There is no shortage of resources about writing a book for your business, becoming an author-entrepreneur, formatting an indie book, or publishing and selling a book online. I myself have read dozens of these books about books, and publications about publishing. But in this article, I’m drilling down to the most basic advice I can give you as someone who has started writing several books, but only completed two. And only one that I’m super proud of–and can make money with.
The attrition rate for new authors is high, so we know I’m not alone. I’ve wanted to put all I’ve learned on this topic to good use, but honestly, so much of it has gone to bad use. By that I mean in trying to use all I’ve learned, I ended up wasting time. Or effort. Or money. Or all three.
Whether it’s information overload or analysis paralysis, there’s a down side to trying too hard to follow the instructions of successful authors and the tips from online entrepreneurs. Sometimes, we simply don’t know what we don’t know. So we don’t know what we need to know, either. Then we end up learning everything we can find, even if it doesn’t apply to us.
For me it all came together through the months-long process of producing the guidebook Make a Tiny Website (MATW) with my partner Teresa from The Simpler Web. I’ve listed my top tips for you here—If you want to write a book for your business, take these five steps to make it easier from the start.
1–Pick a topic you know inside and out. The first step to making it easier to write a book for your business is to be able to speak on its topic with little effort. As an entrepreneur, it might be tempting to write a book because you see an unmet need in the market. “Solve a problem” is smart marketing advice, but before you decide to write the solution, ask yourself “am I expert enough on this subject?” It makes for a longer, tougher road to do lot of research on your book while you’re trying to write it.
2–Narrow your topic down as much as possible. The more you focus what you write about, the easier it will be write your book. Instead of writing an encyclopedic volume on various aspects of your topic, you can make it extremely useful for a specific set of people. As a bonus, that also makes it easier to explain, market and sell. For example, we recently wrote MATW to help small business owners who need a simple but professional website create one themselves on Squarespace. We didn’t write Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Creating a Website.
3–Use an application or platform you’re familiar with. There’s no need for you to write your book using special or specific software or tools, like Scrivener, or CreateSpace, etc. just because an author you admire recommends it. It’s possible to self-publish a perfectly fine book for your business by writing in Word or using a simple template on PowerPoint. In fact, I never did finish the book I started on Scrivener because of the learning curve for the app. I’ll get back to it one day, but my point here is, why begin a whole separate endeavor that sucks time and energy away from writing the content? For MATW, my partner Teresa used iBooks as the platform —it was new to her, but easy enough for her to jump right in. Still, I wrote all my chapters in Word and sent them to her to layout. Much more efficient that way. Speaking of Teresa…
4–Get a partner or at least get help. Putting together a book from start to finish–especially one that is meant to teach something—takes quite a bit more than the writing itself. So much so, the concept for our book was created specifically for a partnership between Teresa and me. I didn’t want to repeat the experience of never finishing my prior attempt at a book for my business (Zen and the Art of Writing Your Website, in case you are wondering, proved overwhelming for me to do alone).
I knew we had distinct skills that would facilitate the process of creating a high-quality product. And together we could cut the work down to more manageable level while we tackled on the rest of the project (don’t forget, there is a content to test, influencers to contact, marketing to create, etc.) Without Teresa, I’d have had to outsource help for sure, but thankfully the perfect partner was up for the venture. To make it easier to write a book for your business, first take an inventory of your time and talents, and compare them against the end result you have in mind. You’ll likely find holes to fill, even if it’s something as simple as hiring a proofreader or creating a book cover.
5–Create a format structure. This step has saved me countless hours of time: I identify a theme and outline a writing template for any long-form work. Doing this first lets you structure all the sections of your work in a similar way from start to finish. It’s like blocking a stage performance: when you know where to go you can focus on delivering your lines. For instance, you might start every page with a question, followed by a bulleted list of key points, then end by answering the question.
With MATW, it began with structuring table of contents using one-word chapter titles in the form of actionable command like Focus, Define and Build. We used the template for layout that gave us room for two sentences of lead-in copy, where we communicated the main reason we’d be doing the specific work to follow. We also used the same format for the worksheets, so the content would be integrated with the homework. This sort of formatting has many advantages, not the least of which is a clear flow of information for readers.
You can see more of our new guidebook at makeatinywebsite.com. And you can pick up the condensed version, our Two-Week Website Building Plan for as little as $0 to get yourself started. And if you have any questions about writing a book for your business that I haven’t covered here, please shoot me a note at faithw[at]pentozen[dot]com. I’m happy to share what I’ve learned!