So You Want to Write a Business Book
A few years ago, I received a call out of the blue from the publishing company McGraw-Hill. Did I want to write a book, the person on the line wondered.
I was shocked and flattered. But what did I know about writing a book? Absolutely nothing. I knew I would have to invest a lot of my time and I wasn’t sure how my business would benefit. So I asked a few friends who had written books for their advice.
The best advice I received was from Tim Ferriss, author of the 4-Hour Work Week. He told me not to hold back -- to write my first book as if it were my last. I took his advice to heart and poured everything I knew about product licensing into One Simple Idea: Turn Your Dreams Into a Licensing Goldmine.
Fast-forward a few years and I’m about to publish my fourth book. Little did I know!
But timing is everything. And it doesn’t really matter if you think you have something to say. If no one reads your book, what’s the point?
The timing is right when you have all of the following elements taken care of:
Related: How I Landed My First Book Deal
1. A platform.
How large is your audience? Who is going to buy your book -- and how are you going to reach them? Publishers care about numbers. They want to know how many books you're capable of selling.
Do you have a popular blog? What about a podcast? Are you active on Twitter? How many people subscribe to your email list? If you aren’t actively marketing your content already, you should start doing so now. It takes years to build a following.
2. An incentive.
What will you get out of writing a book? That's the question I kept returning to. Business books don’t make a lot of money. (Books don’t make money, period.) I knew loving what I do wasn’t a good enough reason.
Publishing a book gives a person credibility. It helps with setting up speaking engagements and other forms of PR.
Those are good reasons, but there are stronger incentives. A better rationale is to answer how writing a book will complement your other revenue streams.
If you are selling products via another platform, writing a business book makes sense because it will generate new sales leads.
3. A means of promoting the book.
Don’t expect that your publisher will promote your book for you. So how do you plan to get the word out? Whom can you rely on to help you?
Wait to write a business book until after you have established a network of bloggers, podcast hosts and other content producers.
I relied on my already-developed mailing list to generate preorders for One Simple Idea, which encouraged bookstores to prominently feature the title.
4. A great writer.
You yourself don’t need to be a great writer to write a best-selling book. It’s your insights that matter. Colleen Sell, the ghostwriter I hired to help me write One Simple Idea, did a fantastic job. Her experience was invaluable. In fact, I highly recommend hiring a professional to help you.
Think long and hard about your timing. Consider how publishing a book will further your business. Put your ego aside and be critical.