Choose a book genre that achieves your goals and guides your writing. The genre you select will help you understand how to present your content. Your choices include the following:
- “Legacy”– Describe your journey in your profession by presenting a memoir of your business experience.
- “Tools”– Offer the ideas that helped you achieve success.
- “Manifesto”– If you are a visionary and want to promote a point of view or change the world, write a manifesto to convince your audience to join your cause.
- “Proof”– If you have a hypothesis to present, write a book that gives proof through case studies and statistics.
- “How-to”– An instruction manual gives readers guidelines on how to accomplish something.
- “Process”– A process book presents research in support of a method for carrying out a task.
- “Training”– Educational training books can be extensions of classes or courses, or readers can use them as freestanding references.
- “Fictional”– Creative stories can explain business principles.
- “Inspiration”– Inspirational books motivate your audience.
“Few things are worse than having a great idea locked inside your head. You need to share your message with the world.”
To explain what your book is about, frame your message. Situate your book in a category. If you don’t categorize your book, people will do it for you, and they will get it wrong. Once you have a category, focus on your book’s market by identifying your “key buyer.” With your category and ideal reader in mind, consider what benefits your book will offer. Narrow down your list to the single most important benefit.
“What is your book about? You need to be able to tell anyone about the book in a few seconds so they understand immediately.”
The title must strike a chord with your readers so that they will buy your book. Start with a working title. Later, refine it, change it, throw it out or edit it. Your title should hint at your book’s benefits. Work toward engaging chapter titles.
Write in the right frame of mind. Begin by setting aside your fears.
Not everyone finds writing easy. Your mind-set must enable information to flow from your mind onto your page or computer screen. If you aren’t enthusiastic about writing your book, you won’t finish. Write about the aspects of your topic that excite you. Your enthusiasm will inspire your readers. Tricks for getting into a writing mind-set and overcoming your fears include:
- Set small, achievable goals that make you feel like a success.
- Understand that writing a business book isn’t art. Anyone can do it.
- If you fear being a bad writer, don’t compare yourself to Shakespeare. Use your own voice.
- People write many different ways – not just one way.
- Don’t worry about your book being perfect. Just write. You can edit later.
- If you have trouble with grammar, hire an editor.
- To avoid procrastination, keep to your outline and persevere in writing.
- If you feel like a fraud, reassure yourself that you have a unique perspective. Readers seek various perspectives and often buy several books on the same subject.
- If you don’t like to write, but you know what you want to say, hire a ghostwriter.
- If you dislike writing alone, find a writers group or connect with other writers through social media. A writing partner should be someone you get along with who has skills and who also knows your subject area.
The executive summary and outline let you write your book quickly.
Painting the “big picture” in an executive summary gives you a guide for developing your outline. Often, people buy books for their titles or cover descriptions, so a great executive summary is critical. Use the summary to position your book. Pick the appropriate niche: Your book isn’t for everyone. People want books that fill their specific needs.
“Anyone can start a book. Fewer people can finish a book.”
To create an outline, put your ideas on paper in a logical order. The outline is a road map for writing your book. This lets you know what you need to write and will keep you from missing deadlines. You will write more quickly, and your outline will help forestall writer’s block. An outline is also a to-do list. When you finish a section, check it off the list. Seek feedback on your outline so your family, friends or colleagues can point out anything you may have omitted.
Creating the right titles for your book and chapters is challenging.
Use these brainstorming tricks to develop your book and chapter titles:
- Relate your book topic to one of your hobbies, and integrate sayings from your hobby into your chapter titles.
- Type a key concept from your book into Google, and see what it thinks you are trying to search for. The options it provides might offer interesting ideas.
- Later in the writing process, get feedback on your title. You aren’t going to buy your book, so find prospective buyers and ask them. Check with your social media contacts, blog readers or members of your professional association.
“Flow is the mental state of being completely immersed in an activity. You are so absorbed in this activity that you don’t notice time passing.”
Make sure you can own the domain name and title and other intellectual property that relates to your title. Get your work copyrighted.
Each chapter should focus on one major theme.
Create chapter outlines to delineate the theme of each chapter. The first chapter introduces your readers to your main idea and gives the layout of the rest of the book. Remaining chapters provide details to support your main idea. Finish with a conclusion to summarize the book and tell readers actions they can take.
“The outline is…a visual representation of your progress. As you fill in the blanks, the picture becomes clear.”
The first chapter must answer certain questions for the reader: “What will I learn?” “How will I benefit from reading this book?” “What problem will this book help me solve?” The answers form the book’s “big promise.” The first chapter should tell readers about you and why you wrote the book. After readers know the benefits your book offers and what qualifies you to write it, tell them how you are going to deliver on your big promise. The rest of the first chapter should sketch out the book’s main points.
Use your outline to plan how to structure your main arguments in a logical progression.
Outline your book’s chapters to present each of your supporting points. Several tools can help. To support the points you want to make in each chapter, apply the “DESCRIBERS” construct by presenting “Diagrams, Engaging numbers, Stories, Cartoons, Relevant quotes, Incidents/anecdotes, Bar charts and graphs, Every relevant question, Research, Studies and case studies.” Structure the material so your describers contribute to your argument. To illustrate your ideas and research, include stories. People remember stories, and they help imprint your ideas on readers’ minds.
“Stories teach, demonstrate, convince, warn, gain trust, show your personality, build rapport and add humor.”
Tie everything together in the last chapter by summarizing the information in the book. Suggest what readers can do with the information. If you wrote your book to increase your business and your client base, make sure readers know how to contact you. Outline the front and back matter. Front matter includes testimonials, the title page, legal notices and copyright, a dedication (optional), a foreword (also optional, but having a well-known person write it will help sell your book), a preface (also optional), library catalog information and a table of contents.
“Big goals almost always create disappointment…Tell yourself you will write for at least five minutes. That’s a ridiculously easy goal.”
Seek testimonials from well-regarded people in your field. They will welcome the exposure and can help market your book at the same time. Ask your clients if you can include their comments. Include an “about the author” page so people can get to know you when they consider buying the book. Prepare a bibliography to cite your references. An index is optional but helpful.
“Fearlessly cut words if they don’t add anything.”
All these elements complete your outline and your plan for moving forward. Use research to fill gaps in your outline. Cite your sources, and use quotations where appropriate. Interview experts and talk to your clients or colleagues. Check your sources before you use them and verify the accuracy of any outside information.
Writing, revising and editing help you express your ideas effectively.
Now that you have a complete outline, fill in the blanks to write a first draft. When you finish, rereading it will surprise you. You will notice missing ideas and places where your arguments don’t make sense. That’s all right; you’ll edit and revise later. Remember:
- You don’t have to write the book from the first to last page.
- Write the way you speak. Don’t try to sound authoritative or like someone else. Your voice sets you apart.
- Arrange a work environment and writing time that work best for you. Not everyone needs the same environment or writes well at the same time of day or in the same blocks of time.
- Use a notebook to track ideas you have when you’re not writing.
- Don’t edit as you write; just write. Edit later. Getting your ideas down in draft form will help your flow.
- Back up your electronic files often.
“Once you have a first draft, you can clean it and polish it. But without that first step, nothing happens.”
After you finish writing, move on to editing and proofreading. Keep only the words that add to your points. Hire an editor to catch errors you didn’t see.
When you complete your manuscript, seek feedback from people in your field before publishing. Ask your peers, seek readers from your audience and consult copy editors. Revise and improve your manuscript.
Book layout and design make the difference in marketing and in holding readers’ interest.
Having an attractive layout makes your words easier to understand. Use short paragraphs, lists, and other tools to set off important ideas. Graphics in the form of charts and graphs, pictograms, cartoons and photos will enliven your text. Use subheads to focus readers’ attention on key ideas. End each chapter with a summary to reinforce your points and lead into the following chapter.
“You don’t have to write your outline – or your book – by yourself.”
Writers use many tools to put their ideas into print. Turn to the tools that work best for you. This approach breaks down book writing into manageable bites that you can achieve to produce the book you always knew you could write.