What should my business book be about? That’s a daft question right? You run a business. You want to promote that business and your skills by writing a book. Ergo, the book should be about your business, right? Simple.
Except it isn’t that simple.
Take a walk around your local book shop and you’ll see hundreds of different business books in every conceivable genre, from how to be a great leader, to managing winning teams, to acing customer services. How is your book, about your business, going to stand out from the crowd against such extensive competition? If your book is not inspiring or credible or, worse still, resorts to tired old business clichés, it will sink without trace. (And don’t forget that the whole point of the exercise is to make sure as many people as humanly possible read your work).
While the subject matter of your book should absolutely reflect your expertise, it is essential that it is presented in a new and fresh way. Your viewpoint, or way of doing things, must be sufficiently different to stand out. This doesn’t mean you should be deliberately controversial or provocative either. Firstly, that may not be helpful to the day job and secondly, this approach can lack authenticity which is something that can easily be a turn-off to the reader.
As a starting point, I would always recommend tackling your choice of subject matter from the reader’s point of view. Forget about self aggrandising andtellingeveryone what a success in business you are, demonstrateit through the quality of the material you are sharing with the reader. When planning the content, think about how you will help the reader realise value from every page they read. Get this side of things just right and it is also a great way to get word-of-mouth recommendations for your book, which is one of the most powerful book marketing tools there is.
Of course, to be truly effective, you need to pinpoint exactly who your reader is. Don’t fall into the old marketing trap of saying: it is for everyone. No book will appeal to every reader, particularly not one in a specific genre like business. Are you pitching it to executive level? Or is it for aspiring executives? Or, will your knowledge be best suited to first jobbers? If you have a good understanding of who will read your book, you’ve got a better chance of pitching it just right.
If you are not sure what will excite the reader you are aiming at, consider the questions people in this sector often ask. What is it about what you do that interests them, or arouses their curiosity? If you’ve spoken at conferences, or written blogs, what subject guarantees the most attention among your potential readership? However, do steer away from planning a book that will answer every singlequery you’ve ever had. This scatter gun approach may feel like it is covering all the bases (something for everyone!) but it will actually add up to a confusing, incoherent mess. Find a strong theme and make sure that this thread runs throughout the book.
As an aside, there is a really helpful process to ‘test’ the strength of your central theme, which I learned in my former life as a journalist. Whenever we’d dug out a news story, we had to inform the newsdesk about it, in one sentence. What was it about our story that meant it deserved space on the news pages? If that sentence didn’t pass muster, we were sent away with a flea in our ear. Articulate your book theme in one sentence. Say it out loud. Try it out on associates. Does it sound interesting? Is it the sort of book you would like to read?
Once you have your strong theme in mind and have begun to plan your chapter-by-chapter structure (there are other blogs here that deal with planning), consider what it all means to you. Personally. Business books shouldn’t be dull lists of ‘how to be the best’ or ‘how to get the most out of’. They are read by human beings. We are sociable creatures and like hearing stories of one another’s endeavours. People will pick up your book because they are interested in you, as much as the subject matter you are imparting. If you want them to stay beyond the first few pages you need to give something of yourself. Tell your story. Weave anecdotes into the main thread, or real life stories of people who you have worked with that have successfully used your techniques or philosophy. Anonymise the stories if needs be, but case studies bring any book alive.
Business books are great marketing assets which build your authority and visibility. However, for a great book, getting the theme right is essential. Find out what will change your readers’ world if you share it and start from there. The rest will flow.