What do I want to say in my book?
This can be the biggest obstacle out of the starting block for any writer. For some people it can take years to describe their book concept and in many cases it never does get clearly defined.
Ideas swirl around, scrawled notes on Starbucks napkins get left behind, and individual one page Word docs start to plug your computer. Everyone means well but becoming disciplined to not only think out what you want to say but how to say isn’t easy.
In this first post in a series on the Fundamentals of Publishing Your Business Book, I’ll try to get to some answers. Let me give you some ideas which could open up a path forward.
1. Tell a Story
Keep in mind the basics: determine your goals, know your audience, and only then start to write an outline and basic one or two line chapter highlights.
The approach is where people get bogged down. One suggestion for defining your book concept is to determine how you might normally explain something to a group of people. Think about it – if you are a born storyteller or you consistently use examples to illustrate your point vs someone who logically breaks down a talk into a PowerPoint or bullet point approach – you might be on your way to how you will feel most comfortable with the process of writing your book.
For storytellers, constructing chapters into parables might work. A really good example of this is Bill Bishop’s How to Sell a Lobster: the Money-Making Secrets of a Street wise Entrepreneur. The book has seventeen short chapters and each has a beginning and an end.
Taking this even further an entire business book could become a story. You can create a fictious company and staff, create a problem and set out various ways it was solved. One terrific book I’ve read that uses this method is Built to Sell: Turn Your Business into One You can Sell by John Warrilow. The book is about how to sell your business but written with a compelling narrative than easily supported John’s thesis – and his consulting business.
For some people this is a comfortable approach and it can bring out the “writer” in some entrepreneurs.
2. Solve a Problem
But it doesn’t work for everyone. Most business books have a linear approach. Start with identifying a problem and lead the reader down the road to a solution.
That isn’t to say they don’t have examples sometimes in sidebars but generally the emphasis is on presenting the facts or expertise in a common-sense manner. This is where a clear and logical chapter progression is essential.
Don’t worry about the number of chapters. I’ve read business books that have twenty or more. And that might work for you or not. The editor who works on your book will have guidance on how they flow.
Knowing your audience is the key for this writing approach. You don’t want to talk down or talk up to potential customers for your business or service. Getting the correct tone might take some time – again, an editor will help.
3. Write What You Know
As you start writing, just pour it out on the paper. Many masters of writing have one consistently common phrase that has stood the test of time: write what you know. If you feel you are an expert in your field then tell the world why. If you have a service that can be extremely useful to a certain segment of the business world – tell them how it can help them. If you have a unique business philosophy that more people could use – use your book to illustrate why.
For business entrepreneurs who know they need a book, believe they have something different and unique, getting the concept right requires thought and planning. Defining your book concept depends on your style and comfort level of how you want to deliver your message.
One final thought: do not get bogged down with making the writing perfect. There are far too many books that remain in a desk drawer or buried in a hard drive that with some skill editorial work could be a really useful business card that reflects your business.
Once you have an approach you like get it all down on the page. An editor can do wonders with any method you choose.
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