Terri’s 12 Top Tips for Writing a Business Book
In March at a Clubhouse meeting run by Sarah Harkness, I shared that my business book ‘The Beginning of the End: A Practical guide to retirement planning,’ had been shortlisted in the Business Book Awards 2021. Within the room there were several aspiring authors, so I was asked if I could elaborate on the process of writing a business book. Having only written two business books so far, I’m no expert but I was happy to share. So, for all seasoned authors out there, this is not the way to do it, it is a way to do it. Sarah called it Terri’s 12 Top Tips for Writing a Business Book, so I’ll go with that.
1.Start with the most important thing - confidence.
There seem to be lots of people who have an idea for a book or would like to write a book, but the step where you go from the concept to the actual writing sounds like a small one but it's actually massive. So, in order to get over that, you need to build up your confidence.
To build up my confidence I had a business writing coach. Working with her, made me realise that I could do this. I had a book inside me that I had been thinking about for some time. I just needed that extra bit of confidence, someone believing in me and encouraging me to believe in myself to take it to the next level.
2. ‘Dump’ your ideas.
Get as many ideas as you can about your topic and just dump them, on a spreadsheet, on documents or by hand. I quite like to work by hand, as it transfers your thoughts from head, through the pen, onto the paper, affording you a little bit of extra thinking time. In the past I’ve used things like mind mapping and inspiration charts as I like to see things visually, and I love putting extra colours on for different ideas. For me, when my ideas look attractive it encourages me to write and work on the book.
Once complete, you may find that some ideas are surplus to requirements or start to explore different perspectives. Don’t worry if you end up scrapping these or saving them for something else.
3. Clarify your avatar.
In business sometimes we have a person in mind who we are selling to, or our product is made for or who would benefit from our service. We do this to get inside that person's mind and decide what they need. The same is true of writing a business book, you need to decide who it is you're writing for.
In my case, Mike was my avatar, thinking about selling his business and wondering where to go next and what options were open to him. The avatar exercise helped to get inside his head to see how the book could answer, and lead him to answer, his questions.
4. What does my avatar want to know?
Consider what that person needs to know, what their burning questions are and how your book can help them. Then check back over your ideas dump (step two) and make sure your avatar is genuinely interested in the ideas in your book. What's their main focus that can only be answered by reading your book? This helps to develop what it is you want to share with your reader.
Decide on what your avatar (in my case Mike) will find interesting and will be of value to him when he's ready start thinking about selling or retiring from his business.
5. Think about the book's running order.
So, you've got the ideas you want to discuss with your avatar. Next, these need to be put into an order that makes sense. Not necessarily chronological because that might not suit your book, but into a sensible order so it feels like you are walking this through together. A business book is often some sort of instruction or education so when you are considering the book order you need to pre-empt the next question.
6. Break it down even further.
This is where we start looking at chapters. You need to think about which of the broad areas would make a good self-contained chapter. For example, in a novel, you end each chapter on a cliff-hanger, if you possibly can, to make sure that they reader doesn’t want to put the book down. However, I think a business book is different. In a business book your audience is busy people who want answers quickly. They may not have time to read your book in one sitting, start to finish, so within each chapter, if they can gain some information around a specific theme, it will feel quite self-contained.
7. Your table of contents.
This is separating the chapter down even further into much smaller sections within each chapter. If you check out a few business books, you'll often see a chapter title, which is then broken down into smaller subtitles underneath that. That's what we're talking about here, so you break it down into much smaller sections.
8. Dismiss, review and add.
Looking at whether you need to add content or whether anything is missing. You are only reviewing your notes and bits of writing and your plans for a book, to make sure the book will run smoothly before you start to write.
9. Add to your Table of Contents.
Up until now, you might have only had a short sentence or a sub-title. Now you need to flesh out each of your major and minor headings. Still in note form, you will be able to see that certain things don’t fit in, or that something else would be better. It’s time to move things around. In addition, you might add in an approximate word count to each section so you know how much to write.
Whilst you're bulking out this section, you're also keeping to your focus to make sure everything you're going to include is relevant to what your avatar wants to hear.
10. Start writing
Who would have thought that there were so many steps to go through before you even start to write your book? By following the steps above you have almost got your book in note form with the required word count and ideas for each section. This makes what can seem like a mammoth task much more achievable as you have broken it down.
11. Your first draft.
When you have completely written your book, you have the first draft.
The very first draft does not have to be perfect. Advice I've been given, and advice I would share is to just start writing; the planning stage is now over and you need to get on with the writing. It means that you may write a load of rubbish to start with and that's absolutely fine, it’s part of the process. You know more or less where your book is going because you've got such comprehensive notes. You'll also be able to see if it's too long or too short.
You will have put your heart and soul into getting this far but will be rewarded by a great sense of achievement. You’ve written a whole book.
It’s now time to start editing. I tend to leave the book to rest for a while, then come back to it with a fresh mind. I find that by doing this I can become more detached when editing the book for the first time. Questions you need to be asking yourself here are; does this book achieve what I want it to?; will it be useful to my intended reader?; does it flow?
Your book now needs to be reviewed, pulled around and sorted out. Unfortunately, I can't tell you how many times you will need to edit your work to shape it into the book you want it to be. Often, the first draft of a book bears little resemblance to what is eventually published, but it’s worth taking it through several of your own edits, sharing your work with trusted ‘others,’ gaining the benefit of their opinion so you are presenting your best work to the editor or publisher who reads it.
So, that's the run through.
I know that it's a hard task writing a book, but it can also be very rewarding and
I wish you every success in writing your own business book and I hope you have found this useful. If you want to get in touch with me, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you've got any questions, I'm happy to answer the best I can, or you can contact me through LinkedIn - Dr Terri Bourne.