How to write a great business book

I’ve lost count of the number of business (and other) books I’ve read over my lifetime. Currently I read about 100 books a year, half for the business writing that I do and the other half for pleasure.

Over the past 8 years I’ve also researched and written 19 business books ranging from a book on entrepreneurship, ASX-listed company histories, family business stories, the history of a vineyard (tough assignment that one), a resort in the Whitsunday Islands in north Queensland (another tough gig), as well as a book about the start-up environment in Australia and the inside story of a boardroom coup.

Over the course of my publishing and writing life I’ve interviewed over 800 of Australia, and some of the world’s leading business executive, entrepreneurs, billionaires and government ministers (and a few Prime Ministers).

Because I interview and engage so many business people some of them asked me to help them with their book. So The Book Adviser was born and I’ve now worked with over 30 business owners, consultants and directors on their business book.

Given that writing a book is high on most business owners and leaders list of ‘want-to-do’ I thought I’d share the five most important lessons I’ve learned about writing a business book so that you don’t have to learn the hard way.

1. Be clear about WHY you want to write your book

Most of us have read Simon Sinek and have explored our personal WHY. What I am talking about here is WHY you are writing your book. Is it to share your knowledge, build your brand, become a thought leader/speaker, build your business, leave a legacy, tick a book off your list?

Depending on why you want to write and publish your book the metrics around how much time you commit to it, how you market and promote it and who you are writing it for will vary.

2. Deeply understand WHO you are writing your book for.

Most of the business people I work with have tons of knowledge and want to share it. Most, also, have not thought about WHO they are going to share it with and therefore don’t know how to sort out what part of all their knowledge and insights they should share in their book.

So, stand back from what you know and spend time deeply thinking about who your audience is (and it can’t be everyone), what their challenges are and where they are currently sourcing information.

3. Create a content outline BEFORE you start writing

Once you know who your audience is and what specific knowledge you have to share with them that will make a difference in their lives you can then construct a content outline. Don’t start writing until you’ve done this. And it will probably take 3-4 iterations before you land on a content outline that works.

By doing this you’ll avoid one of the most common challenges of writing a business book – finishing it.

4. Set a DEADLINE and prioritise writing

There are thousands of half-finished business books out there, maybe millions. They’re not finished because there was no deadline and ‘something else’ cropped up.

Unless you make starting and finishing writing your book a priority something else will always be more important, more urgent, more interesting/exciting.

The best way to finish your business book is to set a deadline and set AT LEAST two sessions of 2 hours per week to work on it. More and longer is better but this is a workable minimum. If you do this you can finish a 30,000 word book in 2-3 months.

5. DON’T STOP till you are finished

Connected to point 4 is the will/stamina to keep going till you’ve finished your first, and then subsequent drafts (yes you will go through 3-4 drafts at least). This is when having a content outline really comes to the fore as you simply focus on that and work through it.

Don’t revise your first chapters until you’ve completed the whole first draft as you need to ‘see’ your whole book to understand the flow and to be able to rework it.

I apply these 5 steps to every piece of writing I do whether it be an article of 1,000 words or a book of 180,000 words and anything in between.

  • What’s the why/purpose?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • What is the structure for the content?
  • What’s the deadline?
  • How much time and what time period do I need to allocate to complete the writing to the deadline?

If you follow these five hacks you’ll be the one business person out of 80 who completes and publishes their business book in 2020.

Jim Collins and Simon Sinek changed the world through their books and built their worldwide reputations on writing great business books. You can too, but you have to start.

If you’d like more information about The Book Adviser 1-to-1 mentoring program contact me.