Sometimes authors get ideas in their heads for books that actually have nothing to do with their overall goals. For example, I recently collaborated with a coaching client who wanted to leave her corporate job and start her own training company. She was a well-regarded public speaking coach who enjoyed helping people feel more comfortable creating presentations and delivering them on stage.
But when she came to me, she wanted to write a book on female empowerment.
She told me she had no idea how to get her book out of her head and onto the page. She just couldn’t understand why she was having such a hard time getting started. The reason was simple: her business goals and her book topic didn’t align.
She needed to write a book like How to Nail Your Next Presentation, not one about women’s issues. She was writing the wrong book for her goals at the time. Once I pointed that out, and she changed direction to address her customers’ needs, all the pieces just naturally fell into place.
Another client came to me with a goal of becoming a motivational speaker on the topic of drive and determination. However, he wanted to write a mystery-style narrative. Now, that narrative book may have contained elements of drive and determination, but his plan for the book didn’t really lead him any closer to his goal of speaking on stage. Once we outlined a book based on his preferred topics, and sprinkled in stories from his life, he had a great book that positioned him perfectly for a speaking career as an expert on harnessing your drive to reach your dreams.
This is why it’s so important to know why you’re writing your book (your goal), and who you’re writing it for (your target audience). When would-be authors don’t know where to start, or feel stuck, they’re often trying to write the wrong book.
Once you’ve got your book subject, target audience, and overall business goals in alignment, things tend to move along more smoothly.
Choosing the right kind of book is one of the most important planning steps. Take a look at these different types of books, and see which one makes the most sense for you.
This is your basic “how to” book. You’re teaching the reader how to do something, such as selling a house, building a business, or moving through the grieving process. Most businesses can use this type of book quite effectively, especially if they sell services.
If you have a local business, you could write a guidebook about your town, state, or region. Naturally, you would include your business as a resource. If you own a bike shop, for example, you could write a book about the best trail rides in your area. If you run a restaurant, you could write a book on local or regional cuisine.
An allegory tells a story that illustrates a point, which then ties in to your business. These can be tricky to write, but if you enjoy telling stories and writing fiction, this might be a natural fit for you. If you’re a coach or consultant, you might find an allegory demonstrates your core philosophy better than a typical nonfiction book. One example is The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann. It’s a fictional story that illustrates many business principles. (It’s an amazing read, too. If you haven’t read it, put it on your list!)
A memoir is the story of a memory or experience you went through at some point in your life. Sometimes this type of book is called a biography. You don’t need to tell your entire life’s story, just the parts that make a certain point or tie in with a theme. In a business context, memoirs are often used by CEOs or successful entrepreneurs who relate their journeys to building their businesses. Some examples include Delivering Happiness, by Tony Hsieh, Losing My Virginity, by Richard Branson, and Made in America, by Sam Walton. If your goal is to attract speaking engagements or leave a company legacy, a memoir may be just the ticket for you.
If you sell products or services with long sales cycles, like major machinery, your book could be a sales presentation in print. As long as you don’t bore the reader, you can include all kinds of information about your product and its benefits. You can even overcome common sales objections when you approach them correctly. Think of the book as the education phase of your sales process. If you have major competitors, having a book that supports your business can mean the difference between making a sale and losing out to another company.
Very often the lines between genres of books get blurred. So, don’t worry if the book you have in mind doesn’t fit perfectly within a particular style. You just want a general idea for the type of book you’re going to write. Take a few minutes to figure out how well your book aligns with your business goals, and decide which type of book suits your goals best.
People often ask me if they really need a printed book. After all, the whole world is going digital, right? Don’t underestimate the power of print! A printed book tells the reader “this is real”. Just like hardcover books still feel more important than paperbacks, printed books feel more important than ebooks.
The problem with ebooks is they read like web pages. Psychologically, they just don’t have the same gravitas as a printed book. However, ebooks do offer convenience, portability, and low cost. I believe it’s important to have your book available in both print and electronic formats. Fortunately, modern publishing options, including print-on-demand, make this easy and affordable.
Is your customer more likely to listen to a book than to read it? I wouldn’t advise producing an audio book exclusively, but it can be a great alternative to reading an existing printed book. People need to see that a printed version is available, so they know it’s a “real” book. But then you can give them the option to consume the book the way they want to: printed, online as an ebook, or as an audio recording.
One strategy is to offer the audio version free with another purchase. You want your customers to actually consume the content, right? So give them the option to listen instead of read. It’s tough to get “found” in the audio book world. Readers usually hear about a print book first, and then go looking for the audio version. The bottom line is that it doesn’t hurt to offer as many options as you can.
So, what’s right for your business? If you’re having trouble starting (or finishing) your book, consider whether you might be writing the wrong book.