I remember the afternoon we started the project. It was hot in the Oakland Bay Area, where hardly anyone has air conditioning because it rarely gets as hot as it was that day. I was working at my home office so I could work shirtless and wearing shorts to stay as cool as possible.
At the time, I was known for being ahead of the curve when it came to the then-new Internet technology. I’d written a Special Report titled “Cyberpower for Speakers, Trainers, and Consultants” that sold very well indeed. I’d finished the manuscript for Getting on the Information Superhighway. I knew I’d caught a wave.
Jeff Senne called me that afternoon. Jeff was known for sales, especially in the banking industry. He asked me a simple question: “Can you name a book about business on the Internet that I can recommend to my clients?”
I couldn’t. Jeff and I spent the next hour or so talking about the Internet and what impact it would have on business. By the end of the call we agreed that we should write a book like the one we wished we could recommend to our clients.
The book we wrote was Cyberpower for Business. It came out in early 1996 and got great reviews. Inc Magazine put it on a list of “books every CEO should own.” Here’s what I learned from the experience.
Know thy Reader
Jeff and I were writing for people we knew personally. We knew what their level of knowledge was and what they were concerned about.
Ask thy Reader
Even though we knew our readers, we interviewed many of them before we started putting the book proposal together. Those interviews gave us a list of questions that the book needed to answer as well as leads to examples that hadn’t received major media attention and experts we should interview.
Keep your Eyes on Your Reader’s Prize
We knew that our readers simply wouldn’t be interested in the book unless it helped them do business more effectively. That didn’t have much to do with technology, but it had a lot to do with how businesses could use it. I taped three questions at my work station to remind me of what was important.
- How will it help revenue go up?
- How will it make expenses go down?
- How will it make everyone’s life easier?
I tested everything I wrote against those questions. Answering those questions in very chapter and with every example made the book useful for readers.
The thing I hadn’t anticipated was the joy of working with a good partner. All my writing up till then was done solo. Jeff made the process more enjoyable and, together we produced a great book. That outcome, producing a great book, has been my goal in every project since.