Much like starting a business, writing a book is a huge gamble. The chances of getting an agent or signing a book deal with a major publisher are minuscule. As an entrepreneur, I learned a long time ago that gambling is a dangerous way to launch a new idea. Instead, my most successful ventures were ones for which I found a way to reduce the risk.
The biggest risk in writing a new book lies with the quality of the content. I had to do something to make sure I created a quality product in a reasonable amount of time. And I was recently tasked with writing a book all about how to reduce risk in a new venture and be sure of success before going all in. I simply had to practice what I was preaching.
So I assembled a group of friends to meet every two weeks to help me write the book. I dubbed it the reverse book club and even shortened that to simply calling it the RBC.
Here are five ways I used a reverse book club to help me write a bestseller:
1. Accountability to finish the book.
Prior to this time, I had come up with a number of ideas for books that I never had the motivation to finish. The club provided me with a way to be held accountable for writing each week, and I wrote faster than I ever have in the past. There’s no greater incentive for writing a new chapter than knowing that several busy people are taking time out of their week and showing up at your house expecting to see some progress.
2. A sounding board to test key assumptions.
It's easy to assume you have a great concept, but you don’t know its true value until you share it and receive honest feedback. The club helped me refine the book’s message and fix lessons that were unclear. By inviting constructive criticism early in the writing process, I could become confident that I had created an engaging story that clearly communicated its message.
3. Expert input on key topics.
All in Startup has a fictional storyline with key plot points rooted in cycling, poker and startup life. I am certainly not an expert on all those topics, so I turned to my reverse book club to help me expand my knowledge base. By strategically picking group members with a variety of skill sets, I was able to save research time and write with authority on a broad range of themes.
4. An opportunity to have fun while writing a book.
When writing about previous subjects, I always dreaded sitting down before a computer and staring at the blank screen. The revese book club turned something that had felt like a chore into something I loved. Not only did members of the group have fun discussing the book, but we also had outside adventures like playing poker or watching movies. We seemed to laugh nonstop when we got together and our meetings were always the highlight of my week.
5. Insight from customers.
My reverse book club was initially made up of four people, but it soon grew to include people in my target audience. Throughout the writing process, I asked entrepreneurs to read portions of the book without explaining the purpose to them to see whether they picked up on what I was trying to communicate and whether they found the story engaging.
Much to my chagrin, I struck out several times before I finally arrived at a voice and a message that really resonated. I ended up rewriting the book seven times based on interview feedback. The result was a product that I had complete confidence in.
After using a reverse bookclub, I can’t imagine writing another book without one. I was able to refine the quality of my work through my regular meetings with handpicked members. And the process led to a book that was well received. After its publication this summer, my book, All in Startup, made its way to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal bestseller lists.
If you're thinking about putting together your own reverse book club, select people with a diverse set of perspectives and a track record of being completely honest with you. And don’t concern yourself with whether someone is too busy or too important to help you with your project. Just ask. You’ll be surprised by who will say yes.