Writing a Book: The Michael Dell Rule For Business Authors

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I like to observe Michael Dell because he’s one of those people who’s had more than one good idea. First, there was the business of selling mail order computer upgrade and repair kits out of his dorm room at the University of Texas. Then, Dell became one of the first computer manufacturers to sell custom computers direct to consumers. In 1996, he started selling computers over the web, again, one of the first movers.

I also like the way he tells his story. In 1999, Dell wrote a book with Catherine Fredman, titled Direct from Dell. He gave you lessons about what worked in his career. Most business books do that. What made Direct from Dell special was that Michael Dell described how Dell Computer got into trouble and what he learned from the experience.

Here’s his advice about life, business, and books in general. Jeffrey Garten attributes it to Dell in Garten’s book, From Silk to Silicon.

The Michael Dell Rule for Business Book Authors

“Ideas are a commodity. Execution is not.”

Let’s apply that to writing your business book. There are lots of people who have great ideas for books. As my friend, Robert Tucker, has said, “Anyone who has ever taken a shower has had a good idea.” Most of those books don’t get written. Most of the ones that do get written are pretty awful.

That’s an opportunity for you. You have the possibility of taking that same idea that other people have and turning it into something both unique and valuable.

Making the Book Yours

You make a book yours by putting yourself in it. Tell the stories that only you can tell. Relate things from your life and business experience that are relevant to the topic. Tell readers about the lessons you learned.

Adding Value

You add value when you give your readers something that helps them do better. If you’re writing about business, help them do business better. If you’re writing about leadership, help them be a better leader. If you’re writing about personal development, show them some ways to make it work.

Business Author’s Bottom Line

It’s almost certain that the good idea you have isn’t unique. But you can still turn it into a great business book by using your own experience and spin to tell the reader why the idea matters and how they can do something with it that will make a difference for them.

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