Writing a Book: 4 things that make a business book great

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In most fields, the top performers aren’t better than their run-of-the-mill peers by a couple of percentage points. Instead, they outperform the mediocre by orders of magnitude. That’s what great business books are like.

There are approximately one gazillion business books published every year. A lot of them are awful. Some of them are okay. A few are good. A very, very few are great. If you want to write a great business book, one that makes a difference, here’s how to get the job done.

A Great Business Book Helps Readers Do Better

That’s what business book readers want from a business book. They want something they can apply to get results. If you want to write a great business book, help your readers do something different and better.

A Great Business Book Is as Long as Necessary and No Longer

This is “lean” applied to business books. Figure out what it is you want to help people do. Write a compelling book that helps them do it. But don’t add any fluff.

In days of old, there was a lot of fluff in business books because they had to be a certain length. That was the convention. But that was then. Business books are getting shorter and easier to publish. There’s no reason why you need to write a book that is any longer than it needs to be to help readers get the result you want.

A Great Business Book Uses Stories

Human beings have used stories to convey information since about the time we invented language. Readers understand how to get the results you promise with the deep knowledge that comes from stories. Tell your own, personal, stories that no one else can tell. Use apt stories from business that no one else is telling. Stories are necessary for a great business book.

A Great Business Book is More than Stories

Stories are great, and they’re the primary way that human beings learn, but if your book is just stories, it won’t be great. Use research to underscore the points in the stories you tell. Use sparkling quotes, sidebars, and tips to add to the interest of your book. Be explicit about telling people what they should do.

Excellence Is No Accident

Writing a great book is not easy. If it was, everyone could do it. Writing a great book takes the discipline to make sure everything works. It takes the discipline to rewrite until you make your points and nothing more and the manuscript reads smoothly. It takes checking your research examples and citing properly. This isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

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