Thinking about writing a book while you work full-time? That describes most of my clients. Doing it that way means a lot of hard work.
You must find time in your already stuffed life to do the work. You must figure out a way to do the work for a year, over several drafts, writing at least every week without destroying relationships or going crazy.
You’ll be tempted take it easy or to cut corners. When that happens, revive your spirits with these six things to strive for. Use them as standards for your work.
Your Book Should Make A Difference
Your book should make a difference for your reader. Business readers expect you to solve a problem or answer a question. They’re seeking information and insight and inspiration that will help them do better. Show them how to increase revenue. Show them how to decrease their expenses. Show them how your ideas can make their life easier or higher quality.
Your book should make a difference for you, too. Be clear on goals. Do you want increased recognition? Higher fees? Maybe what you want is to start working with a different group of clients. Perhaps you’ve “always wanted to write a book.”
It doesn’t matter what the goal is. What does matter is that you get clear about why you’re putting in all this hard work. If it doesn’t make a difference for your reader and it doesn’t make a difference for you, why bother?
Your Book Should Be Unique and Distinctive
You won’t uncover any new universal truths. As my friend Mike LeBeouf says, “The great truths are too important to be new.”
You can come up with a unique perspective. Use your life experience, your clients’ experience, and fresh research to help your book stand out.
If your book isn’t unique, there’s no reason for a reader to plunk down hard-earned money to buy it and spend a couple of hours to read it. If it’s not distinctive, it won’t stand out from the gazillion business books already on the market.
Your Book Should Be Lean
Once upon a time, readers wanted books that told them “everything.” They wanted to know as much as they could get from an author’s book because they might not ever read a book by that author again.
Times have changed. The digital world moves much faster than the old work world. Business book readers today don’t want a lot of fluff. They want to learn about a specific, important thing and move on.
Everything in the book should help move the book forward. If you have extra material you think is important, you can put it on a website or in an appendix.
Your Book Should Use Conversational Language
Everyone understands this, but it’s hard to do. Generations of English teachers taught us to write in a certain way. Many books, magazines and websites are written in that quasi-academic style English teachers love.
Those English teachers taught us to write in a certain way, but it was only one way. There are lots of other ways to write effectively. Journalists have their own standards, for example. My standard is: Write conversationally.
Here’s what that means. Write like you’re talking to a friend in a social or informal situation. Imagine that you’re at lunch with your friend. Imagine that you’re having a backyard party and having a conversation. Write your book the way you would talk to your friend in those situations.
Several of my clients found it was easier to write conversationally if they spoke into a recorder and had their words transcribed. Others just imagined a situation where they were talking to a friend. Then they wrote down the way they said things in their imagination. One client had his own simple standard. “I just write like I’ve got a beer in my hand.”
Your Book Should Make Understanding Easy
When you’re face-to-face with someone, you can pick up on the times he or she isn’t understanding. You don’t have that luxury when you write a book. So, every time you want to have the reader understand, you should include three things.
There should be an explicit statement of the points you want to make. I suggest testing that on someone who doesn’t know your field. An intelligent 15-year-old is best. They’re fearless, know everything, and have already assigned you to the old “doesn’t get it” part of their life.
Points aren’t enough. Support those points with surveys or studies. Good research makes you credible.
Use stories or examples to illustrate your points. I suggest to some clients that they plan their book using the stories they want to tell instead of the points they want to make.
Your Book Should Help the Reader Put Your Ideas to Work
Clear writing will help the reader understand. But, as my friend Rod Santomassimo likes to say, “Knowing isn’t doing.” Great business books help the reader put important concepts into practice.
Pull quotes and tips happen in the chapter. Make points memorable by using subheads and boldface to make them stand out. Questions, exercises, or summaries at the end of the chapter aid understanding.
Your book should make a difference for the reader and for you.
Your book should be unique and distinctive.
Your book should be lean.
Your book should use conversational language.
Your book should make understanding easy.
Your book should help your reader put the ideas to work.