The surprising way to take your business book from good to great
While ghostwriting a client’s memoir recently, I came across a brilliant quote:
‘Everyone is necessarily the hero of their own imagination.’ Franz Kafka
It was timely because by chance I’d just put some of its essence into practice. You can, too.
If you’re writing a book for your business, every word in that quote has relevance for you too. Let’s take each of them in turn.
Everyone. Although we humans have our individual traits, we’re essentially cut from the same cloth. We each see ourselves in our own subjective ways, we each have our own opinions which we think are the right ones, and we each have a ‘me flavoured’ view of the world. No exceptions.
necessarily. This points to the fact we can’t change our human nature. We can try to alter the way we think or feel, but it’s not a long term fix. In other words, we’re stuck with it.
hero. I like to think Kafka was being a touch humorous here. Because of course we would never describe ourselves as heros – that would sound presumptuous. No-one wants to be that weirdo. But if we’re honest, don’t we all see ourselves as a little bit special? I think we do.
own imagination. This underlines how we see the world purely through the filter of our own personal thinking. We then imagine that thinking is real, but it’s not – it’s just a made-up image we have of life. Our imagination, rather than the ‘real’ world, is where our experience of life actually comes from, which is kind of cool when you think about it.
So what does this have to do with writing a business book?
It’s this: you’ll never write a great book if you only see your topic from your own point of view.
That doesn’t mean your view isn’t the most important one – it’s your book, after all. But it does mean taking other perspectives into account will give you a richer end result.
So how do you do this? Here are some ways.
Ask around your topic
For my client’s book that I mentioned at the beginning, I spoke with various members of his family (including two ex wives). This helped me flesh out the author’s story, and most importantly allowed me to write with more emotional depth than before. From one interviewee I gained insights into the atmosphere he was working in at the time, and from another I gleaned anecdotes about his childhood which not only added some interest but also gave me an insight into the kind of person he was.
Who could you speak to, or read about, to help you expand on your book’s central theme? It could be:
- Other experts with different opinions to you (there’s nothing wrong with including them in the context of your own)
- Other experts with similar opinions to you (this adds weight to yours)
- People your work has had an impact on, such as clients and colleagues
- People who know you on a personal level
Bring in the specialists
There are bound to be gaps in your knowledge – nobody knows everything about a subject. It can be hugely valuable to invite others to contribute to your business book, adding their specialist input.
Not only does this help your readers, but it positions you as someone who’s generous and realistic in their view of their work.
It also helps you to sell more books. Why? Because if your outside experts have similar audiences to your own, they’ll be more than happy to promote your book (with their contribution in) to their own customer base. You might want to take that into account when you choose who to ask.
An example of when I did this in my blog is this one: 6 Insider Secrets to Getting Speaking Gigs from Your Book. I’m not much of a speaker myself but I wanted to understand how speakers use their books to build their careers, so I interviewed a number of experienced speakers and got lots of ideas from them. Then I wrote the post, in which I credited them for their input.
If you’d like to see a book that works well using this approach, Joanna Penn’s Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives, and Other Introverts contains some interviews she conducted with other speakers to show how they make a success of the craft.
Put your trust in the beta readers
When your business book’s in good enough shape, I highly recommend you ask some beta readers to give it the once over. These are people in your target readership – in other words, the kind of people you want to buy and read your book when it’s published. It’s like conducting market research.
They’ll point out the gaps for you and let you know when you’re pitching your topic too high or too low. They’ll also tell you if they found it enjoyable and readable.
It can be pretty scary exposing your creation like this, but it’s good practice for when you press ‘publish’ and all the world can see it. At least you’ll know you’ve done everything you can to make it a brilliant book.
Stepping out of your own head and into the minds of others is a challenge we don’t always like to undertake. But by acknowledging you’re not always the hero of your own thinking, you can make your readers the heros instead.
Because when you make helping your readers your primary focus this will naturally lead you to think widely around your subject, take on other perspectives to your own, and enrich your book in the process.
And that’s a fantastic way to build an expert reputation.
If you’d like to learn more about how to do this for yourself, why not book a Strategy Session with me?