Writing a business book – Some benefits
Recession, what recession? More and more people are self-publishing books, not just on familiar topics like fiction, family history and children’s books, but also business books.
“Business books work very well for consultants and others – they can raise their profile and enhance their brand,” says Richard Burton, co-director of the publishers Infinite Ideas Ltd. Despite the recession, he says the market for business books is “more buoyant than it has been for some time.”
The Self-publishing magazine – October 2007
Why write a business book
Mike Seddon is one of several small businesses to have written a book. Self-published a few years ago, it was on the subject of Google Adwords – the advertisements that appear on the right hand side of a screen after one does a search on Google.
His aims of writing were two fold. First, to improve on books already the market – he felt none went into the mechanics of Adwords as much as he would have wanted – and second, to stand out from his competitors. “People take Google exams and then call themselves experts,” he says. “But the exams weren’t difficult, so proved nothing. I wanted more of an edge than this.”
Mike got the idea of writing a book came from listening to his mentors. Their repeated advice, he says, was ‘set yourself up as an expert’; and one, a prolific author, emphasised how books can provide valuable contacts and leads, as well as sales revenue – which is what Mike has done. “Even if I don’t put my book it in front of people, they can see it is there – on my web site, on Amazon, and elsewhere,” he says.
Business reasons were also the driver for productivity and efficiency coach Dominic Jackson, who last year self-published a book on time management. Says Dominic: “It shows customers you are a cut about the rest – which makes you an authority in their estimation.” But he also wrote his book for personal reasons. “I just wanted to be one of those people who had written a book,” he adds.
An author of a different kind is Corinna Shepherd, who has produced three poetry/activity books aimed at engaging and inspiring dyslexic children (spelling age 4-15) and other reluctant readers. She chose the self-publishing route as she felt it had potential to earn her more, but also to have more control over the production process – which is a common reason for self-publishing. “The books are not just about looking pretty on the page,” she says. “The words and the pictures have to work together in a way that does not confuse the child visually.”
Benefits of business books
Both Mike and Dominic emphasise how their books are benefiting their business. Dominic describes his book as his ‘biggest business card’ – albeit a more expensive one, he admits. And although his book is only recently published, already he feels he is impressing customers and business colleagues. “The book has raised me in people’s esteem and how they see me in my coaching role,” he says.
Mike uses his book as more of a free gift – a sweetener to secure other business. “Sales of the books are immaterial to me,” he says. “We have sold a few hundred directly and through Amazon and Lulu – but the additional revenue is worth thousands [of pounds].”
Corinna’s goals are more geared towards sales revenue. But she has found it a challenge reaching the books’ target customers. “When I meet people they are really enthusiastic; but doing book tours and having it on the internet isn’t enough.” Undeterred, however, she says: “I am looking to grow a global brand. Anything like that takes a long time to build – this is the foundation stage.”
The writing and self-publishing process
Mike’s and Dominic’s books came out first as e-books, then as physical books, and both say they found the self-publishing process fairly easy. They used www.lulu.com, who sorted out books’ covers and formatting, as well as doing the distribution and helping with the marketing. Corinna, by contrast, already had a preferred illustrator, designer and printer she wanted to use.
What of the writing process? “I found the thought of writing a book overwhelming,” says Dominic. “But once I got advice, I found it fairly easy.” And as a handy, easy-read ‘tips book’ he wrote it within one month.
Mike’s 100-page book took him nearer six months to complete, but he admits that better planning would have reduced the time taken. Don’t underestimate how long the writing takes, is his advice to others.
Not that he, or the other two authors, have been put off writing more books – far from it. Mike is planning a book on how to promote a business website; Dominic is going to produce a workbook on time management; and Corinna says she has dozens more similar books up her sleeve.
Writing tips and advice
Get help and support from others – especially those with experience, is Dominic’s advice. He says: “You can do it the hard way, or the easy way. I would have done it the hard way if I had not get help first.” Talking to others, for example, made him realise that there was no need to start writing at the beginning. And a useful tip Mike shares is to turn each chapter heading into a question, which then focuses one’s writing.
But don’t forget production issues. In Richard’s view there is a suspicion that self-published business books are just self-promotion, but that one way of getting round that is to make they are of ‘bookshop quality’. Don’t skimp on that, he warns. “It is essential that they are properly designed, edited and proofread.”
Take that advice on board, Richard feels, and there is no stopping self-publishers. “The market depends entirely on the energy and marketing skills of the author. You can create some real noise with a self-published book – if you really get behind it.”