Monday, 25 February 2013

Why write a business book?

There are countless reasons, actually 

In an earlier post, 4 reasons to consider writing a business book, I included an infographic highlighting some of the biggest success stories in business book (self-) publishing. Of course, few achieve that kind of success, but for mere mortals, a different kind of success can be achieved. And the best news is, a best selling book is not required.
Studies show that professionally written business books generate instant authority, credibility and trust. They help market your business  and your brand in a way that nothing else can. Of 200 business book authors polled by

  • 76% reported that their book helped them close more deals
  • 94% reported that their book helped them generate more leads
  • 94% reported that their book helped them improve their brand
  • 73% of those who used ghostwriters to write their books said they would be “very likely” to hire them again.
Erika Andersen, author of Leading So People Will Follow, writes in ("Why writing a book is good business”) that when you write a good business book, the following things tend to happen:

Personal credibility: Having a book published makes people think you’re smarter and more expert.  I don’t know if you get the same effect through self-publishing, but it’s certainly been true in my experience of having books published with traditional publishers.  As soon as my first book came out, at the end of 2006, you would think by the way others responded to me that I’d suddenly gained 20 IQ points.  It was almost disorienting – I knew I was the same person, but previously closed doors magically opened, and people I knew wouldn’t have paid much attention to what I said before were suddenly listening hard.  It was (and still is) enormously helpful in establishing initial connections with potential clients and business partners.

Business credibility:  If you’re running a business and you publish a good book, your business gets a halo effect from your rise in credibility.  Being associated with a business book and its author gives an enterprise legitimacy in the eyes of the world. Being considered more legitimate simply makes it easier to get things done.  In my experience, it also gives a lift to everyone who works in the organization – it becomes a source of pride and esprit de corps.

Brand clarity: Having a book or books that lay out the key intellectual property or the core models or principles of your business really helps potential clients understand what you’re about and how you can be valuable to them. It can also help your own staff be clearer about who you are and what you’re offering.  People have often been surprised when I’ve said this – they question whether it’s really a good idea to put your ideas out in public for anyone to see (and, by implication, steal).  But our experience has been that the ideas in a book quite often whet people’s appetite for more in-depth knowledge or consulting.

Wondering what your story is? If you've struggled in business but ultimately triumphed in the end, you have a story to tell. If you've developed a unique business or a business skill that would inspire others or that's in high demand, then you have a story to tell. Perhaps it's time to share it with others.

Seven things to look for when hiring a ghostwriter

 1. Compatibility
It’s important that you and your writer are a good fit because writing a book takes months to complete. Even if you leave much of the work to the writer, writing a book is a personal endeavour and during those months you’ll be in regular contact with your writer. You’re the expert, and your ghostwriter’s job is to elicit from you the interesting facts and anecdotes and stories – and angles – that will make the book an interesting and possibly compelling read. If you’re a good fit, your writer and you will often start to think about old things in fresh new ways. If you’re a bad fit, the book will be the poorer for it.

Your writer should be interested in you and curious about your subject from the very beginning and remain constantly curious about your subject and your thoughts weeks and months later. For your part, you need to be as honest and transparent as possible, because a good collaborator asks questions, lots of questions. That doesn’t mean you need to be friends, but it does mean being a team that maintains a positive and mutually respectful working relationship. Just as the most effective teams are collaborative rather than hierarchical, the best ghostwritten books are those in which subject matter expert and writer are in sync. To borrow from Patrick Lencioni, the relationship should be one of:

  • trust
  • willingness to debate
  • commitment
  • accountability
  • results
+Andrew Crofts may be the UK’s most popular celebrity ghostwriter. He shares an interesting perspective on what a good writer brings to the table, and his thoughts are equally applicable to business experts and not-yet-celebrities:

“It is essential for the ghost to make the subject feel completely comfortable and confident in his or her company. If they think the ghost is going to criticise them, judge them or argue with them they will not relax, open up or talk honestly. It is not the ghost's job to try to make them change their opinions about anything or anyone, but rather to encourage them to tell their story in the most interesting and coherent way possible.”

 2. Reliability
To keep your book on track, your writer must be dependable. Deadlines must be met. Not all writers are schedule-driven, and some of the dependable ones may overcommit to multiple books and become unable to meet their time commitments. Your time is precious. A reliable ghostwriter understands this and works within and around your schedule.

3. Expertise
Ghostwriters of business books tend to have (or should have) business backgrounds. It makes the process smoother and easier for the client, and adds value and quality to the material being produced. Financial planning, for example, is not an abstract concept. It is very real, and there is a great deal of logic behind an investment strategy, for example. But the process is also very fluid because emotions cannot be entirely eliminated. A ghostwriter who has the right expertise and experience, who brings prior understanding and perspective to the process, who knows how to connect many of the dots and collaboratively communicate the process (all the while knowing there are different strategies to building wealth) brings added value.

4. Ability to ask the right questions
Jargon and complexity is an inevitable by-product of being an expert in your field, whatever that field may be. A good ghostwriter takes complexity and turns it into plain English so it is accessible to a wider audience. This is done by asking clarifying questions, and sometimes by drilling down and asking the five whys (here is a simple example of the five whys). When the expert says something that sounds intelligent but appears opaque, the writer must keep at it, asking the “dumb” questions (back to ‘fit” again) until another better way is found to express those thoughts so that every reader will understand.

5. Structure
Structure is about developing a coherent theme and organization, which means the ghostwriter must have the ability to organize and structure the book’s contents so the argument builds and flows in a convincing way. At their core, most business books are simply just an extended argument. Their quality is defined by how persuasively the author makes her case. Unlike an academic thesis, however, a business book must work on multiple levels – inspirational, emotional, intellectual and visceral.

For example, the overarching theme (argument) in Live Well Retire Well was simply: you don’t need to sacrifice the quality of your life today in order to live well in retirement tomorrow. The main theme and the resulting topics that flow from the theme that you and your ghostwriter discuss and agree on are the building blocks that push the book forward to its inevitable conclusion.

6. Voice and tone
Finding the right voice and tone can be subtle and sometimes difficult to grasp, but an experienced ghostwriter knows how to put creative ego aside and quickly discover the author’s authentic written voice. That said, the voice on the page differs sometimes markedly from the spoken voice. Even the most articulate speaker will appear a little less polished when her words are seen (transcribed) on the page, so a certain amount of polishing is always necessary -- but never too much or her personality will get lost in translation.

7. Trust factor
The trust factor -- between writer and subject matter expert -- should be a given. But it takes time to develop. Your ghostwriter should be willing to take the time to assuage your concerns, because trust is not as common as it should be.

How does the ghostwriting process work?

There's no mystery to the process, but there can be magic

Businesspeople are busy people, so for most, the arduous process of writing a book begins with a phone call between ghostwriter and subject matter expert to gauge interest, expertise and objectives. If the call is a productive one, it leads to a consultative (preferably in person) meeting during which the writer lays out some of the process including estimated length of time to complete, suggested roles and functions, meeting times, fees and payment schedule.

The writer’s job is to listen closely, ask the right questions, offer general suggestions and advice, and perhaps make specific suggestions. But the main purpose of the consultative meeting is to ensure there’s a fit, to establish both the writer’s and client’s expertise, to see if there’s a book to be written, and to generate trust.

Follow-up:  the mechanics and timing are explained in detail, a suggested theme, initial outline and suggested contents are proposed. The writer determines the client’s primary and secondary goals in writing the book and their estimated time commitment. A written summary is then submitted for approval, and sample introduction pages are often submitted to establish the correct style and tone of the book.

Once agreement is reached and formal approval is given, the writer will email an engagement letter and contract to the client outlining rights, responsibilities, obligations and production schedule. After the letter and/or the contract is signed and an initial payment is received, a full interview and creative session will be conducted to establish:

1)      The level of sophistication of the book’s contents and theme (and target audience)
2)      Overall direction -- possible titles, perspective, focus and contents
3)      Research access/availability, including possible access to subject matter experts such as economists, analysts, fixed income/ equity/ tax/ estate planning specialists.
4)      An optimal production and interview schedule

Within two weeks of signing the contract, the writer will deliver a table of contents, a detailed outline or a synopsis of the book, plus several draft pages that will form the introduction to the book. When the contents and tone and narrative voice are to the client’s satisfaction, the introduction is refined and resubmitted, and all subsequent chapters are submitted in stages for approval – not always chapter by chapter, because it depends on the length of each chapter.

For a financial book, the writer will, as a natural part of the research and writing process, suggest charts and graphs for insertion at key points. However, the client is the expert; they decide what and which shall be used, how they will be used and how they will be executed. Estimated completion time is 6 to 8 months from contract signing, although that can be accelerated, depending on client and writer schedules.

That's the process. There's no mystery to it. So where's the magic? Frankly, the magic may never happen. It depends on the chemistry between business expert and writer which, if it happens, comes early in the process. But as long as the two are on the same page and are running with the same story, magic or no magic, the result will be a solid book.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

4 reasons to consider writing a business book

People write business books for a number of reasons, some of them good, some of them bad, some of them just plain ugly. Not you of course. Why? Because the best reason to write a book is when you’ve accomplished something of value and you feel it’s time to share your hard-won knowledge with others.

That time may be right now.

If you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or business professional, you've been on the firing line since day one, and while you may have been knocked around a bit, you’ve learned from the struggle and found ultimate success. Everyone wants to be inspired. Perhaps you’re just the person to inspire. Writing your own book can be a tremendously worthwhile vehicle because it allows you to formally express your knowledge and expertise. And don’t forget, since your life is unique, you’re perspective is also unique. Even if you need a little help organizing your thoughts and writing some of the pages, your book will always be yours. Check out the infographic below if you need a little inspiration. 

Dreams can come true, and for successful entrepreneurs, the dream already has. Now might be the perfect time to put the icing on the cake. What you see in the graphic is the very top tier of self-publishing success stories. People like +Ken Blanchard of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame and +David Chilton who wrote and self-published the Wealthy Barber. And others like +Tom Peters who co-authored and self-published In Search of Excellence.

Few business authors experience this kind of success, but that misses the point. If you're an entrepreneur, is selling millions of copies realistic? Is it even what matters? Consider this: thousands of professionally written business books do exceptionally well for their authors without ever coming close to best-seller territory. Why? Because they do something else that (as it turns out) can be far more profitable (not to mention enduring) than bestsellerdom. They propel the author to expert status within the circle of people who really count: clients and customers and prospects. Want more reasons to consider writing a business book? Click here.

To share see a full size version of this graphic or to share it with someone, just copy and paste the following link:

4 facts you should know