the book that he believed in after four attempts to get it right for both himself and the publisher. Now he only had one person to please.
I’ve seen this before, too. Sometimes great books take a while to get right. Michael wrote four full drafts as he figured out what the book should be. He went back and forth with a publisher and the process sharpened the basic idea and how to present it. In the end, it was all worth it.
The Coaching Habit is a great business book. It grows out of deep expertise and experience. It makes strategic sense for Michael and Box of Crayons. And there’s definitely a market for more books about coaching. The book is also well done.
It’s lean and practical, with no excess to get in the way of usability. Here’s Michael’s thinking on how to do that.
“My goal always is to write as well as I can, and write a book that is as lean as possible. What’s the shortest book I can possibly write that will be useful and valuable for people?”
When you start that way you write a practical book, with just enough detail to help the reader put it to work. The Coaching Habit contains a chapter about why you need a coaching habit, a chapter on the science of how to build a habit, seven basic coaching questions, and a conclusion.
If you’re looking for a formula for producing a great business book, this probably won’t be much help. But here’s something to think about. Most of the men and women who write great business books spend a lot of time working on getting it right. It hardly ever happens easily or the first time.