I don’t need to tell you how hard competition can be at times.
There are plenty of other entrepreneurs, practitioners or professionals that are going after the same clients you are.
They advertise in the same places, they have websites and blogs and they attend the same conventions, gatherings and trade shows you do.
The barriers to entry for spreading your business message and reach out to prospective clients is getting lower every day as the cost and ubiquity of technology keeps coming down.
Yet, there’s a secret weapon that can let you leapfrog your competition:
Writing a Book!
Here’s a fun fact: the vast majority of entrepreneurs don’t publish books, even though it’s something that could revolutionize their businesses.
In fact, 97% of new authors never publish the books they started.
Yep, the world is littered with partial or even completed manuscripts hidden in some closet, drawer or filing cabinet that will never see the light of day! Now…
Here’s the greatest opportunity for you: if you write an excellent book about how your business can help your audience, not only will you position yourself as an “expert” in the eyes of your industry, prospective clients and the media, but also you’ll gain a massive competitive advantage:
You’ll automatically vault to the select group of 3% of business owners who actually publish a book!
By writing your own nonfiction book, a book that captures your business expertise and shares your knowledge, advice and wisdom with your audience, you’ll have the fast track to being recognized as an expert and an authority in your field.
No only that, but by going through the process of writing a book you’ll actually gain new insights into your business that often result in lucrative new ideas.
An Introduction to Book Writing
I have very good news for you. Even though book writing to grow a business requires a completely different set of skills than, say, fiction writing, academic writing, political writing or journalism, the skill-set you need to develop as a business owner happens to be closely aligned with the way you naturally think:
- Business ownership is about problem solving. So is business writing…
- Business ownership is about finding the root cause of problems and not beating around the bush. It’s about being to the point and on point. So is business writing…
- Business ownership is about communicating clearly, so your clients understand you the first time. So is business writing…
So, these traits are an ideal fit for you as a nonfiction book writer.
Books Written by Entrepreneurial Authors Like You Require:
- Clear communication (your goal is to be concise and to the point, not to ramble on)
- Clear concepts (you want your audience to “get” your ideas on first read; you want to avoid confusion as much as possible)
- Practical solutions (you are sharing your knowledge and wisdom to help your audience solve a problem they can’t solve on their own)
- Professionalism (it’s okay to use certain colloquialisms here and there if they reflect your personal style, but you need to keep the overall tone professional. Being too “chummy” or using too much informal language could be detrimental to your credibility).
The Importance of Writing for Business Owners
If you approach your book as an extension of who you are, by distilling your insights, offering your wisdom, providing a clear path from A to B, and solving real problems for real people (or businesses), over time you’ll become a change agent and a go-to expert in your industry.
As your book opens more doors for you, through paid public-speaking events and interview requests by the media, your ability to become an influencer in your field will increase dramatically and so will your bank balance.
If you’re currently confined to one-to-one client or business relationships, your book will allow you to scale your business. If you’ve scaled your business already in your market, your book will allow you to penetrate new markets.
There’s really no downside to writing a book for a business – it’s truly all upside!
What Are the Main Goals When Writing a Book to Grow a Business?
The main goal of your book is, above all else, to solve the most pressing problems of your audience. This is something that will come naturally to you simply because you already do this in the course of your business.
But another goal is to educate your audience, because by teaching them what you know you’ll become their trusted advisor.
Now, you may feel reluctant to offer your intellectual property for free (this is one of the reasons most business professionals don’t write books!) because you think that your audience will take your information and run with it without ever hiring you.
But the reality is quite the opposite. In practice, the more you give the more you get. The reason for this is that business (or life) can be quite complex, and when people are seeking solutions, often times what they are really seeking are solution providers.
Even if you teach them everything you know, they won’t trust themselves with your information because, after all, you’re the subject expert – your book has just proven that to them.
And that’s the main benefit of writing your book: it establishes you as a solution provider/expert who can be trusted – this is much more difficult to achieve with a chance encounter and an exchange of business cards. Handing out your book as a calling card to prospects is much more effective.
How Does Business Writing Differ from Other Forms of Writing?
Good business writing is about offering value and solving problems. You want to communicate clear and actionable information that can be applied by the reader (but don’t pitch external services, otherwise your book will be dismissed as a glorified sales brochure). You want to use direct language that is aimed at enticing a succession of “aha” moments in your audience.
Fiction writing is aimed at the emotional part of your audience’s brain because you want to engage through the emotional journey of characters so that readers lose themselves in the book. The goal with fiction writing is to provide a temporary “escape portal” from reality. This is rarely a style that is effective in business writing.
Academic writing is instructional in nature and meant to explain concepts, not to provide value or actionable advice. As a result, the academic writing style can be too technical and dry for nonfiction books. Although you’re writing to educate your audience, you’re doing it from a foundation of problem solving and not instruction.
Journalistic (or political) writing is based on either expressing opinions that are meant to persuade, or analyzing facts, usually with the goal of eliciting a response. This is not a style you want to rely on because you run the risk of making your audience feel manipulated. You can only build trust through transparency.
Fundamentals of Business Writing
Okay. You’re thinking pretty seriously about writing a book to enhance your business or career. It’s now time to learn the fundamentals of business writing.
With the ubiquity of the Internet, you should have the expectation that your book will likely reach audiences from around the world (be it in print form through global on-demand book retailers like Amazon or in eBook form).
As such, it’s important that you write very clearly so that your book may be understood in markets where English is spoken as a second language – in fact, it’s quite common for nonfiction books written in English to become popular in non English-speaking markets. Your book could potentially open new markets around the world that you never thought possible!
So, here are basic fundamentals that you need to keep in mind as you embark on your book project:
The 7C’s of Business-Book Writing
Every time you sit down to write, keep the following 7 C’s in the back of your mind. Over time they’ll become second nature to you:
- Be Clear: Write in clear language. Don’t use flowery phrases and minimize the use of adjectives. Remember, unlike fiction writing, your goal is to be factual and not to take your audience through an emotional journey.
- Be Concise: Don’t over-explain. Stay away from run-around sentences. If you can’t explain a concept or convey information in simple words, try rewriting them or breaking them up into sections.
- Be Coherent: You want your readers to understand what you are saying the first time they read it. Use a logical approach to deliver your message and avoid going on long diatribes without a clear rhyme or reason. Every sentence and every paragraph has to make sense on its own.
- Be Courteous: It goes without saying that you never want to insult your audience. But sometimes, condescending or negative language can slip into your writing without you noticing. Try to be mindful of language that could be perceived as judgemental instead of factual. Also, don’t project negative emotional language onto your audience (e.g. “you will fall into a serious depression unless you do ______”)
- Be Correct: Accuracy in business writing is key. Make sure you fact-check your information, otherwise someone else will do it for you at great personal embarrassment!
- Be Complete: Make sure you formulate full ideas. Contrary to fiction writing, you don’t want to leave any cliffhangers in your nonfiction book.
- Be Considerate: To accommodate readers of all ages and geographical areas, make use of fonts that are easy to read, use line spacing that is comfortable for older readers, and if you use diagrams or charts, make sure you use colors that contrast well when viewed in grayscale (many popular e-ink based eBook readers don’t have color displays). Also, don’t use overly complicated language structures that could be hard to understand for prospects that speak English as a second language.
In addition to the 7 C’s, here are some important writing skills that are prevalent when it comes to nonfiction books written by business people.
Some we’ve briefly referred to above, and some are new information. Here are the main skills that you have to keep in mind when you sit down to write your book:
- Write it as if you were having a one-to-one conversation with each individual reader. All readers must always feel that you are talking directly to them. Use “you” instead of “I” or “us” as much as possible. Keep in mind that whenever people read a nonfiction book, the thought that’s most prevalent in their minds is “What’s in it for me?”
- Use active verbs and avoid passive-verb sentences (e.g. write “The XYZ technique is more efficient for achieving ABC” instead of “ABC is achieved more efficiently by using the XYZ technique”).
- Minimize the unnecessary use of adjectives (e.g. write “The XYZ technique is more efficient for achieving ABC” instead of “The XYZ technique is definitely much more efficient for achieving ABC”).
- Be direct when you recommend a certain course of action (e.g. write “The XYZ technique is more efficient for achieving ABC” instead of “I feel the XYZ technique…” or “I believe the XYZ technique…” or “I think the XYZ technique…”).
- Avoid the use of acronyms and jargon. If you feel you need to use them then spell them out. Don’t assume every reader will automatically know their meaning, even if they happen to work in your industry. Also, people from non-English markets may have more difficulty deciphering them if not spelled out.
Effective Writing Tips
In closing, here are 5 general writing tips from professional business writers to keep in mind:
- Even though business writing tends to be formal, the trend now is to make use of contractions to make the reading experience more human-like and less robot-like (e.g. “You’ll be” instead of “You will be”).
- It’s no longer necessary to be by the book when it comes to grammar rules. Some rules can be broken if the result is a positive reading experience. For instance, it’s totally okay to end a sentence in a preposition if it reads more naturally.
- Stay away from using clichés and puns; they may sound cute or humorous, but they could end up hurting your message (or worse, your credibility).
- Never self-edit immediately as you write. Your goal is to write from your creative right brain without engaging your critical left brain.
- Minimize excessive punctuation, like exclamation marks or worse yet, multiple exclamation marks!!!! or multiple question marks????? Also, stay away from all-caps to stress a point (“screaming”). If you need to add emphasis to a phrase or word, use italics, underlining or bolding instead.
Writing a book is one of the most rewarding journeys for a business owner because…
- It’ll establish you as an expert in your industry, opening doors to new opportunities
- It’ll give you a new level of clarity over your business and your business processes
- It’ll help you discover new revenue streams that you hadn’t thought of before writing your book
- It’ll establish your business and career legacy in a tangible way
- It’ll open new markets, as you are able to reach out to audiences from around the world
Are you ready to jump in? If you want to kick-start your book writing, I’ve created a handy guide for you, entitled How to Write a Compelling Book in 12 Steps: A Must-Read Guide for Business Owners. I hope you find it helpful.
Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to generate additional leads for their businesses.
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Bennett R. Coles is the author of 6 books published through Harper Collins (NY) and Titan Publishing Group (UK). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press and the founder/CEO of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, printing, distribution and marketing.