Have you ever read a bad book?
Well, you probably didn’t read it all the way through. At least, I hope you didn’t.
If you buy a bad novel, maybe it ruins your flight, or maybe it means you have to go back on Amazon or even back to the library to find something else to read.
But when you read a bad business book, you’re making a decision about the author.
And that decision is never to have anything to do with him or her again… as long as you both shall live.
So what constitutes a bad business book?
In a word, ego.
If you’ve ever sensed that the author suffers from an absolutely insufferable level of egotism, you’re probably not going to want to want anything more to do with him or his company.
(I safely use the male pronoun here, because I’ve met very few women in business who have the loaded egos of some of their male counterparts.)
In other words, a bad book is all about me, me, me, how great I am, how smart I am, how we beat the other guy, and by the way, don’t you think I’m great, too?
That’s why many people who have the slightest shred of humility, and who would like to have a book of their own, refrain.
They don’t want to be lumped in with their more egotistical business brethren.
Fortunately, there is a solution. The solution is to think of a book as an act of service instead of an act of ego.
If your heart is on serving, it’s almost impossible to come from ego. That’s because when you’re thinking about service, you’re thinking about the other person.
By the way, a successful business book—as opposed to a bad one—is all about the customer, the client, the person you’re intending to serve. Not about you.
Well, you do have to talk about yourself. You have to tell the readers just enough about you so that they understand that you’re qualified to write the book they’re reading.
The good news is that you can accomplish that in about two or three paragraphs—you don’t need 200 or 300 pages to tell people how wonderful you are.
Author and consultant Michel Hyatt makes the point beautifully: Your marketing, including your book, needs to make the reader the hero of the journey, not you. When the reader is the hero, naturally, he or she feels great. The reader feels attended to, taken care of, even prized. Don’t we all want to feel that?
How do we accomplish this seemingly zen-like state of making your reader the hero?
In the first chapter, we talk about the specific problem the reader faces, and we describe it with such depth and clarity that the reader says, “I’ve never felt so understood!”
Then in chapter two, you talk a little bit about yourself, but mostly you talk about the fact that you’ve solved this problem for others and in this book you’re going to show the reader how you can solve the problem for him or her as well.
That’s what readers want—they want someone who is empathetic, who “gets” them, and who is intent to talk about the problems the reader faces and the solutions the author offers without spending too much time on the “how great I am” stuff.
I could give you all kinds of writing tips that you could find in any writing 101 blog online—don’t use your passive voice, give examples, all that “usual suspect” stuff.
But the only meaningful difference between a successful book and a book that’s a total failure is the question of whether the author is going to sublimate his or her ego and instead put the spotlight on the reader.
Let’s face it—nobody really wants to hire us. They know that by hiring us, they’ll get a certain result. It’s the result they desire. It’s the old analogy of drill bits vs. holes. People who want holes buy drill bits. They don’t buy a drill bit because they want a drill bit. They buy the drill bit because they want the hole.
What would you rather read—a book about drill bits (about the author) or about holes (about you and the need you have)?
I thought I knew the answer.
Write about the reader. Write about the reader’s problems. Write about your solutions to the reader’s problems. And just put enough of yourself in there so that the reader knows that you’re the real deal.
That’s the most important writing tip I know.