Whether you’re a coach, speaker, executive, business owner, or any type of professional with wisdom to share, you may be giving serious thought to writing a book. And you should be, considering the significant benefits of being a published author and the fact that self-publishing has greatly leveled the playing field. However, bridging the gap between wanting to write a book and actually doing so is not for the faint of heart.
Why? Because writing a quality book is hard work. While you know your business better than anyone, putting your expertise and insight into written form as a book can be a formidable undertaking. And if you go looking for “how to write a business book,” you’ll discover in about a nanosecond that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach and more permutations to the process than digits of Pi.
But as with any challenge that seems insurmountable, chunking it down transforms the nebulous into realistic tasks that have a reasonable chance of making it onto your to-do list. One way to get started is to consider the anatomy of a book and tackle each body part until you’ve connected all “dem bones”.
The Head (aka Big Idea)
A business book needs to provide solutions to customers and prospects. The idea behind the book should address a specific pain point and speak to your target audience about how they can find a better way. So define your big idea, then through your knowledge and skill set, you can offer a comprehensive and easy-to-follow guide to achieve that goal.
Part and parcel of your big idea is the book’s title, which needs to highlight the topic in a succinct, assertive, and engaging way. Take, for instance, Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass, a book series aimed at people who are feeling small and never up to the task. This attention-grabbing title can make someone think, You know what? I would like to be a rebel more often! And they pick up the book to find out how they can do that.
The Heart (aka Introduction)
Once the book is in the reader’s hands, the introduction comes into play. The presentation needs to quickly and clearly explain why reading this book will be a worthwhile experience. You’ll need to address the why, who, what, when, and how, as well as provide a smart and sexy hook in the opening lines.
- The Hook – No longer than a couple of sentences, the hook needs to slam the reader right into the heart of the problem. This can be anything from an anecdote, quote, or statistic that speaks to the issue.
- The Why – Why should a person read your book? What makes your work special and unique?
- The Who – Not the rock band, but rather who you are and what puts you in a position to write this book, i.e. your story.
- The What – What does the reader stand to gain from your book?
- The When – How long will it take the reader to apply your insights?
- The How – How will the reader reap the most benefits from your book?
The Skeleton (aka Table of Contents)
As a general rule of thumb, a business book should encompass 8-12 topics/chapters. These topics, as well as their order, will evolve throughout your writing. During this process, you may realize that some ideas are better suited as subtopics, or perhaps they are off topic, which could be a good starting point for a second book. As you develop the bones of the book, remember that the purpose is to provide a clear and concise storyline that empowers the reader to take action.
The Internal Organs (aka Narrative)
Each topic and subtopic will need to support, illustrate, and advocate the big idea. Each of these should start with a mini-introduction, much like the one described above containing the why, what, and how. Back the information with research, statistics, anecdotes, and quotes from others in your field, and establish logical relationships between topics to demonstrate a system as interconnected as the organs in our bodies.
The Feet (aka Conclusion)
What do you want the reader to walk away with? The conclusion summarizes the big idea once again and should also suggest actionable steps for the reader.
While a book doesn’t begin to approach the complexity of the human body, looking at its anatomy can provide clarity about the structure. That understanding, in turn, leads to a better grasp of how to wrap your arms and mind around the process of writing a book and finally putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. Enough of this biology lesson; get on with your book already!