How to start writing your own business book

Since the launch of the Stand Up to Stand Out book, expressing yourself in the most powerful way, the two most frequently asked questions we get are: Where can I buy the book? & How do you start writing a book, because I’m also thinking about it. The answer to the first question is here 🙂 and to the second, check out the video below or use our 5 key tips that helped Natalie & me in creating our first publication.

1. What are you going to write about?

Sounds like a fairly easy question to answer, seeing you are reading this blogpost about writing a book. Chances are you are playing with an idea that is just waiting to be turned into a full on business story. Coming up with the idea in a business context is easy, but narrowing it down to a specific topic and bringing focus to what you are going to write about is harder. Assuming you are a passionate and enthusiastic professional, eager to start sharing your ideas in the form of a book, you will have so many ideas, so many things you want to write about and include. Before you know it, you will have 400 pages, 26 chapters and a reader audience that will not finish the book and will have no clue what exactly the book is about. As in comedy, it’s not hard to write a funny story of 10 lines, but to downsize it to a 2 line joke with a setup and strong punchline that will actually make people laugh, instead of you ending your long story with, ‘you had to be there.’ That is a whole different game. Same with writing a book, you need an idea and then you need to start making choices and really focus on the essence. Better to write 3 books in your time than one all containing über book that will disappear faster than you can write it. So what are you going to write about? Is there an audience for it? Are you helping or teaching people something? What do publishers look for if you choose to work with one and this might crush the romance of writing a book, but what do people like to buy? Answer those questions for yourself and see what parts of your grand idea remain and that focussed pure form of your idea will become the topic of your book and will help you make choices in chapters, writing style, examples and later on in advertising it.

2. Talk to other successful writers

Every year more than 3 million books are published worldwide. That’s a lot of books and most of them will die a silent death, so make sure yours isn’t going to be one of them. A book has to have a lot of ingredients, same with a delicious meal and luckily, because so many books are written, there are also a lot of great authors that know exactly what those successful elements of a book are. Talk to these people, connect with other writers, pitch your idea to agents or publishers, even if you plan on self-publishing. Their feedback on your idea, your writing style, your audience, will save you from mistakes that could have been prevented. What titles to use? How to structure a story? What do people think is entertaining to read? Who is your competition in the market? Are some writers willing to proof read your work in a later fase? Writing a book can be a long and lonely endeavor (we spent 2 years on it), no need for you to also start alone and figure out everything yourself. Learn from the successful books and avoid what the bad ones did wrong. Some writers, agents or publishers might get so excited that they will want to play a vital part in your writing process or in the advertisement of your book afterwards. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know and who knows what you know. Think about that for a second 😉

3. Self-publish or get published?

The million dollar question, are you going to self-publish or get published? There is no right or wrong, it’s just a question on how much of the extra work besides writing the book you want to take on yourself. Self-publishing in this age has never been easier. Getting a book printed, taking care of distribution through e-commerce sites like amazon.com or bol.com is pretty straight forward and if you have some notion of social media and ads, you will be able to market your book. The only thing is, do you want to spend time doing this, do you have the knowledge, the contacts and the energy to take care of shipping, print process follow up, getting interesting speaking deals? The advantage of working with a publisher is they will take care of everything, the only thing you need to worry about is writing, giving feedback on design and help market the book, seeing you will be the author and the face of the whole operation. But, there is a but on getting published. The number of requests publishers get from potential authors are enormous, so you will have to show up with a good pitch and a solid writing style to get published. Once you are in, you will have to negotiate a good deal, because like record labels, it’s your artistic work, but they want to take as much of the money cake as possible. Know you will only get a small percentage of the total earnings, while being self-published will give you 100% of the earnings minus costs and the time you have to spend coordinating it all. We chose to get published and will probably do it again for the next book. There is again, no right or wrong, it’s just a matter of time, personal investment, the power of your network and how much you want to make selling your book. If you self-publish, just don’t underestimate the work that comes on top of the already time consuming process of writing a book.

4. How do you start writing?

Now how do you actually start writing a business book? Well, the good news is that it’s easier than writing a novel. There you have to come up with a story, characters, plot points,… Your business book also needs to be a nice insightful and entertaining story, but the work is less intense than writing the next Harry Potter saga. The best tip for when you are struggling with starting to write, when that cursor is just blinking on that white page on your laptop, saying, “So what do you got?” Then just take a presentation you once gave about your idea, a previous blogpost you already wrote about your topic, maybe even a training you gave on the subject. Take that story which you already created, structured and tested and start writing that on paper. Slowly expanding each part of that story until they become chapters, adding anekdotes and practical examples you now already tell people in your daily business life. You will notice once you jumped that hurdle of not knowing how to start writing a book, you will get with the flow and the words, ideas and examples will just pour out of you. Keep focus, stick to the plan and especially, be very strict on yourself once you are on a writers high. Set yourself some very strict deadlines, when you get published, your publisher will do that for you. Respect these deadlines, because there is always an excuse not to continue writing and delivering the next piece of your book, even if you know what to write. Deadlines are key! And kill your darlings, stick to the plan, you will get tempted to keep adding things, keep writing extra chapters and will say to yourself, that it’s never finished or good enough. Publish, respect the deadlines and learn to say no to yourself. Enough is enough, save it for a second book. A story that is too long, too detailed and blurry, is a story that nobody will read.

5. Writing your story is just the beginning

You have your specific focused and clear topic you want to write about. You know you want to get published or self-publish. You started writing, respected deadlines and said to yourself, it’s finished, no more. You are proud, happy, but also tired and actually fed up with the book, because you know it by heart now. You proof read it, other people proof read it, you took their feedback into account and now the book is rolling of the press or taking form in an e-book format. You are done, your baby is born. You cry, you laugh, you are now officially an author, a writer, a word artist. But you are not done, you are just getting started. Ignore the exhaustion and realize you now have to find people that want to read your book. You will need to market it, advertise it, get on stage and speak about it. It’s fun, the positive reactions of people you have never met, will give you energy, make you even more proud, but don’t underestimate the marketing side of a book. Unless you are J.K. Rowling, Simon Sinek, the Nicci French duo,… nobody will be waiting for your book, so you will have to convince them that your book versus the 3 million other books is worth reading. Writing, publishing and advertising your own book is something special and a thing not everybody gets to do in their lifetime. Enjoy it, cherish it and whatever success or failure it turns out to be, never stop writing!

Best of luck, now open Word, Pages or Google docs and start your journey. Own it!

 

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