3 business book lessons from a professional writer
Have you ever done a job at home that you could have paid someone else to do?
Painted your kitchen, installed a ceiling light, created a garden?
Did you find yourself thinking, ‘I wonder if people who do this for a living find it this hard/fun/time-consuming/rewarding (choose your description of choice)?
Would you like to know?
As a business book and memoir ghostwriter, I’ve ghosted over a dozen books. I’ve also coached numerous authors to write their own business books. And yet until this year I hadn’t written my own, full-length book. It was time I did the decent thing and practised what I preached.
After many months of writing and research, Your Business, Your Book is now completed. It’s a guide for experts, coaches, and speakers about how to write, publish, and promote a business book (yes, it’s a book about how to write a book!), and is currently with the publishers. They’re whipping it into shape with the attention of copy editors, cover designers, and formatters – it’s like the book equivalent of a spa makeover.
It’s been a different experience than ghostwriting a book for a client – the lack of deadlines, payment, and someone else’s content has made sure of that.
Which means I’ve learned different things than I have through ghostwriting.
And that’s the reason for this post – to share with you the 3 key insights I’ve discovered through writing my own book, so you can benefit from them too.
Being busy is irrelevant
OK I’ll admit it. I started writing my book when I was going through a relatively quiet patch, because it made sense to use a little excess time productively. That allowed me to get enough words down to feel I’d made real inroads, which was super motivating.
But then, of course, I became busy. Followed by quiet spell again, and then several months of frantic busyness. You know – the ups and downs of any freelancer’s life (or indeed of anyone’s).
And here’s the interesting thing. Apart from during that first period, I didn’t write any more of my book during my quiet periods than my busy ones. Why? It’s hard to say, but there seems to be something about having a little more free time that slows me down with everything. I lose momentum.
But when I’m busy, I’m on fire. Half an hour to spare? Great, that’s a few paragraphs written. Had a last minute client call cancellation? That’s two hours I can spend on my book. It’s like I see opportunity to create time rather than waste it.
Strange, but true.
Lesson: don’t assume that if you’re busy you won’t have time to write your business book. Plan to write anyway.
You don’t need to know everything
I know a lot about how to write, publish, and market a business book. But even I have to admit I don’t know everything on the subject.
For instance, although I’ve done a little public speaking, I’m far from being an expert in it. And although I work with publishers all the time, and therefore know more about the business than the vast majority of people, I’m not a publishing guru. Not by a long stretch.
For a while this troubled me. I wanted to write about speaking in my book because so many people who are speakers also write books. They want to know how their book can help their speaking career, and vice versa. And I wanted to explain the book publishing industry to my readers, because they need to know about it in order to get their books out into the world.
Maybe you have ‘soft patches’ in your understanding of your topic, too. For instance, you could be a presentation skills expert writing a book about how to write the perfect talk. Your core expertise is in stage presence and how to structure a presentation, and while you’re a dab hand at PowerPoint slides you’re not exactly the a master of those. What should you do? Ditch any advice how to create the slides and leave a gap in your book, or cover the subject but in less depth than the other aspects of presenting?
For my book, I eventually decided it didn’t matter – what a relief. My readers don’t expect me to have deep expertise in every aspect of the book writing and publishing journey, and nor should I pretend to.
My solution was to write about speaking only in a top-line way (trusting, and knowing, that may other more knowledgeable folks have already written books on this), and to include what I knew about publishing and ask a publishing friend to sense check it. Now my book focuses on what I’m truly expert at (how to plan, write, and market a book), but includes those additional areas for completeness.
Lesson: don’t feel your book has to be perfectly balanced. Because you’re not.
You’ll have last minute wobbles when it comes to pressing ‘publish’
Boy can I sympathise more fully with my author clients now. It all makes sense.
‘Do you really think this book will work?’ (this from a highly successful and confident CEO)
‘Is there anything new in it?’ (this from a consultant whose entire book was filled with groundbreaking ideas)
‘Is my book a good read?’ (this from a coaching client whose draft chapters I couldn’t wait to read each week because they were so funny and entertaining)
There’s nothing like approaching the final edits to instil a fear of exposure. I’d felt pretty confident all the way through writing my book, but something happened when the journey was almost complete. It’s like I turned into a different person – doubting myself and my abilities, and scared what people would say when my book was out there.
Thank goodness for my beta readers. They gave me the feedback I needed to make sure my book was the best it could be, and – crucially – they reassured me I was on the right track. You can discover what beta readers are and how you can work with them here.
I also have a copy editor combing through my manuscript, rooting out errors and glitches. This gives me peace of mind. It’s still a mildly terrifying experience for me to publish my own book, but I can be confident that I’ve done all I can do to make it great.
Lesson: you will have a wobble (or more than one) before your book is published. Try not to let it worry you, and take advantage of the tools at your disposal to make it brilliant.
I hope these three key lessons in writing a business book, from someone who does it for a living, are helpful. I’d love for them to make the difference between you considering and then completing your book. Now all you have to do is go for it.
And if you’d like help with fixing a knotty book problem you’ve uncovered, apply for one of my free, half hour Strategy Sessions. I’ll get you clear on your next step.