Get Your Business Book Published!Chia-Li Chien, Ph.D., CFP®, PMP®, CPBC
Chia-Li Chien | Aug. 15, 2012
Part 1: Product Design
There were 11,327 (note 1) new book titles and editions published per day on average in 2010 according to Bowker; the official ISBN Agency for Australia, United States and U.S. territories. Through advanced technology, it is much easier to publish books today. Yet many aspiring authors feel overwhelmed by writing or publishing their first books.
This article series resulted from many members of my Toastmaster Advanced club expressing interest in publishing their books, but not knowing where to start. A book is a product and any new product goes through many phases. I will take you through three phases or parts. Part One: Product Design, Part Two: Manufacturing and Part Three: Go-To-Market. In this article, I will focus on Part One: Product Design.
How will you approach your book?
In general, non-fiction books in the business category can be a great marketing and branding tool. It showcases the credentials of the author and helps the author stand out among peers. That being said, there are two types of approaches to writing a business book—1) research-based conclusion and 2) practitioner-based processes.
Approach One – Research-based conclusion
Books such as Good To Great by Jim Collins or The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell or Make Money Not Excuses by Jean Chatzky are a few examples of this type of approach. Jim Collins is a researcher and business consultant. Malcolm Gladwell and Jean Chatzky are journalists. They all use historical data, stories, etc. to drive and prove their message. Great by Choice, Jim Collins’ most recent book demonstrates its own research methods in addition to historical data.
Approach Two – Practitioner-based processes
Books such as The One Minute Sales Person by Spencer Johnson or The Leadership Pill by Ken Blanchard or Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh are examples of a few practitioner-based processes books. Both Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson are known for their one-story settings with simple illustrations. They are practitioners in their industry and share personal and business experiences and processes with their readers. Tony Hsieh, the successful entrepreneur who sold Zappos.com to Amazon.com for nearly $1 Billion in late 2009 also writes within that same formula. In all these examples, the authors share their own experience and advice.
My award-winning book Show Me The Money is written in the practitioner-based processes style. However, my upcoming book, Work Toward Reward, is a combination of my own two-year-long research and practitioner-based processes.
So before you dream of boosting your credentials via the powerful marketing tool publishing can be, define the approach you will take in your book for a good start toward a successful completion.
Structure your book as a project
As I mentioned earlier, a book is a product and any new product development has a definite start and finish timeframe. Therefore, treat it like a project. For example, in a start-up it’s called a business plan, or in the corporate world it’s called a project plan. In the book publishing industry it’s called a book proposal.
Traditionally, an author submits a book proposal to a publisher to validate his or her product idea and intended market size. Publishers or literary agents use the book proposal as a feasibility study to test for a market for the book. (Remember, from a publishers’ point of view, books are a product to make a profit on so they can continue to stay in business.)
I will highlight a few areas of the book proposal that I believe are of utmost importance for traditional publishers as well as self- publishers. I will talk more in Phase Two: Manufacturing, about the difference between traditional publishers and self-publishers.
- Who are the books’ intended readers? Or in other words, what is the target market? In my first book, my target was small business owners with annual revenue of more than $1 million. Specifically, the voice and stories were written and geared toward women business owners. (That market size is about 6% of all privately-held businesses, but women owners are less than 3%.) Your defined market has to be very specific so that you are speaking directly to that market.
- Are there existing competitive titles? Or in other words, what books are your competitors? Common sense tells us that there is mostly likely a book out there already about the subject that you want to write about. Find out what these books are and dig into any related books in order to get an overall view of the competition. The good news is you can use competing books as part of your reference section if you choose to quote or use points from their findings. The more reference books you have in your book the better its chances of meeting traditional publishing standards. It shows how much due diligence you’ve done to support your materials.
- What is the content overview? In other words, outline your table of contents. This helps you create a framework or structure of how you will guide your readers through your content. I originally proposed to have nineteen chapters in my first book, Show Me The Money. The published book actually has twenty-one chapters along with five appendixes. However in my second book, Work Toward Reward, I planned for ten chapters, but the final product has five chapters and six appendixes.
- When will the book be completed? Do you have a project timeline? In my original book proposal for Show Me The Money, the timeline began in September of 2009 with a proposed completion date of June 2010. By March 2010 my book was published and released. Having a timeline for writing your book gives you a sense of urgency to complete it.
- How are you going to market or promote your book? I will talk more about this in Phase 3: Go-To-Market, so stay tuned
- What is your qualification as an author to write this book? I was pretty unknown in the publishing industry and had to write two and a half pages to justify my credentials for my first book Show Me The Money. However, in my second book, Work Toward Reward, I only had a one-paragraph sample—just like any other better-known authors. I now have several awards and recognitions from the industry based on my column and first book, which give me the credentials I need for the publishing industry.
- What will my two sample chapters look like? Two sample chapters will give you and the publisher a good idea of your writing skills as well as the main points of the book that will benefit your readers.
Tips for constructing your book
Before I wrote my first book, I had a contract with Entrepreneurs Magazine to write an “exit planning” column for Women Entrepreneurs online. By contract agreement, I had to deliver one article per month to the editor of the magazine. I used this type of structure for my book as well. I ended up writing two to three articles a month for the magazine and I leveraged that content into my book. That enabled me to complete my book in three months as opposed to the forty-week schedule in my book proposal.
Give yourself something you can commit to such as one article or chapter per week, every other week or a month. Get into the routine—yes routine—is the keyword here. This can keep your creative juices flowing and help you get into the writing zone. Blogging is a great way to get yourself into the routine. I still write an average of two to three articles a month for my blog.
Successful people like Martha Steward always want any given project or business to be “a good thing.” I am following that motto, if I want to do something. I want to do the best I can and get the best results. From the beginning, I intend on it being “a good thing.” Starting your book project with 1) defining the purpose of the book, 2) structuring your book as a book proposal and 3) getting into the routine of book writing will give you get a head start with a structure to successfully complete your goal.