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Are you sure you want to write a business book?

Let’s just get this out there: writing a book is a lot harder than most people think it will be, and the payoff is rarely what you anticipate. If you want to write a business book because you think it will help you market your business or gain new clients, you should really consider another marketing tactic. If it was always your dream to become an author and you believe you have something worthwhile to give to your audience, take time to reflect on the questions below. Write down your answers so you can come back to them later. And if you felt a prickle of annoyance at that suggestion, consider whether your desire to have written a book outstrips your desire to actually do the writing.

Why do you really want to write a business book?

First, explore your motivations. What’s the real reason you want write a business book? The single act is unlikely to lead a river of fame and fortune to your door (although it could happen). Regardless of whether you net a contract with a major publisher or go the self-publishing route, getting the word out about your book will be more work than the writing itself. People in the publishing world will tell you that many authors don’t gain traction until they publish a third, fourth, or even fifth book. If there’s ego involved, brace yourself for potentially crushing results.

That being said, there are lots of good reasons to write a business book even if it doesn’t hit best-seller status, such as:

  • It can lend credibility when pursuing speaking engagements.
  • It serves as a companion piece to your workshop, course, or coaching program.
  • You want to reach people who may not have the budget for your workshop, course, or coaching program but could benefit from your content.
  • Your content is relatively timeless, or evergreen (as opposed to responding to current events or trends) and lends itself to further exploration than you can achieve in a shorter format (e.g. feature article, blog, whitepaper, manifesto, etc.).

If at least one of these reasons resonates, your motivations may be in the right place.

Do you have time to write without hating it?

Next, consider how much time you can reasonably devote to the project. Writing is a task that requires consistent effort. While there are authors who can hole up in a cabin for a week and write the bulk of a manuscript, most are adding a few hundred (or maybe 1,000) words a day in between other life commitments. It’s generally preferable to have a daily or weekly cadence to encourage a writing habit and benefit from momentum. As you think about your writing schedule, remember that you only have so much good mental energy each day. Is it realistic to expect that you’ll work on your book for an hour each night after your kids are in bed? Will you really get up at 5 am to write every day before heading to work? Consider whether you’re in the right season of life to take on a major, long-term project that many people liken to growing and birthing a baby.

Almost every writer will tell you that writing can be a grind. It’s not fun all the time. Sometimes it’s frustrating. Writer’s block is real. There are lots of tricks to get around it and keep moving forward; ultimately, you should have truly gratifying moments mixed in with the frustrating ones. Carving out the time is one thing; feeling fulfilled by the act of writing writing is a separate and equally critical requirement. Do you really want to write a business book, or do you want to have written one? If it’s the latter, consider whether you want to spend the money required to work with a ghostwriter.

Who will read your book?

If you’ve gotten this far, it’s time to stop thinking about your content and start thinking about your audience. While it’s tempting to think that everyone in the business world can benefit from your book, you’ll find you have a much stronger and more applicable concept if you write to a specific audience.

Think through the following questions, and write down your answers:

  • What job role(s) does my audience hold? Are they working in specific industries and/or types of companies?
  • Roughly what age range do they fall into? How many years have they been working in this role?
  • How many years of professional experience do they have? How long have they been out of school?
  • What are their biggest pain points on the job or in their lives?
  • How does my content address those pain points?
  • What’s holding them back from solving their pain points right now? (The answer to this should be more than, “I haven’t written a book for them yet!”)
  • Are they likely to look for a book that helps them solve this problem (as opposed to other resources)?
  • What else would they need to solve their pain point that can’t be accomplished in a book?

As you work out the concept for your book, continue to think about the audience you’re writing for. Consider giving your desired reader a name. You’ll be coming back to that individual over and over as you write and revise.

What else exists in your space?

Finally, consider the market for your book. Are there other (even obscure) books out there addressing the same problem? How will your book be different from what’s already written? What will make your desired audience member pick up your book over a similar title? What has already been published on your topic in academic literature? If you’re going to pursue a publishing contract, it will be particularly important to have a solid answer to these questions. Even if you decide to self-publish, you should clearly define your contribution to the public conversation about your topic. Your book will be much stronger for having done this work at the beginning.

As you do your market research, you may come to realize that someone else has beaten you to the punch and already written the book you wanted to write. That isn’t necessarily a dead end for your dreams of authorship, but it should induce a major change to your book concept. You most likely have a new take on the subject, or perhaps are addressing a more specific audience. There’s lots of room out there for discussion of similar and related topics, but you should be familiar with what’s already been said and figure out how you can add to the existing body of work.

I really want to write a business book!

You’ve thought through all of the above, and you still want to write a book. Congratulations! Writing a book is a fulfilling process that will inevitably stretch your skills and teach you new things about your area of expertise (not to mention yourself) that you never considered. Just a few more thoughts before you go.

  • Draft a book proposal. Even if you don’t intend to pursue a publishing contract, going through the process of answering the questions required in a major publisher’s book proposal is an enlightening exercise. Most publishers make their required proposal format available on their websites. Download a few of them and prepare the response you would submit if you were going to go that route. I guarantee you will learn some things you hadn’t previously considered.
  • Surround yourself with support. Writing is generally a solo task. Editing, and even thinking, are generally more productive when you bring in outside perspectives. Consider who can be your thought partner throughout your writing process. This person (or people) will also serve to hold you accountable to your writing goals. There are lots of professionals in the publishing world who can help you: ghostwriter, writing coach, and developmental editor are the most common when you’re in the drafting phase. But you may not need to hire someone. Your thought partner could be a trusted colleague, mentor, or even a group of people who are also writing business books and want to swap manuscripts for feedback. Ideally you also get feedback from someone in your desired audience at least once along the way.

If you feel an author coach may be beneficial, check out our author coaching package. With your motivations in the right place, we would love to help you make your dream a reality.

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