Five tips for building your business book plan

Knowing where to start when writing your first business book is difficult. Most people simply start writing and then get distracted, despondent at the lack of progress or confused about what they've written. Writing a successful business book requires a clear plan, understanding of what you want to say and the target audience you want to reach.

One of the real challenges of writing, publishing and selling your own business book is being clear about exactly what it you have to share, who your target audience is and what their challenges are. If you focus your attention on creating a clear, well thought through business book plan you will be able to write your book more efficiently and effectively as well as market it more successfully.

It takes most people 1-2 months to really work through the planning and structuring of their business book idea.  I recommend you allocate between 4-6 hours a week at least to work through the following five areas, preferably in two sessions. Slotting in an hour here and there is simply not productive.

Here are five tips you help you create your business book plan.


1. The key themes and messages

There are millions of business books being published all the time, so if you’re going to create a successful one you need to be really clear about what your key themes and messages are. This will help you clarify for yourself just what you are writing about and why.

When people share with me that they want to write a book I ask them why? The usual response is, ‘Because I’ve always wanted to and I think I have something to share.’

‘Great,’ I respond. ‘What is it that you want to share?

Share with me the core of your book idea?

Tell me what you want people to take out from it once they’ve read it?’

Most find these questions much harder to answer. Until you’ve worked out the answers there’s not much point starting your book project. And this might take several hours over many days or months.


2. What is your USP? (unique selling proposition)

Now you’ve worked out what your key themes and messages are, you need to spend some time thinking, researching and planning your USP.

  • What makes your book different the thousands of books already out there on your topic?
  • What problems are you solving?
  • Why are your insights better than others?
  • How are your solutions more effective?
  • How is your knowledge going to assist the reader?

It’s essential that you are really clear about this. If you’re not, your business book won’t get traction and it won’t sell. You’ll end up with a garage full of boxes of your books and giving them away. Even if you’re planning to give them away, people won’t read it.

3. Who is your target audience/reader profile?

Now you’ve worked out what you want to say you need to give some serious thought to who your target audience is, just who is going to buy your book. The more precise you can be the more you can focus your content to this audience AND target them in your marketing.

It’s no good saying ‘my audience is businesswomen, or lawyers, young people, entrepreneurs, directors, start-ups etc. This is way too vague. You need to get specific and build up a deep and clear understanding of your key target audience. And, it might take you several goes.

Buyer persona/customer avatar

In marketing terms the target audience is sometimes called the buyer persona or, more recently, a customer avatar. Whatever its called you need to be clear about who your target audience is.

To do this create a specific profile of a person that is your ideal customer like age, gender, occupation, income, education, family status, residential address, language/s spoken and more (height, weight, what they read, what sites, blogs and websites they look at, travel destinations and frequency etc) – anything that you can describe by looking in from the outside.

The add in psychographic information. This includes everything that’s going on inside your ideal reader’s head – the kind of stuff they’d tell their spouse, or therapist, like their desires, fears, values, interests, politics, convictions, concerns, and so on.

Describe them in as much detail as you can and remember, they’re a real person, so don’t use ranges. No person is 27-42 years old, they are 36. They don’t have 2-4 young children, they have a six year old girl and a four year old boy.

It may be that after you’ve worked through 3-4 options your target audience is not who you initially thought it was.

When and why will people buy your business book?

Once you have a picture of who your one person is, you have to think about when and where in their day, week, month, or year the need for your book will arise?

  • What is the trigger that will get them to take action?
  • What is the thought, event, or circumstance that prompts them to go out and do something about it?
  • What is the obvious place they’ll go for a solution?
  • Where will they go for an answer? If they don’t find it right away – what will they try next? and
  • What will they try after that?


4. Chapter outlines and more detailed chapter overviews

Now you’ve got clarity on your key themes and messages, why your business book is different and you know your key target audiences you can now start working on your chapter outline. Most work through several iterations of this before they’ve settled on their final content outline.

Start by writing down the key themes/messages you want to cover. Then, divide these key messages into more specific headings. These are the start of your content outline.

Once you have specific headings (chapters), underneath each one add in dot points about the main topics you want to cover. Print this out and see if it makes sense, if it flows well. If not, move the chapters around and the topics until it does.

It might take several goes to get an outline you’re happy with. If you’re not sure, ask a friend or colleague in the same area that you’re writing about. Get input from others and take their feedback on board.

When you’ve done all this you’re ready to start writing. Almost!

5. Reference material and notes

While you’ve been working through the previous four stages you have also probably been pulling together lots of books, research papers, notes, documents as well as bookmarking and locating on-line information and resources.

It’s important that you get all this together in an ordered and easily accessible way BEFORE you start writing. You’ll probably need to re-read much of it again to refresh your memory and to tag the important sections you want to refer to specifically. Don’t under-estimate the importance of getting all your materials organised. You can waste a huge amount of time trying to find information once you are in the flow of writing . . .and you certainly don’t need any more distractions when you’re in the writing phase.

There you have it.

Can you make at least 48 hours available in your life in the next couple of months? If not, when can you find the time?

Do you need help and guidance through the process and keep you on track? Of course, that’s where The Book Adviser comes in, but you need to make the commitment first.

Let me know your experience of trying to write a business book, what worked for you and what didn’t, or if you’ve got a book written but don’t know what to do next.