By now, you’ve probably heard the buzz in marketing circles about the hot new trend for business owners, coaches, professionals, experts and executives — creating a book to describe and differentiate your expertise and business, open doors to new relationships and opportunities and generate significant business growth.
As with most large and complex projects, getting started is often the hardest part. Whether you plan to sign with a traditional publisher or self-publish (these days, that’s called independent publishing), the long list of decisions, choices and tasks for a quality book is daunting, and always there’s the puzzling question of where to start. Follow these 10 steps, and you’ll be on your way to having a book that will bring important results and catapult you above your competition.
1. Hire an Expert Guide. Your book project will involve at least 100 decisions, choices and tasks. And just as with any specialized process such as creating a PR or advertising program, becoming skilled at TV interviews, doing your business’ tax returns or filing a patent application, an expert who knows the terrain and can advise you about the pros and cons along the way will help you make the right decisions and prevent many headaches. You’ll save time and money as well as avoid major crises. You’ll also have a better chance of achieving the results you seek from your book. In addition, an expert will insure you’ve handled all the essential issues, including those that aren’t obvious. Be sure your guide is expert about both book publishing and the world of business growth. Most important, they need to know what — and how — to modify in your particular business in order to create the strongest possible book-business synergy from having your business and book work together toward the specific results you hope for.
2. Create Measurable Strategic Goals. Next is setting realistic, measurable, strategic goals for what you want your book to generate for your business — and be sure they don’t work against each other. When do you want to have it available to readers? What are your first-year, second-year and long-term desired business results? Do you want more prospects, new buyers of your business’ products or services, speaking and teaching invitations, media coverage, industry prominence and visibility, a base for creating new products or services, partnering offers, prestigious appointments, awards and honors, something else? Form clear and specific goals, for they’ll determine many of the other decisions you’ll make as you create, distribute, publicize and market your book. Also rank them in priority order, and identify your options for accomplishing and measuring each one.
3. Define Target Audiences. Your business may have several target audiences, and your book can have several too. The key here is to know which targets are essential to your goals, even if they are not the most important targets for your business. You’ll probably have 3–5 that your list of goals depends on. Have a clear picture of each one in mind, how large a group they are, what they do professionally, their preferences, how they think, their knowledge level about your industry, how they spend their work time, their problems and challenges, what they hope for, etc. Rank your target audiences in priority order that identifies the most important ones for reaching your goals, and note which goal each audience relates to.
4. Identify Potential Topics. Your topic can come from either of two sources. One is what you already know, understand or have observed that your audience will appreciate learning because it solves a problem of theirs or brings them a benefit. The other is what you’d like to learn that would be helpful for your audience to know. Whichever you choose, only focus on topics for your specific target audiences. Make a list of potential book topics (and the target audience from your 3–5 above that each one applies to), and don’t worry if it’s a long list. Then to shorten its size, omit topics that aren’t related to one of your high-priority target audiences. Next, decide how you’d like your book to reinforce or expand what your business delivers to customers/clients, such as to encourage more or larger purchases, expand to new types of buyers, attract a larger group of your current type of customer/client, be perceived as better than the competition, etc. Eliminate topics that don’t provide that reinforcement or expansion. Your topic list still may be long, but the next steps will fix that.
5. Research Your Field’s Current Information Sources. Research the current published information in your field to learn which topics are already covered. Amazon.com is a good place to start, as are your professional association and local public and university libraries. Those are topics you’ll want to omit from your list unless your version is a new spin or if your target audience is not likely to have access to what’s already available (such as if material about a topic currently is expensive, and you want to create an affordable version).
6. Decide Appealing Book Types. There are more than 550 proven book types that can build a business and a brand, and over 160 of them require significantly less writing time (i.e., a few months vs a year or more for the average business-building book). Examples of the 550+ types are various how-to books, a user manual, a memoir, a primer, something made simple. The 160+ fast-track types include a rule book, tips, lessons learned, an industry timeline, case studies, interviews, a book of lists. Consider each of your remaining potential topics in light of the full range of book types, and develop a short list of possibilities that you’d be excited to create. Eliminate topics that don’t have a type that’s a good fit. Your short list may become your roadmap for several books that you write later, but choose no more than 10 topic/type combinations to consider for your first book. Rank them according to the amount of impact and influence each might have on your high-priority target audiences.
7. Choose Your Topic and Type. While your book can have several goals and multiple target audiences, it can have only one topic and either one type or be a combination of a few types. (As an example of that, I once combined four types in a book about relating to the major stakeholders in my industry: public facts and figures, best tactical ideas developed by corporate America and a file dump of samples I’d collected during a decade — all presented as a training manual.) Review your ranked list of topics/types, and consider what you’d most like to create as well as what you’d most like to be known for. Also think about whether any of your options requires a researcher, artist, photographer, etc. (all of these involve extra expenses, and some will also slow your pace) or would be inherently faster/slower to finish. Choose the topic/type with the most appealing overall profile, and know there’s probably no bad choice near the top of your ranked list.
8. Draft a Working Title and Subtitle. Pay attention to the titles of books that interest you, even books outside of your field. How are they structured? What words do they use? Are they long or short? Do they have a rhythm, or other feature such as alliteration, when you say them aloud? Using your favorite other authors’ titles as guides, create several possible titles for your book. Then show your possibilities to several people in your target audience, and see what appeals to them most. (Forget about feedback from friends and family unless they are part of your target audience.) Also ask your targets what they think each proposed title is about, to be sure their opinion squares with your planned content. Choose only one title and subtitle to use while you’re creating your book, but keep any others that could also work to re-consider later, before you finalize your title when the book is almost finished.
9. Develop a Plan for Your Book’s Creation as well as for How You’ll Get It to Your Target Audiences. Just as your business has a PR, marketing and business plan, you need a book creation, distribution, promotion and marketing plan that identifies the strategies and tactics you’ll follow that are appropriate for your goals, target audiences, ideal timeframe and available time and dollar resources. After you’ve listed your chosen activities on a 2-year calendar, research the cost range of each one, and make adjustments if the total cost exceeds what you’d like to spend each month.
10. Start Building an Expert Team of Service Providers Who Understand a Book That’s a Marketing Tool. A book to build your business is quite different from other types of nonfiction books, so be sure your team is experienced with far more than the average author’s goals of getting stellar book reviews and media coverage, bookstore shelf space and bestseller status, as those goals aren’t likely to be your be-all and end-all. You need to work with experts experienced with the many specialized, complex and high-stakes issues surrounding a book designed to create big business results.
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By completing these 10 steps, you’ll have finished the foundational work for your book and will be ready to start its actual creation. My best advice is to make everything you do reflect your goals, and be sure to enjoy the grand adventure you’ve begun!