By Newt Barrett published May 5, 2011

Write a Book and Change the World: 11 Steps to Creating a Successful Business Book

Great business books change the world one discipline or market segment at a time. They make a measurable difference in how entrepreneurs and executives start, grow, and manage their businesses.

My individual world-changer is Presenting to Win by Jerry Weisman who taught Silicon Valley entrepreneurs how to convince venture capitalists to invest millions of dollars. It dramatically improved my presentation skills, both one-on-one and before large groups. I’m not the only one to be inspired: Eight years after its first publication, Jerry’s book continues to sell thousands of copies annually.

You may have the beginnings of a great business book lurking within your brain. And, as a content marketer, one of the best ways to share your knowledge is through a book. I will show you how to take your ideas and to transform them into a business book that benefits executives and entrepreneurs–and your business.

Can you write a successful business book?

Yes, if:

  • You are motivated to create a great book that benefits its readers
  • You begin with a solid body of knowledge
  • You are willing to do the research to expand that knowledge
  • You can offer a unique approach to your market niche
  • You can write logically and coherently
  • You have self-discipline and a respect for deadlines
  • You are willing to become a one-person marketing and promotion maniac

If that sounds like you, our 11-step program will put you on the path to creating a book that changes the world for thousands of targeted business readers who need your help.

Define a “unique book benefit”

Your unique book benefit is a statement of 25 to 30 words that makes it instantly and intuitively clear why your target reader will benefit from reading your book. It should be clearly reflected in your title and subtitle.

When your prospective readers are book browsing — and this will be increasingly online — they need to understand what sets your book apart and why it will benefit them more than dozens of other potential choices.

Know your readers

 

Develop an in-depth understanding of your ideal target readers, those who will benefit most from reading your book. For example, your ideal reader may be a C-level executive with 20 or more years of experience who is struggling to understand how to use content marketing and social media in his mid-size manufacturing company. He is primarily self-taught, does not have an MBA, and is skeptical of highfalutin marketing nonsense. He is reluctant but  can be convinced to embrace new ways of doing business if it makes sense. As a pragmatic thinker, he is looking for practical, put-it-to-work advice in any book that he reads.

Determine the market size

Determine whether there is a large enough market for your book. This determination can be made with quick and easy research. Among the questions you should ask:

  • Do newspapers or magazines cover your subject area? Do they have high-quality websites and blogs?
  • Using industry statistics, can you determine whether there are 100,000 people or more in your market niche?
  • Are there books addressing a similar market or problem that are already selling well? A quick review of Amazon.com will give you the info you need.
  • Will your book be different enough for business executives to add it to their must-read list?  Again, an objective look through Amazon.com listings will help you.
  • Can you identify people who will need the information your book will be providing and would be willing to buy it?  Talk to your customers and prospects to find out whether the information you will be delivering is something they really, really need.

 

Produce a detailed outline

 

A detailed book outline is essential to providing a logical path that your readers can follow from the first sentence of the introduction to the final sentence of the last chapter. To make outline creation much less daunting, imagine giving a brief face-to-face presentation to your ideal target reader. Your outline should then derive naturally from the imaginary presentation.

To deliver that imaginary 25-minute presentation to your client, here’s what you need to nail down:

  • How can you set the stage in 60 seconds?
  • What are the 5 to 10 most important high-level points to make with just 60 seconds per point?
  • What are the 5 to 10 best examples and/or case studies for each point you’re making—60 seconds per example?
  • How can you wrap everything up in 2 minutes so that the prospect is ready and willing to take action right now?

Find a compatible co-author

Because writing a book is both challenging and time-consuming, seriously consider finding a compatible co-author. I learned just how important this approach could be with our book, Get Content Get Customers. My co-author, Joe Pulizzi, and I complemented each other’s efforts as we shared continuous and constructive feedback. Joe focused more on the theory of content marketing, and I did most of the interviews and case studies. What might have been a back-breaking effort became an enjoyable partnership that produced a book that has helped more than 10,000 readers understand and implement content marketing strategies.

Write or perish

Commit to a regular writing schedule. Whether you write every day, several times a week or just on the weekend, you need to be consistent. Determine the minimum number of words you can produce every week until you have completed the manuscript. Because your outline should keep you on course, you simply need to keep putting words on virtual pages within its basic structure. Keep in mind that whatever you write will require editing to transform it from adequate to brilliant, so don’t worry about generating perfect prose at this point. Keep plugging away, no matter how painful or frustrating.

Land a top editor

Invest in first-class editorial talent. Even the very best writers require editing. Because most of us fall into the OK-to-good writer category, we really need editorial help. This is true whether you plan to self-publish your book, work with a small, independent publisher or hope to be published by one of the big traditional publishing companies. You owe it to your readers to deliver a book that is well worth reading. Of course, no publisher is likely to accept less than a first class manuscript.

Create a great title

 

Just as a print ad needs a great headline, you need a great title for your book. Your title must make it clear why your targeted business readers would be crazy not to pick up your book and begin reading it. For example, David Meerman Scott’s original 2007 classic, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, addressed the intense concern among the marketing and PR community that the rules were changing. But, when David wrote the book, hardly anybody understood what the new rules were or how they should respond to them. Thus, if you were a marketing pro, you knew you had to read this book in order to survive the tsunami of change in your industry.

A corollary to this point is the need for an explanatory subtitle that provides enough extra detail to lure your potential reader inside the book. For David Meerman Scott, the subtitle was, “How to use social media, blogs, news releases, online video, and viral marketing to reach buyers directly.”

Develop a killer cover

A great cover is as important as a great title. Unlike fiction books where images are all-important, the covers of business books benefit most from the effective use of typography design to drive home the title and subtitle.

For example, one of my favorite books is the business bestseller (#425 on Amazon.com after 12 years in print), First, Break All the Rules, uses type almost exclusively.  Against a white background, the title is shown in bold black letters with the subtitle in red. A brief description below the subtitle that validates the information readers will derive comes below in a combination of black and red type, “Based on in-depth interviews by the Gallup Organization of over 80,000 managers and over 400 companies–The largest study of its kind ever undertaken.”

Find a publisher

 

Although you may have visions of being published by one of the giants–and this is certainly possible–your best bet in today’s market is to work with a small, independent publisher or to self-publish.

Independent publishers like CMI Books can to move your book to market much more quickly. In addition, because the publishing model is moving quickly online and from print to e-books, the importance of major publisher has diminished dramatically. You may need to make a significant upfront investment to get your book into shape for self-publishing, but the best companies in this market niche do an excellent job of turning your manuscript into a print or e-book version.

 

Promote the book

Finally, and most importantly, you must be ready to throw yourself wholeheartedly into the promotion of your book. It doesn’t matter whether you are self-publishing or working with a publishing company. You cannot rely completely on anyone else to make your book a success. You are the most important marketing weapon for your book.

If you follow these steps you are well on your way to becoming a thought leader and a trusted source of vital information for your target customers.

Your customers and your prospects will look to you first to provide the answers they need to solve their problems because your book proves that you have the expertise required to make that happen.

Your book will sell well even if it never makes the bestseller lists. But, by publishing a book that is uniquely positioned, well targeted, content-rich, well-written, well designed, and assiduously promoted, you will establish a level of thought leadership that leaves your competitors in the dust.

If you are interested in exploring the opportunity of transforming your business book idea from concept to reality, visit CMI Books.

Author: Newt Barrett

Newt Barrett is a leading thinker on the new discipline of content marketing. He urges marketers to think like publishers by delivering essential, relevant, and timely information that makes customers smarter and wiser–and much more likely to become buyers. He is the co-author of the content marketing bible, Get Content Get Customers and President and Publisher of CMI Books. You can follow him on Twitter @newtbarrett.

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