If you have original ideas that have value or are an expert in a field, you should write a book no matter how niche. There will be at least one person out of the almost eight billion people in the world that needs your ideas or could benefit from your advice to develop the skills that you have earned. If you are not yet an expert or feel you have something to share, but you don’t feel you are ready, the act of writing a book might be the thing you need. Start by writing a book proposal and commit to the process of two to four hours a day for the next two years, working on your ideas, skills, and expertise.
Why write a book?
Seth Gobin, in a February 2007 blog post, suggests that everyone should write a book. He describes how he wrote his ebook ‘Unleashing the Ideavirus‘ to give away free to spread the idea (about how free ideas spread faster than expensive ones). The book was downloaded over two million times, and a Google search for the term brought up over two hundred thousand results at the time of his post. Godin writes that on top of the opportunity to share your ideas across the globe, writing helps to organise and clarify the ideas making them better.
Smart people with good ideas worth sharing can get a lot out of this exercise.Seth Godin
Andress Erikson, in his book Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, wrote that experts form better mental representations about their specialist subject through deliberate practice. Mental representations “in essence… are preexisting patterns of information – facts, images, rules, relationships, and so on – that are held in long-term memory and that can be used to respond quickly and effectively in certain types of situations.” The deliberate practice of writing a book will allow you to solidify your understanding of your specialist area and build mental representations.
In Daniel Priestley’s book ‘Key Person of Influence‘, he writes that being an author in your area of expertise provides validation and trust in your skills and allows people an opportunity to learn more and share your ideas. Having a published book is also a great way to attract like-minded people.
Very few people create a significant volume of published content. If you have articles, blogs, reports, case studies and a book, you are much more likely to be perceived as a Key Person of Influence in your industry.Daniel Priestley
Writing and publishing a book can cost nothing, and there are no barriers beyond effort and time. Your book can be launched using your website and social media platform and via amazon self-publishing. You can treat your book as a channel of your portfolio business, as the output of deliberate practice while developing expertise, or as an opportunity to share your ideas with people who will find value in them. Now I have convinced you that you need to write a book, we need to look at what to write.
What to write
Non-fiction books are traditionally between 50000 to 80,000 words; it takes around 500 words to fill an A4 page, so that is just 100-150 pages. To fill those 100 pages, you need to start with two things;
- A big idea
- A target audience
Your book needs to solve a problem and should be written as a transition from confusion to clarity. Start with the audience and how you can help them. The total addressable market, the number of people who make up your target audience, should be quite targeted if you intend to self-publish, and you will need to address a specific problem. If you are unsure, think of a younger version of yourself or a beginner in your field. Next, think about the one big idea that you would like to share with them to solve a problem they will experience, and you could help them solve it.
A great example of a big idea and a specific target audience is Cal Newport and his big idea around deep work. Cal has written five books since becoming an academic; So Good, They Can’t Ignore You, Deep Work, Digital Minimalism, The Time-Block Planner, and A World Without Email. Cal’s big idea is that to create the life you want; you need to develop your ‘…ability to focus without distraction on cognitively demanding tasks.’ Cal’s target audience is millennial knowledge workers that are easily distracted by social media.
Geoffrey Moore’s Value proposition framework from his book Crossing the Chasm will let you know if you are ready to start writing or if you need to explore your ideas further.
Moore’s Value Proposition Framework
For (target reader)Who (statement of need or opportunity)
The (working book title) is a book
That (key benefit, reason to buy)
Unlike (primary competitive alternative)
My book (statement of primary differentiation)
You should treat writing your book as a software app or new business idea and use your value proposition as a business plan idea. Talk to people, specifically your target read and test out the ‘statement of need or opportunity to see if it accurately represents a problem you could fix and check that the ‘key benefit’ will be a solution. Finally, have a look at similar books on the market and make sure that you have something unique to say. Tech start-ups are advised to get feedback from at least fifty people before committing to a business model, so use this as a guide and be systematic in collecting feedback on your big idea to help write your book proposal.
Start with a book proposal
Traditionally, a book proposal is a document written for publishes to convince them to publish your book. The publishing industry is at least as old as the Gutenberg printing press (1440), and the process of writing has been developed over the last six hundred years, so it is worth paying attention to. Even if you intend to self-publish, the book proposal is an ideal place to start to help you structure your ideas.
The book proposal summarises the book’s big idea, lays out the chapters with a summary for each, and proposes a marketing plan to create awareness of the book with your target audience. You will want to use your value proposition and the notes from your interviews to brainstorm critical questions, concepts, and facts that you want to use and start to arrange this into a structured narrative.
MasterClass suggested a book proposal should include:
- Title page
- Author bio
- Chapter outline and table of contents
- Sample chapter
- Competitive titles analysis
- Target audience
- Marketing plan
- Additional information
Now Do the Work.