Sometimes businesspeople who know they would benefit enormously from a book feel stymied because they don’t know how to organize or plan their book. Having planned more than 700 business books over the last 20 years, I’ve found an approach that works, and I’d like to share it with you now.
Here are my six keys to planning the ultra-successful business book.
- What’s the book that you could write that no one else could write?
No one has your precise experience and knowledge base, which means there are certain things you know about how to solve problems that no one else has ever figured out. When you’re thinking about the overall concept for your book, this should be the starting point–asking yourself what problem you solve better than anyone else.
This is not a time for false modesty. You didn’t get to achieve your current level of success without being awfully good at solving really thorny problems. What are the problems you’re best at solving? What are the problems you enjoyed solving the most? That should be the focus of your book.
- Whom are you trying to influence?
Everything today in the world is niche–there’s virtually no mass market for anything. Five sixths of America ignores the Oscars. Two thirds ignores the Super Bowl. So when you’re thinking about your book, don’t fall into the trap of thinking “New York Times bestseller.” Instead, what’s the smartest definition of a niche audience that you can appeal to? And then aim the book at that niche.
The world hates generalists. If you have a heart problem, are you going to go to your brother-in-law, the general practitioner? Or do you want to find the absolute best cardiologist in the world?
Use your book to position yourself as the world’s leading expert in the area or areas that are the most interesting, enjoyable, and lucrative for you. Don’t try to be all things to all people in an age where specialists command the most attention and the highest fees.
- Make your first chapter all about the reader’s pain.
Business books are an area where that old expression rings true–people don’t care about how much you know until they know about how much you care. Before you start talking about how great you are, and before you start talking about how you were trained, your brilliant solutions, and the fact that the world has never seen anyone as wonderful as you, focus your first chapter on the readers.
Demonstrate that you understand their problems better than anyone they’ve ever encountered. Specificity matters. Show that you’ve grasped the severity of the challenges they face, more so than anyone they’ve ever encountered. In so doing, they will develop a fascination for you.
Not even their spouses or business partners have any idea of the challenges they face on a day to day basis. But you do. Show them that, in Bill Clinton’s famous phrase, you “feel their pain” and now they will be so intrigued that they will finish the book and follow you anywhere.
- Understand that they aren’t reading your book–they’re using it as a screenplay for a movie that will play in their heads.
People don’t read books. Instead, they use a book as the foundation of a movie that they’re going to create inside their own mind. In that movie, they will play two parts–the part of themselves as student, and the part of you, the author, as teacher. This means that we need to give readers just enough information about you so they know who they are “being” when they’re playing the role of you.
If it’s too much information, they will be bored and annoyed because they want the book to be all about them, not all about you. If there’s not enough information, they will feel frustrated, because they won’t know who their being in that movie playing in their heads.
So the goal is to find the sweet spot where you are providing just enough information to demonstrate your authority, while at the same time not overwhelming the reader with biographical data long after they’re convinced that you are a legitimate, trustworthy authority on the topic.
- Be good, be brief, and be gone.
In decades past, the rule was simple: “biggest book wins.” Whoever amassed the most information, plugged in the most footnotes, and just simply had the highest page count was considered the most successful author.
Not anymore. In the era of technology and social media, where everybody has no time and plenty of ADHD, your job as an author is to say what you need to say and then get off the stage. A successful business book does not have to be 250 or 300 pages. Quite frankly, if you cannot close your reader in 150 pages, or even 100, you’re surely not going to get him or her if you extend your book to 250 or 300 pages.
Today’s world rewards brevity. Don’t overshoot the mark, and don’t oversell.
- Remember that a book is primarily a tool of influence.
You aren’t writing a manual for your competitors. You aren’t writing a final report that could come at the end of your career. Instead, you are demonstrating to the reader that you know your subject intimately, that you have solved the reader’s problems for others, that you are a specialist who is extremely adept at solving the problems the reader faces, and that you have a methodology for getting those solutions done.
As a business ghostwriter for decades, I can assure you that if you keep these guidelines in mind, your book will be a smashing success. Head over to our Test Drive page to get a no-obligation way to see if our ghostwriting approach works for you.